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Maybe I Will Upgrade, Maybe I Won’t

acrobatcomWas pumped tonight to see Mashable’s post about Adobe offering a paid upgrade for their Acrobat.com service. There are things I enjoy about Adobe’s  service, none the least of which is the ConnectNow webconferencing capability which I use often. One thing I don’t like is embedding a PDF in their viewer (see below) and having it’s ugly branding slapped prominently on it.

Knowing I’d upgrade if the embeddable PDF viewer could have it’s branding removed, I reached out to their live chat tonight and the Phillipines call center person was sort of dumbfounded by my simple question (chat transcript after the jump).

I reached out to ask one, simple question after reviewing the website and other materials for half an hour: “If I upgrade, am I able to remove the ‘Acrobat.com’ branding from the embeddable PDF viewer?”

acrobatviewerThis is important to my business since I want *my* branding on my website and blogs vs. Adobe’s. If any company gives us their service for free, it’s tough to argue with them slapping their brands on the viewers. If I pay for the service, I want their’s off and mine on (or none at all).

That should’ve been a simple matter for the Phillipines customer center to answer (if it’s NOT a bullet point on an Acrobat.com feature list, it should be). I understand they’re playing a support function for the service (and are not in pre-sales), but Adobe really needs to empower people like this to answer no-brainer questions like this one since people like me (with those simple-but-possible-deal-killer questions) will simply not keep working so hard to find an answer so we can give Adobe our money.

As it stands now, I have to make a phone call to find out if branding can be removed.

In a box before starting Live Chat, I typed in three paragraphs describing *precisely* what I wanted to know and that I was considering an upgrade, wanted to know *if* I upgraded could I remove branding and if so, I’d consider upgrading. Not too complicated, heh? Sure seemed so for Adobe’s representative:

Thank you for choosing Adobe. A representative will be with you shortly. Your estimated wait time is 0 minute(s) and 4 second(s) or longer as there are 1 customer(s) in line ahead of you.

You are now chatting with Glady.

Glady: Hello! Welcome to Adobe Customer Service.

Steve Borsch: hello

Glady: Hi Steve, Please give me minute to review your issue.

Steve Borsch: ok

Steve Borsch: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Acrobat.com/Acrobat/WS457C6D57-54FB-480d-8018-870E685467EF.html#WS9DFC2735-E8A5-4c64-9365-E5FE14CE9869

Steve Borsch: That’s the “File sharing” help page that describes embedding…but nothing about removing Adobe’s brand.

Glady: I see, can you give me a moment to check on this Steve?

Steve Borsch: sure

Glady: I’m sorry, is this an online subscription Steve?

Steve Borsch: yes

Glady: May i ask which online subscription is this?

Steve Borsch: acrobat.com

Steve Borsch: it’s more of a pre-sales question because *if* the branding cannot be removed from the embeddable viewer, I’m not interested in paying for an upgrade to Acrobat.com

Glady: May i ask if you want to upgrade your account?

Steve Borsch: i would consider it if you would answer my question

Glady: And your question is if the branding can be removed from the embeddable viewer?

Steve Borsch: don’t mean to be rude…but are you actually reading what I’m writing? That is exactly what I’ve been asking and *did* ask in the first three paragraphs submitted before the start of the Live Chat

Glady: We are just clearing things so i can provide you the best possible answer here Steve, sorry for the inconvenience.

Glady: I apologize Steve but I think it would be best if I’ll direct you to our sales support.

Steve Borsch: where are you located geographically?

Glady: They will walk through you with your concern Sir. We are in Manila, Philippines Sir.

Steve Borsch: OK. How do I connect with sales support?

Glady: Here is the number : 866-692-3623

Steve Borsch: bye

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

Comments

  1. Hello Steve,

    Thanks for the posting. First, allowing custom branding is not yet included as a feature of our subscription offerings. However, it is on our list of enhancements, and other customers have requested it on our http://ideas.acrobat.com website. I added a link to your posting in a comment over there so we have a record of it. And for sure the fact that it is keeping you from purchasing makes it a high priority for us. :-)

    Regarding our chat support, I’m sorry they weren’t able to answer your question. We will certainly add this to our FAQ and training for them so other customers will get a quicker and more complete response the first time.

    Thank you,
    -Erik Larson (Twitter @erikdlarson)
    Adobe Systems

  2. At least Gladys is possibly the person’s real name. When you’re on Dell support and the person is either Bob, Frank or George, its difficult to build the trust when they start the whole dialog with a lie.

  3. Steve Borsch says:

    Thanks Erik. I’ll wait until you announce it then.

    One amusing sidenote. A buddy (whom I’ve tried to convince to COMMENT here instead of emailing me!) ;-) said, “What’s the difference with Adobe branding the viewer vs. Ford branding their cars or Pioneer the radio within it?” A valid point…but a car as a ‘container’ is a lot different than a website/blog…or the screen we’re looking at since visual noise detracts from the focus we’re trying to get readers to have on what we’re offering.

    Another $.02…

  4. Steve Borsch says:

    Eric — “Glady” (pro. “glad-ee”) was the name of a great aunt of mine and it’s possible that was the person’s real name. Doesn’t matter though…what ‘does’ matter in that chat transaction was that she didn’t answer my question and the time it took to get to the point of her saying that and offloading me to a sales support phone number took about 8 minutes. It was an unfortunate waste of time.

  5. Good conversation here, Steve! A couple random thoughts:

    1) I need a new name, since there are too many Eric/Erik/Erick/Erich Larson/Larsen people in the world. I have no connection to Adobe’s Mr. Larson.

    2) Our experience with Adobe Connect (starting with Macromedia Breeze) in a local install has been great; it’s one of those “it just works” kinds of products. (Nothing’s perfect in the web-conferencing world… but it’s as I think one can be in 2009.) So you’re barking up a good tree.

    3) The branding question is interesting; you can usually pry the Ford emblem off your car (etc.), but with software — particularly when it’s a “service” — you’re stuck with what you’re given. If you’re paying for it, it’s reasonable to ask if you can avoid advertising for someone else. (Of course, Adobe could try to argue “Because of the outstanding deal you’re being offered, you agree to our minimal branding”…)

    4) I’m torn on the customer service side; it shouldn’t take 8 minutes of awkward conversation to get to sales… but I know I’ve had to do the same “Please jump through our hoops so we can get you in the system the right way” kind of imposition on customers. (In our case, they’re “internal customers” so we’re not in the same position of seeking clients as Adobe is.) Personally, my worst experiences have been with medical/dental processing: a. promise you something, b. botch it and send a nasty letter, c. respond politely to your call, promise you something, but ask for more information/detail in writing, d. botch it and send a nastier letter, e. repeat.

    Nine times out of 10, “customer service” stuff works out great, but that tenth time is really unpleasant.

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