Classic Computer Magazine Archive ST-Log ISSUE 21 / JULY 1988 / PAGE 6


The Support Dilemma

I am the owner of both an IBM PC and a 520ST, and I am continually amazed at the differences in the service offered by companies who provide software or hardware for these machines. I'm not even talking about factory service for the machines, which IBM has built its reputation upon. I'm just talking about a simple phone call to a software vendor. I've never had any trouble getting help with the products I've purchased for my IBM. If I have trouble with a software package, in most cases a quick phone call will bring me a solution.

Not so with ST software. In most cases, a telephone call to the software vendor will result in a conversation with someone who hasn't even the vaguest idea of what he's doing. Letters usually go unanswered. I've discovered that when one buys a piece of ST software, he's almost certainly on his own. There have been exceptions: most notably WordPerfect Corporation's incredible customer-service department. These people stay in touch with their users. You don't have to beg for upgrade information or answers to questions.

I don't see why all providers of ST software can't treat their customers with the same kind of support Word-Perfect offers. It seems to be that it would pay off in the long run.

—Anthony Pellman
Spokane, Washington

You're not alone in your complaints, and though there is no good excuse for a company to ignore its customers, there are some reasons why you experience better product support for IBM programs than for ST ones.

It all comes down to numbers. Customer support is an expensive and time-consuming task. Many publishers of ST software have only a few people on their staff, each person having to wear many different "hats" during the course of a day. This means that the staff's time is spread very thinly over a variety of tasks that must be completed to run a company. Since ST software doesn't sell anywhere near the number of packages an equivalent IBM product would, these ST software companies frequently can't afford a larger staff.

Your experience with WordPerfect Corporation proves the point. WordPerfect is a very large company that already had a good customer-support system in place before they released their word processor for the ST. For that reason, ST users get the benefit of a customer-support department that is, at this point, really being paid for by the users of other machines. The more popular the ST becomes, the more software will be sold, and the larger and more organized the software companies will become. Until then ST software purchasers will undoubtedly notice a lesser quality of customer support.

However, as we stated above, there is no good excuse for a software company to ignore its customers. ST software suppliers should note that their customers want and need their help. If anybody reading this is a software supplier not willing to support his product, ST-Log suggests you find a new line of work.