Addicted to novelty since 2001

Ignore Technical Support at Your Peril

Today I had a technical question about HitBox Professional. My question was pretty mundane, but I couldn’t find the answer in their meagre documentation (PDF). So, I went to their support site.

First off, the site doesn’t render correctly in Mozilla. Given its simplicity (and the likelihood of a high ratio of Mozilla users among its users), that’s unforgivable. Next, I need to log in to access their support resources. This irritates me, but I’m a paying customer so I go searching through my email for my user name and password. They let me chose my password, but they’ve assigned me a user name. It isn’t my email address or name or anything logical–it’s WR540512E3RZ (well, not exactly, but something very like that). Thanks, that’s really memorable. There’s no apparent way to modify this value.

The login page also has the following note under the big login button:

WebSideStory is pleased to offer our HitBox Professional customers the ability to purchase additional support packages for their account. If you would like more information on these services please call 800.500.1427, or contact us online.

Am I going to have to pay to ask a question? I never actually find the answer to this question, but I’m hoping for the best.

Once I log in, here’s a screenshot of what I see. Basically, a searchable database of FAQs and a way to submit questions. There are no links to manuals, no support forum where I might communicate with other users, no links to related resources like whitepapers or case studies. Still, if they can answer my question, I don’t care.

I search the databse for questions related to my product. For the entire product (their flagship product, as far as I can tell), there are exactly 16 questions! And several of those are of the non-technical “how do I cancel my HitBox Professional account?” type. Mind you, if they can’t resolve my issue, I’ll be asking that one next.

After scanning the 16 questions, which are apparently the sum total of support resources for this product (which, incidentally, I’m paying US $35 a month for), I submit a query. In completing the query form, I actually have to re-enter my “Account Number”. Despite the fact that they call it something different, this is same as my wacked alphanumeric “user name” that I already logged in with.

Additionally, why did I have to log in to access these 16 lousy questions? What corporate secrets are they protecting? Why not expose this meagre data to the world (and Google), and just make me log in to file a support issue? Apparently in buying their software, I haven’t bought the right to read their support info without their knowing about it.

I manage to submit my issue (along with a pithy complaint about their support resources), and immediately get a response from the unlikely email address “rightnow@websidestory.com”. I happen to know that Webside Story is the company that makes HitBox Pro, despite the fact that I went to www.hitboxprofessional.com to log my query. At first, I have no idea who this “rightnow” person is. Then I figure out that this refers to their CRM system, Right Now–you can see their logo in the screenshot. A little advertising on your support site never hurt, right? Right Now no doubt cut them a deal.

They have a help system in the product, but non-users can’t access it. That shouldn’t concern you, as the system isn’t much help at all. The help lacks a full-text search, and the index shows no sign of human attention. It’s clearly been automagically-generated by RoboHelp. Why else would it include entries for Gabon and the Futuna Islands? Oh, how those Futunans love their real-time Web stats. So, the help is basically unusuable (not to mention unattractive).

Companies ignore technical support at their peril. I understand that they can’t afford lots of support staff anymore. I understand that small companies don’t have Microsoftian resources to apply to resolving users’ issues.

That’s all the more reason to offer a discussion forum where users can communicate about problems, and generate support content for the company. If nothing else, let your users access your technical documentation online. This is all the more important for a Web app like HitBox.

If you do ignore tech support, you get customers like me. My question isn’t answered, and I have to wait (at best) until tomorrow to receive an answer. Plus, I’m going to talk to others about my poor experience. I ran a support site (and still do, on a more casual basis) for a client, so maybe I’m sensitive to these issues. I’ve also spoken on what
makes a good support site
.

4 Responses to “Ignore Technical Support at Your Peril”

  1. Paul Burchfield

    Darren,

    I implemented and administered a support site for my former company using RightNow’s products. The RightNow logo you see is there by default. They don’t cut you a deal for having it. In fact, it’s just the opposite; I believe you have to pay more in order to not have their branding.

    Websidestory should definitely have chosen a better email address to use for their replies. Clearly, something like support@websidestory.com would have been preferable (not to mention more recognizable) to rightnow@websidestory.com.

    Anyhow, I hope things turn out well for you with your inquiry.

    ->Paul

  2. Rick Gebhardt

    I’ve actually had a similar experience, but not with a small company…this was with Adobe and their Acrobat software. I have to convert all of my word docs into pdf’s for consumer consumption (I’m also a tech writer). Apparently cross-referencing in Word 2k3 crashes Acrobat 6. Their online support was worthless. I emailed their tech support… no response. I had our ops guy call their support… nothing. It’s about 3 months later and we still can’t get an answer, fix, or work-around from Adobe. We now use a different product, gave Adobe the finger, and won’t use Acrobat again.

  3. Bob Lee

    I guess you have to “Pay To Play”… we use HBX – but we have their higest level of product – something like 1000-1500 a month. In any event, at that level, you have your own support staff available to you during business hours, and on off hours you can have the nighttime line…
    Let me know if you’d like that # (free as far as I can tell)

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