Brands not respecting my time, and how to fix it (Updated)

I’ve a few experiences recently where I found very frustrating, and think it’s important to share with others. One, so others are aware of potential pitfalls, and secondly, hopefully brands can be improved in the future. Rather than just rant, I’ll provide some analysis and make some recommendations how things could be done better.

Real Player:
Recently, I downloaded Real Player to my new business laptop, it was required for a specific media format. I was disappointed in all the ways they tried to embed themselves as being the default player, adding different features, and trying to ‘spider’ itself across my PC. Most of the options required a savvy user to opt-out, rather than opt-in for these unwanted features. Despite my being careful (this is not time being spent productively) apparently I missed one and a Weather Channel desktop widget was deployed in my system tray on my desktop. I did not want his tool, and removing it became equally as painful.

As a user, I don’t feel that Real Player has respected my rights, and I recommend they make these extra features (most laden with marketing and advertising) as an opt-in, not a opt-out. Instead, build resources for your community that they actually want, and have asked for, rather than pushing it on them.

Update (A few hours later): Ryan Luckin from Real Networks has left a comment, suggesting that the recently launched upgrade will solve these issues, including the removal of popups in the current player. Thanks Ryan for the prompt and helpful comment. I’ll check out the product when I get time.

Delta Airlines:
I almost didn’t make it to Barcelona last week, as I wasn’t able to get my printed tickets in hand on time. I thought it would be ok to check in using my confirmation numbers, but they required printed tickets (which were at home). The gentleman at the desk, without even looking at me, said he couldn’t help me, and I’ll need to get my printed tickets. Unfortuantly, I was in Las Vegas, the tickets were in San Francisco and the flight was leaving in 2 hours. Needless to say, not a good situation. He didn’t offer any suggestions to help me but encouraged me to contact my travel agent, and reiterated “I can’t help you”. That really pissed me off (as well as made me panic a bit), I had to collect myself, and then after a few minutes request to purchase new tickets (which he didn’t even suggest) and then he asked another attendee to help me, he didn’t even want to deal with me. Obviously, things got sorted out, as I purchased new tickets, but had to leave 16 hours later, and be bounced from three planes from Vegas to Barcelona.

What could have been done better? The customer service folks can always help me, don’t ever tell customers ‘you can’t help them’, yet where there are options to help them. Ultimately things worked out, but the customer service reps that go the extra mile win the adoration of their customers.

Recently, I had to use this enterprise software to input my travel expenses, it’s a long and tedious process, with a cludgy user interface, and non-intuitive controls and buttons. I always know enterprise software when I see it, as it comes with a manual, and often a training class. Products on the world wide web that I frequently use are often so easy to use –respecting my time. As I completed entering in dozens of entries, I would continue to ‘save for later’, and the system acknowledged these changes. Apparently this was not sufficient, as you exited the system you needed to do one more save in order for the previous saves to go into account. I didn’t do this, and was surprised to find the next day the hour (or more) of data entry input was reduced to only 4 entries. Frustrating to say the least.

How can enterprise software be fixed? I’m not sure, I’ll bet it’s complicated, but let’s try to put users first, when they press ‘save’, let’s really mean it.

Update (A few hours later): Jake from Oracle Mix labs left a comment suggesting I join their online community to provide feedback. In the spirit of social collaboration (that’s what I’m all about) I signed up, my user profile is here, if you’re already a member and want to connect.

It’s rare that I criticize products and companies in public, but I’ve highlighted my experience, and was thoughtful enough to provide recommendations, rather than just rant.

What should brands do to get back in my good graces? Acknowledge my situation and strive to make improvements. I’ll be gentle (having been a community manager) so don’t feel intimidated, I’ll treat you with professional courtesy I would expect in your situation. Curious to see which brands respond first.

By the way, that was great therapy, I feel much better.

Special Note, on being a responsible blogger
I’m keeping this post updated as the companies respond. It’s the right thing to do as a responsible blogger, as when a company embraces a customer back, the blogger should point out responses. So far, we’re setting a good example between social collaboration between customer and company, and living the benefits for both parties –let’s build better products and services.

Update: (A few days later) This post has inspired me to give some practical ways you can give feedback to brands, please read: How to give Feedback to brands using Social Software.

  • Suki Fuller

    Let’s not get me started on Real Player this morning (had to use that at 4am not pleasant, not by a long shot). I really am annoyed by the fact that companies require a specific type of player for conference calls. I should be allowed to participate with whatever I feel like…not Real Player with that stupid pop-up in and out thingy-ma-jing in the corner of my screen…..AHHHH feeling your pain Jeremiah!! Oh and BTW hope you don’t have to deal with Delta at Newark airport…it’s even worse!! Okay I am done with my comment agreement therapy.

  • Jeremiah:

    You are right on the money there! I had to upgrade RealPlayer the other day – and there were icons everywhere. Once I got rid of those, that d*mn RealPlayer message center just kept popping up.

    Regarding PeopleSoft – I have a background in the HR Enterprise software space – and the answer is on it’s way. It is called SAAS. When I first had to use PSFT I couldn’t believe that it was commercially available software. Ugh.

    Tom O’B

  • Someone from Real Player’s PR firm contacted me, and said he sees this and has notified client. Good job.

  • Jeremiah,

    Had a similarly bad flight experience last week (United) and had a similar reaction. I too mostly just wanted to share my experience and help them improve, but couldn’t find any way to share with them. What resulted was a blog entry which is one part “travel story from hell” and one part “Customer and Marketing Community recommendations” In the end, I was more upset that I had no way to communicate with them than I was about my bad experience.


  • Argh, PeopleSoft!

    Years ago, I was starting a student job at my university at the same time they were switching to using PeopleSoft. At the time the graduate student union was in an uproar because of the bad press regarding this program. Sure enough, complications with PeopleSoft resulted in an inability to complete a large number of appointments, meaning they couldn’t pay me for the first month. My boss had to personally cover my paycheck and get reimbursed once it was all straightened out.

  • I’ve always disliked Real Player for the same reasons you mention here. I have the software installed on my computer, but I’d honestly rather not watch/listen to something than be forced to run RP.

    I’m glad Real’s PR crew is listening. Let’s hope Real does, too.

  • Jeremiah, It is for this precise reason that I stopped using Real’s player some time back. I have not installed it on my latest laptop and have no intention of doing so unless I am absolutely forced to do so in order to participate in some online communication. (Even then I may seek other ways to participate.)

    Perhaps through rants like yours companies like Real will realize that all their attempts to create “stickiness” will backfire with some users. (Although, is the backlash really with enough users that they will actually care? Will the vast majority of people just mindlessly install the app and will the stickiness then “work” for Real?)

    Thanks for ranting,

  • a realmedia classic from the archives…

    January 2, 2005
    “RealNetworks Jumps The Shark”

  • Some really “nice” examples. Regarding Delta: Same here in Germany. Neither airlines, nor railway companies offer something like a ticket over various channels. I often travel through the country and would also have no chance of getting a copy of my ticket if I forgot it. You can buy a ticket via mobile phone but then you only have it on your phone as a mms.

  • It’s interesting how Real’s PR team responded quickly, yet it seems you haven’t heard from Delta or PeopleSoft yet. Guess this highlights who’s “listening” to the consumer, yes?

  • I’m with you on 1 and 2… but have mixed feelings about 3…
    This could be because I used to work for JD Edwards prior to their being bought out by Peoplesoft and consequently Oracle.

    Here’s the thing with Enterprise software – it’s got some of the same handicaps Microsoft Office used to come up against… user persistance is a big one.

    You were using PeopleSoft, right?
    Why? Because technically, that’s a legacy application now…
    That’s right – because there’s a business manager somewhere who made the decision not to upgrade.
    Why? Because the users were already familiar with whatever iteration they were using, and it costs time and money to convert the system, and there’s the old adage about trying to get a business to keep up with technology when they aren’t convinced that the old one isn’t working effectively.

    As recently as 2001, I was involved with the legacy apps side of JDE software – its mainframe IBM app, World – rather than the Client/Server app OneWorld – because there were so many major corporations and government entities unwilling to let go of it… despite it being outdated.
    There are still thousands of companies/agencies using JDE World despite the fact that the company itself is long gone.
    Just as whatever company had you doing your travel in PeopleSoft is using defunct software.

    Can Enterprise software be done in a user-friendly, web-based app? Absolutely. That’s not the issue – the issue is how do you get the business to start using it.

  • Sounds like you have some sound ideas around how to make PSFT better. This is exactly why we started Oracle Mix ( to collect ideas on how to improve our products and open them up to the community for voting and commenting.
    Check it out and let me know what you think.

  • Jake

    Thanks. I’ve checked out before, very interesting stuff. I did a search, yet it returned no results, it pushed me to the login page. I’ve registered, and will let you know what I think.

    My profile is here

    Thanks for being so responsive on behalf of Oracle/Peoplesoft

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    My name is Ryan Luckin and I am the PR Manager responsible for Real’s multimedia software and services, including RealPlayer. First, let me apologize for the lackluster user experience you went through when downloading RealPlayer 10.5. Real just announced a new version of RealPlayer (November 15th) that I believe will address many of your concerns, and those of our millions of customers.

    Real has changed its ways when it comes to pop-ups, messages, etc. I’ve included link to a blog post below from RealPlayer’s Ben Rotholz comparing the previous and current installation experiences to provide further detail on how and why we’ve changed things.

    I’ll close by letting you know if you haven’t taken a deeper look at RealPlayer in a while, you may want to take the new version for a spin. The new free RealPlayer allows PC and Mac users to download Web video from thousands of sites on the Web for viewing at their leisure. The idea here is to deliver a “Tivo-like” experience for Web video. If the content a user is trying to download happens to be protected by DRM, RealPlayer will detect this and restrict it from being downloaded.
    Also, PC users can pay a one-time fee of $39.99 for the ability to transfer Web video to the Apple iPod. No longer are iPod users restricted to only the video content available via iTunes. More info available here –

    Please do let me know if you have additional questions/concerns about RealPlayer. We have some work to do to rebuild our reputation, but believe this new version is a step in the right direction.


  • You might want to try out Real Alternative instead of Real Player

  • Also, forgot to add that the install experience is entirely “Opt-In” now, as it should be.

  • How can brands avoid these negatives? One sure fire way is for executives — people who can drive fundamental changes in an organization — to use their own products as a customer would. They would get the same insights that we all do: the instructions to build the bike don’t match the parts that are provided; the software installation requires a step that isn’t explained in the documentation; the help screens don’t provide relevant information, etc.

    When I worked at Sun, Scott McNealy would once a year install a Sun printer. (Yes, Sun had printers. Yes, I did the outbound marketing. Yes, I know you’ve never heard of Sun printers. Sigh…) And each year he would videotape his efforts and give it to the printer group’s management team, complete with his unexpurgated comments about what didn’t work. It was a very compelling activity that drove corrective action.

    When I run into these bad customer experiences I always wonder why no one at the top has already identified and solved the problem. Is it because they don’t care? Is it because they are unaware? Inexcusable.

  • Mix is about a week old at this point, and still in beta. If you see ways to improve it, add ideas and tag them with mix.
    We’re still building momentum on the product side, so most of the ideas so far are around Mix.

  • Ryan from Real Networks,

    Thanks for responding to me , when I get time, I’ll check out the new version. Glad to see that you were thinking ahead, from what you wrote, it sounds like you’re really respecting users’ time.

    Since I wasn’t aware of this new version, turning on the engines to let folks know about these major changes is a good idea.

    Oh, and be sure to thank your Shift PR team, their promptness in listening to the conversation is commendable.

  • Wow Jeremiah – now that Oracle and Real have shown up to address your concerns, when does Delta drop by?

    You know, I’m in awe here – seldom do I see people post a rant like this and have the players show up to answer the complaint.

    Can I have you take a stab at a few others while you’re at it? 🙂

  • Yndy

    I wonder if the way I approached the feedback had something to do with it? I know that I don’t respond to some blogs that just rant to get attention.

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  • Good to see 2 out of 3 companies reacting to this. Although in the future it could be an idea for Real to react on their blog as Dell did when one of their laptops went up in flames

    As with the airlines, i think all people share these bad experiences. Anyone has some examples where airlines react online to bad customer experiences?


  • I find your subject matter excellent and logically scripted ! You criticize or praise with FACT CHECK most Don’t!

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  • I know I’m a bit late in responding to this string, but in case anyone is still looking at this post, I’ll add my two cents. I do business visualization with iRise, and I have to say that it’s often very frustrating with Enterprise software like PeopleSoft. We often simulate the User Experience in iRise prior to customization to show end users exactly what they’ll be getting. We do this, because in some cases, departments go ahead and build their own forms that have a separate database, because they simply can’t get managers on a plant floor, for example, to learn how to use a (rather complicated) form in the first place. So we then try to show what a more customized interface will look and act like prior to estimation and building. The problem is that the user interface constraints of the enterprise system make it so that it rarely lives up what they built very quickly on their own that gave them EXACTLY what they wanted.

    So where’s the value in the enterprise system? Until not only data configurability but also interface configurability comes up to speed, the rogue applications will continue to be a problem, and stakeholder buy-in will be low, legacies notwithstanding.

  • Yes. I agree with you too.