My Life as Tech Support

Every now and then I like to pull back the curtain a little and give a glimpse into what it’s like to run Obsidian Portal. It’s pretty much an endless stream of putting out fires and fixing bugs. I really love to do it, but I like to pour cold water on anyone who thinks it’s all fun and glory. For example, today I had two support emails that caused me quite a bit of grief. Enjoy…

Ascension without consent

I never gave my permission to “ascend” or be charged anything, you don’t even have my information. so, yeah, please take off this “ascended” title, because, I’m not going to be charged. so, again, nobody has my consent in anyway for any reason for anything ever. the end.

As it happens, the issue here was that the person in question signed up with a promo code when creating their account. The promo code gave 1 month of free Ascendant time to new signups.

I understand that we could be a little clearer about “complimentary” vs “paid” Ascendant accounts, but frankly I’d rather work on cool features. Some other people have inquired about their strange Ascendant status, and I was happy to answer. In this case, I did exactly as was requested and deleted the complimentary subscription. Be careful what you wish for, I might just give it to you.

My wiki is gone, I hate you

Pages on my XXXX page were deleted. I want them back, along with my money.

These emails always fill me with dread. Did I accidentally delete someone’s work? How long has this been going on? Is this just the first of a flood of hate heading my way?

Luckily, I’ve been hit with a lot of these by now, so I know not to panic. In almost all cases, it’s a misunderstanding. In this particular case, it is a legitimate bug…but not one where data was lost. Instead, there is a case-sensitivity bug for some of the wiki links. In other words, Places isn’t the same as places. The pages are all still there, but some links in the wiki are broken. Definitely something I need to fix.

Unfortunately, it took several back-and-forth emails to discover the actual problem. The original email didn’t have any real information, only anger. I know it’s frustrating when things aren’t working right, but a “You screwed me” email is pretty worthless in terms of diagnosing the problem and finding a fix.

The moral?

There are essentially two morals to this story, one for me and one for you:

For me: Can’t please ’em all

I am the first to admit that Obsidian Portal has bugs and problems…a LOT! But, wonder of wonders, it limps along enough to provide thousands of gamers with the tools they need to manage their games. That provides me a lot of comfort when I deal with irate users. I have to remind myself that even as I’m working to fix one person’s problem, hundreds of people are managing their games and having a great time doing it.

For you (and me too): Take a breath before sending

When I get a support email, my initial gut reaction goes one of 2 ways: I want to help this person, or I want to hurt this person. If the email is asking for help, I want to help them. If they are lashing out at me or the site, I want to hurt them. I can usually swallow my pride and do the right thing, but it’s always tempting to just reflect back the anger and hate coming my way.

The point is to realize that most websites (and small businesses) out there are like this. When you send an email, it doesn’t go to a customer service person. It goes to the head-honcho, the person who pours their heart and soul into the site. If you have a problem, ask for help, and you’ll probably get it. Accusations and rage will send your email straight to the trash bin, or worse, the site owner might flip out and declare war on you. I’ll admit, I’ve come very close to doing this in the past.

Blow your top, or solve your problem?

Before sending a support email (to anyone, not just me), ask yourself: “What’s my goal here?” Do you want to get your problem solved? Or, do you want to unleash your anger and surrender to the Dark Side? If it’s the former, then do your best to describe the exact problem, what you did when the problem manifested, and have a little patience. If it’s the latter, tap into your deepest hatred and let me know how you really feel. Just don’t be surprised when I don’t respond and you suddenly find your account disabled.

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