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OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?

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Simon Ubsdell
OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:54:16 am
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:59:58 pm

As both a user of software support and a provider of it, I'd be really interested in your collective thoughts about what you expect from it - within the video/audio arena specifically.

These two articles are an interesting perspective on the issue from a developer's point of view, though not specifically about this market:

http://alexking.org/blog/2015/03/02/sustainable-software-customer-support
http://blog.helftone.com/sustainable-indie-software/

Who do you think gets it just right and who do you think could do more? Who drives you crazy?

Which of the three main NLE providers give the best support?

What is a reasonable response time to a support request? Do you expect 24/7 support?

At what level do you think it can be be reasonably expected for developer to provide phone support?

Do you expect the same level of support from a small developer as from a major company?

**

I'd like to make special mention of some of the suppliers who really do go the extra mile in my experience as a user.

WAVES Audio are in a league of their own for me, having clearly decided to think through every aspect of the process to make it as pleasant and efficient as possible. 10/10.

Greg at Intelligent Assistance - so quick to respond, so quick to fix any bug.

The guys from Adobe, Kevin, Todd and Dennis, who proactively help to solve problems on forums like these. (Shame that my experience of contacting Adobe Support has been ... consistently less than great.)

Avid's Marianna Montague... of course.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Craig Seeman
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 2:59:32 pm
Last Edited By Craig Seeman on Mar 6, 2015 at 3:01:20 pm

What's not clear to the customer is what kind of support you're getting with the price. I'm not sure if it would make a difference but, for a professional, knowing in advance that you'll get good support may motivate one to pay for the higher priced app.


I few years ago I purchased Teleprompt+ from BombingBrains, an indie developer, for my iPad teleprompter.
At about $25 it's priced a bit higher than the bottom feeder iOS prompters.
http://www.bombingbrain.com/teleprompt.html
They even had a page on their site explaining that they were available for hire. Truly a mark of indie developers who knew their apps weren't a sole source of income.

When I had questions/issues with setup and functions, they were quick to respond. Almost always within 24 hours and it was one of the developers, not a "support" person who responded. After a few bug fix updates things went silent for a long time. One day I searched to see what had happened and I discovered they had updated their app, which requires a new purchase.

I don't have an issue with complete new purchases in that price range. There's no upgrade pricing in the App Store and, given the value, the full price is really no more and probably far less then the upgrade price of a professional app.

What surprised me though is that I never received notice that a new version had been developed. Given past correspondence they certainly had email contact info for me. Had I not checked I'd have assumed (and actually had assumed) that they abandoned their apps. There's also no notification in app that lets the user know a new paid version is available.

I do think if Apple allowed upgrade pricing they wouldn't drive developers into bottom feed pricing structures. It doesn't help that apparently there's no in app notification of new versions.

Support absolutely costs money but, whether it's the app store rules or the companies, if you can't exploit your current customers whether it's paid upgrades or even new paid versions, you're being pushed into a model which doesn't motivate support from the developer.



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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 4:32:42 pm

[Craig Seeman] "Support absolutely costs money but, whether it's the app store rules or the companies, if you can't exploit your current customers whether it's paid upgrades or even new paid versions, you're being pushed into a model which doesn't motivate support from the developer."

This is very true.

Support represents a huge investment of time - for the smaller developer there's no question that represents an opportunity cost. Not to mention that many small developers are not doing it as a full-time job, but rather in parallel with something that actually pays the bills.

There does seem to be a view among developers who use it that the App Store model tends to keep them at arm's length from their customer base to everyone's disadvantage.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 4:37:07 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "There does seem to be a view among developers who use it that the App Store model tends to keep them at arm's length from their customer base to everyone's disadvantage."

Not to Apple's! Not only are they moving a ton of hardware, they're making 30% off of most software written for their platforms and controlling the relationship between third-party developers and their customers. 1990s Microsoft would be proud (or jealous).

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
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Tom Sefton
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 3:45:26 pm

I've always found it a massive pain in the arse to deal with Adobe. So far apple have been great with FCPX.

The plugin manufacturers I've worked with have been mixed. Some aren't interested, others like Thomas Szabo at Primaries Exporter have given up spare time and been available for email and Skype whenever it has been required and gone above and beyond to solve issues and provide beta versions for testing - fantastic.

Co-owner at Pollen Studio
http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 4:29:00 pm

[Tom Sefton] "So far apple have been great with FCPX."

That's great to hear.

Out of interest, what mechanism have you been using to "speak" to them? Email, Skype, phone support? If it was phone, did they phone you back? Did you initiate the contact through the feedback page? How quickly did they get back to you?

What kind of issue were they helping with? Was it a bug, or question about how to operate the software?

Would be really interested to hear the specifics, if you don't mind sharing some of them.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Tom Sefton
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 5:46:21 pm

As soon as I can, I will go into specifics. There have been 2 cases. One for repeated crashes that I contacted support for via email and received phone support within an hour of my original email. That was resolved quickly.

The next has been something else, but I can't go into too many details at the moment. They have been very attentive, asked for system logs, system reports and a few more specifics from us about the type of projects we are working on.

Co-owner at Pollen Studio
http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk


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Mark Suszko
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 4:42:17 pm

I've had nothing but problems with anything I tried to use from Smith Micro. The installers don't. The support was all automated responses so far.


I was a little upset at BMD when I had issues using their Media Express app with the Ultra 4K box. I felt like the abilities of the software had been misrepresented, and more troubling, seems like nothing further is comping in the way of improvements or revisions. I advised my people to buy the 4K ultra boxes partly because of the bundled Media Express app, so when it didn't do all I was led to expect, *the way I expected*, it hurt my street cred at the shop a little.


On the hardware side, I have to give a shout out to AJA for trading me a replacement unit when my IO HD recently died, just out of warranty. They could have been sticklers, pointed to the fine print as an out, and left me in the cold; instead, they made good and shipped a refurbed replacement unit overnight at their expense. Worked right, right out of the box.

Also, when I had a problem with my scan-do ultra, my email support question was handled within the hour, successfully, by a VP from Communications Specialties. Over lunch. That's impressive.


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David Lawrence
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 7:19:32 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "Greg at Intelligent Assistance - so quick to respond, so quick to fix any bug."

+1 for Greg at Intelligent Assistance. He worked directly with me to add a new feature Xto7 that benefits all FCPX users.

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David Lawrence
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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:36:24 pm

Also as someone whose lived on the other side of the curtain it's reasonable to break down the various types of support we're talking about. If your Mac itself dies and you are under warranty you have a worldwide army of stores and call in support that will correct things succinctly.

If you're expecting a particular bug say in FCPX to be address, sending a note about it to Apple Feedback is the best way to get the ball rolling. Chances are they are already aware of the issue but it never hurts to add your voice, whether you get a direct reply of any sort or not.

A smaller developer might be more directly responsive because their volume of customers will be much smaller and in many cases their product much less complex to support. But I can assure you there are many many good folks at Apple watching out for you as an FCPX user.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:48:33 am

And for that there are myriad resources including official how-to articles, user to user forums and tutorials... not to mention the manual.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:22:26 pm
Last Edited By Noah Kadner on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:32:16 pm

The point you might be missing is just because a personal response isn't made about every submitted issue doesn't mean submitting feedback is futile. More insight here: http://www.fcpworks.com/submitting-better-fcpx-feedback-to-apple/

Appreciate that as a small developer you take pride in personally supporting all requests. But let's say one day you get 5,000 customers all simultaneously emailing you about the same issue that you've already explained in FAQs, user manuals, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. You likely won't have the interest or resources to personally satisfy all of them.

Also in the case of non-bug queries- those requests are readily answered in user to user forums, as it should be. That way instead of an individual person getting an answer via email, anyone who searches that forum in the future has open access to the same answer. And that's every bit as valid as it might be from some official source.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 5:00:09 pm

Perhaps you know something about business that I don't but I'm having a hard time understanding how a one-time software purchase generates the ongoing revenue to support a full-time support employee over multiple years. Or should direct support only extend to new users for a specific period?

Or perhaps an Adobe-like software subscription model is more what you are thinking about in your calculation- where customer revenue is constant as they continue to have access to the app. In that case, I can see your argument a little more clearly.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Craig Seeman
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:33:25 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "If I have 5000 customers rather than 50, I have 100 times more revenue to service their support requests - and so on. There never comes a point of which volume of sales doesn't entitle the user to the same level of support. "

My own guess is the likelihood of a response from Apple is relative to the potential uniqueness of the bug at the time you report it. While I've never received a response for an FCPX bug report I did for FCP Legacy and, in addition to emails, it resulted in phone calls and even an NDA.

If you're one of hundreds or thousands they may not have anything to say beyond working on the fix.

If you hit on something rarely reported that they may need your help in verifying they'd be highly motivated to contact you.

A developer with a much smaller user base may not know how widely spread an issue is so they may be much more motivated to contact the user for verification.



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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:02:18 pm

If a customer really wants 1:1 expert support from the manufacturer (beyond standard Applecare level service), it's readily available. It's just not free. And that practice is not restricted to Apple:

http://www.avid.com/US/Support/avid-advantage
https://www.adobe.com/support/programs/premiere/?tab:contact=1
https://www.apple.com/support/professional/

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:03:24 pm
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:32:59 pm

[Noah Kadner] "More insight here: http://www.fcpworks.com/submitting-better-fcpx-feedback-to-apple/"

I'm really intrigued by your suggestion that the user should rigorously self-censor before submitting enhancement requests to Apple.

What's the thinking behind that from an Apple perspective?

They don't have to answer - and of course most of the time they don't answer. So where's the harm? What's the downside for Apple? Most companies are only too happy to harvest the opinions of the client base - it's valuable market information, whether or not you decide to act on it.

Sorry to keep taking issue with you (but hey, this is the Debate forum, right?) - it's genuinely interesting to hear your ex-insider's take on all this, so thanks very much for sharing. I really appreciate it.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:39:04 pm

Simon- indeed these are good things to debate and as a developer it's nice to hear that you care more than the norm.

With regards to Wheaton's law, I'm sure you can imagine the variety of sensibilities expressed in relation to FCPX. As a full-time employee I was more than happy to read the good with the bad as it was all on the same clock.

I wasn't so much suggesting in that article that customers self-censor their feedback. Moreso that feedback with some sort of actionable data is far more useful than simply expressing frustration. I imagine that almost any customer service/support rep at any company would agree that a "your software is crap, and with that said here's my console log and repro steps" is a lot more useful than just, "your software is crap."

In the case of FCPX, all feedback is indeed carefully read and where appropriate— replied to. The feedback that isn't replied to is no less important; it's just used in other ways. I won't say precisely how because that would be telling about internal practices.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:56:14 pm

Noah, Thanks for the chance to discuss this. It's an interesting subject - to me, at least.

[Noah Kadner] "In the case of FCPX, all feedback is indeed carefully read and where appropriate— replied to. The feedback that isn't replied to is no less important; it's just used in other ways. I won't say precisely how because that would be telling about internal practices."

Rubbish feedback is tiresome, of course it is, but it's still valuable information about how your customers feel about your brand. In that sense, none of it, however unpleasant in tone, should be rejected out of hand, or actively not sought.

It is after all, all of it data about your customer base, which is a massively valuable commodity as we all know.

That's why I picked you up on the suggestion that users should self-moderate before submitting enhancement requests, of all things. In that case, you have users actively engaging with your brand in a positive way.

Enhancement requests have value not so much in the sense that they show you what you should be doing next, but because they're key information about the mindset of your most committed customers.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:01:51 pm

Couldn't agree more and suffice to say in my position I was highly impressed by the practices in place.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Noah Kadner
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 9:51:08 pm
Last Edited By Noah Kadner on Mar 7, 2015 at 9:53:37 pm

As I said, I couldn't agree more and I was impressed by the practices in place.

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Walter Soyka
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 7, 2015 at 10:13:13 pm

Simon, what does "support" mean to you?

General help using the system? Emergency help when something goes unusually wrong? Bug fixes for the stuff that's broken?

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 8, 2015 at 9:36:10 am
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 8, 2015 at 9:38:13 am

[Walter Soyka] "Simon, what does "support" mean to you?

General help using the system? Emergency help when something goes unusually wrong? Bug fixes for the stuff that's broken?"


Thinking about that purely from my own point of view as a user, I would always expect the supplier to respond to a bug report - even if it's just with a form letter to say that it's a known issue. That's irrespective of whether I was paying for support. Just because a bug is frequently reported shouldn't, I think, exonerate the supplier from this (ethical) obligation.

Of course, that raises a lot of questions as to what you mean by a bug - it certainly means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, which is where a good deal of confusion comes in.

What do you class as a bug? Would you agree that for the average user the actual technical sense of this is not always easy to grasp?

(One of the things that used to happen back in the day is that suppliers would publish regular updates detailing known issues and even in some cases suggest workarounds. This practice seems to have disappeared almost entirely. Are there legal reasons for that?)

Beyond that, I'd accept that there's no reasonable expectation of support (with the possible exception of installation issues) - unless you are paying for it via subscription. This is one the attractions of the subscription model - and it works for both parties. Knowing what you can reasonably expect leads to a much healthier relationship.

There's of course another way of looking at it and that's asking if buyers would willingly pay more for a product if they knew there was guaranteed support within agreed parameters. The race to the bottom in pricing means that this could be a tricky sell in today's market - but there's no intrinsic reason why it shouldn't be a valid strategy.

Interestingly, I note that Intelligent Assistance are now saying this on their support page:

"Please Note: We’re a small company of two people, who want to make great software and support it as well as we can, but we have to be realistic. With tens of thousands of customers we can’t honestly promise individual support for $10 - or even $50 - apps, and I doubt you reasonably expect it. "

Which potentially raises the question, shouldn't they perhaps be charging more for their apps? Perhaps the real enemy in all of this is unrealistic pricing ...

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 8, 2015 at 10:59:12 am

[Simon Ubsdell] "Thinking about that purely from my own point of view as a user, I would always expect the supplier to respond to a bug report - even if it's just with a form letter to say that it's a known issue. That's irrespective of whether I was paying for support. Just because a bug is frequently reported shouldn't, I think, exonerate the supplier from this (ethical) obligation."

I agree 100%.


[Simon Ubsdell] "Which potentially raises the question, shouldn't they perhaps be charging more for their apps? Perhaps the real enemy in all of this is unrealistic pricing ..."

I also agree on this 100%. This is a point I've been trying to make here over the last year or two. Most folks here are very excited to see the costs of professional post-production software dropping, thinking the lower costs are good for their businesses. I see it differently. I want my vendors to compete, but I also want them to have the healthy margins they need to continue competing in the future.

I think that major developers are salting the fields redefining our expectations with their pricing policies, creating a toxic environment for third-party developers.

Realistically, Intelligent Assistance's excellent products are worth AT LEAST 10x what they are charging today.

But FCPX is $300 -- including almost four years of free updates. (And Motion is $50. Fifty dollars! Surely Motion is worth more than a Lightning/HDMI adapter is!)

That low, low host app pricing (and the piles upon piles of $0.99 mobile apps in the app stores) are mis-calibrating users' senses of value and putting tremendous pricing pressure on developers. Charging what a product is worth sounds like a great way to make no sales. "I can buy a whole editing application for $300, why should I spend $500 on just a keyer?"

When people call the downward spiral of product pricing in our industry "the democratization of video," it reminds me of that H. L. Mencken quote: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 8, 2015 at 11:45:25 am

Great post. Very much agree with all of that.

[Walter Soyka] "Charging what a product is worth sounds like a great way to make no sales. "I can buy a whole editing application for $300, why should I spend $500 on just a keyer?""

I wonder whether there isn't a collective failure of nerve, however, and whether the notion of a premium product can't be retrieved by players bold enough to risk it. As things stand, virtually everyone is terrified of being more expensive than the competition and would sooner sacrifice profits to market share.

Within just a few years we seem to have seen the almost complete disappearance of "premium" in a lot of software product categories.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:42:53 am

[Simon Ubsdell] "Within just a few years we seem to have seen the almost complete disappearance of "premium" in a lot of software product categories."

There are still premium products, but they're in adjacent markets and they're really premium. Resolve hurt Digital Vision, but Baselight still seems to be ok. A whole lot of products have hurt Flame, but it's still out there -- and actually seeing a lot of active and promising development right now, indicative of real investment. (Sidebar: I find that both the low-end tool users and the premium tool users regularly underestimate what they other is capable of.)

There are fairly-priced products, too. Pretty much the entire 3D market, as well as NUKE/NUKE X/NUKE STUDIO seem to be priced pretty well; low enough that anyone who really needs to can afford it, but high enough that it costs more than a coffee habit.


[Simon Ubsdell] "I wonder whether there isn't a collective failure of nerve, however, and whether the notion of a premium product can't be retrieved by players bold enough to risk it. As things stand, virtually everyone is terrified of being more expensive than the competition and would sooner sacrifice profits to market share."< I>

Charging premium money requires delivering premium value.

Considering the capabilities of FCPX at $300 once, or Creative Cloud at $50 monthly, how good does your product have to be to sell at a premium?

And who would be in the position to bring such a product to market? Mature products can compete on features, but they have a hard time competing on workflow and training, due to their legacy idiosyncrasies. New products would have to develop massive feature sets before they could be considered viable competition.

It wasn't that long ago on this forum we used to talk about the four As. Autodesk was the premium player. Have you noticed that people only talk about the 3 As now? Also, does this mean that Avid has become the premium player by accident?

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 10:44:42 am
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 10, 2015 at 10:47:34 am

[Walter Soyka] "There are still premium products, but they're in adjacent markets and they're really premium."

Yes, indeed. The thing that is perhaps interesting is that the divide between the companies that sell premium and those that do "economy" continues to widen as pricing competition at the latter end gets ever more unrealistic.

AutoDesk are rowing back from their somewhat half-hearted efforts to occupy the NLE space and have retreated back to premium where they are most comfortable since the abandonment of Discreet.

Perhaps there are inherent difficulties in simultaneously offering products that are premium and non-premium. AVID have flirted unsuccessfully with this for many years - though if one is brutally honest, one would have to ask whether AVID products have ever really been premium other than in their frequently eye-watering pricing.

[Walter Soyka] "Charging premium money requires delivering premium value.

And who would be in the position to bring such a product to market? Mature products can compete on features, but they have a hard time competing on workflow and training, due to their legacy idiosyncrasies. New products would have to develop massive feature sets before they could be considered viable competition."


I know I keep going on about it but Modo is a really interesting example of a product that started out looking like a budget offering but then mutated. The extremely reasonable entry level pricing was the reason I picked it up for home use and just because it looked interesting.

Since then, the Luxology guys have added huge incremental updates at a carefully planned and predictable rate such that it is now genuinely a premium offering. I'm pretty sure that they had this strategy in mind from the very beginning and proceeded to follow it single-mindedly and very effectively.

Of course, this has come at a price - buying into all those updates has meant that we early adopters have ended up paying in total what amounts to a premium price. The entry price of a seat of Modo today remains extremely competitive but the product is not just outstanding value but outstanding in relation to the competition.

Talking of Modo in the context of product support, of course, Brad Peebler and the team have really put a lot of thought and creativity into how they interface with their users and it's very effective. Brad's hugely entertaining and informative modcasts are a real treat. Andy Brown's training videos are among the best of their kind anywhere. There is a great community forum. There are great Modo events across the world. What they've shown is that there are many ways of building and supporting a thriving user community - you just need imagination and passion. And of course a great product doesn't hurt.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:31:54 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "though if one is brutally honest, one would have to ask whether AVID products have ever really been premium other than in their frequently eye-watering pricing."

On the contrary, I think the one thing established is that Avid products ARE premium products. Ask most of Hollywood. As price conscious as they are, Avid's prices are rarely discussed as needing addressing.

(BECAUSE THEY LEASE AVIDS, NEVER BUY THEM.)

I think you're absolutely right that, ironically, Avid's primary conflict has been trying to chase lower prices rather than embracing their premium-ness.

I'll give you my favorite example. For 3 years, I sat next to the product manager for Avid DS. I think it was the best VALUE in the company, even though it was the highest PRICED in the company ($145,000 with storage, iirc). And what was he bombarded with, all day every day? Lamentations that it was priced TOO LOW.

"Our clients read trade magazines," they said. "We're having to cut our rates so far below our Flint and Flame rates that we're risking the health of our business."

(A note to the DS diehards who will hate Avid with a hatred that can be seen from outer space until the end of time because of EOL'ing DS: Avid primarily acknowledged that its time had passed. There was a time when you needed the most powerful hardware acceleration available to run 2K. We used to use SINGLE STREAM realtime 2K PLAYBACK-- just playback, not even editing, and just one stream -- and people were shouting from the audience that this was impossible. They insisted on coming up to the stage after the demo to see if we were playing any tricks.

Now, 6K from a laptop is child's play.

DS's color grading? Obliterated by Resolve. Node-based compositing? Obliterated by Nuke, Scratch, and yes, Resolve. No control surface kept it out of the running in EU in particular, where, wait for it, RESOLVE was king. Because of the control surface.

So there was not one single area where DS could keep up -- not because Avid didn't care. My product manager colleague was the most diligent, customer-focused PM I've ever met. The issue is that no "do-it-all" product can survive the onslaught of specialist companies and products who eat it from every direction.

Which is why there are no longer any meaningful "do-it-all" products. Even though A-desk comes close, there's still a whole range of "do-an-awful-lot" products. Evolution is at work. The small mammals have won.)

ANYWAY...Avid's issues include chasing lower-end markets with products like Liquid, Pinnacle Studio, Xpress, Xpress Pro and others -- all of which were major sucks of time and money, and distractions from Avid's core competencies: premium products for upscale customers.

As one VP put it to me in casual conversation, "Avid's business model doesn't support moving lots of inexpensive units. We can only prosper by moving fewer, more expensive units."

True, which is how Avid's most prosperous days were built around $20,000 hardware running Media Composer. FCP with AJA and BMD should have been eating Avid's lunch, but the opposite was true. Introducing a software-only Media Composer at $4995 should have been a disaster, but it wasn't. It was successful beyond anyone's imaginings.

(Including mine. I argued vigorously for launching at $2995. My immediate bosses argued for $999. Wrong. $4995 both supported the premium message that Avid's customers WANT Avid to maintain, while scooping up a lot more money.)

Things started to run off the rails with the combination of a nine-figure purchase of a company whose non-premium products they had to sell off for fractions of a penny on the dollar, and trying to sell lots of lower-priced units.

Their future is stabilizing by going back to their long suit: selling software for more than the competition (thanks Apple!) and LEASING -- only now, going direct to the customer, rather than forcing a lease through a VAR who could only make money on a lease that included computers and storage. This still works for Hollywood, but software-only was the only pitch that would work for customers.

re: public support, I think Avid erred a bit by trying to build a strong support community on their own site -- HUGE success; an unabashed home run -- to the exclusion of their support elsewhere. I don't think they reckoned on how thoroughly this would marginalize them. They're certainly addressing this with more more aggressive user group support (again, thanks Apple for making Apple UGs so open to this that they're ASKING for Avid presos) and much more wide-ranging PR stories....partly enabled by having so many new stories to tell. Thanks Apple! LOL

I'm going to skip the part where paid direct support is still a key revenue source for Avid, a tale too complex to explore in a post as long as this. :-)


I heartily agree with you on Modo, Simon. Like Adobe, among a handful of companies who is producing exceptional work on every possible platform, aggressively reaching out on every possible platform. I think BMD is doing exemplary work too, including at the COW, where BMD folks have been second only to Adobe, albeit necessarily limited by a much smaller team.

Begging the question: is Adobe the only big company swinging for the support fences? Or is this increasingly becoming the domain of smaller vendors?


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:10:23 pm
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:11:44 pm

Seriously fascinating post, I really enjoyed that!!!

Even though you disagreed with me, I will agree with you. AVID only ever sold two products that I would call premium: DS and AudioVision.

My contention is that an NLE, any NLE, is fundamentally not a premium product, despite all of AVID's attempt to price Media Composer that way.

Compared to 3D applications, compared to Flame, compared to NUKE, compared to anything one can genuinely call high end, an NLE offering is basically small beer. You can create the perception that there's something amazing going on, and obviously AVID's early entrance into the game put them in pole position to frame the narrative, but really there's nothing that special about bringing media together and enabling you to stick it back to back.

I've been spending the last few hours doing just that on Camtasia and it works just fine. HitFilm have a nice little NLE bolted onto their graphics/compositing offering that works just fine. iMovie works just fine.

NLE's just ain't special and they're not premium.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:00:48 am

[Simon Ubsdell] " iMovie works just fine.

NLE's just ain't special and they're not premium."


I have long, long maintained that iMovie was feet and frames support shy of being the ideal film editing tool. It's all that many filmmakers need.

There was only one big defection of A Famous Film Editor when I worked at Avid, so the question was raised, what's your workflow that Apple is better suited for. The answer was that they played through all the footage, and wrote down favorite takes with a PENCIL on a piece of paper (gotta allow for changes), and then the editor assembled the cut, writing down THOSE values, and handed the piece of paper to the negative cutter.

It turns out that all those damn editing features in Avid were getting in the way of pleasurable scrolling and writing stuff down by hand, so they opted for an NLE with fewer features.

I jest not at all. Which is when I said they should be working in iMovie. I agree, Simon, for many workflows, there's simply nothing premium.

HOWEVER, there was a time when this wasn't the case. It goes back 20 years or so, a time I know you recall, and was related to things like sync (by NO means a given), reliability (ditto), and quality of hardware (which included not just image quality, but also...sync and reliability). All products were by no means created equal.

This is where I personally believe that Media 100 was ultimately more revolutionary than Avid, because it really did democratize video production, for the low, low price of $30,000.

And that $30,000 included a PREMIUM for 2 streams of real-time DVE...during edit, not output. You still had to render that.

You also payed a premium for Avid's film support, which nobody came close to...until Cinema Tools, which Apple soon bought.

So, by and large, nearly all features (sync, picture quality, film support, real time, etc) that WERE premium are indeed NOW commoditized. Any additional premiums for hardware support and performance boost are very close to commoditization courtesy AJA and Blackmagic.

There are still premiums, though. Among them: paid priority, 24-hour access to software support. Because one of the things that Avid customers expect from software support is an immediate answer to a phone call, with virtually no time on hold, 24 hours a day. For THAT, you pay a premium.

But again agreeing with you, none of this is inherent in the software. But it is a premium feature, and does answer your original question about expectations.

The same goes for hardware, btw. I know people who've gotten parts for their HP workstations FedEx'd to the LITERAL jungles of the Amazon. Certainly anybody in the US gets next-business-day replacement for any part you can imagine. Bullet hole through your laptop screen? Shorted motherboard from the blood pouring from the bullet that had passed through you on the way to your screen? No problem. We'll have somebody on your porch the next morning.

For the same price as Apple Care. And Apple customers have been trained to have low expectations for replacement time for anything that can't be handled at the mall, and no expectations whatever for replacement due to water, blood, or bullet damage. But few HP customers would tolerate this. So they pay a premium.

A premium service -- paid yes, but no more than one would pay for distinctly non-premium service from Apple.

A different question than software, to be sure. But you're right, people's expectation is to pay less and less for software - if not a couple of hundred bucks to own, a couple of dozen bucks to subscribe and bill to the client.

I do think that Apple has done more than anyone to lower expectations for direct support, though, albeit with enough apparent satisfaction with the original product that most FCP/X users are more than willing to tolerate it.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 8, 2015 at 11:36:34 am
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 8, 2015 at 12:51:39 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "Thinking about that purely from my own point of view as a user, I would always expect the supplier to respond to a bug report - even if it's just with a form letter to say that it's a known issue. That's irrespective of whether I was paying for support. Just because a bug is frequently reported shouldn't, I think, exonerate the supplier from this (ethical) obligation."

To amplify this point a bit.

There is definitely a sense in our industry that there is no over-riding obligation on the part of the supplier to respond to each and every bug report, but the fact of the matter is that bugs are the responsibility of the developer, not some random act of nature, and an acknowledgement or better still an apology doesn't seem an outrageous thing to ask for. A form letter (snippet) could easily take care of that.

There is also a perception that having a very large customer base means that free support is simply not feasible under any circumstances, but this is not necessarily true.

Let's take the example of a typical large supermarket chain with millions of customers and thousands of product lines. The fact is that I can contact my supermarket directly in a variety of different ways simply to discuss my experience as a customer - in fact, they actively welcome the engagement because they fully understand the commercial value of it.

If I buy a pot of cherry jam (jelly?) that has a pit in it (the jam equivalent of a software bug, let's say), not only will I receive a fulsome apology, I can be pretty sure they'll be offering me a month's free jam and a fistful of vouchers to boot. For all they know, this may be the first and last purchase I ever make from them, so it's not as if they are even amortising the support costs over my lifetime's shopping with them.

OK, so software is a bit more tricky to support than jam, but the commercial point still holds. My supermarket has found ways to provide total support, of a kind that is supposedly unthinkable, despite the absolutely minuscule profit generated by any one product.

The supermarket analogy also helps to reveal another piece of slightly faulty thinking. A million customers doesn't equal a million customer support requests - or if it does, then there's something seriously wrong with your business at every level and you won't carry on trading for long. Clearly the supermarkets can afford to respond they way they do because the ratio of unsatisfied/satisfied customers is extremely small, as it should be in any well run business.

The problem with almost all software is that the relentless downward pressure of the market and, if we're honest, some frankly silly behaviour on the part of certain players in depressing prices far below any sensible level, means that most businesses are either monetising support or simply not offering it. That's not the same thing as saying that there is no possible business model that could accommodate free support.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Kevin Monahan
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:29:27 pm
Last Edited By Kevin Monahan on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:30:21 pm

Hello Simon,
Thanks for bringing up the topic.

Unfortunately, I really should not weigh in on comparing the Adobe support experience with our competitors. That would be unsavory since I've worked directly with some pretty great people at these other companies and have a lot of respect for them.

Although we all provide support slightly differently, I'm sure that we are all working hard in trying to improve the customer support experience for all of our respective products. It's never easy, that much I'm sure is true.

From my perspective, I think that communicating directly with customers is important, especially if you can turn that interaction into an item that gets fixed or improved. This is something I'm doing constantly.

[Simon Ubsdell] "Shame that my experience of contacting Adobe Support has been ... consistently less than great."

I'm sorry to hear that, especially because I have a lot of confidence in our team both here in the U.S. and abroad. In the future, feel free to share any negative support experiences you may have via email kmonahan {at} Adobe {dot} com and I'll do what I can to correct the situation.

For others, when contacting support for digital video issues, make sure you are routed properly. After connecting, ask the agent for the "video queue." They are the ones with the specialized knowledge, not the baseline Creative Cloud agents, who you may get off the bat.

Adobe Support: https://helpx.adobe.com/contact.html
Available only M-F 7AM-7PM PST

Thanks,
Kevin

Kevin Monahan
Support Product Manager—DVA
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe
Follow Me on Twitter!


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: OT-ish. Software Support - what are your expectations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:29:26 am
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 10, 2015 at 2:57:22 pm

Hi Kevin

Thanks very much for chiming in.

And apologies for being unnecessarily harsh about Adobe support, which I have only very rarely used and not recently - I am aware that there have been improvements, and I'm pretty sure you guys are working extremely hard to keep those improvements happening.

I've already flagged up in my original post the incredible value that we get as users from your participation in the forums, and of course that of Todd and Dennis and others. This is one of the things that Adobe does seriously well in my view, and it's pretty unique. (AVID kind of do it too but not nearly as well or as thoroughly.)

In fact, it is so consistent and quietly helpful that we are in danger of forgetting how remarkable it is.

One of your own posts got me out of a long-standing problem only last week (one that customer support hadn't been able to resolve) - that you are prepared to go into specifics about specific problems is a huge help. That you will also go as far as volunteering to escalate an individual issue is seriously valuable as well. You're not just here for the PR value - it's always so much more than that.

But of course, the PR value of you guys being here is enormous. For example, there are, it seems, a number of Adobe users who are less than happy (if we can put it that way) with the subscription model, but there is no doubt that your calm, helpful and measured responses are an emollient that if it does not take away the pain at least helps to soften it.

More than this, it's your continuous presence, contributing to the discussion (not just of Adobe products even) that of course makes us feel that you genuinely care about your users. That's a really big deal in terms of perception. Privately you may think we're all "dicks" but if so you do very well to disguise it ;-)

That probably all sounded unbearably sycophantic, but it's actually nice to be able to praise for once rather than snipe. It doesn't stop me from still really not being happy with the documentation of Adobe products which sadly just never seems to get any better. But in terms of the overall support offering, this "forum participation support" model is imaginative, proactive and of huge value in my view - not just to us as users, but also to Adobe - and I'm more than happy to celebrate that.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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