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Ask Slashdot: Tech Customers Forced Into Supporting Each Other?

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the left-as-an-excercise-for-the-reader dept.

Businesses 253

An anonymous reader writes "Has anyone else noticed the trend towards 'community forums' where customers are basically being recruited to solve the issues of other customers while the companies selling the products causing the issues sit back and take a passive role in the process? Granted, sometimes the companies' employees play an active part in the forums and provide some value-add by contributing crucial, and often undocumented, knowledge that solves the problem in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case, and this leaves customers with no visibility into whether or not their problems are being addressed, and, if they are, when they might expect to receive assistance. This is bad enough when dealing with consumer electronics that cost up to a couple of hundred of dollars, but it's completely unacceptable when dealing with proprietary design tool vendors that are charging several thousand dollars for software licenses for tools that are the only option if a customer doesn't want to drop an order of magnitude more money to go with 3rd party tools (e.g., Synopsys). Who do you think are the worst offenders of this downloading of support onto the backs of the customers themselves, and what can be done about it?"

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In a related trend: (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083083)

Customer Support Far superior to slave wage 3rd world call center or minimum wage uneducated moron with 8 hours of training

Re:In a related trend: (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083725)

Try following Google support forms. Very often you have a serious problem like all your Google sites determinedly dumping you onto the wrong language and will simply find months of customer discussions of "it's still not fixed". It's even funnier when it turns out that there is a work around but it's in a different thread started some time after the first but with completely unassociated keywords and an explanation which, while correct is clearly incomprehensible to most of their customers.

And don't get me on to Microsoft's "if you aren't a corporate we don't give a shit" support. Or for that matter (though it's the best of the bunch so far) Ubuntu's "there is an answer but it's two versions old and nobody bothers to link to the new one" forums.

community support can be great; look at StackExchange and ServerFault or Linux Questions; but you need someone professional to put the effort into curating it.

To be fair... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083095)

Generally, the number of a tool's users >> than the number of developers or support staff.

Re:To be fair... (3, Interesting)

Calydor (739835) | about 3 months ago | (#47083187)

And generally, the number of a tool's users with a problem at any given day SHOULD be << the number of developers or support staff.

Re:To be fair... (3, Funny)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about 3 months ago | (#47083197)

Whyd you shift "the" a bit to the left?

Re:To be fair... (1)

Calydor (739835) | about 3 months ago | (#47083279)

I did? Which one of them, the first or the second? And looking at my post I don't see what you mean, could you be more precise?

Re:To be fair... (1)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | about 3 months ago | (#47083405)

Google "shift left", take the Wikipedia link, check out the operators. In other words, geek humor.

Re:To be fair... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083427)

I did? Which one of them, the first or the second? And looking at my post I don't see what you mean, could you be more precise?

If you didn't get what Redmancometh said, then you're on the wrong site.

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083463)

Whyd you wait until the second person posted it before that attempt at humor?

Re:To be fair... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083529)

It looks to me more like "be" that's shifted to the left, and it's shifted by the number of developers or support staff.

Or with a minor spelling change to "shifted", it becomes a description of the company's intentions:
"generally, the number of a tool's users with a problem at any given day SHOULD be shafted by the number of developers or support staff".

Re:To be fair... (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47083265)

And generally, the number of a tool's users with a problem at any given day SHOULD be << the number of developers or support staff.

But why should the support staff waste their time repetitively answering a question that is already answered in a customer forum? My experience is that peer-to-peer customer discussion forums are almost always superior to the formal support offered by the vendor. They have better advice, often list more than one option for solving the issue, are quicker to access, and are FREE. The summary makes all of this sound like a bad thing that we need to "do something about". Rather it is something that should be encouraged. When I am selecting new software, whether proprietary or OSS, I am much more interested in an active and accessible forum, than in what formal support contracts are available.

Re:To be fair... (3, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | about 3 months ago | (#47083297)

How about a publicly accessible forum where the SUPPORT STAFF answer questions?

What's wrong with peer-to-peer support? Basically the company is free-riding on the backs of its users.

Re:To be fair... (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47083425)

Basically the company is free-riding on the backs of its users.

So? Lower costs are a GOOD THING. The company can lower prices, create jobs by growing their business, or pay higher dividends to their shareholders (such as your pension fund).

Re:To be fair... (4, Insightful)

Calydor (739835) | about 3 months ago | (#47083451)

The key word is CAN. Take a look at one of the recent stories about HP cutting off another sixteen thousand jobs.

Re:To be fair... (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | about 3 months ago | (#47083439)

But why should the support staff waste their time repetitively answering a question that is already answered in a customer forum?
 
Because that's their job and the paying customers require that service as part of what they have paid for.

Re:To be fair... (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47083557)

Because that's their job and the paying customers require that service as part of what they have paid for.

Of course. Customers that specifically pay for staffed/phone/whatever support are still getting it. The point of this discussion is what normal customers should get as standard support. Or, more bluntly, this is a typical Slashdot whinefest of people complaining that they aren't getting something that they haven't paid for. If you want support from paid staff, then pay for it. But don't insist that the cost be built into the product and susidized by the 95% that don't need hand holding.

Re:To be fair... (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47083583)

But why should the support staff waste their time repetitively answering a question that is already answered in a customer forum?

That wasn't the point. OP is referring to companies who leave support largely up to the forums, while leaving users in the dark regarding whether the problem is being addressed by the company. The utility of user forums is well-known. But that is only a part of the support equation. When it is left up to the forums and those other parts of the support equation are left out or ignored, you end up with sloppy support at best.

Apple is kind of famous for this one, actually. Not that they don't support issues themselves, but they seldom if ever chime in to some of their user forums, and keep annoyingly silent on whether a fix for the problem will be upcoming.

I can think of one issue in particular that has been a complaint in Apple user forums through several updates now, and to the best of my knowledge Apple has been completely silent about when, or even if, they plan to solve the issue. Users in the forum have managed to solve the issue for some users, but others have been left hanging for many months.

Just noticing this? (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about 3 months ago | (#47083099)

You're just noticing this? A successful business model these days includes limiting how much you actually have to deal with your customers. It's not just tech. Forums, voice menus and FAQs are the order of the day for problem solving.

Re:Just noticing this? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083289)

Support costs money. The goal of the business is to make money. If businesses can reduce a cost without losing profit, it would be irrational for them not to.

Realize that businesses are doing this in response to demand. People are not flocking to a competitor's product simply because that competitor provides better support. If people did this, you bet the businesses would give you the support you want. But people don't. So, without that reward, the businesses have no incentive to provide the support.

People flock to a product for brand name and features. So, that is what businesses provide.

And, as willing as you might be to vote with your wallet as an individual, unless the same vote is a trend, it will not be effective. As always, your destiny is in the hands of all your peers.

Re:Just noticing this? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 3 months ago | (#47083329)

it is interesting. some people might even prefer a product with a supportive community but slightly more 'bugs'/tricks to one which is more reliable and/or over-rigidly documented.

I'm Okay With It (3, Insightful)

Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) | about 3 months ago | (#47083101)

This sort of thing has been going on for years, probably as long as there have been companies and products. Can't get X to work, maybe your neighbor can, why not ask? In the case of software and other technical products, it really costs the company little to setup a forum, so why not? Also the people doing the supporting are completely volunteer, and are compensated in a feeling of helping others. If they don't want to participate, then they can stop at any time.

Re:I'm Okay With It (4, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 3 months ago | (#47083193)

The problem is they are taking it WAY to far. I expect to be able to get a PERSON on the phone when it comes to technical problems or warranty issues. Too often im forced to fill out forms and am directed to the forums instead of a CS rep. No amount of tech will change the fact that they will ALWAYS need people in Customer Service.

Re:I'm Okay With It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083225)

I agree, it has gone too far. I contacted Microsoft a while ago trying to fix an issue with my outlook.com account. (I have an alias attached to the account that I want to remove, but because of a bug, or something, the option to remove the account isn't there.) I understand that outlook.com is a free service, but the answer I got from Microsoft Customer Service was raise the issue on their community forum, which requires me to create an account, and then I should get a private message from one of the 'official' people to look into my account. "Hi. This is broken..." should be answered with "Fixed that for you", not "Go sign up over here, post the same thing you just told me, and hope someone 'official' comes along to do something about it."

Even that would not be soooo bad ... (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 3 months ago | (#47083227)

Too often im forced to fill out forms and am directed to the forums instead of a CS rep.

Even that would not be so bad IF THEY ORGANIZED THEIR FORUMS AND FIXED THE SEARCH FUNCTION.

If I have version X of product Y then I should be able to search on product Y with a sub-search on version X.

I should NOT be getting results that apply to product A, B or C. UNLESS the company tech support people have specifically gone through and WRITTEN an answer and specifically labelled it as applying to A, B, C and X (version 1, 2, 3 and 4).

It cannot be that difficult to build a flow chart for the most common searches / problems that are appearing in your forums.

Re:Even that would not be soooo bad ... (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | about 3 months ago | (#47083343)

Even that would not be so bad IF THEY ORGANIZED THEIR FORUMS AND FIXED THE SEARCH FUNCTION.

Most forum software search functionality sucks burro balls. This isn't just an issue for support forums for a product, but web forums in general. In most cases, though, you can use Google (or whoever) to search the forum and get the results you need.

Re:I'm Okay With It (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 3 months ago | (#47083235)

well.

then there's the cases where the customer service will outright lie and mislead you and the community can give you a fix for your problem.

like getting to use "unsupported" dispensables for example... or just getting the device fixed with a new design for some part because the company just shipped a shit design(makerbot - they later started shipping with a similar part but that was almost a year too late and up until that the customer service would try you to get to use something that was just a bad design and worked for a while if you were lucky).

Re:I'm Okay With It (3, Insightful)

jonsmirl (114798) | about 3 months ago | (#47083301)

You need to put this into perspective. It is unreasonable to expect a company to provide significant human support for a product you spent $30 on at a retail store. The company has probably only made $1-2 profit from the sale, if they provide easy to access support they will lose money on every sale. If you want lots of free support go buy a $3,000 Macbook.

Personally, I don't even bother trying to return or get support on anything under $100 any more. It just goes into the trash and I buy something similar from a different manufacturer and hope it works.

An even more efficient form of this is buying stuff from Aliexpress/DX/etc. Prices there can be as low as 20% of US retail for similar products. Sure I occasionally get junk or the wrong product, but just throw it in the trash and try a different vendor. The overall savings is worth eating the occasional fraud or hassling with Ali's escrow to stop payment. I fully expect little to no support on these purchases and I know returns are almost impossible.

Re:I'm Okay With It (5, Insightful)

retchdog (1319261) | about 3 months ago | (#47083341)

you might be surprised. when my ~$50 sennheiser in-ear headphones broke, i sent them in under the 2-year warranty and got a free replacement. they probably cost ~$5 to manufacture, so they have plenty of margin for support; they just make more money if fewer people use what they are entitled to.

Re:I'm Okay With It (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 3 months ago | (#47083421)

They're very happy to see that your $100 is disposable. Now instead of building products that work as expected and actually last longer than a few years, they can count on you coming back for more, $100 bill in hand. Sucker.

Re:I'm Okay With It (1)

jonsmirl (114798) | about 3 months ago | (#47083531)

It is not worth my time to fight with them. Declare it a loss, move onto the next vendor and don't buy from the previous vendor again. I used to fight with them, now I understand the rewards from the fight are not worth the cost on low priced products. Just blacklist the vendor and move on. Of course there are probably a few vendors that are exceptions to this rule but it is not worth my time to locate them.

Re:I'm Okay With It (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47083315)

I expect to be able to get a PERSON on the phone when it comes to technical problems or warranty issues.

As someone that actually did tech support, I hate this attitude. I can't count the number of hours I spent reading the manual and phonetically dictating keystrokes to some idiot that was too lazy to read it himself. Email, or even an online chat session, is infinitely superior to a phone call when dealing with software issues.

Re:I'm Okay With It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083477)

The customer's time is valuable too. If they can get at the relevant information more quickly by asking you to read the manual to them than by reading it themselves, then they have saved time that can now be put to productive use.

Of course, since your time is involved, you should be paid. The only problem I have is customers that expect that they should have access to your time for free.

Pay up, or hit the forums, I say.

Re:I'm Okay With It (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 3 months ago | (#47083513)

The customer's time is valuable too. If they can get at the relevant information more quickly by asking you to read the manual to them than by reading it themselves, then they have saved time that can now be put to productive use.

Even if a product margins were 90% you would not be paying enough to have anyone do that for you.

It's like you bought a new car and with no training or help expect to run the Dakar rally...

That's ust plain unreasonable.

Re:I'm Okay With It (1)

swillden (191260) | about 3 months ago | (#47083661)

You need to read the last sentence of the GP.

Re:I'm Okay With It (3, Interesting)

Nethead (1563) | about 3 months ago | (#47083501)

I love on-line support chats. HP is really good at this (okay, I'm a business customer with a few hundred desktops and a rack of servers, YMMV.) Chat allows me to cut-n-paste serial numbers or diag info directly to them. It allows me to get other work done while support is processing the request, and I'm sure it allows support to work other cases when I have to dig for info.

The main thing is that I don't have to work through understanding the accent of a non-native speaker. The support folks are often bright and knowledgeable but my internal wiring doesn't always make the translation the first try. This gets old quickly for both ends of the conversation.

Re:I'm Okay With It (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083335)

Going to a forum is actually good. I've already talked to tons of programmers who will never answer privately an email, but will gladly do so publicly in a forum. Why? Because they can do it once and never repeat themselves again. It's the most optimal way to optimise support.

Could it be that maybe your expectation to have a PERSON on the phone (no less!) is what is outdated and narrow minded? Why not also expect them to give you a massage and send you free food as well? I mean, they are companies, they are to SERVE you, right?

Well, if you can't change your expectations, change provider.

Re:I'm Okay With It (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083435)

The problem is that a company shouldn't rely on their customers as their CS department.

It gets worse when the problem is a definite bug, but there is no way to get in contact with anyone at the company to look at [1].

Even if there is a CS department, it is made from the cheapest offshored department available. The guys who get 150 rupees an hour because they are working late at night with no responsibility or worry about stats or metrics [2], just get the customer frustrated enough that he will get off the phone, or if that doesn't work, hang up on him/her, because in reality, they can't do jack shit (good luck getting a refund on a non-working product, or a product that decides to stop working on a whim.)

What can a person do to stop this shit? Not much, other than going with open source products that, if worse comes to worst, you can hire a dev team to put in the feature you want or the security fix you need. Unfortunately, you are stuck with commercial stuff in a number of cases. E-mail, client desktop OSes, and client desktop applications, and SSO are Microsoft or nothing. However, past that, there may be choices.

Shitty CS is just a part of the entire industry. Code quality as a whole is miserable with what would be called an early beta 10-20 years ago now the release candidate, and a number of minor revs before it becomes a stable product... and by that time, marketing demands more features to milk from their consumers, so a major release with major bugs would be in the pipeline.

[1]: Of course, if it does get addressed, it likely gets tagged "fixed in next release", with a lower priority than the latest half-ass feature that marketing demanded.

[2]: When I was in college, I had the misfortune of encountering call centers which reminded me of raid guilds in WoW. Your DPS dropped below a certain number, your ass was kicked from the raid and the guild. Same with those places. You had too few calls in "X" amount of time, you got fired. Not on a call when you were scheduled to come in? No promotion for you for 6-12 months [3]

[3]: Was so bad, in a previous /. topic that people in the (rather seedy) neighborhood of this call center would actually drive in and park their cars, then demand $5 to $100 from people of the next shift... and the people (who were technically trespassing, but that never got enforced) would get their cash, because that ransom for a parking spot was worth more than being fired or stuck on the phones while everyone else got promoted to different departments.

Re:I'm Okay With It (1)

CritterNYC (190163) | about 3 months ago | (#47083575)

If you paid for a technical support contract, you'll get a person on the phone to assist with technical problems. If you didn't, you shouldn't expect it. Most companies operate on margins that a single technical support call handled in the US would wipe out their margin on that product these days. Everybody wanted everything cheap. Now we have it.

Re:I'm Okay With It (4, Informative)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 3 months ago | (#47083311)

I tend to agree with you for the most part.

.
There have been User Groups providing customer-to-customer support almost as long as there have been computers.

Most of the time, the answers I receive from the community forum are received more quickly and are of better quality than those I receive from first tier support in the more formal support channels.

On the other hand, there are some companies that use the community support as the sole means to provide support, and the community has little or no employee involvement. Those companies, the ones that use the community to hide from their customers, I do not like. And I avoid their products.

Re:I'm Okay With It (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 3 months ago | (#47083433)

Like Microsoft and Google. Thread after thread after thread about the same problems and none of them get solved because the company (apparently) doens't bother to read them.

XKCD explained the drawback (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083587)

http://xkcd.com/979/ [xkcd.com]

We've all had that experience.

Creative (1)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about 3 months ago | (#47083107)

Terrible support.

worse... (0)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 3 months ago | (#47083109)

Just like modern medical and cancer. Together, doctors and pharmas often charge $40-50,000 a month for chemo with 5-30 minutes dr support, but the vict... er, patients have to mine forums and beg for help.

Better than not providing any support whatsoever. (3, Informative)

ngc5194 (847747) | about 3 months ago | (#47083123)

Everything you say is true, but at least having such a forum where one can get some support is better than not, and better than having that pseudo-support scattered across a dozen boards over the Internet. Doesn't excuse such lazy behavior, of course. Generally, if a company is providing an expensive product for which I need support, and then provides crappy support, I'll be looking for an excuse to try a competitor's product next time out. You might think that this would lead companies to upgrade their support, but it doesn't seem to. One of the big problems is that most of that company's customers are idiots, so it's a huge money sink to constantly answer their silly questions with expensive, highly trained support people. So, if a producer is using the forum to weed out the Tier 1 "Would it work better if I plug it in?" crowd while jumping in and helping out when someone has a real problem, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. If such a forum is viewed as a replacement for support, then I'll likely be looking at competing products next time.

Re:Better than not providing any support whatsoeve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083161)

Everything you say is true, but at least having such a forum where one can get some support is better than not, and better than having that pseudo-support scattered across a dozen boards over the Internet. Doesn't excuse such lazy behavior, of course. Generally, if a company is providing an expensive product for which I need support, and then provides crappy support, I'll be looking for an excuse to try a competitor's product next time out. You might think that this would lead companies to upgrade their support, but it doesn't seem to.

One of the big problems is that most of that company's customers are idiots, so it's a huge money sink to constantly answer their silly questions with expensive, highly trained support people. So, if a producer is using the forum to weed out the Tier 1 "Would it work better if I plug it in?" crowd while jumping in and helping out when someone has a real problem, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. If such a forum is viewed as a replacement for support, then I'll likely be looking at competing products next time.

Company's don't pay very well for the in-house support roles from my own miserable experience. Yes, the users often could have resolved the issues themselves with a bit of thought but these days nobody wants to think for themselves. If you think providing support in the tech market is horrible just try voluntarily supporting adult students in any discussion board within the on-line classroom. Entitlement mentality reigns supreme.

Supplying a forum, not censoring actually decent (3, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47083293)

Merely supplying some kind of forum site centered on the product where users can gather has value. It's a bonus when they don't sanitize the content to bury problems and hide discontent; I've found that quite often if the product isn't complete crap, they're sort of self-regulating and total whiners get ignored by normal participants even.

Maybe it is a way to cut corners on support, but what kind of support were you really expecting -- a product development engineer dropping everything to figure out your issue? That doesn't exist except at the highest priced support levels for the largest enterprises and products, and even then you are just as likely to get steered into a hall of mirrors of consultants and local partners who just want to bill more. In almost all cases the alternative to Forum-centric support is bad telephone support and a weak knowledge base, at least from the vendor. If you're lucky there may be a third party site that helps, but often this just fragments knowledge across zillions of similar sites.

And it's not like supplying a reasonable forum is free, either. It takes software, hardware, hosting, administration and those cost money. I'll take the hive mind of other users over what the alternative is for the same money, which is like one one additional FTE -- an overworked, underpaid, clueless phone support drone.

3D studio max (5, Informative)

MindPrison (864299) | about 3 months ago | (#47083129)

I had that problem with 3Dstudio max back in its heydays.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and go legit, I purchased a full 3Dstudio max 4 license + character studio (In my country, that cost over 5000 USD back then), and I didn't receive ONE ounce of support, only mocking for not having the right equipment for their software.

3D studio Max 4 got constant crashes with Application Error and corrupted files. And while I was in the middle of an important animation project of mine, this was unacceptable. Freezes and Crashes. Autodesk supporters blamed my computer. I did everything they said, I upgraded to Windows 2000 Professional, I upgraded my ram to the maximum possible limit. I even switched the mainboard 3 times + upgraded to the recommended intel processor. It still had the same freezes and crashes.

After 6 month struggling with the big corporation, I got tired of 3D software and swore I'd never use it again, but once a 3D artist...always a 3D artists...it's almost like being an alcoholic, it is THAT addictive (at least to me), so I tried Blender 3D (back then it was a small runt around 2mb while 3Dstudio max was a 60mb beast), and I had less crashes, albeit it was harder to learn.

Discovered a few bugs in Blender, and reported it to the coders (Ton Roosendaal), and got an INSTANT response, no longer than 2 days had some of his coders in his coding team fixed the bug, free of charge ...simply based on their PRIDE of their work. I was in love.

And what can we learn from that? Today I still use Blender, albeit for professional production. I've produced high end commercial for the big brands such as Carlsberg (beer, not free...) worldwide and never looked back.

Re:3D studio max (-1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 3 months ago | (#47083389)

and I didn't receive ONE ounce of support, only mocking for not having the right equipment for their software.

Sounds like you had an unsupported graphics card.

A lot of these programs have a "supported configs" list. Very often they will involve workstation graphics cards, which have a different set of drivers which the software is targetted at. That would explain why theyre giving you a hard time: you're not meeting their minimum supported configuration, and then complaining that they arent supporting it.

Re:3D studio max (4, Funny)

MindPrison (864299) | about 3 months ago | (#47083491)

Sounds like you had an unsupported graphics card.

A lot of these programs have a "supported configs" list. Very often they will involve workstation graphics cards, which have a different set of drivers which the software is targetted at. That would explain why theyre giving you a hard time: you're not meeting their minimum supported configuration, and then complaining that they arent supporting it.

Forgive me for not mentioning all the other details, like the brand of my motherboard, my graphics card (which FYI was supported, it was a professional Nvidia Quadro card and very much supported, with the proper drivers even.) We even ran it in software mode, same errors. Do you honestly thing I would be stupid enough not to try SOFTWARE RENDERING instead of Direct3D or OpenGL to test for the bugs we had for 6 months?) No offense dude, but get off my lawn.

This just makes sense... (3, Insightful)

TooTechy (191509) | about 3 months ago | (#47083133)

In the end this reduces the cost of software to the customer.

Customer benefits by having ready access to a database of information produced by other users (more expert than any front line help desk).

Vendor benefits by not having cost overhead of front line support infrastructure.

Everyone benefits by having honest information exchange.

Vendor developers/consulting team provide secondary support and expert knowledge as appropriate.

This is a win/win for all involved.

Is this akin to the "To help the environment, please reuse your towels" sign in hotel bathrooms? Sure, we know this is really to increase the profits of the hotel. But in a free market with open competition, these figures ultimately produce a cheaper product for the consumer.

Thoughts?

Re:This just makes sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083169)

Good points but I don't think it's by any means a "win/win" as that only holds true if your previous statement regarding vendor developers/consulting team providing secondary support and expert knowledge, which sadly isn't usually the case. Often users are just left twisting in the wind with no visibility into what, if anything, is being done to address their problems.

Re:This just makes sense... (4, Insightful)

Pop69 (700500) | about 3 months ago | (#47083179)

The big problem is that it doesn't reduce the cost of the software, it increases the profit of the software provider

Re:This just makes sense... (1)

CritterNYC (190163) | about 3 months ago | (#47083593)

Sure it does. If they had to provide support, they would build in the cost of said support to the price of the software. Instead, you have the option of paying for live technical support on a contract or incident basis if you so choose. You're free to pay for technical support if you would like it.

Re:This just makes sense... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 3 months ago | (#47083325)

Except it's practically never reduced the cost of software to the customer. It just, as sibling post points out, reduces the cost of the software to the publisher: the customer pays the same, and the publisher pockets the difference.

What's reduced for the customer is the *value* of the software, especially if it's something brand-spanking-new and you know there aren't legions of other users out there who have figured out its "eccentricities" already.

Not really "win-win" in any sense of the idiom...

Re:This just makes sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083443)

If... And it's a big if... If the company exploiting these methods was actually passing the savings onto the consumers, it would at least mitigate the overall issue, but at every single stage someone's going to be padding their profit margin a little bit more because now they can, so if the consumer sees any savings at all, they're completely negligible. Even if the companies invested all of the savings back into product development, it might not be such a bad thing, but usually what ends up happening is the top executives will get huge bonuses for cutting costs and those bonuses will far and away exceed the combined savings for several years so then the company has to plead poverty and lay people off.

The supply side economics theory your post is based on has never worked outside of very specific and targeted scenarios because it tries to flip basic capitalism on its head. Capitalism is based on the idea that demand pulls supply. If people want red rocking chairs, more companies will pop up to produce red rocking chairs. If people don't want red rocking chairs, throwing tax incentives at companies to produce more red rocking chairs doesn't really help anything. Talk to as many business owners as you like, they'll tell you time and time again that the primary, and near exclusive, driver of decisions to hire is how strong and sustained demand is. Demand is the horse, supply is the cart, and putting the cart in front of the horse is not the most effective way of doing things. A company saving money will not necessarily mean lower prices for consumers or even that the money will be reinvested in the company. In some cases it might, but all too often all it means is that people at the top will divvy up the savings amongst themselves.

Unity3D (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083145)

Although, as a developer who uses Unity, I feel like there are many situations where other developers will have better insights into how to solve a particular problem than Unity support personnel. I don't mind searching forums for answers (and posting my solutions when they contribute to the conversation) but there does need to be a clear process to make a bug report (and hopefully to track it through to a fixed state).

Re:Unity3D (3, Informative)

fatgraham (307614) | about 3 months ago | (#47083263)

Help menu -> report a bug... Do you think it needs to be easier?
There's the issue tracker( http://issuetracker.unity3d.co... [unity3d.com] ) for submitting other bugs... and this gives a very loose guide to what issues bug people the most...

*Every* bug gets checked and seen!

The problem a lot of the time is working out which bug needs to be fixed first by the limited resources we have...

I don't care (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 3 months ago | (#47083151)

Community support is people who actually *use* the product. There are a lot more people there than could possibly be employed by the company, and the problems and solutions will be kept so you're likely to find the solution via google without even needing to deal with the hassle of tech support.

A good company will keep tabs on the forums and if there's a particular common issue, they'll investigate that. I'd rather they spend the money doing that than dealing with what their customers can do.

Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083153)

Google is the absolute worst about this. There is no way to contact them directly. Building a plugin for Google docs was one of the worst development experiences I have had in the last year. The documentation was poor, no examples, no support and a constantly changing API. Worst of all, no support. They're environment broke and it was a week or more before they even acknowledged it.

Re:Google (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47083157)

And how much did you pay for this terrible support?

Re:Google (1)

The Technomancer (3649405) | about 3 months ago | (#47083209)

Data is as much a currency as dollars, and if you're interacting with Google, you're paying quite a bit.

Re:Google (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 3 months ago | (#47083233)

Every detail about one's life doesn't come cheap, bucko.

If my info was so worthless they wouldn't even have all those billions.

They can either pay me a cut of the ad revenue they make off me, or give me support. Otherwise, I don't fucking use them, and none of my friends or family will either because I'm who they ask about stuff like that, and I'm not beneath telling them half-truths that paint Google as more evil than Microsoft.

They better wise up: There's no such thing as too big to fail. There's too big to bail out though, and recent political events are just the ammunition competitors need. Compete on Customer Support, or it will bite you in the ass. Only monopolies can play the "fuck off, no support for you" game. Just wait and see what happens with AT&T (again), or Comcast. Google's ass is ripe for the chopping block. I despise Social Justice bullshit, but as a tool using creature I'm sure I can paint Google as the most misogynistic institution ever, based purely on facts. Thanks to the Squeaky Wheel, and Degrees of Bacon the critical mass of users it takes to destroy your business is a very small percent.

Keep pissing off users, and they'll pay with their ass.

Re:Google (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 3 months ago | (#47083195)

It only took them a week to acknowledge it? Not bad for a company that charges you nothing but access to your personal information and ads in your face.

Re:Google (1)

The Technomancer (3649405) | about 3 months ago | (#47083221)

That's hardly nothing. Frankly, your data is far more valuable to them than if you were handing them cash instead.

Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083155)

Google is one of the worst offenders.

I've noticed several bugs with chrome, but there is nowhere to report by but their shitty support "group": where I was told to try reinstalling.

Re:Google (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 3 months ago | (#47083205)

Im a PAYING (Drive) google customer and I cant get email support for it. Hell, Intel doesnt even offer email support for their Bay Trail NUCS (they told me this flat out)

Adobe "Creative Cloud" (5, Interesting)

ikhider (2837593) | about 3 months ago | (#47083183)

Adobe is filled with issues, among them when I am compelled to sign in to verify I am an authentic user each time I use the software. This does not bode well when I am in transit and have no access to wifi. I used the forums and asked about this issue but receive a robotic response that you do not need to sign in each time you use the product. My experience proved the contrary. I call Adobe tech support, who asks to log onto my computer, and over several days it feels like half of India is lgging onto my computer to try to repair this issue. I figure a reinstall would do the trick, several reinstalls later, no change. India still needs to get on my machine to try to figure out what the hell is going on and the engineers over at Adobe are laughing because they tell their outsourced labour nothing. You get the forums and get little help or call in and get no help either. Adobe has the largest market share in their industry, so they do not care. Only when an upstart gives them a run for their money will you see Adobe shake a leg.

Start a company selling support. (3, Insightful)

KliX (164895) | about 3 months ago | (#47083199)

You've identified a hole in the market.

Re:Start a company selling support. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083319)

Great idea -- limited viability -- great for training and dealing with configuration/installation/usage issues -- does not work for resolving bugs (unless it is open source). 50% of the issues out there are due to bugs which requires the actual company to fix.

Re:Start a company selling support. (1)

guygo (894298) | about 3 months ago | (#47083533)

Attempts have been made to fill that hole, but there is no way to train support agents in everything they would need to know. Only those who have already encountered issues know how to get around them, and the software companies couldn't be bothered to investigate as getting out the next rev of their software has a timeline that must be adhered to and effects their bottom line much more than a few disgruntled customers.

Re:Start a company selling support. (1)

confused one (671304) | about 3 months ago | (#47083585)

In many cases, if you overlap the "official" support too much, the origination company will come after you. They may not have ground to stand on, ultimately; but, the cost of defending yourself will kill your fledgling business unless you have wealthy backers who believe in your ability to succeed.

Re:Start a company selling support. (1)

afgam28 (48611) | about 3 months ago | (#47083687)

Although most of us only have experience with open source and consumer products, and the support forums that come with them, the OP is most annoyed with niche proprietary software tool vendors:

it's completely unacceptable when dealing with proprietary design tool vendors that are charging several thousand dollars for software licenses for tools that are the only option if a customer doesn't want to drop an order of magnitude more money to go with 3rd party tools (e.g., Synopsys)

For these tools, your employer usually pays tens of thousands of dollars for support contracts, which are meant to include direct support from engineers. It's unlikely that any third party will have the ability to provide support for such products, because:

1. You need access to source code and the ability to make changes and release patches.
2. The tools are so niche that you won't be able to find people who know enough about the software to provide support.
3. Even if you could, you need licenses to reproduce the issues that your customers are reporting to you. The cost of licenses for things like Verilog synthesizers from Synopsys (which are not cheap!) would need to be passed on to your customers.

Yes, and it's pernicious (4, Insightful)

theoriginalturtle (248717) | about 3 months ago | (#47083201)

It's more than just some brilliant VP deciding to reduce the cost of support by basically saying, "let's let the users tell each other how to fix our product."

The really nasty part of this, and you'll see this on any "community forum" for any product of any complexity, is the amount of BS and crap information being repeated as gospel, without correction or clarification from the vendor. One guy who has a flukey problem posts a sketchy "solution," other people extrapolate from it, n00bz try to apply it to completely unrelated issues and fail, they complain about not getting "support," whine when the board veterans and few people who DO know something don't immediately reply to their vague posts, the n00bz leave, the veterans fall away, and "community support" rapidly becomes "no support."

Oh, unless you buy a support agreement, but then, since their few remaining support techs don't hear about some or many of these bizarre problems, they don't fix them, meaning paid support is worse than nothing.

I've seen this occur over and over in situations where "community support" isn't accompanied by skilled, consistent moderation AND intercession by the paid support techs and the developers. If you completely leave the users to try to "support" themselves, you end up with no users to support.

Re:Yes, and it's pernicious (2)

bungo (50628) | about 3 months ago | (#47083489)

I've seen this happen with some of the Oracle support forums, and I really hate it.

What Oracle are doing now is that when you log a support request for some products, they first direct you to the customer forums to find an answer before you can complete entering the support request - and you have to acknowledge in the support request that you are aware of the customer forums.

The problem is that unless your problem is really simple, the forums are a waste of time, and when I have to log a support request, it's never for a simple issue, and normally for something that needs a brand new patch, or a patch that has only been out for a short period of time and only a few people have encountered the issue before.

The customer forums don't make the cost of the support contract any cheaper, so if it's saving money, then all it means that Larrty gets to spend more on another boat.

Company support rarely works (2)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47083203)

I find that company support rarely is any good. Right off the bat if you call all they want is feedback for their MBAs, where did you buy it, when did you buy it, are you considering buying another in the next 6 months, how many people work at your company, etc. All this to ask how to reset the router to factory settings.

Or I can google "How to reset my ABC router to factory settings."

Then you get the brain dead people who just don't care. The other day I was a bell aliant and I asked them if their FiberOp has a real IP..... "what is an IP?" Then "Yes it probably does."

The open source way. (2)

Peter Kowalchuk-Reid (3484611) | about 3 months ago | (#47083213)

This could actually be good for open source, if company's are providing support through forums, then people will be used to this model when using open source without any "official" support.

Linux was first with the 'it takes a village' help (1)

noshellswill (598066) | about 3 months ago | (#47083217)

But, at least village women roasted the pigs in hula-skirts.

worst offender is Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083237)

They basically have no support. How this company is still in business baffles me.

Sounds familiar... (4, Insightful)

rane_man (1153291) | about 3 months ago | (#47083251)

I work as a network technician for a K-8 school. My job, and the job of my small team, is to provide infrastructure and other equipment to our staff and students. Thankfully, we have an eager bunch who are anxious to learn. This proves beneficial to us because, frankly, we'd never get anything done if every student (or teacher) who didn't know how to cut/paste came running to us for support. That's not to say we don't assist people, or that we don't have busy days, only that smaller, more well-known problems can be handled by our staff--or, in this case, our community. Granted, we're also not some big company selling our product to consumers and then wiping our hands of any and all responsibility. Like with my humble tech team, a reasonable amount of service should be expected, but I strongly believe end users should be able to educate themselves. That said, I'm still gonna mash "0" until I get a human :)

Sometimes the support is just dumb (3, Informative)

smillie (30605) | about 3 months ago | (#47083253)

The company I worked for 20 years ago bought some expensive software and the people who came out to install it couldn't make it install. A call to their own tech support was no help. Boss called me up to look at the problem. When I looked at their install batch file I saw the problem was the install script assumed the hard disk was at C:. When you have more than 2 floppies in the system the first hard disk is at E:. The system had three floppies. I modified the install script while the two company reps watched and the install when fine. A forum having other people with a similar hardware setup might have been a help.

All of them (2)

UrsaMajor987 (3604759) | about 3 months ago | (#47083269)

US companies have been engaged in a race to the bottom for some time now. Laying people off and borrowing money to buy back stock and keep the price up (and fatten that bonus). The constant layoffs and off-shoring have really eaten into the company's abilities to support or even produce quality goods. I used to work with an "enterprise" product for which we paid millions in licensing fees (yes, millions). The support was awful and the product quality seems to be constantly eroding. I don't know what replaces the old model. Perhaps a community based tool set. Whatever the solution, those companies that provided "enterprise" products at huge prices will not be a part of it.

Offloading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083273)

You meant 'offloading'. If someone downloads something on to my back, I'm going to ask them to get a towel and clean it up.

Community support is usually better support (5, Insightful)

caitriona81 (1032126) | about 3 months ago | (#47083275)

The quality of support you get from forums. mailing lists, and IRC channels is almost always far better than that directly provided by the company. Support teams that are competent enough to not just be warm bodies reading from a script simply don't scale well, because support employees at that level of competency expect (and deserve) to be paid as much as developers.

The vast majority of support queries on the other hand are repeats of the same questions, over and over again from customers who can't be bothered to use Google to search for their problem which means companies have to have a filter in place. That filter can be a forum, a web form that forces you to view every single article in the knowledge base, or a team of barely trained monkeys who are underpaid, and will burn out within 3-6 months from being asked the same questions over again by customers who are, on average, so dense that they don't mention the device in question isn't even turned on until they have already nodded along and gone through 30 minutes of "troubleshooting".

The use of community based support shouldn't itself be a concern, but how that support is implemented, how it's managed, and how the company uses that community based support to triage and escalate issues should be. In the most effective, and customer friendly cases, community support basically is used to to weed out the people who can't bother to help themselves from the people who have real problems, and the latter will get real support from "power users" or even actual developers.

The key to making that work in favor of the customers that actually need help is good moderators. They need to be jaded, vicious bastards who will stamp out any hint of noise amidst the signal, who aren't afraid to humiliate someone who posts the exact same question without reading the post directly below it where someone else asked the same thing.

All of this, should of course be accompanied by the best paid support you can find, at whatever rate allows you to pay your support staff a good (at least $25 USD/HR) wage plus medical, mental health, sick days, vacation and other benefits, and generally keep them happy. This should be a "tierless" support team if at all possible - the people you put there should be able to handle anything that comes their way, or act as a liason between customer and developer when necessary. The rate for this level of support should be high enough that your support team shrugs off people asking "dunb" questions as suckers who wasted their money rather than banging their head in frustration.

Chances are, the same support people can be providing paid phone support and "escalating" cases from the forums for free support when it's needed & deserved. Everybody wins in this case - lazy people can pay to be lazy, people with no time to wait for a solution can pay for one, and people who are willing to work to find a solution can get the help they need free of charge.

Re:Community support is usually better support (1)

tragedy (27079) | about 3 months ago | (#47083393)

That filter can be a forum, a web form that forces you to view every single article in the knowledge base, or a team of barely trained monkeys who are underpaid, and will burn out within 3-6 months from being asked the same questions over again by customers who are, on average, so dense that they don't mention the device in question isn't even turned on until they have already nodded along and gone through 30 minutes of "troubleshooting".

Or a decent FAQ or knowledge base.

I work for a company that does this (2)

BigDish (636009) | about 3 months ago | (#47083277)

I work for a company that does this for one of our products (not our main product, but a mobile app) simply because the app would otherwise be unprofitable. We typically sell the app or $3, and this app is to control an external device (not ours), so can require some configuration of the customer's environment. It's not something simple like a game, but it actually interacts with other things on the customer's network.

It's not a great situation, but there's just no way to support the users that need help setting up port forwarding on their router, re-configuring AV software, etc, on a $3 app. If we provided regular 1:1 support on a $3 app, it wouldn't make business sense for us to sell the app. If we raised the price to something like $20, I'd bet no one would buy it and we would STILL have many customers that want their hand held through everything.

I was dev support once at MS (2)

frog_strat (852055) | about 3 months ago | (#47083281)

I learned pretty quickly that the engineers skilled in making customers go away looked better when management did their metrics. Sometimes there were complicated problems (customer building a custom PCB made an error in assigning IRQs or memory mapping error). Customers figured out to ask for me specifically, which did not help my metrics. It is really a shame when companies design their process to make people fail. What an effin mess.

Re:I was dev support once at MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083559)

Sounds like the VA management. They got bonuses based on pulling people who needed medical treatment off of lists.
Also sounds like the IRS as well. The last person you can expect to get advice from is an IRS agent, you need to go to someone else who pays taxes and knows how it works.

These companies are just following the government model.

Re:I was dev support once at MS (1)

frog_strat (852055) | about 3 months ago | (#47083643)

I don't doubt what you are saying. But if you are trying to argue that organizational dysfunction occurs only in government structures, I cannot agree with that. I hope a time will come when all organizations (corporations, governments, churches, etc) are required to yearly examine their leadership and have them pass a test for narcissism / psycopathy. I think this is at the root of much organizational dysfunction that not just makes mistakes, but celebrates the mistakes and takes pleasure in the needless suffering they cause.

VMware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083299)

VMware used to have awesome support -- has gone to hell -- get the impression the techs just want to close out cases as fast as possible, solution be damned. Some issues encountered. had the case closed out 5-6 times with no solution -- have to phone up to re-open it or start a brand new case on the same un-resolved issue. What happened to them?

Re:VMware (1)

tragedy (27079) | about 3 months ago | (#47083407)

Management came along and did something about the "underperforming" techs as determined by metrics. That is to say those techs with long call times who don't just get the caller off the phone as quickly as possible.

Re:VMware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083657)

VMware didn't keep up the number of techs to number of cases ratio. Now techs are overwhelmed. They don't have time to properly work the issues. Hence they just want to close the case and spend as little time on the phone as possible. Management continues to raise the metrics bar and some how no matter how much the customers complain there's a self-congratulatory atmosphere about how they provide the best support in the industry with the highest customer satisfaction ratings. There's still a lot of smart people at the company who care and want to do a good job but their hands are tied by the realities of the amount of work and expectations placed on them so the customers suffer.

Related problem with software recommenders (1)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about 3 months ago | (#47083321)

I've done work for a local charity to select, install and implement a local open-source solution. The problems came when the national HQ with a national IT department started arguing with our choice of an open-source solution, recommending a proprietary solution on the basis that "you'll be able to get support". It wasn't just that they wanted $1200 per year per seat (as opposed to nothing per year per seat), but also that they were based in Flagstaff, AZ and had no (zero) offices anywhere in my country or anywhere in Europe. Just how exactly were they going to supply this support? Meanwhile we had two local volunteers on board, both competent in the relevant language, both of whom would be available at an hour's notice at no charge. So whenever you find yourself facing a recommender who is pushing proprietary on the basis that "you'll get support", call him out on it, demand to talk to a previous customer to find out what support experience they have had, and challenge him to match local availability and fees for people with relevant skills.

Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083327)

Microsoft is one of the bad ones too.

You can see their support forums plenty of queries where their outsourced support people from China or wherever give wrong/irrelevant replies, probably just to meet their targets.

>90% of the time when there's a useful answer it's from some other user, not someone from Microsoft.

I can't actually remember a case where their support staff provided a useful reply (other than yes it's broken but Microsoft won't fix it if you count that as useful).

Real support costs money (2)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about 3 months ago | (#47083361)

Real support costs money. Most people aren't willing to pay the proper cost for it.

The next best example of something we all own and often need troubleshooting is a car.

Routine car things are costly enough (oil change...). But that's the equivalent of running a virus scan or defrag.

If you ever have a real problem where something isn't working, it is costly. Diagnostic work? Even costlier and no guarantee it will work.

And the PC is ever more complex as you mod it will all kinds of stuff. Custom hardware. Custom software installed on it. Custom configuration.

Now, how much do you think it will cost you to fix a problem with your car that had it's engine replaced with a more powerful model, software modded... and all the other fancy things car modders do? Yeop... it's going to cost you a hell of a lot more.

And with cars, the normal answer is to just replace parts as a whole.

If you have a problem with some application crashing. Would you consider it valid support if they just said, let's try replacing your ram or upgrading your video card. Cost $500. And no guarantee of working.

And yes, car manufacturers do offer warranties. But they're typically void if you do anything to mod the car.

You'd no doubt not find that acceptable. You want them to fix the software.

Computers are just that complex. And for the rest of the industry, it is heavily cost driven.

OK but prefer MajorGeeks etc. (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 3 months ago | (#47083387)

Don't mind offering and reading wiki solutions. But I admit I prefer it on neutral turf to when it's hosted by the troublesome product maker, who sometimes edits or deletes angry comments

Support (3, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47083441)

People have no idea how much tech support costs. I used to run a tech support department in the 90s (on the technical side, not a manager) and it was always funny when customer would claim to have been "Ripped off" because they waited on hold for 10min.

How much did you pay for the device?
Take that, the figure out how much profit the manufacture is getting. 1/3 of the sale price would be very generous.
Figure out how long you were on the phone with support.
Assume the support worker is making minimum wage: $7.25 (they made more but lets just assume)
multiply... subtract...
The manufacture pretty much loses all profit as soon as you call them.
They first tried putting support on-line. But the people who needed support were usually so un-tech savvy they couldn't even open a browser. (this was the 90s)
So then they tried IVR (phone tree support) but people were too impatient and just skipped it.
They tried raising the price of the product but people wouldn't pay.
Then they tried charging for support. People flipped out and every call turned into an hour long bitch session.
Then they moved support out of the country so they could hire bellow minimum wage. But then the customers started screaming because people "Didn't speak English" That kind of bugged me because I trained staff from Jamaica and India, and they were all very intelligent people. Far more skilled than the people calling in and complaining.

Finally they just put up forums and said "screw it" and shut down support all together. I got laid off, got a hell of a lot better job and the general public just ended up forgetting that there was ever such a thing as phone support.

Re:Support (2)

gnupun (752725) | about 3 months ago | (#47083543)

Finally they just put up forums and said "screw it" and shut down support all together.

Or, management and the bean counters figured out that forum support costs less then offshore support which costs less than onshore support. So it's business as usual, cutting costs while keeping the product retail price the same or increasing it.

It was ever thus (1)

Lew Pitcher (68631) | about 3 months ago | (#47083503)

Over my career, I worked on many different mainframe systems (IBM "big iron") and with many different commercial applications. No matter which system or application, we were always involved (either passively or actively) with the associated "user group".

For IBM systems (both hardware and software), it was "Guide" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GUIDE_International) and "Share" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHARE_%28computing%29). Other applications and services had their own user groups.

I can't comment on the trend to dispensing with vendor-support in favour of user-group support, but I can assure you that user-group support has (for decades) been a staple in the industry.

This is new? (1)

sootman (158191) | about 3 months ago | (#47083651)

"Has anyone else noticed the trend towards 'community forums' where customers are basically being recruited to solve the issues of other customers while the companies selling the products causing the issues sit back and take a passive role in the process?"

Like the forums that existed on CompuServe over 20 years ago, and probably elsewhere before that? No, never noticed them.

Recently discussed on Meta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47083669)

This was recently brought up on the Meta Stackoverflow site:

Third-party development support: hosted by Stack Overflow [stackoverflow.com]

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