June 25, 2012, 7:45 AM — In that article, you may have thought I wasn't being polite. But to misquote Crocodile Dundee, that wasn't a rant-this is a rant.
After too many years in the software business, including two stints as a VP in public companies, I know the business pressures facing support groups. Theirs is not a fun job, particularly in end-user support that is endlessly threatened with over-measurement, cost cutting, and offshoring.
My beef is not with the support worker-bees or even their managers. The problem here is right at the top, including the boards of directors, of cloud companies whose executives are too focused on "innovations" and not focused enough on ease of adoption.
Commentary: How to Avoid Cloud Customer Support Worst Practices
Notice that I didn't choose the words "ease of use." That's way too subjective, too hard to measure and vulnerable to cute iconography. Ease of adoption is much more concrete and easier to measure-albeit harder to do well at. It's also stupid that cloud application vendors aren't focusing on ease of adoption, because that's where their subscription dollars are going to come from.
Do Cloud Vendors Value Support Teams over Customers?
What's the problem here? This month, I moved my firm onto a new infrastructure of cloud services and applications. What we found-literally without exception-was a set of user interfaces that were pretty but also managed to obscure needed functions. "Documentation" consisted of FAQs and videos that didn't cover half the features, were incomplete and out of date on the things they did describe and pointed to "more complete" explanations that happened to be dead links. If we were lucky, there was a customer self-support area full of misinformation and broken English.
So Somebody Brilliant in all these firms had decided that it wasn't worth the investment to make customer onboarding really self-service. But they didn't offer the hapless user much of an alternative either.
The inevitable consequence? Support calls. Lots of 'em. So many calls that the support department stopped answering and made us leave a voice message (that was answered more slowly than an email). How nice. Somebody Brilliant thinks his customers' time is worth less than his support team's time. Subtle message there.
We did get some answers via email, but, because of the nature of our issues, the emails only led to the need for more cases to be submitted for related follow-up questions.