computerskewed.jpgUsing a computer is frustrating....even to those of us who really understand them. The frustration is often caused by companies who don't care about their customers or who don't want to spend money on training their support staff. Here are just a few of my recent experiences that prove my point.

computerskewed.jpgIs using a computer frustrating? You bet it is. On this I have firsthand experience, not only as a computer user, but also as a computer consultant. While many people hire me to set up networks and to do things they don't know how to do, others hire me to deal with their frustrating computer chores. You may think that because I have a high level of computer knowledge and experience, I could simply eliminate the frustrations. Yes, having knowledge helps me get the job done, but there are many times that I have to deal with frustrations. Even if you know exactly what to do and how to do it, many computer tasks are complicated by inept companies, complicated websites, incompetent employees, and erroneous information. Here are just a few of my recent frustrating experiences.

I needed to set up a DSL modem with CenturyLink, which used to be Embarq. I have sometimes thought that Embarq changed their name because they had such a bad reputation. Well if my recent experience is an example of the new CenturyLink's service, they will soon be changing their name again. Talk about frustrating!! When I arrived at a local home, CenturyLink had installed their modem and hooked it up to the DSL line and to the computer, but the computer was not on the Internet. Instead, the CenturyLink online form was on the computer screen. It should have been a simple matter of activating the account, but filling out the form just gave me an error. So I called CenturyLink, after an hour of having four different representatives try their ideas and going through the sign-up about 12 times, they escalated the call to a higher level of support and we finally solved the problem, which, by the way, was caused by CenturyLink themselves. Interesting enough, the information that one agent gave was often contradicted by the next one. While the CenturyLink representatives were polite, their level of expertise was extremely limited. This is one of the primary frustrations of today's computer user - dealing with company representatives that are inadequately trained.

Another frustration is dealing with websites that are poorly laid out or implemented. Nowhere is this more frustrating than when trying to purchase an item. When trying to purchase an update to QuickBooks recently, I had to fill out the same form several times because the website put me into a loop that I could not escape from.
Speaking of QuickBooks, in another instance I was trying to move my data from a Quicken 2009 specialty program to QuickBooks 2009. Since Quicken and QuickBooks are both owned by Intuit and are closely related, you would think this would be easy. However, I got an error when I followed the Intuit instructions. After 30 minutes on the phone with QuickBooks, their representative admitted that he could not make it work. He would get me to an expert at Quicken. The expert at Quicken then told me to call QuickBooks. ...talk about a vicious circle! After a week worth of dealing with both Quicken and QuickBooks, they informed me that the only way this could be done would be for me to upgrade to QuickBooks 2010. Now this was a double-whammy of frustration. Not only was I annoyed by Intuit's employee lack of knowledge, but this ploy to get you to purchase a new version of software every year is a real aggravation.

The folks at Nuance also provided me with a lot of frustration this week. Nuance is the company that sells some excellent programs like PaperPort and Dragon Naturally Speaking. My customer needed to reinstall PaperPort, a program that helps you scan and organize documents, but he didn't have the original program that he had purchased and downloaded from the Nuance website. It took four telephone calls and a lot of frustration to get Nuance to provide him with a copy of the program that he legally owned. This is a typical problem as software manufacturer's often remove older versions of the software from their website in hopes of getting you to purchase the newer version.

My last frustration this week is with printer manufacturers who ship their product without the most current drivers. Windows 7 has been out for four months and 64-bit computers have been widely available for more than a year, yet I recently ran into several printers that did not ship with drivers for a 64-bit Windows 7 computer. Worse yet, they don't tell you what drivers are on the disk they give you. So the average person would simply use the disk that came with the printer to install the drivers and find that the printer doesn't work. At this point, you have to uninstall the drivers that were just installed, go to the manufacturer's website and download and install the proper drivers. And that is no simple task because the download areas of these websites are often ambiguous as to which drivers you need. You might think that I am talking about some rinky-dink printer manufacturers here. If so, you might be surprised to learn that the manufacturers who didn't ship the most current drivers were Epson, HP, and Brother....three of the biggest printer manufacturers. Brother was probably the worse. They had a special driver disk marked Window 7, which didn't work in the 64-bit Windows 7 computer.

The bottom line here is that if you think that you are being frustrated by your computer because of your lack of computer knowledge, you are wrong. Much frustration is caused by hardware and software manufacturers who simply don't give consumers what they need. We need easy-to understand product information, well-trained service representatives, and websites that are informative and easy to navigate. Then perhaps the computer owners could handle their own computer problems. Oh my, if that ever happens, I could be out of a job! To tell you the truth, however, I am not at all worried. Most of these companies are doing such a poor job, that my job is more than secure. I will continue to get paid to handle frustrating computer tasks so others won't have to.