Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Hear You 5-by-5

I don't usually link to non-X-Plane blogs, but I really liked this pair of posts:


If you live in the US, you'll definitely appreciate it...the lists are funny and yet have a seed of painful truth in them.

So I decided to try to create my own lists.

I am only tangentially related in tech support - Randy takes on most of the work with some help from Jack. Sometimes very weird reports get escalated to me. (And most of the "let the report sit for a week" comes from me not having time to dig in.)

Anyway, please take these with a grain of salt - they're meant to be funny and exagerated. Most of our users are very, very helpful in tech support calls, despite the fact that, if you are talking to tech support X-Plane is already hosed. And Randy puts forth some amazing acts of patience in the face of some of the requests he gets. My hope here is only to show that there are two sides to the frustration in a tech support incident, and we'll all be happier if we can see the whole picture.

Five Things You Can Do To Annoy Tech Support

1. Be As Angry as Possible

Threaten to switch to Microsoft Flight Simulator. Drop the F word a few times. KEEP CAPS LOCK DOWN FOR THE ENTIRE EMAIL. Tech support definitely responds better to users who are angrier - you don't want to get sub-standard service because you were too nice, right?

2. Omit Information

If you have a second graphics card made in Kazakhstan, over-clocked and running hacked drivers you got off of the pirate bay, don't tell us. If your computer regularly catches on fire, be sure not to mention that. Did you recompile the Linux Kernel yourself after letting your pet monkey edit the thread scheduler? It's best we not know.

Extra credit: report a truly bizarre problem, provide no details on your customized configuration, wait a week and tell us how you fixed it by removing a third party program that "enhances" sound or graphics. Priceless!

3. Don't Include Past Emails In a Thread

Be sure to delete any past information from your email. Change the subject of the email so we can't tell what the original issue was. If you have more than one email, send replies from different addresses. A perfect reply would be "That didn't work" sent from an email address that you haven't used before, without your name included.

4. Email the Last Person You Talked To.

If you just finished up sorting out a shipping problem with the shipping guy, ask him how to create a plugin. If you just got info from the developers about UDP, ask them why your credit card was charged the amount it was charged.

5. Bring Up New Issues In the Middle of Old Ones.

To do this just right, wait until the thread between you and tech support is pretty deep into the meat of a complex issue. Then throw in another paragraph about something else that's gone wrong. To perfect this technique, try to pick a new problem that the person who you are emailing with isn't equipped to handle (see point 4) and keep the report vague (see point 2). You can repeat this technique to stretch out a tech support incident indefinitely.

Five Ways Tech Support Can Annoy You

1. Make the User Reinstall the OS

Reinstalling the operating system fixes approximately 0% of user problems, but it takes a really long time, and is almost guaranteed to screw something else up, usually something that wasn't broken and isn't related to X-Plane. If a user is a little bit annoyed, this is a great way to pour gasoline on the flames.

This is really a special case of the general strategy "ask the use to do something time consuming, annoying, and unlikely to help."

2. Forward the User a Huge FAQ, None of Which is Relevant to the Problem

Everyone likes form letters and impersonal service. The FAQ should be badly written, badly formatted, confusing to read, and preferably not accidentally contain the real solution to the problem. If the solution to the problem is in the FAQ, don't tell the user where in the FAQ to look.

3. Wait a Long Time Between Replies

Tech support incidents are like fine wines - they get better with age. To allow the user's annoyance to bloom into a finely honed rage, be sure to let each email 'sit' for a week before replying. This works especially well if your response is just to ask another question, setting the user up for another week's delay.

4. Blame Some Other Component

The modern PC is built by approximately 600 different vendors. Blame one of them. The beauty of this strategy is that it is one that can be used by every vendor who provided software or hardware for the PC. Also, because quite often the problem really is with another component, you can claim this with a straight face.

Tip: blame the graphics card maker - ATI and NVidia do not have the resources to pursue every complaint that an over-clocked graphics card running the latest patch to some simulator written by two guys in their bedrooms crashed with the drivers visible somewhere in the callstack. Put the blame on the GPU makers - they don't have the resources to refute you, no matter how bogus your claim.

5. Forward the User's Issue Around the Company Until It Gets Lost and Dropped

Everyone in the company has to be in on this strategy for it to work - if one of your idiot coworkers actually solves the user's problem, well that defeats the purpose. This strategy can be combined with (3) and is sort of a riff on (4) - once the user complains that they got dropped, blame everyone else in the company for the mis-communication.


Anonymous said...

HAHA!!! This is great and so true! But so far I think x-plane support have done a great job every time I have been in contact with you!

Dirk said...

Let's see - so far I think I'm 4 for 5 with you guys... I'm pretty sure I've done 2, 3, 4, and 5 (I hate having to be angry... and ALL CAPS - that's so last century...)

Your score is far worse. You unsuccessfully tried 5 and maybe a little bit of 2 and 4, but not once have I been asked to re-install the OS and your (and Austin's) responses have always been astoundingly fast.

I feel cheated.

Oh, hey, maybe it's because I wasn't angry enough AND DIDN'T REPORT IN ALL CAPS???

I'll try next time :-)

(priceless post)

vh said...

Ha! You got me in a few of those.

Five Ways to Annoy Aircraft Modelers

1. Randomize the default behavior of every switch on every minor update.

2. Require new features to be discovered à la Easter Egg Hunt.

3. Document a new feature that will defy any attempt to make it work.

4. Add new features that nobody want, and vice-versa.

5. Kill a feature when users complain its behavior isn't quite right.