Wednesday 4 March 2015

Family Tree (Y)DNA test results seriously backlogged

Along with many, many others, I swabbed my mouth beneath the FamilyTreeDNA banner at the Back To Our Past (BTOP) fair in Dublin in mid-October. I took the FamilyFinder test and received my results within about six weeks, as scheduled.

I know someone else whose FamilyFinder results didn't arrive so quickly and who had to metaphorically stamp her feet before they finally turned up around Christmas time, about four weeks after the advertised turn-around.

Lucky were we that couldn't take the Y-dna test! Richard Tulloch, a regular reader of Irish Genealogy News, also tested at the fair and was still awaiting his results when he contacted me last week. After waiting for more than three months, he had complained to FamilyTreeDNA by email in late January and received the following response:

"In the last few months a supplier of an important component of our Y-DNA tests ceased production of that component, somewhat unexpectedly. In order to complete our Y-DNA tests we had to upgrade to the next generation of sequencers to most efficiently process the test. In effect this caused an unexpected R and D project within the lab.

“Our lab has been very meticulous in the development of this new procedure because the reliability of your results is paramount, however Research & Development takes time. The Lab has completed and successfully tested each step of the process to reach the level of confidence necessary to begin reporting results, however we do have a respectable backlog that will take several weeks of overtime to clear up. We will be much faster in the future with this test.

For the next six weeks, Richard has regularly checked the company's online customer service system to find the 'expected delivery date' has been pushed forward by two weeks, and another two weeks, and another two weeks. Not once has the company 'reached out' (to use a ghastly phrase much loved by marketeers and the like) to their customer. Put another way, the company has shown him no courtesy.

To add to the growing ill-feeling, FamilyTreeDNA ran big discounted promotions in December, undoubtedly resulting in more submitted tests that simply added to the backlog. Richard should have been exploring his results by then, based on the company's own 'average' processing times (see screengrab below).

Understandably, he wasn't happy to see these promotions when his own results were overdue. A delay is one thing but while it's irritating, most people understand that 'things' can happen. Poor customer service, however, is inexcusable. Customers should not have to poke and prod to find out what is going on. And if a supplier cannot provide a customer with the service s/he has paid for, the supplier should at least present the option of a full refund.

Having taken a look at FamilyTreeDNA's own Grumbles and Gripes forum, a place where their customers can let off steam, I'm sorry to say that Richard's experience is not unique. Far from it. Likely to be the tip of the iceberg, there are many complaining customers venting their frustration on that forum not only about the delay but also the company's diabolical standard of 'customer service'. Dissatisfaction is spreading beyond the forum, too.

On Tuesday 24 February I sent a Press Enquiry, by email, asking for comment about the delays. Eight days later, I've heard nothing. In view of what I'd read on the forum, this didn't surprise me.

As I was preparing to write this blogpost yesterday, Richard emailed me to advise that his results had finally arrived. After more than 19 weeks (19 October to 3 March), an apology from the company would have been a nice touch, would have cost nothing and must surely be easy enough to generate as part of an automated system.

He didn't get one.


(Just for transparency... I recently returned a complementary dna test from AncestryDNA (see blogpost), results expected in 3-5 weeks time. About three years ago, I took up a complementary y-dna test offer from FamilyTreeDNA and at BTOP last year I paid the going rate to FamilyTreeDNA for a FamilyFinder test; both tests were processed without delays.)