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DAL1850

The Malady that is Payware Support

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I'm going to embark upon a much-needed rant.

 

After following a couple of other great discussions on this forum:

 

http://forum.avsim.net/topic/425998-when-was-your-golden-age-in-this-hobby/?view=getnewpost

http://forum.avsim.net/topic/425839-why-are-flight-simmers-so-rude-to-each-other/

 

...and a litany of other similar threads, it becomes evident that this hobby has a rampant infection - and ground zero begins with payware vendors. I've had the [mis]fortune of watching this community change and [d]evolve over the past fifteen or so years. As many have rightly pointed out in the "golden age" thread, our hobby *has* changed for the better - and the worst. We have some amazing tech to show for our advancements; immersion and realism is at an all time high. Most of that today comes on the backs of prominent payware vendors. I have no problem with capitalism or people being financially rewarded for hard work. What I have a problem with is the degenerate attitudes and flagrant contempt certain vendors display towards their customers. Back in the day, the vast majority of this community contributed to this hobby's growth and exchanged knowledge and ideas out of a shared passion for aviation and love of the airplane. I could fill a tome with names of people who poured the cornerstones - for free - upon which so much of today's payware is built. To name one, I would have to name them all and the forum database simply isn't large enough to contain such a post. Fifteen years ago, my copy of FS98 was bulging at the seams with the fruits of that tree. I loved to tinker, exchange ideas, and even made a handful of my own contributions over the years. I built a number of relationships with many of the aforementioned people. It was the tinkering and the sense of community that made it feel like a hobby for me. You had a sense then that no matter where you were in the spectrum: a veteran 747 pilot with 10,000 hours, or if you just solo'd your first 152, or if you never set a foot inside a cockpit - there was a place for you at the table. Today, as someone aptly put it, we have "forum bulls" and "everybody else".

 

While there remains some truly great freeware movements, by and large, the hobby has been overrun by payware. My sim today is still bulging at the seams, but not with freeware - rather, hundreds - probably thousands - of dollars of payware. I'm fortunate, in that I am at a place in my career that I have the means to such ends, but I can't help feel some remorse for the younger generation of newcomers who can't always afford to drop $100 here and $100 there on the hobby. The entrance fee to our hobby is steep. If that pain alone isn't aversive, what's worse, is the scorn and contemptuous backlash that is doled out by many of these payware vendors and their development teams to this same customer base that is lining their pockets. Folks, the state of payware support is at an all-time low. Honestly, I expect better customer service from a third-world McDonalds. It's not just lacking. It's terrible. Terrible. And it needs to change.

 

I grow weary of the, "Holier than thou," "It's a privilege to purchase our wares and post to our forums," "My poodoo smells better than your poodoo, "We can do no wrong because we charge money - ergo, we must be awesome." Such disdain pervades too many of these vendors and I see it daily - everywhere. The support forums of these vendors can be downright caustic at times. The customer is treated like an annoyance - an itch and an irritant to be scratched or a fly to be shooed. I call shinanigans. The moment you slap a price tag on something and peddle your wares, you are entering into an agreement with me, your customer, to represent and stand behind the product you're selling. More importantly, you should be standing behind the basic "common sense" principle of wanting your customer to have a favorable experience with the product the way you envisioned it. Why would you NOT want this? That's not rocket science - that's just smart business. Show me that you care - not ambivalence. Not disdain. If you have no such intention or desire to put forth even a Wal-Mart level of effort in supporting your product - especially when your "wares" cost more than the simulator - then get out of my hobby and don't let the door smack you in the arse.

 

You don't have to understand or agree with anything your customers tell you, but you would be penny-wise and pound-foolish not to listen and consider the business impact of steam-rolling over the person who just dropped a Ben Franklin into your wallet. The customer may be a n00b. The customer may be a complete idiot. Too freaking bad - play your harp strings for someone who cares. Newsflash: the customer is generally a pain in the &@($*. The customer also just paid you. The customer just endorsed you. The customer is the guy who's going to refer your next customer to you or steer him away. If you are not emotionally capable or patient enough to handle the task of supporting your financiers, find someone who can. The very LEAST you can do is treat them with appreciation, courtesy, and respect you would normally afford a fellow human being who just handed you money off the street.

 

One of the biggest contributing factors to this pervasive snobbery I see are engineers offering first-tier support. News flash: engineers make TERRIBLE support representatives and in most cases, have no business trying to handle public relations. Don't do it. Do not appoint Spock as your corporate liaison; all life forms are idiots to Spock. Spock can also do no wrong and doesn't want to hear about his "flawed logic". Customer relations takes work and a great deal of restraint. If you can't take the feedback, the criticism, the negative feedback with the good - find someone who can or please shut your doors, take your ball and go home. As consumers, I think we have a responsibility to stop feeding these diseased pigeons and to stop rewarding poor customer relations with financial gain. I'm sure many a vendor will probably rage in response, "You have NO idea the kind of labor I/we invest in our products! The margins are too low!  Do you know what we go through to give you this amazing experience for YOUR hobby?! We've already answered that question for someone else, you lazy sloth! We can't assist you with your problem because, unlike us, you suck - go away. You must be doing it wrong - go read the manual again. Support is a privilege and you ought to be grateful someone is even gracing you with their presence today." To them: go soak your head. I didn't ask you to start a business enterprise. The privilege is me buying your product and supporting your business venture. Show this idiot a little love in return. If you'd rather bite at instead of supporting the hand that feeds you or you can't take the heat: get out of MY kitchen. Because it is my kitchen and my dollar, or franc, or pound, or mark. Show me and my fellow hobbiests some basic courtesies, pretend that our opinions and feedback matter, and stop dragging my hobby down with your "alleged awesomeness". Believe it or not, some of us "remnants of a flightsim age since past" might even have a thing or two of merit or value to contribute to your experiment in capitalism.

 

[/rant]

 

J

 

BTW, if anyone needs a public-relations model I would tip my hat to PC Aviator and Level-D. God Bless Mr. Shuttleworth - still tirelessly answering the same questions 7 years later and doing it w/ a smile (and I'm sure it's a strained one at times).

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Brilliant rant lol ..... with so much truth between the lines.

 

Sent from my GT-N7100 using Tapatalk

 

 

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Yes, the sad truth is that those who behave appropriately are the exception. And yes, there are exceptions. May I add A2A, Orbx and REX? And my excuses to those that I am forgetting.

 

It's our fault: we should close our wallets and put our cards in the fridge, and do it in public. It would only take a couple months of this therapy: the only one that is known to be effective.

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I wasn't sure what I was expecting when I opened this topic, but yes, it actually is a good rant, with a lot of inconvenient truth to it, laid bare.

 

I happen to be a fan of Multi Crew Experience's support.  They seem to exhibit the customer as a partner, not an adversary, model that you speak of and wish was more prevalent today.

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The few organizations who are successful in the customer-relations department are successful because they've appointed someone(s) with the interpersonal skills and the customer receptiveness necessary to front their products and support them in a meaningful way that benefits everyone, improves technology, and keeps the chains moving forward. It is an art and few have this particular affinity with people (especially in a written medium such as this). There are some organizations who are a "mixed bag" and would benefit greatly by placing a gag on the mouths of certain individuals who lack this ability.

 

Sadly, these "gems" are the diminishing exceptions - not the rule...and the scales keep trending toward the worst.

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The few organizations who are successful in the customer-relations department are successful because they've appointed someone(s) with the interpersonal skills and the customer receptiveness necessary to front their products and support them in a meaningful way that benefits everyone, improves technology, and keeps the chains moving forward. It is an art and few have this particular affinity with people (especially in a written medium such as this). There are some organizations who are a "mixed bag" and would benefit greatly by placing a gag on the mouths of certain individuals who lack this ability.

 

Sadly, these "gems" are the diminishing exceptions - not the rule...and the scales keep trending toward the worst.

In a perfect world that may be true, but in reality most add-0on developers a very small and simply couldn't afford the overhead.

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I've had very good support from almost every developer I've purchased from (pretty much bar one, who's known to be MIA).  I've never been poorly treated by any of them.  Perfect?  Nope, but generally good and fair, yes.  Of course, I don't approach anyone with a chip on my shoulder which generally helps.  (And just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that's what the OP does, the comment is a broad one addressing the topic, not a specific one addressed at the OP.)

 

I think some people hold this vision of payware developers as some medium sized to large company because that's what we've all become accustomed to.  The very mention of "tier one support" vs "engineers" is telling - these are mostly "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer" operations, not people who are hiring dedicated support teams, or PR departments.  For good or ill, the developer is the PR department is the support department is the marketing department, because they have to be... and most of us just aren't great at everything.  Flight sim add-on development is a niche market within a niche market, and people are people with different styles.  I try to remember that when working with developers in a support situation.  So often offense is taken, where no offense was offered or meant, and support discussions can escalate over pretty silly differences in style.

 

Sorry, but while I understand some of what drives a post like this, I'm also just not on-board with a lot of it - no more than I am with the whole "forum bull" notion from the other thread.  Often the people I see taking the most offense are ones who give it, or invite it themselves - and don't even seem to realize it.  The OP mentions being tired of "Holier than thou", and yet I see that very attitude in the way many end-users approach those who's products they've purchased.  As I offered in that other discussion, in most "us vs them" scenarios, there's fault to go around but regardless, solutions to problems most often start with "us", not "them", no matter who the "us" and "them" are.

 

Just a slightly differing take on the whole thing,

 

Scott

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In a perfect world that may be true, but in reality most add-0on developers a very small and simply couldn't afford the overhead.

 

Find someone in the community to front the product for free. The community is packed to the rafters with "fan boys" who would chomp at the bit just to be associated with a reputable product and have their name in the credits. Give witness: the number of, "I was a beta tester" banners you see in people's signatures here. That's how they did it in the "old days". Not everything must boil down to financial gain. That's the mentality that led us here to begin with. If you can't "afford" to support your product, I'd rather just not buy your product and give my money to someone who will.

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I agree that one ventures into some support forums with a cringe. You know that you're going to upbraided for not so much as glancing at the manual (wrong) or failing to hit upon the perfect search string for some strange issue. I'm not going to name names -- good or bad -- because people can have different experiences. But when I get pretty much called a stupid time-waster because I did not catch a gotcha in a 150 page manual, then that really sours me on the hobby. Part of the pleasure is the sense of community. When a get a snotty "even a quick glance at the tutorial would have told you that..." I'm going to have the same response as anyone who has been treated like a jerk. Yes, if a piece of software is your business, everything seems so simple and obvious to you. But if you're a customer spreading limited time over several airplanes, it is possible to miss a sentence in a tutorial, or fail to draw the proper inference, even if you're conscientious, let alone suffer from confusion among products.

 

For the record, I never go to support until I have done the tutorial more than once (assuming there is a tutorial, which there should be). Do I study every page of every manual? At this point, no. There are things I know already, like how to copy and paste from the scratchpad in the FMC. If it looks like familiar territory, it is easy to glaze over. (Plus I read dense text for a living, and tend not to enjoy it in my recreational time.) I do fly the tutorials multiple times and refer to the manuals for specific topics.

 

A polite inquiry should NEVER be met with an attitude. A customer deserves the benefit of the doubt, and should not be accused of failing to even glance at the documentation. Some things come with the territory, and if you run a support forum, yes, you are going to get the same questions. (Hey, if you keep getting the same questions, maybe there's something lacking in your software or documentation, huh?) I just got a snotty reply from a major vendor that accused me of never even glancing at the tutorial because their product did something completely crazy. Well, I am not the one that programmed it that way, you did. So don't come at me with an attitude when I ask a question about your, er, unusual programming decision, that caused behavior so bizarre I couldn't even think of a way to search for it!

 

If you're going to take five minutes to answer anyway, it does not take any longer to do so respectfully than to act like a jerk. Even if you have to bite your tongue, what is accomplished by being rude to a customer? Support is part of your whole product, like it or not. It is the place you have the most capacity to shape an owner's perception about your product after the sale. In short, it is public relations. And some vendors / devs are horrible at it.

 

I was not too much into freeware. (I remember a wonderful LIML.) I know with FS9 just about anyone could do a repaint -- even I did one. With FSX, things got harder. Bless the people who have provided so many quality repaints for commercial products. I'm not sure someone needs to spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy flight sim. Certainly you can, and, on a boring afternoon I have racked up $100 for sceneries alone in no time. But, aside from an airplane, everything else is an option. I suffer from "The Coolidge Effect" when it comes to airplanes. I quickly get bored and "need" to fly something else. I like being a "collector," as well as a pilot. But certainly, to get FSX to where I really want it, I have spent hundreds of dollars. (Not to mention thousands for a dedicated flight sim computer.)

 

I take the OP's point to be, in part, that with no real competition from freeware designers, the few Big Shot Companies have little incentive to behave civilly. I don't know the reason, but I agree that it's a mixed bag out there. There is something every one of us can do. If you have a bad experience, send an email to management and explain exactly what happened. Then avoid that company (if you can).

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My favourite rant would be developers who announce their "ground breaking" product boasting all of its bells'n'whistles, knowing it will be years away from release.

 

They are aware of the buzz it will cause, and when the inevitable questions are posted about release dates etc. it is "shut up we'll tell you when it's ready - no more questions".

 

Yes, it's all marketing, but please, announce it when beta is close to completion, thus saving us all a lot of time and effort.

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Great thoughts, Tim.

 

I couldn't agree more. I think the support pitfalls you describe are often the result of production members - who are immersed in their product 24/7 under highly controlled and predictable environments - interfacing with customers who are at a clear disadvantage of knowing little going in and likely operating their products in environments not conceived of by the developers. Yet the same are quick to fault the customer for expecting something to happen when it didn't or not happen when it did.

 

Not every problem is readily solved. Not every problem CAN be solved. Some customers will never be happy with any solution offered. This is always a given in any industry. Most, however, just want to feel welcome - considered and heard - and feel like someone acknowledges the value of their purchase/feedback and not feel like an "undue burden" on the poor oppressed vendor.

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I don't really recognise any developers in this rant.  The first time i was treated in the way you described i wouldn't purchase anything from them again.

 

I do agree that the entrance cost is very high nowadays, but developers will charge what people are willing to pay.  We could all vote with our wallets and not purchase anything over £20, then watch as no more high fidelity releases appear and we are stuck with Abacus products.

 

If you look at Majestic, PMDG, FSL, on average they release a product every two years (Obviously not including Majestic), Level D, Maddog released a single product.  I don't think it would be a viable business model to charge £15 for them.

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I think I'll just have a website for my clients. www.soyouregoingtoprison.com . It will have FAQs, and they'll be able to start topics. In a few years, I'll be able to yell at them for not searching and demand if they read the criminal code before asking. (Actually there is a real book a client will occasionally have -- "So You've Been Busted By the Feds." And I'm not kidding.)

 

Q -- Can I have an expert witness?

A -- Have you even read Ake v. Oklahoma? It's only been out for decades. And this has been covered in the forum multiple times, so apparently you're unfamiliar with the search function. I bet when you were high on meth you could have found it. <sigh> Yes.

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Find someone in the community to front the product for free. The community is packed to the rafters with "fan boys" who would chomp at the bit just to be associated with a reputable product and have their name in the credits.

 

Your point would be better made without the labeling.  And perhaps you don't realize, (again, it's the - just how big do you think these developers are? - thing) that many do use volunteers, both formally and informally to assist with support and it's a tough job.  I've seen that approach heavily criticized as well, BTW.  I don't think the rafters are especially packed with potential qualified support people for these niche products, and those that are qualified and competent in product knowledge are no more likely to be skilled at customer service than the developers themselves.

 

Again, hostility is a two way street.  The best approach is to pick a different street.  What I'm suggesting to you is that your expectations might not be realistic and are also more than a bit one-sided.  Some developers could do better at interacting with their customers, but guess what?  Some simmers should take the lead and do a better job as well.  I'm often stunned at the level of abuse that some think they're entitled to deliver because they've spent "their hard-earned money".  The reality is that you're dealing with people - individuals and small groups of people with specific technical skills - with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails.  You can't just hand-wave that fact away.  And if you do, you're going to end up with no products or people to buy from - and yes I'm thinking of specifics here.

 

I buy everything from a value proposition point of view.  Pick your developers with care, and don't buy from those you feel don't deliver adequate value for the money you pay.  Then take a good hard look at how you define value.  If support attitude (whatever that may mean to you) is a strong element of your value proposition, then don't buy from those who exhibit the attitude you don't appreciate. 

 

Sorry - but I just don't see this as a broad problem in the way you do.  Not that there aren't instances of it - far from it.  What I mostly see is a cottage industry with misunderstandings and the occasional ego taking a hit.  And I see it on both sides.

 

Scott

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