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Ask Slashdot: Tech Customers Forced Into Supporting Each Other? 253

An anonymous reader writes "Has anyone else noticed the trend towards 'community forums' where customers are basically being recruited to solve the issues of other customers while the companies selling the products causing the issues sit back and take a passive role in the process? Granted, sometimes the companies' employees play an active part in the forums and provide some value-add by contributing crucial, and often undocumented, knowledge that solves the problem in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case, and this leaves customers with no visibility into whether or not their problems are being addressed, and, if they are, when they might expect to receive assistance. This is bad enough when dealing with consumer electronics that cost up to a couple of hundred of dollars, but it's completely unacceptable when dealing with proprietary design tool vendors that are charging several thousand dollars for software licenses for tools that are the only option if a customer doesn't want to drop an order of magnitude more money to go with 3rd party tools (e.g., Synopsys). Who do you think are the worst offenders of this downloading of support onto the backs of the customers themselves, and what can be done about it?"
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Ask Slashdot: Tech Customers Forced Into Supporting Each Other?

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  • by ngc5194 ( 847747 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @12:11PM (#47083123)
    Everything you say is true, but at least having such a forum where one can get some support is better than not, and better than having that pseudo-support scattered across a dozen boards over the Internet. Doesn't excuse such lazy behavior, of course. Generally, if a company is providing an expensive product for which I need support, and then provides crappy support, I'll be looking for an excuse to try a competitor's product next time out. You might think that this would lead companies to upgrade their support, but it doesn't seem to. One of the big problems is that most of that company's customers are idiots, so it's a huge money sink to constantly answer their silly questions with expensive, highly trained support people. So, if a producer is using the forum to weed out the Tier 1 "Would it work better if I plug it in?" crowd while jumping in and helping out when someone has a real problem, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. If such a forum is viewed as a replacement for support, then I'll likely be looking at competing products next time.
  • 3D studio max (Score:5, Informative)

    by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @12:12PM (#47083129) Journal
    I had that problem with 3Dstudio max back in its heydays.

    I finally decided to bite the bullet and go legit, I purchased a full 3Dstudio max 4 license + character studio (In my country, that cost over 5000 USD back then), and I didn't receive ONE ounce of support, only mocking for not having the right equipment for their software.

    3D studio Max 4 got constant crashes with Application Error and corrupted files. And while I was in the middle of an important animation project of mine, this was unacceptable. Freezes and Crashes. Autodesk supporters blamed my computer. I did everything they said, I upgraded to Windows 2000 Professional, I upgraded my ram to the maximum possible limit. I even switched the mainboard 3 times + upgraded to the recommended intel processor. It still had the same freezes and crashes.

    After 6 month struggling with the big corporation, I got tired of 3D software and swore I'd never use it again, but once a 3D artist...always a 3D's almost like being an alcoholic, it is THAT addictive (at least to me), so I tried Blender 3D (back then it was a small runt around 2mb while 3Dstudio max was a 60mb beast), and I had less crashes, albeit it was harder to learn.

    Discovered a few bugs in Blender, and reported it to the coders (Ton Roosendaal), and got an INSTANT response, no longer than 2 days had some of his coders in his coding team fixed the bug, free of charge ...simply based on their PRIDE of their work. I was in love.

    And what can we learn from that? Today I still use Blender, albeit for professional production. I've produced high end commercial for the big brands such as Carlsberg (beer, not free...) worldwide and never looked back.
  • by smillie ( 30605 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @12:45PM (#47083253) Journal
    The company I worked for 20 years ago bought some expensive software and the people who came out to install it couldn't make it install. A call to their own tech support was no help. Boss called me up to look at the problem. When I looked at their install batch file I saw the problem was the install script assumed the hard disk was at C:. When you have more than 2 floppies in the system the first hard disk is at E:. The system had three floppies. I modified the install script while the two company reps watched and the install when fine. A forum having other people with a similar hardware setup might have been a help.
  • Re:Unity3D (Score:4, Informative)

    by fatgraham ( 307614 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @12:47PM (#47083263) Homepage

    Help menu -> report a bug... Do you think it needs to be easier?
    There's the issue tracker( [] ) for submitting other bugs... and this gives a very loose guide to what issues bug people the most...

    *Every* bug gets checked and seen!

    The problem a lot of the time is working out which bug needs to be fixed first by the limited resources we have...

  • Re:I'm Okay With It (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @12:58PM (#47083311)
    I tend to agree with you for the most part.

    There have been User Groups providing customer-to-customer support almost as long as there have been computers.

    Most of the time, the answers I receive from the community forum are received more quickly and are of better quality than those I receive from first tier support in the more formal support channels.

    On the other hand, there are some companies that use the community support as the sole means to provide support, and the community has little or no employee involvement. Those companies, the ones that use the community to hide from their customers, I do not like. And I avoid their products.

  • Support (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @01:24PM (#47083441)

    People have no idea how much tech support costs. I used to run a tech support department in the 90s (on the technical side, not a manager) and it was always funny when customer would claim to have been "Ripped off" because they waited on hold for 10min.

    How much did you pay for the device?
    Take that, the figure out how much profit the manufacture is getting. 1/3 of the sale price would be very generous.
    Figure out how long you were on the phone with support.
    Assume the support worker is making minimum wage: $7.25 (they made more but lets just assume)
    multiply... subtract...
    The manufacture pretty much loses all profit as soon as you call them.
    They first tried putting support on-line. But the people who needed support were usually so un-tech savvy they couldn't even open a browser. (this was the 90s)
    So then they tried IVR (phone tree support) but people were too impatient and just skipped it.
    They tried raising the price of the product but people wouldn't pay.
    Then they tried charging for support. People flipped out and every call turned into an hour long bitch session.
    Then they moved support out of the country so they could hire bellow minimum wage. But then the customers started screaming because people "Didn't speak English" That kind of bugged me because I trained staff from Jamaica and India, and they were all very intelligent people. Far more skilled than the people calling in and complaining.

    Finally they just put up forums and said "screw it" and shut down support all together. I got laid off, got a hell of a lot better job and the general public just ended up forgetting that there was ever such a thing as phone support.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.