Sometimes I envy the Apple faithful. I have a long and woeful list of reasons why you couldn’t drag me into a Apple Store at gunpoint, let alone lay out hard-earned for any of their products. But I’ll give them this, they have mastered the art of the customer experience. And if we don’t start mastering it, or at least try to emulate it to a lesser extent, it’s going to be why free tech will die on the vine.
This week’s Raspberry Pi 2 release is a classic example. For freedom nerds, this should have been our iPhone 6 release day. It should have been a moment to celebrate and reaffirm our predilections to technological ideology. The reality for me (and I hear, a great many fellow Raspberry Pi aficionados) has left us feeling confused, excluded and most importantly, questioning whether our loyalty to the Raspberry Pi bandwagon might be misplaced.
So what went wrong?
We got jumped. Just last week, I was giving a talk to colleagues after work about how they could help their kids master tech, recommending that they buy RPI 1 B+. I looked a right tit when a machine 6 times as powerful for the same price was launched the next Monday that I had no clue was coming. When Apple release a new machine, their loyal customers get fair warning, and a chance to make the effort to be first in the queue for the new kit, and even know what they’re going to get for making that effort.
We got double jumped. Having given it 24 hours thought, I can sort of see why Windows compatibility is a plus from a commercial angle. And far be it from me to restrict choice. BUT! Last week I was extolling the virtues of free software efficiency, and the problems with proprietary platforms. And promoting the Pi as the object example of this. It would have been nice not to have been dramatically contradicted without warning. It may be hyperbole to say that many of us see it as a bit like inviting the wolf into the Chicken run. But I think that feeling is at least the result of some evidenced experience. If the wolf is coming in, some time to get used to the idea would help.
Getting one is isn’t an experience, it’s a pain in the backside. Within an hour of the announcement, my debit card was getting plugged into RS. RS’s site said it had stock, and i can fill online order forms for new tech pretty damn quick . If you order anything from RS, you usually get it next day, and they’ve built a massive business on that. Without warning, at 1pm today, I got an email “order confirmation”, which was weird, because I got one of those yesterday. So I had a look, and it wasn’t a confirmation, but a delivery update. Apparently the “in Stock” item was now on back order for shipping in nearly 3 weeks time. I tried putting an order in with Element 14, but their site was bobbins. I got another “Order Confirmation”, which turned out to be an update that they intended to ship my stuff on the 9th now. But that had since been put back to the 20th. All of which is most aggravating, because this isn’t the 1st time this has happened with Raspberry, but an unforgivable 4th time (Initial release, release of rev2 boards with 512 ram, the B+ release and now the Pi 2 have all been the same.) I’m sat here typing this because i’m £28 lighter without anything to show for it and no confidence in when that will change. If it were a completely new product concept in an untested market, I could understand. But there’s a following there now. High demand for a popular product was completely predictable to the point of being inevitable. And yet we have to settle for the fobbing off and second rate service every time.
It seems that you don’t get what you pay for, only what you pay through the nose for.
And no I haven’t cancelled my order. Because crappy customer experience aside, the new Pi looks awesome.