Can Verizon Wireless and Samsung really support what they're selling?

Can Verizon Wireless and Samsung really support what they're selling?

Summary: A self-inflicted wound caused a calendar widget to disappear off the docking screen of my new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for Verizon. After many calls to Verizon and Samsung technical support, I didn't have the answer. Can companies such as Verizon Wireless and Samsung really support what they're selling?

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TOPICS: Mobility
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I've been enjoying my new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for Verizon and have found the overall performance of the device quite good. While trying out Samsung's smart dock, I created a problem unintentionally. While messing around with the "page buddy" screen for the docking station, I accidentally deleted the calendar widget. When I looked through the list of widgets available on the phone, two calendar widgets were available. Neither of them looked like the widget that was accidentally deleted.

I searched the really sketchy documentation provided with the device. I searched online documentation on both Verizon's and Samsung's websites. I couldn't find much useful information about Samsung's page buddies in general or the docking screen in specific. So I called Verizon's technical support line multiple times and later Samsung's and didn't get an answer. Finally, after trying one thing or another, I came up with a workable solution. Why did it have to be so hard?

The answer is clear: Today's smartphones are too complex for traditional call-centers to handle.

What is a Page Buddy?

Samsung has extended the Android operating system by adding a concept they call "Page Buddies." Page Buddies are optional, special purpose pages designed to pop up when owners use the S Pen, the earphones, the dock or when they're roaming. These pages can automatically show up and offer apps and settings tools to make the phone easier to use. They also are quite extensible, and yet very poorly documented.

The Note 2's default settings have page buddies turned on. So, they pop up when a user takes out the digitizer pen, inserts a headphone into the jack or connects a Bluetooth headset, inserts the phone in Samsung's smart dock or is roaming outside of the users normal area.

The Docking Page Buddy Screen

The Note 2's docking page buddy screen shows a wide calendar widget, a media player widget and adjusts the icons at the bottom of the screen to show the apps that are most commonly used.

The screen can be modified just like any other homepage on the device. Widgets and icons can be moved around, added or removed.

This is where I got into trouble. While trying to do something using the phone while it was in the dock, I accidentally selected the calendar widget and dragged it to the trashcan. I wasn't looking at the device. I was on yet another conference call on my land line and trying to look up something on the phone.

Once the widget was gone and the teleconference was over, I searched high and low to find a way to get the widget back. Did I mention that the documentation of page buddies in general and the docking page buddy are sketchy at best?

Calling Verizon Wireless technical support

After searching Verizon's website, Samsung's website and the web in general for about an hour, I couldn't find any useful information on page buddies or the calendar widget. Although I hate wading through Verizon's awful voice response system to get through to a technical support agent, I called their support number.

As an aside, I think that Verizon Wireless and other large companies are really doing themselves a big disservice by forcing people to deal with computerized answering systems that seem unable to understand spoken language and seem to be the only way to get through to a human being. 

After wading through the voice response system and being put on hold for ten minutes, I got through to one very nice rep and spent about 20 minutes with her trying to get her to understand what was happening. She just couldn't get the idea. She had no idea what a page buddy was. She did, however, know how to find the available widgets and pointed out the two calendar widgets available on the phone. She had no idea why neither of them looked like the widget that was previously displayed on the docking screen.

It is clear to me that her training on this phone added up to "here's what the Note 2 looks like, remember it and go to the phone to answer customer questions."

Her suggestion was to wipe the phone and rebuild all of my settings, reload my over 2700 contacts, and reconnect with three different email accounts and calendars.

Wrong answer!

Maybe the second call to Verizon Wireless will be the charm

So, I called back a second time. I had to joust with the voice response system a second time, got put on hold a second time and finally was able to get to the tech support person. I was forced to go through the same discussion about what I did, what happened and what I wanted to accomplish — just getting back to the factory setting without having to take my entire day rebuilding my phone.

After the long discussion, the agent realized that my question was beyond her level of skill. She asked permission to forward my call to the second level of support. She, by the way, appeared to have no idea what a page buddy is either.

Once again, I had to wade through the long technical support script to explain what happened, what I've done to try to fix it and ask for suggestions. Once again, the person couldn't understand what happened and what was needed.

This agent suggested that I call the Samsung USA support line and gave me their number and an incident number.

Speaking to Samsung's tech support line

Oh the joy. Now I get to talk to Samsung's voice response system.

After jousting with Samsung's voice response system, I was connected with a gentleman who appeared to know a great deal about the Note 2. He, at least, understood what a page buddy was. He pointed out the two available calendar widgets. He also suggested taking the battery out of the phone and doing a soft reset. Sure enough, the calendar widget was still gone.

When he suggested doing a hard reset and going through the long process, I suggested that wasn't an acceptable approach. He asked if he could put me on hold to speak with his backup support.

During the on-hold time, the call dropped.

Messing around on my own

I tried installing one of the two calendar widgets that were on the phone and noticed that something different happened when that widget showed up on the screen than when others were installed. The widget had diamonds on the four sides that made it look like it could be re-sized. Most widgets are not re-sizeable.

I was able to make the calendar widget look like the one that was accidentally deleted!

My primary questions are:

  1. Why didn't the tech support folks of Verizon or Samsung appear to know this little detail?
  2. Why don't these companies use tools such as those offered by LogMeIn to help support reps actually see what is happening on a customer's device?

 

Topic: Mobility

About

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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4 comments
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  • samsung obviously should know these things

    I have no idea why you think verizon would know about this though. they just sell you phones and plans, they don't give phone support like that. do you call Amazon when you can't find something on your laptop? no, you call Dell, Acer, or whoever made your machine.
    theoilman
    • Why expect Verizon to know the products they sell?

      @theoilman, Verizon imposes itself in the chain of tech support available for the device. It is necessary to call them first and let them "have at" the support issue before Samsung's better prepared folks can be called. I've tried going around Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile over the years to get directly with a vendor's tech support and have been told to talk to the wireless carrier first.

      So, although none of them really understand the devices the sell, the suppliers demand that we go through them first.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • And people still keep saying Apple products are overpriced

    But a part of that price pays for the free to use in store support with someone who actually might know how their products work. Not perfect but much better than the kind of phone support you endured. I know several people who switched to Apple products purely based on their terrible vendor phone support encounters.
    raleighthings
    • Apple's support

      @raleghtings, I must admit that every time I've called Apple's support for either my company's MacBooks or individual staff member's iPads, I've gotten through to friendly, knowledgeable and helpful support folks. When I've posted about those experiences, I get Email telling me about many problems that others have had.

      So, while I like Apple's support, others don't.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky