Customer Service Horror Stories (MCAD Modeling Column)

30 Sep, 2007 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth

Getting help with your software problems shouldn't be frightening.

It was a dark and stormy night — no, wait — the night was dark and stormy. Lightning flashes and thunder echoes through the company's empty halls. You are working late after everyone else has gone home. Anxiety hangs in the air. (When was the last time you saved?)

Then it happens. Your modeling software gives you an error. (Cue the lightning!) What are you going to do? You have to get this model done for the meeting tomorrow. The fate of the free world depends on it! Well, your bonus does anyway. You try everything you can think, but nothing works. You just keep getting that error box that says Memory Access Violation! OK? (No! it's not okay!) You cringe because you know what you must do. When you face a problem of this magnitude there is only one place you can go — customer support. (Cue lightning and huge thunderclap!)

 Isn't that always the way? (Reprinted with permission of United Media.)
Isn't that always the way? (Reprinted with permission of United Media.)

More often than not, I have received quality help from the software support desks I've called over the years. The majority of them (I'm sure) are staffed with competent, hard-working, and well-trained experts who want to solve your issue and get you back on the road to happy modeling. But every so often, when I least expect it, I have to smile (or cringe, or yell). Sometimes I get people on the line who just drive me crazy! At the very least they don't solve my problem, and sometimes they aren't even all that concerned with helping me. They go through their canned list of questions, and when that's done, so are they.

I think one of the most frustrating things I've heard from a customer support person is, "It worked for me." This comment is usually followed closely by "I can't duplicate your problem." (Cue the sinister organ music!) It's almost like a Murphy's Law of software (or auto repair): The problem won't manifest itself while the person who is capable of fixing it is watching.

A Reader's Story: No One Home
A Reader's Story: No One Home

Customer support people most often want to help you when they ask, "Can you send us your file?" But you and I both know the call is as good as over. They've given up, and your schedule might as well be dead. It's sad but true. The only thing worse is when the software people are overseas and the company asks you to sign a release to send your file over the border. This one is tantamount to the final nail in the coffin. (Cue the creaky door closing.) I don't know about your company, but most of the companies I've worked for have to send the release form to the legal department to ascertain whether it puts the company at risk. Lawyers don't move quickly when dealing with something like this. As hard as it may seem to believe, they have an aversion to letting proprietary information leave the company. Most of the time, you might as well not bother.


Another frustrating thing I've heard more times than I care to remember is, "Why ever would you want to do that?" I called in a problem I was having, and the customer support person couldn't understand my problem. Just because it was an industry standard — something software companies say they strictly adhere to — didn't mean anything. Try as I might, that person never did get it. I asked the person to write an enhancement request. He did, but I could tell by the sound of his voice he didn't think it would ever happen. (Cue the wolf howl.) I'm the customer! If I want something, I feel I should get it — or at least be understood.

Scary Customers
Scary Customers

Another bad experience is when you call in to customer support to talk to a person who is supposed to be the expert about the software (why else would you want to call them?) and at some point they exclaim, "I didn't know it would do that." (Cue cat screaming.) What? I've been doing that forever! You didn't know it could do that? Aye-yi-yi!

And then there are the times when you are trying to get something to work, and you try to get some help. After asking a few questions the expert will end up blaming your troubles not on their software but on some other hardware or software that is installed on your computer. (Cue the eerie, distant laughter). My mother raised me to take responsibility for my actions. Come on, guys! If your product is at fault, fess up.

A Reader's Story: Going in Circles
A Reader's Story: Going in Circles

There's Always a Way

In the end, there's always a way to work out whatever problem you have. It might involve substantial work on your behalf, but you can do it. As scary as all this sounds, most modeling programs are of relatively high quality, and you should be able to figure them out. If you call customer support, more than likely you'll get good and speedy help to resolve your issues. But if on a dark and stormy night you manage to find customer support . . . heck, beware . . . beware!

About the Author: IDSA

About the Author: Mike Hudspeth

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