Programming Blog

Jeremy Morgan

Mostly Coherent Ramblings of a Silicon Forest Software Developer

A Great Product Isn't Enough.

By: Jeremy Morgan

In the design of a product or campaign, most of us strive to create the best product we can create at the time.  This can range from really good quality, to horrible, and it depends on the amount of time, effort and money the creator of the product is willing to spend.

The barriers to building a great product differ greatly. It is significantly easier to build a high quality paperclip than it is to build the fastest computer chip. And I can tell you with great certainty it’s difficult and costly to build a good 4G WiMAX service too. But Clear Communications managed to do just that.

Clear built a fantastic product, which is a wireless internet solution surrounding the Portland area (WiMAX). This product enables nomadic internet browsing all over the countryside, and I love being able to check my email while driving down the freeway. In fact, with the speeds I get from it, I could watch a movie on Netflix while driving down the highway (I bet that thought makes you a little uncomfortable).

The coverage is better than they said it would be. They told me I wouldn’t get a connection at my house, which is a ways south of Portland. I consistently get a 1-2 meg connection from home. They advertise speeds of up to 6mb, and I get that almost everywhere. So I get more than I was actually promised. It’s a fantastic product, and well worth what I pay for it. But I won’t be recommending it to anyone.

Great Product, frustrating service

My frustration with Clear started early. I won’t go into great detail, but I was promised a discount on it, (I work for the company who developed the technology for it), and never received the discount. After 6 months, I still haven’t, and probably never will.

There was a referral program, where if I refer customers I get a 25$ gift card. That was the most nightmarish process I have ever been through for a referral, with all kinds of back and forth, 5 phone calls, numerous emails, 3 days, and having to get someone’s social security number to get credit for the referral.  I’m really surprised my friend went through all that hassle to sign up. I never got the $25 gift card.

As a part of the package, I was given this neat little USB modem to connect to the service. Worked great until I bought a new PC, and couldn’t find the driver disk. I called clear, and they told me to go to their website. I go there, and download the Clear connection utility. But no driver for the modem.

I called back again and was told to go to their site. I explained that I still needed a driver, and was told to go to Motorola. I went to their site, and found the modem but their page has no driver download. I called Motorola, and they have never heard of the product.  After sending them the link to their site and doing some wrangling, I find out that 3 separate companies developed the product. None of them have a driver, and I was told: “You’ll have to contact Clear”.

A lot of frustration, especially considering I’m probably working in the same building where the driver was developed in the first place. This driver is nearly impossible to find.

Long story short I pay for a product that sits unused because I was stupid enough to lose the golden CD that guarantees access to the service. I’m going to go searching through my house and try to find that magical CD, and hopefully get back on the road again. Now, keep in mind I’m a technical person. Imagine the frustration of the average Joe trying to get this stuff worked out?

Moral of the Story: A great product is something to strive for.  However, a great product isn’t enough if your user experience sucks. What good is it to have a product that everyone is silently using? If they took as much care into customer service as they did in building the technology, I’d be a walking advertising machine for them, instead I’m referring nobody, and even complaining about them on my blog.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere.