Creative Suite CS 5.5 doesn’t activate?

by kai on 19/12/2011

Yes, I know – this is the first post in this blog since … more than a year. Oups!

Demanded by Terry Ryan, this is a blog post about a terrible Adobe support experience and the solution to a problem that happened to me a few week ago (Well, Terry only asked me to blog the solution – but I think it’s fair to also tell the support story here)

All of a sudden my Creative Suite CS 5.5 license on my Mac didn’t activate anymore. Quite annoying when you’re sort of relying on it as the tools of your trade. I didn’t want to go in depth into the support experience I  had with Adobe’s first level support – let me just say it came quite close to the most useless 3-4 hours of my life (“Is your network switched on?”, “Have you rebooted?” etc). Adobe’s end customer product support is absolutely ridiculous (as many other people have previously talked about).

Anyway – after the problem of non-activating Creative Suites had spread to a few other installations we have and Adobe support wasn’t interested to help at all, I had to resort to actually “work around” the issue – e.g. hacking my way to a solution. Amazing how that solved the problem within ca two minutes for me after Adobe wasn’t able to help. Being me, I created some noise on Twitter, on internal Adobe community mailing lists as well as with the local Adobe NZ office.

The fix:

Finally my issue was escalated high enough that I was put with someone at Adobe support for the activation system who actually knew what he was talking about and interesting/enabled to help. It took him about 5 minutes on the phone with me to identify the issue and guess what – it was an issue with the Adobe activation system and the New Zealand timezone. (GMT+13 at the moment). I pretty much had to delete some old activation files on my hard drive, change my timezone to UK, activate while I was in that timezone and then change it back to NZDT. Easy fix.

Bugs like that can happen, I write software myself and I can absolutely understand. What I don’t understand and tolerate is shitty customer support though. Adobe got me to the point where I had to use technically illegal measures to actually put my software temporarily into a working state. Is that how you should treat your customers? The answer is quite frankly: no.

It’s not even that hard to improve:

– Empower your support reps to make actual decisions and give them the knowledge to do so (as a side note – just I personally know 4-5 more organisations/individuals who ran into this issue and Adobe has over the time of it occurring – ca. 4 weeks – not ever updated the scripts for their first level support).

– Software activation sucks because it’s the most annoying thing ever for your honest customers when it fails (as my case here clearly shows). At the same time, it’s tremendously easy to find a way around it if one needs to (again as my case here clearly shows – and I’m not even a professional hacker/cracker). As a software vendor you don’t gain anything but bad karma, really.

– If your providing “support” via Twitter – make sure you invest into a good & consistent follow-up system if more than one person provide support via Twitter. I can’t count the number of times that @Adobe_Care have asked me the same details of my problem over and over again (different people or people not realizing that I was still talking about the same problem etc).

Is there hope for the quality of Adobe’s support? Well, there’s always hope, isn’t it? Am I dreaming here?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

RogerTheGeek December 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Activation systems seem to cause so many end-user problems. The one that Adobe uses really should be replaced. While they are at it, please replace one that is cross-platform rather than leaving out Linux.


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