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MagicJack Revisited: How reliable is this company's customer support?

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Back in October, we reviewed the MagicJack phone adapter (see our review here), a USB dongle that lets you make VoIP calls from any Internet-connected computer. Since then, people have fiercely debated the device — either praising it for its simplicity and money-saving features, or hating it for its lack of customer support. Because it remains the most affordable VoIP plan we've seen, we decided to revisit MagicJack to find out if it there have been any changes in service and to see if it's worth your investment or not.

Installation
Setting up your MagicJack is easy and quick. Simply plug the device into your PC's or Mac's USB port (we used a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro), plug your standard telephone into the MagicJack's phone jack, and after a few seconds, the MagicJack start up screen walks you through account set up and choosing a phone number. (You can only choose the area code.) Once you've set up your account and verified your e-mail address, you're ready to make calls. Like our initial review, we encountered no set up problems.

Because it relies on your Internet connection, call quality with the MagicJack (or any VoIP provider) is only as good as your Internet connection. In our tests with the MagicJack, however, call quality sounded superb on both ends. To see what effect other Internet-connected devices would have on call quality, we streamed a Netflix video from a Roku Netflix Player and streamed a radio station from Slacker.com before making a call. Despite the traffic, call quality was still strong, without so much as a hiccup.

We then tried using the MagicJack on a PC. Set up was just as easy. In fact, no software is ever downloaded onto your computer, so taking MagicJack from one computer to another is seamless. Nevertheless, we knew that people and press were having trouble with their MagicJack, in particular with contacting customer support. So for our next test, we tried contacting a company rep.

Troubleshooting
After a few days of using the device, it was clear we weren't going to run into any problems. As hard as we tried, we couldn't find anything wrong with our unit, and any question that we did have was clearly answered in the company's very extensive FAQ. However, the Better Business Bureau has rated Ymax Communications (the parent company for MagicJack) with a C+ rating. So we contacted customer support to see what the experience was like.

Since we didn't have an actual problem to report, our question would involve setting up 911 emergency information. Although our question was very popular and answered in MagicJack's FAQ database, we continued with our attempt to reach tech support. The first thing we noticed is that there's no number or physical address on the MagicJack website. Even the parent company's website lacks proper contact information and only lists a P.O. Box address. Note to companies: If we're paying you for a service, there should be a way to contact you other than a P.O. Box.

Nevertheless, we continued with our attempt to reach someone at the company. It's worth noting that before you can reach live tech support you must click through four pages. Each page reminded us to check the company's FAQ guide before resorting to tech support. In a sense, it felt like each page was trying to dissuade us from contacting anyone at the company. We understand reps want to dedicate their time to serious questions and not inquiries like, "where is my computer's USB port," but customers are paying for this service, and they should have someone to speak with.

After drilling through a few pages and links, we found a live tech support link. We submitted our name, phone number, and "problem" via an entry form and were immediately informed we'd have to wait 3 minutes for a live service rep. In all, we waited less than two minutes before our question was taken. Our customer service rep was very polite and quick to answer our question and follow up question. Overall, our chat lasted under a minute. He then asked us to take a poll rating his service. We had no complaints.

We decided to contact tech support two more times during our week with the product. Both attempts involved false "problems" and both attempts were met with informative and quick replies. We've read numerous customer service complaints, but in our experiences, MagicJack's service reps were helpful and informative. (Of note, we contacted customer support as a MagicJack customer and not as press or product reviewer.)

To mark it's one-year anniversary, MagicJack updated its customer support policy in December. (We learned this through MagicJack's PR company.) It's still chat-based, but at the end of every session, the user has the option of rating that rep's overall performance on a scale of one to five (5 being the best). If a customer rates a rep poorly, the next time they initiate a live chat, they will automatically be taken to a "super rep" — a rep who consistently gets high customer ratings. While this approach worked in our experiences, the fact remains that there's still no phone support for MagicJack.

Conclusion
Our experience with MagicJack was superb. The product worked as advertised and customer support was fast and courteous. However, we feel that because MagicJack is a growing company which provides a service to over 2 million people (they describe themselves as the "largest competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) network in the U.S"), it needs to have a better way for customers to contact the company, whether it's for billing questions, troubleshooting questions, or anything else. Tech savvy customers may not have a problem with live chat, but many people who are not well-versed in tech may not feel comfortable with that method. Since this is the ideal demographic for its service, however, MagicJack should make it easy for them to contact a customer rep should the product fail to perform.

Customers have also complained about the company's marketing strategies. MagicJack's homepage does have an "as-seen-on-TV" feel to it, particularly with its embedded video which launches automatically every time you open the homepage. In addition, the MagicJack ad embedded in the MagicJack app also seems over the top. However, while irritating, that does not take away from the product's performance. Instead, we'd prefer to see MagicJack improve it's C+ rating with the BBB and provide a better way for customers to contact the company.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features editor.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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