How many times has this happened to you? You upgrade your software to the newest version and a critical function stops working? Or you are using software and you realise that some important functions were developed by folks that didn’t understand our didn’t care what the function was supposed to do?
So you hit help and it takes you to a poorly designed help function that hasn’t been updated since three major versions ago. So, now you Google the support page with hopes that Google will get you closer to support for your version, and voila… You are taken to a support page for your version of the software that tells you what a smart consumer you were for buying their software. It gives you a link to support for the software … and that support consists of a poorly designed FAQ page whose answers all take you back to the same “congrats for buying our software” page.
You then look for other service options … which you find are limited to a pay option (for software you purchased) or the ubiquitous “ask the community” option.
You opt for the latter option and find yourself reading about hundreds of other users with the same question with a few “try this and hope” answers from the community … but nary a comment or response from the development team.
So now you find yourself wondering why no one from the development team is moderating the discussion pages and providing definitive answers to common questions (or at the very least, taking note of the problems and either fixing them out documenting the workaround for the issue).
This happens to me all the time and I’m getting tired of it. I always try to solve problems on my own, reading the manuals; reading online help blogs; reading community fora; and then I search in vain for a way to contact the vendor.
I know you can’t talk to every user individually, but if you are putting out software, you have to let people know how you expected them to use it and you have to seek feedback for those occasions where it doesn’t work the way you expected. If you set up a community support area, you have to monitor it, looking for common problems and answering them definitively.
You also need to see where users may be confused about what you expected them to do and find ways to correct their expectations.
Finally, if some function in your software isn’t working and you can’t fix it, you need to acknowledge the deficiency and update all of the community blogs and help documents to tell folks it doesn’t work and not too bother looking for solutions. You then need to come up with a timeline for really fixing the problem and let your users know when it will be fixed.
So what do you think? Is there anything we can do to fix this problem? Is it a problem at all?