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Monday, December 8, 2014

The state of helpdesk and customer service...

I've been having some issues with my phone lately, a Galaxy S4 on Verizon. It started on the original phone and was mixed in with a host of other issues. Let me start from the beginning....
Things were going okay. The S4 was performing well, though I had a problem where it would lose all signal, but that wasn't often and came back after a reboot. There was some evidence to suggest it happened when the phone was too hot. I tried to keep it cool, and lived with it. Then I received an OTA update to the Samsung portion of the phone, and later that morning I had no connection to anything over the carrier network. WiFi was working great, but that isn't very helpful when you leave the house. I chatted with the Verizon helpdesk, and we finally determined that my SIM was toast. A trip to the Verizon Store and all seemed good.
This was when people stopped being able to hear me on the phone. Another session with the Verizon tech and we determined that the microphone on my phone had apparently failed. A headset and the speakerphone both worked without issue. I should have stopped there. To Verizon's credit, they offered me a warranty replacement, even though my phone was just out of warranty. Not having the default microphone is a problem, so I accepted the offer.
The replacement phone arrived, and it came with a new SIM. I followed the startup instructions, and everything seemed great. I should have left the house. It became evident the first time I left the house, that this phone was unable to remain connected to the mobile network. It would connect, and I made a few calls, but it would not STAY connected. Everything worked great over WiFi. Guess I should have made more phone calls to test it before sending the old phone back.
Verizon tech was again very helpful and sent a replacement phone for the replacement. This time I tested the heck out of it. Things seemed great, and I sent the 2nd phone back.
This is when I realized that I could make or receive a call, but there was NO SOUND on either end of the line. If I rebooted the phone, I could make or receive a call, sometimes 2 or 3 before the problem happened again. Verizon Tech had no idea and soon gave up. My online searching yielded a number of people with the same problem and I soon found one person who claimed that disabling Google Drive fixed the issue. I decided to try the same thing, and to my amazement the problem went away.... until today. That was about a month back, and now the problem has resurfaced without any apparent trigger.
This time I contacted Samsung support via their online chat feature. I feel bad for the level one tech that I'm certain was doing her best to address the problem. I have a feeling that like most techs, they are not really given the appropriate tools to do the job, and I'm certain are not encouraged to escalate problems so they can be analyzed and a root cause determined. She may be correct, it may be an application, but I doubt it. What follows is the text of the chat. Notice about half way through, she is convinced that Safe Mode has corrected the problem. This is not a safe assumption. The problem is sporadic, and does not re-occur immediately after a reboot. It's possible that the problem may have surfaced in safe mode if I stayed there long enough (which I may need to try). At this point I'm very much on the fence about getting another Samsung product. What happens with this device will be the deciding factor.

Chat InformationPlease wait for a Samsung Agent to respond.
Chat InformationYou are now chatting with 'Sashka'. There will be a brief survey at the end of our chat to share feedback on my performance today.
Chat InformationYour Issue ID for this chat is LTK1125602552346X
Sashka: Hi, thank you for contacting Samsung Technical Support. How may I help you today?

Andrew Houlne: I have run into a problem with my phone that Verizon can't answer.

Andrew Houlne: When I make a call, the call connects but there is no audio.

Andrew Houlne: It went away for a while when I disable Google Drive, but now the problem is back with no apparent trigger.

Sashka: I see that you are unable to hear when someone calls. Is that correct?

Andrew Houlne: If I reboot the phone, I can make or receive one call, then the next call is back to a connection with no audio.

Andrew Houlne: They can't hear me either. There is no ringing, no matter who makes the call, but the call does connect.
Andrew Houlne: I have verified this using my land line.

Sashka: May I ask you few questions to assist better?

Andrew Houlne: Yes

Sashka: May I know the model number of your device?
Sashka: You can find it in Apps >> Settings >> About device >> Model number or beneath the battery which generally starts with SM,SCH,SGH.

Andrew Houlne: SCH-I545

Sashka: Thank you.

Andrew Houlne: Android version 4.4.2, Baseband version: I545VRUFNK1, Kernel Version: 3.4.0, Build Number: KOT49H.I545VRUFNK1

Sashka: Did the issue with the phone start after installing any third party application on the phone?

Andrew Houlne: Not that I am aware of. The phone has been working fine for about a month since the last episode. Nothing changed today of which I am aware.

Sashka: Okay. Please try to play of yours in voice recorder and then check if you can hear it.

Andrew Houlne: Voice recorder works fine.

Sashka: I se that the speaker is fine.
Sashka: Please call someone by turning on the headset and check if someone can hear you.

Andrew Houlne: There is no sound. I can not hear anything from the remote caller, and they can not hear me, but the call does connect.

Sashka: Okay.
Sashka: Let us check for some call settings once.

Andrew Houlne: Okay.

Sashka: Please tap on phone app >> menu >> settings >> call>> personalize call sound >> clear sound.

Andrew Houlne: Okay, it was off. Now it is set to clear sound.

Sashka: Check by making a call and see if you can hear anything.

Andrew Houlne: No. There is still no sound.

Sashka: Okay. Let us perform few troubleshooting steps to isolate the issue. Shall we?

Andrew Houlne: Okay.

Sashka: Let us check for the issue in Safe mode.
Sashka: Turning on the device in safe mode will disable all the downloaded applications on the device and it will run with factory applications.
Sashka: 1. Power the device off.
Sashka: 2. Press and hold the Power key for one or two seconds to turn on the device.
Sashka: 3. When the Samsung logo displays, press and hold the Volume down key until the lock screen displays.
Sashka: Result: If successful, Safe Mode will appear on the device screen in the bottom left corner.
Sashka: Let me know once you are done with the steps.

Andrew Houlne: rebooting...

Sashka: Okay.

Andrew Houlne: Safe mode is active

Sashka: Okay. Call someone in safe mode and check if you can hear.

Andrew Houlne: Yes. It is currently working.

Sashka: Cool! I see that  as the issue is resolved in safe mode, please uninstall 3rd party applications once you are in the normal mode.

Andrew Houlne: Which applications?

Sashka: The issue will not persist if you uninstall third party applications when you are in the normal mode.

Sashka: Third party applications are the ones installed from the play store.
Andrew Houlne: Then why did it work until today. I have not added or changed any applications in a month.

Sashka: I would like to inform you that hanging of the phone and issues with the phone will start after 1-2 months after installing third party applications generally.

Andrew Houlne: Is there any way to determine which application is causing the problem. If I uninstall all applications, then the phone is worthless to me.

Sashka: I do understand that. However, disable apps which hang your phone much like viber, etc which are very much related to calling.

Andrew Houlne: The only "calling" applications I have are Google Voice, and Hangouts.

Sashka: Please disable those, as the issue might be because of them.

Andrew Houlne: one moment.

Sashka: Sure, take your time.
Sashka: Not to rush you, are we still connected on the chat?

Andrew Houlne: Yes.
Andrew Houlne: I have disabled those applications and for the moment the phone is able to make more than one call at a time without the problem. Are you certain this isn't a bug in Android 4.4.2?
Andrew Houlne: Some of the newsgroups suggest that 4.4.4 may solve the issue.

Sashka: Yes, as you are able to make the call now, the issue is with those applications.
Sashka: I would like to inform you that there is no wrong with the update and there is no issue with other apps.

Andrew Houlne: I was able to make calls before I disabled those applications. As you said, sometimes it takes a while.

Sashka: May be, but as it is working fine, let us be away from those applications for good.
Sashka: I appreciate your efforts!

Andrew Houlne: Hangouts SHIPS with the operating system. It is a google application. I NEED that application for my job. Telling me that an application provided with the phone is the problem does not solve the issue!

Sashka: I would like to inform you that it is  not a pre-installed application, you have to download it from the play store. So, that would be a problem, as you have an option to update them separately.

Andrew Houlne: If it was only a downloaded application then I could uninstall it. I can not. I can disable it, but it is permanently a part of the phone.

Andrew Houlne: It does get updates from play, but the base load remains.

Sashka: If it is a pre-installed one, then it is alright! It will be there in the phone and will not delete even if you try to.  May be the issue was because of Google voice.

Andrew Houlne: I will leave it as is for a while and see. Is there a way to continue this if the problem appears again?

Sashka: Sure. Please get back to us with chat id:LTK1125602552346X and we will be glad to assist you with the issue if it reappears, which I am positive that it wont.

Andrew Houlne: Okay, thank you for your time.

Sashka: Sure.
Sashka: You're welcome. Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Andrew Houlne: Not at this time.

Sashka: We strive for your satisfaction!
Sashka: Have a great day ahead!Take care.
Sashka: We thank you for your inquiry today and hope your experience with Samsung tech support has been a pleasant one. In an effort to continuously improve our service, we request you to take a minute and complete a quick survey.Please click blue 'X' button on the upper right corner and you will be provided with the survey to complete.
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