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"passed the suggestion off to our dev team"

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Customer service in the current decade has become rather curious. Help pages usually give you instructions for the most basic functionality, which you can usually work yourself. More advanced functionality is often poorly documented. 

There will come a time when help pages help no more, and you need to contact support. Support often refers you to the "basics" page as that is easier and quickest. When there it is tricky, they will get right back with "we have passed the suggestion off to our dev team". 

This phrase has become a euphemism for "no idea and not my job." You know you have hit the limit of support with this message. Worrying is that it seems to happen so quickly. I have memories of support having a more "can do" approach and trying to find an answer for me.

The good news is that the forums can be more help. Some people take pride in knowing things in the forums and can be the most help. From having got lost in different forums, Evernote is one of the better ones. I would congratulate the Evernote forum participants for that. 

The limitation is that even a capable forum cannot compensate for a limited product. It must be frustrating to have to say, again and again, that the product cannot do it yet.

My inspiration for this post was my experience with customer support that all too often gives easy answers and gives up too quickly when a real problem arises. Have others experienced this?

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This is not unique to Evernote as you pointed out... I hate using new software and feeling like I need to watch hours of YouTube videos to pick up some killer feature/workflow that is not documented anywhere for new users...

However, for the Evernote dev team... I MUCH prefer they focus their efforts and resources on building new features and functionality, not improving their help documents.  There will be time for that "later" (which is likely how this entire situation becomes an issue for most developing software programs).

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  • Level 5

No problem when support reaches a limit, and passes on to the devs:

  • The support request may be more a feature request, at least at that point in time.
  • The support request ends with a workaround (or worse no solution), and support needs to advance the problem to the devs

At the launch of v10 probably support was caught by a combination of a lot of new issues plus a not yet existing data base of proven solutions. What had worked for the legacy clients was often not applicable any longer (as many of us users experienced). This is why documentation is important: It creates a basis for support to use, and it may take the one or other user ticket away because there is a help document on the topic.

Support is pretty much back to normal now, since February reaction time is fast, even the Chat is working again since March. For me the problems are explained by a bad product launch, not a lack of focus or else. Hope they appoint the head of support to run QA on future releases - would take away a lot of heat in the first place.

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  • Level 5*

In an ideal world,  with a stable,  established (and reliable) product,  it should be possible to set up an FAQ to onboard new users with minimum fuss,  backed up by a more in depth user manual explaining how to do everything.  Support agents would be properly employed using their skills for unusual events and crises.

However.  Over here in the real world,  where dozens of different factors affect whether or not something is working,  and users are connecting through a host of different devices,  it's virtually impossible to document everything.  Especially if you just launched a completely new version of your app.

Even where the developers have taken the time to write down how to use their particular widgets there can be communication gaps - in that 'obviously' everyone will click this before doing that so things work as expected.  However some users (who clearly didn't go to the same logic class) inevitably click that first,  so they can do this - and chaos may ensue..  Trust me,  I've been there,  done that (from both sides). 

I still remember the user I personally supported over several conversations and much testing on my part who eventually said "Oh! I didn't realise I had to actually type that dot in my name...".  (It was a while ago...)  No users were harmed at the conclusion of that conversation,  though I did kick a desk.  I am still part of a chat group where after more than a decade former colleagues share similar (and suitably anonymous) horror stories about their nightmare support calls.

Somehow every tech firm has to weed out the basic queries that are down to unfamiliarity with the process or software, lack of tech experience by the user, and would just end up with a support agent repeating the same mantra over and over.  (See: my standard "this is a [mainly] user-supported forum..." comment!).

So stuff gets posted as FAQs and help pages,  and the company distances its support team as far as possible from direct human contact.  That's now a matter of general practice on the Internet.

I agree its an efficient use of the support agent's time (and avoids the boredom of repeating simple fixes) - but it does rather pass the buck to the user.  As @aukirk points out - while it's possible to pick up some useful tips over time (partly why I still haunt the forums here),  it does mean that the user has to invest a lot of time to learn how to use new software and deal with any hitches. 

I wound up raising a ticket with Bitdefender today because I'm using their free AV app as a trial.  It was blocking 'threats' coming from one of my cloud storage providers which stopped me logging in or downloading any files.  I wanted to set up an exception for the URL and a local folder,  but found I could not.  So I spent a happy hour or so looking for confirmation that a) I was doing this the right way,  and b) whether the free app should allow me to do that.

I hit the manual, the website, the forum and all points in between.  Support came back in an hour or so with one line:  "you don't have that option in Bitdefender Free..." - which it does not say in the app!  (Brownie points that they also said - "check that it is a false positive before you allow more access".  More support queries to cloud provider follow...)

"AI" may change the game a little - I'm already seeing chatty little bots bouncing around onscreen offering help - although the limits of coding still mean that the most common response is "I'm sorry,  I didn't understand that..."

It's a shame the human element is taken out of the equation though - my human dotty friend forinstance taught me to listen to tone of a support call as well as the content.  If the caller sounded as though s/he didn't know much about tech,  things got a lot more basic.  "I can't send email" might mean anything from "I'm using the wrong app" to not being connected to the network.  Not easy for someone with limited knowledge to find the correct solution to their problem - you need to know 75% of the answer to ask a coherent question.

Happy days.  Glad I don't have to do that sort of thing any more...  ☺️

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People will do what they are paid to do. 

As little as 40 years ago, tech support was a fledgling field. Companies hired geeks like me to help people with their tech problems. But eventually, there had to be a metric by which to measure the job these techs did and out of that grew trouble ticket systems. It didn't take long for the techs to figure out that they weren't getting paid to solve problems, but to close tickets. In theory, these should be the same thing, but in practice they were not. 

Turn it of and wait twenty minutes before you turn it back on. Call back if you still have a problem.
Problem unsolved, but ticket closed. The quicker they can close a ticket, the more money they make. 

Add to that companies realized that getting new clients was much easier and cheaper than keeping existing ones, and you have the perfect storm that is today's tech support system. 

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21 hours ago, dbvirago said:

that they weren't getting paid to solve problems, but to close tickets

Yes, I have seen this too, the metric may even be displayed on screen in the public space. It becomes a game how you can manipulate what is displayed on this board. That is all the management really cares about. Eventually, somebody hits the jackpot, the screen spews out money for somebody. At that point the management realises they have a problem and decides they need a new metric. The cycle seem to take only 3 months. It takes 3 months for somebody to crack the system and driven to the absurd. Some people are remarkably clever and creative, and it just warms my heart. 🙂

The client is the loser of course, because the same game dictates the problems are not best solved but most importantly avoid. 

I have often wondered about management naivety, and it is demonstrated wonderfully in the design of tech support systems. The rats in the wheel are not to blame. 

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  • Level 5

One places a post with the basic assumption „They did it that way at company X back then, all companies do it like that“. Which is obvious nonsense. Then the other kicks in and confirms it, because it matches his personal view of things. What happens when you multiply nonsense by ignorance ? More of both - probably.

The only thing I am sure about: The guys a EN support earned every dime they received the last months. No need to speculate about this.

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