With product on the shelves (and in many places flying off them), and upgrade kits stocked up in Salt Lake, it was time to do the work of getting people going on x2.
The upgrade process, as you might expect, often did not go smoothly. I remember in particular one gentleman whose scathing, furious email was forwarded to me for emergency service. He had posted in an internet forum (this is in 1996, when there are about ten internet forums total) that the x2 upgrade was a scam, x2 wasn't real, and he was never going to buy another U.S. Robotics product.
I wrote a very careful reply, asking him if he could please tell me what happened. He wrote back and explained how he had tried to upgrade his modem and had no success getting the upgrade to work. His criticisms were fair, although his extrapolation that the entire technology was a fraud was a bit over the top. I replied to him immediately, saying "if you will email me your shipping address, we'll get a new modem out to you right away and then see if we can figure out what's wrong with the old one."
Well, long story short, by the end of our interaction, he had posted an update to that same internet forum, singing the praises of the company generally, and of me in particular, taking back all the awful things he had said and happily pronouncing that his faith in USR had been fully restored.
For those of you following along from work, here's the lesson -- your cost on a replacement product is almost nothing compared to the cost of an angry customer. A raving fan is worth, at a minimum, thousands of dollars to your company. Treat your customers right.
Among the many things I loved about working at USR was that I was empowered to fix problems as I saw fit. I was given a stock of about half a dozen brand-new modems specifically for these kinds of situations. When, in my judgment, a "free" modem was going to fix a bad situation and net us a gain, I was allowed to give it away. The thing about that particular guy was, it was obvious that he was angry because he was crushed. He was expecting the same great experience, great product and great performance he had always gotten in the past from USR, and when it all went horribly wrong, he felt like we had personally betrayed him. That was clear from his tone, and from the fact that he turned around and purred like a kitten the minute he believed someone really cared about fixing his problem. It's amazing what a little bit of genuine empathy will do.
That particular person's story was one of maybe five to ten that I dealt with during the upgrade frenzy. Once we had the kinks worked out, the process went pretty well, and it positioned us very well to do smooth upgrades to the V.90 and V.92 modem standards when they were implemented a couple of years later.
But that gets us ahead of ourselves. Right now, in the course of this history, we need to sign up some ISPs to provide x2 service to our growing ranks of consumer modem buyers. And to spread the x2 love from "end to end" of the call connection, we needed a clear goal and a way to motivate our sales force.
Next up: Connect NOW!