Technical Nonsupport


By Steve Oppenheimer

(April 2004)

We often get reader requests for an exposé of music-tech manufacturers’ tech-support practices. Although the idea appeals to my more aggressive side, we have never figured out a fair, accurate approach. After all, we are technical writers, not trained investigative reporters. However, we agree that companies that provide good tech support — and those that don’t — should be recognized.

Tech support can be a nightmare for users and manufacturers alike. From the manufacturer’s point of view, tech support is expensive. To do the job properly, a company needs highly trained and well-equipped tech-support staff members that are conversant not only with its products, but with other products that might be used with, and could affect the performance of, the company’s products.

Although manufacturers are responsible for producing products that work as advertised, we users have to bear the primary responsibility for making our overall systems operate correctly. Yet many users are unwilling to read manuals and do some basic troubleshooting before calling for help. That means tech support, in addition to helping those that have a legitimate need for support, gets blasted with a lot of users who could have found their own solutions. We end users can therefore do our part by doing our homework, troubleshooting what we can, and being prepared.

But the fact is that a surprising amount of tech support in our industry just plain stinks, and that includes support from some major players who should be able to do better. Why is that?

For starters, some companies don’t consider tech support a priority because they don’t see it as a revenue source. That perception is inaccurate, though, because bad tech support can cost customers without the manufacturer realizing it. As a result, we wait in queues for long periods before we reach a support person. Or we wait for replies to our e-mail inquiries, only to get replies that don’t help solve our problem because we need real-time phone support, which might not be offered.

A few companies simply won’t admit that they made mistakes in developing a product. That’s when we encounter the blame game (“It’s the other company’s plug-in”), or we get treated like idiots because the company can’t believe its product is messing up as described.

Most companies could benefit from periodically taking a fresh look at their tech support, including soliciting user feedback and perhaps getting an outside analysis. Supporting products is part of the price of doing business, and customers who repeatedly encounter bad tech support can easily become ex-customers.

So when you need tech support, do your part and be prepared. But if you’ve done your part yet still have problems with tech support, report it to the company management. If the problem persists, let them know you are ready to give your future business to a rival company that cares about its customers. Then do it.