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How to write a great Trouble Ticket/Forum post for help

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August - December seems to be the busiest time both here and in our Help Desk system. It's probably your busiest time too, since many of you use our products for Halloween and Christmas. It is frustrating when something doesn't work, performs unexpectedly, or simply confuses you. We are here to help.

We also know that if you are asking for help something has gone wrong and you want an answer as quickly as possible. Here are some general tips on what you can do to help us help you :)

Naturally, the first thing you should do is review the documentation we have available here on the website. We have all of our user manuals available as PDFs as well as searchable copies of our help files. Many times your answer is there. If your question isn't answered, it's time to ask us.

The number one rule to ALWAYS remember is this: It's better to give TOO much information than too little. If you think the issue is related to the color shirt you are wearing, include that information. More is ALWAYS better.

In general, support requests come in 3 flavors: Pre-sale, Sales, Technical. Each has it's own set of information that is generally needed.

Pre-sale questions are usually all over the board. That's because you are simply not sure if our products/services/etc will meet your needs. The best thing you can do is after taking a look at our literature, and ask away. It may take a few exchanges, but we will sort you out.

Sales questions encompass things like order status, shipping cost questions, software purchases, etc. In general, anything you are or will end up spending money on. Typically you'll ask these questions via the help desk and not here on the forums. Please include as much information as you can about what explicitly you are asking, but never reveal personal information on public forums.

Examples of information you should include in your help desk ticket:

  • if you looking for an order's status, include the order number
  • if you need international shipping costs, include your address
  • if you have a software license question, include your license number and registration eMail.

Where sales questions typically have quick cut-and-dry answers, Technical issues are a whole other ball of wax. They may be as simple as pointing you at the correct option, all the way to multiple exchange tickets that take some time.

If you have a how to question, you may get a faster response here in the forums that you would from the help desk system. That's because we have thousands of users who have 'been there, done that', and only a limited number of people on the help desk. The added benefit is that you may help someone in the future who has the same question. We actively monitor our forums, so it may even be one of us who replies. Naturally, if you are not comfortable posting in a public forum, use the help desk system. We are here to help!

If you do decide to use the forums, please try searching for your issue first. Believe it or not, 90% of the time you are not the first person to experience that issue. A quick search could find you an answer.

Whenever asking about a technical issue, either via the help desk or the forums, the best thing to do is OVER share. The more information you include initially helps both us and the old-timers get the answer you need.

Software Questions:

Always include things like your operating system (XP, Vista, 7,8), the version of our software that you are running (S2/S3 V2.9.4, 3.8.0, etc), the feature level (Basic, Basic +, Standard, Advanced), and what you were doing at the time. If you attempted to get around the issue, what did you try? If you are getting an error message, include the EXACT message -- nothing is worse than working a trouble ticket where someone says 'I got an error, but I just clicked OK'. While it may not mean much to you, that error message means the WORLD to us :)

Hardware Questions:

Hardware issues can be very frustrating. That's because for most of us the hardware performs 'electronics magic' that we have no clue about. But even hardware issues have certain things and information that is always helpful. The best thing you can do is 'swap with known good working'. That means if you have another thing you know works, swap it with the one that does not. Then, and this is the most imporant part, tell us what worked, what didn't, and if the problem moved.

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Care and Feeding of Help Desk personnel:

We are loathe to admit it, but we are real humans that are here to help you. We understand that if you are contacting us, then you are probably already frustrated by something. We take it personally when something isn't quite working the way it is expected - in terms of Sales, Service, or Software. That's not the way we want to be.

By trade and education, I am a software developer. One of the things I always strive for is ease of use. If you can't figure it out by looking at the screen, I have not done my job. I try to never take bug reports personally since I know that I am only human. I also know that what makes a lot of sense to someone like me may mean hash to a user. If you don't like something, tell me. If you want something new, do the same. If it's broken, raise the red flag.

Conversely we do not get angry when we get questions that have simple answers, or requests that demand special service. You are the customer, and we will do what we can to help you as expeditiously as possible.

But like I said, there are humans behind that help desk, and they have feelings. Here on the LOR help desk, you are only 1 step away from the person who has the answer. The people that work the front lines (the Triage folks so to speak) for the most part have access to everything needed to fix your issue. If we don't (and that's usually only the case with order inquiries), we assign it to the highest person there is that takes care of that. There are no middle men, no chain: Either I fix it, or it goes to the person who can. There is no 'Meh... whatever' when it comes to helping a customer.

So what's all this rambling got to do with being Human and having feelings? Well..... While I won't say that you won't be helped (see above), personal attacks on us poor humble folks probably won't endear you to anyone. Saying things like we're stupid, or that we don't respond to you fast enough because that's all we have are problems will not get you service any faster. Inferring that we are clueless and that everyone must be having the same problem as you will force me to go looking to ensure that is not true -- which will take much longer than just asking about the issue you have.

Want to know what the first thing I do when I start to work on resolving a customer issue? I look at your history. The very first thing is I pull as much information about your previous issues as possible. I look at all your previous trouble tickets, your forum posts, and your license history (since most of what I work on are S2/S3 tickets). All of those things will give me a pretty good indication of how successfully this issue will be resolved. I will tailor my response accordingly. Newbies may be encouraged to look further in the documentation along with additional hints and tips. Technically savy folks may get a shortcut 'you can quickly fix that this way' solution. On the other had, users who have a history of just plain being rude are generally given enough information to fix the issue at hand and that's about it.

No one is saying you shouldn't be angry. You can be, and we understand anger. We understand frustration. But please understand that we didn't intentionally cause YOU the problem. Yes, there is a problem. Yes, it could be 100% our fault -- But it's never personal, it's simply an issue that we need to resolve. It may sound like boasting, but I can see all the issues logged, both here and on the help desk, and LOR does a GREAT job of resolving customer issues.

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So this friend calls me one day long before I worked for LOR and tells me his car wont start.

No problem. I'm pretty handy so I load up a bunch of tools and go over to see if I can help.

"It won't turn over at all?"

"Nope."

Ok, so I start looking at the electrical system. I check the battery, the starter, the ground cable, everything. Then I start diving into the weirder stuff: fusible links, relays, you name it.

Several hours go by, and I've come to the conclusion it's one of 2 things: Gremlins or a bad ignition switch. I ask my buddy for the keys so I can start the removal process of the switch and he says:

"That's the problem. I can't find the keys".

So while what he said is TECHNICALLY correct (the car won't start), he could have saved us all a lot of time by saying the keys were missing up front.

If you are having a technical problem, and you have an idea what the problem is, please say so. It doesn't do you any good to say '8 channels are stuck on', when what you really mean is 'One half of the board seems to have caught fire. It's scorched and it appears to be because of a short'.

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A few more ramblings from the Help Desk.

You want answers, and sometimes we need answers too:

After doing this job for a few years, you find that problems tend to cluster around certain areas.  After reading just the first couple of sentences of your trouble ticket, our minds are already sorting your problem down to where the solution will ultimately end up.  We have enough experience and knowledge that we can quickly get to the root of the problem - or at least close to the root where we will ask you some additional questions.  The more information you give us during that initial contact will more quickly get you an answer.

You, naturally by being a customer, have an expectation that we will solve your issue.  But with that expectation there is a cost.  "A cost???", you say.  Yes, and that cost is performing additional troubleshooting, or answering some additional questions we may have as we asked them.  You need to know that we are here to make sure you are successful in using our product.  We are also trying to get your problem resolved as fast as possible - time is money:  both yours and ours.

Those questions and troubleshooting may appear to you to have absolutely NOTHING to do with your issue at hand, or you may take the questions as some kind of affront to your intelligence.  Neither of those are true.  Our experience gives us a great deal of knowledge about how things work together, and that experience allows us to boil down many issues to simple tests for you to perform.  When we ask for that additional troubleshooting or additional information, what you answer quickly points us down the correct path to fixing your issue.

For example, let's take a look at a hypothetical help desk ticket where all we hear from the user is that 'The Sequence Editor can not control the lights'.  Wow, that's a pretty big subject and could be a million things that can cause that:  bad hardware, bad communications, bad setup, etc...etc...etc....  In this case, my FIRST troubleshooting steps are going to be:  Shut down ALL LOR programs.  Plug the controller into power.  Is the status light flashing?  If so, connect CAT5 to the controller to the USB adapter to the computer.  Start the hardware utility.  Is the light on the controller SOLID now?

For those of you with some experience with our hardware and software, you see immediately what I am testing.  A newbie may see that as having NOTHING to do with his problem - since he believes the issue is with the software.  In reality those steps and 2 very simple questions allow me to eliminate 90% of the reasons you can't control lights:

The flashing light tells me that your controller is working properly.  It is getting power, and the processor is correctly running its code.  Not flashing?  We have a hardware issue (bad cord/bad fuse/dead processor/etc).  If the light on the controller goes SOLID when the HWU is started, I know without a doubt that you have correctly installed the USB adapter, that the drivers are working, that the cable and the adapter are GOOD, and that the controller is responding to heart beat requests.  Still flashing?  Possible configuration issue/bad USB adapter/bad cable/etc.

Those simple tests have let me quickly eliminate a myriad of problems to get your ticket into the right bucket and we can go from there.  Unfortunately, some customers either don't perform the steps as outlined, get upset that we are asking them to do something very simple, or refuse to believe us when we take them down a path and tell them where the issue is.   At that point we have to ask you to perform the steps again and stress that they are done as described, or we have to convince you that we know what we are doing.   Both of those take up our valuable time.

Want to know when you are being 'one of those kinds of customers'?  It's easy:  Are we numbering our steps and asking for an answer after each one?  When we are to the point of saying "1 - Plug the controller in.  Be sure to plug in both plugs.  Is the light flashing yes or no?",  you've become 'one of those'.  At that point I've pretty much made it clear that this is important, that I need that particular answer before going forward.  In fact, until I have that answered we will not be going forward. 

I have an idea why there are so many of 'those kinds of customers' around:  Many of you have been subjected to the indignity of dealing with the call-center flunky that has not got a clue how their product works.  They are script readers whose job is to frustrate you into hanging up or stopping contact'.  Would you be surprised if I told you that many companies do that intentionally?  They do, but that's not how it works here.  Each one of us that answers help desk tickets, or talks to you on the phone,  knows the hardware and software inside and out.  If we don't know the answer to the question, and that does happen, we know the exact expert to give it to.   The big cheeses of the company (the owners) even answer the phones and answer help desk tickets.  

Please, answer the questions and follow the steps.  You'll make everyone, including yourself, much happier.

Dress (type) for success:

I know, I know...  Prejudice is BAD.  As much as all of us want to deny it, first impressions DO make a HUGE impression.  How you dress and act will immediately get you slotted into one of several categories - for better or worse.  How you present yourself is a measure of how much you respect the other person.

For example, I pretty much live in shorts, ripped comfortable t-shirts and no socks.  In the office or around the house I am pretty much a bum.   It is NOT a pretty sight.  There are times however when even I have to leave the office to see someone who provides some kind of service.  Perhaps it's a doctor appointment, getting an estimate for a new roof, or talking a customer into purchasing a lot of LOR equipment.  You will NEVER see me in casual attire, and especially not in bum attire.  I'll be the guy wearing a pair of pants, shoes with socks, and a shirt with a collar (even if it is only a polo).

Why?  Respect.  I know for a fact that I am going to get better service if I respect the other person.  The doctor is proud of his practice and education.  Who would he rather serve - me looking like something the cat dragged in, or me with a decent pair of pants and shirt on?  The roofer knows I took the time and some effort to meet with him.  He knows that I respect his profession, and that I will be expecting a professional job in return.  Why is air travel such a bad experience now?  My take:  people stopped dressing up to get on an airplane.  No respect = Bad Experience.  Before you ask: YES I respect the pilot and his bird by wearing pants and a shirt - not a pair of gym shorts and a wife-beater shirt.

The same respect comes through in a request for help by how you present yourself in writing.  You need to at least make an EFFORT to use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, line breaks, paragraph breaks, and everything else that makes reading what you type easier.  Notice I said "make an effort".  No one is expecting you to be an English major.  Look at my writing here:  I guarantee that you will find at least 50 examples of improper grammar/punctuation usage.  I know I sprinkle commas like pepper and use WAY to many ()s.  My 8'th grade English teacher is NOT PROUD.

But at the same time, you can see the effort that was put into it.  I've proofread it before posting.  I take the time to try simply because I respect you as the reader.  Could I have written this in half the time using text speak with no regard to breaking my thoughts into logical divisions?  Yup, and I guarantee you would not have read this far if I did.

So when you create a help desk ticket, or even post here on the forums, you need to try to type coherently with at least a passing nod to the rules of proper grammar.  One of the first things I notice in an eMail or help desk ticket is how much time the person took to write it.  Want to know what happens?  If you didn't take the time to at least try to make it look right, I really don't have the motivation to first decipher what you are asking, and second come up with a cogent answer.  Your lack of respect for my time, will lead to a lack of respect for yours.  Respect is a TWO way street.

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Sometimes the help you need is simply "RTM" *.

When I'm assisting customers it is my responsibility to solve your issue as expediently as possible.  I have to quickly assess the current issue, formulate a plan to fix the issue, and then convey to you that information.  Many times the fix for an issue is telling the customer to 'Read The Manual'.

As I said above, within the first few sentences, or the first few minutes of a call, we have already started sorting your ticket down into the correct bucket for a solution.  The one thing I did not tell you is that we have also sorted you into one of a few categories of what kind of customer you are.  You learn to identify who knows their stuff, who will know their stuff, and who don't want to know the stuff.  It is actually quite easy to tell the difference between them.  

The people that know their stuff will tell you everything you need to know.  "I did this, this, this.  I swapped this and that.  The problem is here".  For those kinds of help I'm pretty much just a monkey - issue RMA, fix program, etc..etc..etc..  Boom. Next issue, please.

The people who will know their stuff will ask questions.  "I did this, and I read that, but I don't understand how that fits here.  What am I missing?".  These are my favorite type of people to help.  They are being inquisitive.  They want to find the answer, but it is just out of their grasp.  They've put forth effort and experimented or done a little troubleshooting on their own.  For this type expect a long winded answer from yours truly about the intricacies of what you are working on.  Not only will I tell you WHAT to do next, I'll probably give you the best way HOW to do it and then explain WHY you are doing it that way.  I love teaching, even if the 'teaching' part is how to identify a broken controller.

Ahhh, but then there is that last group.  For these people the answer is "That is documented here." or "We have tutorials on how to do that".  Sometimes we want to scream "Did you see the thing in big letters that says READ ME FIRST?!".  

Some customers just can't find some particular information.  We have TONS of information and some of it is simply hard to find.  In that case, I am your librarian.  No big deal, happy to help.

Many times the customer didn't bother to try to look.  For those, we say 'RTM'.  Thankfully many will.  Again they simply didn't know we had all this information available.  No big deal, happy to help.

Which leaves us that last handful.  The ones who don't like it, no matter how gently we tell them, to 'RTM'.  That really puts us in a tough spot, especially if we tell you exactly where the exact steps are to accomplish what you want.  You don't know what to do after buying a sequence....  You don't know how to use the Visualizer.....  You don't know how to start hooking things up.....  You don't know how to start this magic called 'sequencing'.....  Your controller just doesn't seem to be acting right....  I don't know how to use Windows......  (Those were just from today)

If you ever find yourself in the situation where a help desk person is asking you to review some documentation or tutorial, please don't be mad at them.  They are not treating you like an idiot, and they are not just trying to get you to go away.  We are simply answering your question/request for help -- by pointing out to you where the answer can be found.   Many times, this information is basic to the operation of the equipment or software.  It could also be that you are asking the wrong questions, and this will point you on path to ask the correct questions.  

In any case, your answer requires more than a couple of minutes on the phone, or a few lines on a help desk ticket.  You should also know that answer (the documentation) was hand-crafted by some poor engineer who was kicking and screaming all the way to the end.  Be nice to him and read it :P

It's that, or we read it out loud to you.  In some silly voice.  You'll still hate us, but it will at least make our time go by faster!  :D

 

*I realize there is usually another letter in this expression.  I would never use that word with a customer - no matter how much they were yelling at me.

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I sound like Mr. Doom and Gloom don't I?

 

I just want to leave a quick note about how good people usually are.  Without exaggeration, at least 99% of the people who contact us for help are great.  Even if they don't give us all the information, are asking the wrong questions, or are upset that something broke, they understand we are in this together!  

 

The messages above may make it sound as if the average LOR customer is the spawn of Satan himself.  

 

I just reviewed the past week of requests.  Out of all the tickets and phone calls I did, less than 1/2 of 1% of those requests for help could be categorized into any of the 'bad buckets' from above.  Most, no actually nearly ALL, of you are wonderful to work with.   We thank you all!  The others?  They're not reading ANY of this ;)

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You have my complete attention.  I expect yours as well.

This is really common sense, and it applies not just to when you are talking to us on the phone but in EVERY INTERACTION you have with someone else.  

When you are interacting with another person, that person deserves your FULL UNDIVIDED attention.  It doesn't matter if you are ordering a sandwich at the local deli, in the checkout line of your grocery store, driving your car, or talking to me on the phone for a software/hardware issue.  At that point in time your full attention should be on what you are doing at that exact moment and NO WHERE ELSE.

In any situation where you have to interact with someone it is rude to try to divide your attention between them and something else.  You are fully expecting that the deli gets your order right, that the clerk doesn't overcharge you, that the other driver doesn't crash into you, and that we fix your problem.  There are other people that require our services, or the deli's, or the grocery store, or the other driver you are about to have a head on collision with that really DOESN'T want that to happen.  Our job is to render our service in as speedy and safe a manor as possible so we can help the next poor guy in line as quickly as possible. 

I'm not talking about interruptions.  The doorbell is always going to ring at the wrong time, the school is going to call that your child is sick.  Hey, those things are called life and I'm not going to be upset if you need to grab the door, or talk to the school nurse.  Ask yourself this:   Would you like it if when I was speaking with you I was also playing Skyrim?, If I were driving and texting?  If I were spaced out in line at the Deli?, If I were talking on the phone and not unloading my groceries onto the belt?   ;)

 

We can't troubleshoot something if we can't troubleshoot something.

Wait.. What?  Just what I said:  If you are having an issue with something and call for assistance, we need you to have access to that thing.  It doesn't matter if it is a software issue or a hardware issue.  I am going to ask you to perform some steps and you can't do that if you are at work without the device, driving your car, getting groceries, or ordering a delicious sandwich at that deli.

For example, (This happens every day during the season to me.  EVERY day) a customer will call in and say that their controller is not working.  If you read the previous posts at that point I am going to ask you some questions to determine what is wrong.  Let's assume for a moment that you have even told me the LED inside the controller does not come on when it is powered up.  The very next thing I am going to do is ask that you unplug the unit, swap the fuses, and plug it back in.  If you can't do that because you are currently chomping down on that 3/4lb corned beef on rye with thousand island and coleslaw, there is nothing more I can do for you.  Even if you ask 'Well, what could be the problem?' I can't answer that intelligently.  There are MANY other things that can be wrong, and it would take longer for me to explain each and every one than for you to do the swap.

PLEASE, if for whatever reason you can't do troubleshooting right then don't call -- Use the Help Desk (trouble ticket) system instead.  Describe your issue and we will reply back with steps you can follow when you do have the time.  

 

Wait your turn, please.

This time of year, I am on the phone solid during the hours our phones are open.  I field my first call at 10A, and I am regularly not off the phone until after 4:30.  I am not alone in this.  The owners, the other help desk folks, orders, shipping, ALL of us have a phone attached to our ears for the entire day.  In my case, there are multiple ways I end up talking to you:  

  • Maybe you call in and get transferred to me.  
  • You call in, and I'm busy so one of the other nice folks takes a message and shoots me an eMail to call you.  
  • We've been working together in a ticket and decide that a phone conversation needs to happen.
  • We've scheduled a remote session in advance.

Basically, requests for time fly in from all directions.  It's a huge juggling act, and we are actually pretty good at it.  So much so that if someone tells you someone will call you back, we will call you back.  

What you should NOT do is wait 10 minutes and then call in again.  It's not fun to hear 'Well, I wasn't sure if you were going to call me so I called in again and got someone else'.

What's the big deal you say?  Well in your eyes probably nothing.  In 2 minutes I'm off the phone with that person and available, right?  Well, that may be true but what about the other people who are waiting for me to call them?  I slotted a time slice for you to fix your issue (see complete attention above) that is now going to waste.  Your 30 minute problem has now turned into a full hour of our time -- 30 for your second call and the 30 wasted in my schedule.

Unfortunately we are not perfect, and we do sometimes have a problem getting back in touch with you.  Sometimes we forget to write down the phone number.  Other times we call and for whatever reason your phone won't take our call, etc.  Just please give us at least a couple of hours to call you back, before calling in again.  

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A quick note about remote sessions.

Yes, we have the ability to do remote sessions with our customers.  However, they are a last resort.  From our help desk:

"LOR has the ability to remotely control your computer. We use this ability to troubleshoot complex software and hardware issues. A remote session is offered only after all other avenues of assistance have been used. We do not offer remote sessions for training purposes. "

Too many people want us to jump on their computer and fix it for them.  Unfortunately we don't have enough time or people to do that.  If you have an issue which can be solved via instructions from us - either through troubleshooting offline, additional documentation, a tutorial, etc - we will continue to point you in that direction.  Only once your problem has completely stumped us will we offer a remote session.

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We don't make money telling you no.  When we do, you should LISTEN. (Subtitled:  Ego will kill you)

So you have this latest brainstorm, and you ask us how to do it.  When we tell you DON'T DO THAT it's not because we want to stifle you or interfere with your creativity, it's because what you want to do is going to hurt.  A LOT.

Many times, it is people who want to force our software/hardware to work in ways it wasn't intended.  We would much rather loose a sale and have you use the right product/software than for you to shoehorn or otherwise be unhappy with our products.  

Every once in a while however, we get those people that will insist on either using our hardware/software in unsafe ways.  Many times, it's obvious what the person is doing is dangerous.  We get requests about using our products to do things like shoot off fireworks, or control pyro.  Both of those things require some pretty in-depth knowledge to do safely.  They are SO unsafe in fact that we will flat out tell you  not to do it, and we won't comment further.    If you are asking us how to do it - you DON'T have the knowledge.  Don't do it.  

We also get people asking questions about how electrical things should be hooked up.  Electricity is dangerous.  We can give you advice about how to hook up our devices and how to do it safely.  But we also get those people who ask questions and it is obvious they have no clue what they are doing.  As soon as we get a sniff that you are going to do something stupid, we immediately say NO and then tell you to call someone, like an electrician, who can help.

Unfortunately there is a class of people that when told 'Don't do that.  You will hurt yourself!" claim they know exactly how to do things and how things work.  These are probably the same people from post #5 in this thread.  Let me put this as simply as possible:

  1. Whatever you have asked has set off our radar that you are trying something that will not be pleasant.  You should listen to that advice.
  2. If you knew what you were doing, then why are you asking us?  You don't,  Admit it.
  3. If you were going to ignore what we said, why bother asking in the first place?  We are not here to boost your ego.  If it is wrong we will tell you.

This is an actual example of a ticket currently in progress on our help desk system.  I'm going to remove all the identifying information so not to embarrass the person publicly.  However there should be enough detail that this person will understand that we are talking about him/her, and that he/she should not continue on this current track:

This person has a stand alone sequence loaded into a 16 channel AC controller.  The thing being controlled is outdoors so it can't be seen during the day.  So far so good.  This customer then tells us that they have purchased a 'Dusk To Dawn' sensor, and they understand where the hot and neutral go, but they don't know where the 'Load' wire goes.  They ask 'How do I hook this wire up to the input trigger on the controller?'.

At this point you the reader are going to be in one of 2 camps:  You have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, or you know exactly what is happening and you are shaking your head.  Either is a fine.  This person is obviously in the 'no idea' camp, since the question is nonsensical - if you know what you are doing and how these things work.  We warn him/her:  "Don't do that.  Please consult with an electrician because you will hurt yourself or others'.  

Yes, for those of us that know how this thing works there is a very simple answer, but it does not involve a low voltage input pin.  The sensor also most likely came with instructions.  This person has demonstrated that they do not have the knowledge to do what they want to do safely, nor that they have even read instructions already given to them (or that they don't understand them).

Turns out this person is a #5.  We get back the ego filled "I know what I am doing, I know the risks, I wired up this and this and this!" response, and insists on wanting to know where the input pin is on the controller.

What do I have to gain by telling you no?  I'm not trying to sell you something.  We're not electricians, so I'm not trying to sell those services either.  In this case when I say NO it is because I know EXACTLY what you are trying to do, and you are at best going to destroy something, or at worst KILL YOURSELF.  Also understand that because you have demonstrated this lack of knowledge, I will NOT give you the answer simply because you are a liability.  If I tell you how to wire this device, and you do it incorrectly you (or most likely your next of kin) are going to try to sue us. 

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Human on board

 

It's been nearly 3 years to the day since I posted message #2 in this thread.  After being accused of killing a 3rd baby from Africa already this week, I think it's time for a bump.  Again, I want to stress:  we are humans that talk to you and answer your trouble tickets.  You don't need to fall all over us, but a few respectful words will go a long way. 

Let me make this EASY and DIRECT:  You get BETTER service when you are not being a jerk - even if we did something wrong and are 100% at fault.  You don't have to be nice, you just have to not be a jerk.  

For example, let's say that we screwed up your order and this is your initial contact with us over the issue.  You are NOT going to get any better service by saying things like "I'm not impressed!" or "Handle ASAP!"  All you need to do is explain the situation, give us some general information, and we will fix it.

We know that we screwed up and trust me we feel bad about it already.  Rubbing salt into the wound by saying that you are not impressed or that we have to jump for you because of a simple mistake makes you NO ONES favorite.  As soon as you say that, the ONLY thing I'm going to do for you is fix the issue.  There may be multiple ways of fixing that issue -- I can tell you right now you are not going to get the one that is most advantageous to you.

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Corollary:  We are not TRYING to make money when we tell you no.  When we do, you should listen.

Customers lie.  Not all or even a majority, but more than you would suspect.  To make matters worse, decorators on a whole tend to have larger egos and thinner skin than your normal run-of-the-mill variety of sane folks! :)  If you think logically it makes sense:  it takes guts (ego) to put yourself and your home on display and make a spectacle of yourself.  Decorators have a lot in common with those in the entertainment industry - people like actors and directors.

Go ahead and walk up to Steven Spielberg some time and tell him 1941 sucked.  He'll sock you in the nose!  He may know that 1941 probably wasn't one of his better films, but he does have feelings!

But now look at it from a different angle.  Say you meet some guy named Steven Spielberg.  He tells you he is a director - and a VERY good one at that.  You've never heard of this guy, nor have you ever seen anything he has done.  You take him at face value, just as you should ALL people since to do otherwise is being prejudiced.  You commit to help this guy Steven, and Steven is putting a lot on the line himself.  He asks to come over and you'll both watch one if his movies.  For the first time in your life you watch 1941.  

At that point, is it reasonable for you to take a step back and say "Hey Stevo.  Um...  Are you sure you know how to make movies?"

Here's the point.  You've asked for some parts, say a triac.  I ask, "have you done this work before?", and you answer yes that you know exactly what you are doing.  A few days later you eMail me back and say "How do I figure out which one it is?"   People who know how to replace that part should know exactly how to determine which one it is.  You know that channel 11 is bad.  You 'know' how to replace parts, so why don't you know how to look at the connector on the board for channel 11 and then follow the trace on the board until you hit the Triac?  

Once again you've given me a sniff that something is not quite right.  You have either overstated your abilities (ego prevents you from saying 'I Don't Know'), or thought you could save a buck by doing it yourself.  What should I do at that point?

  • Answer your question knowing full well that if you knew what you were doing you should be able to figure it out?
  • Ask again: "Are you sure you have done this before?"

Here is what is at risk: if you do the repair wrong, you render the entire board useless.  I don't care if you are a billionaire, $300 is still $300. I do NOT want you to waste $300 - which is what will happen if you let your ego drive you.  A factory repair of this board is going to cost  $25 + shipping.   I'm not looking to make the company $25.  I'm looking to save you $300!

Now of course if you have the tools and experience to do this yourself, you do -- but I doubt you contacted me the second time :)  

Don't be mad at me when I ask 'Are you SURE you know [whatever]'?  I'm simply trying to save you from yourself.

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I call it 'a poke'

 

Some of you know I'm a pilot as well as the greatest programmer alive (well.  Ok.   A programmer who happens to not be dead) ;)

I really wished I had a simpler analogy than this one, but here goes.  The other day I was upstairs and needed to transition from one side of the Class B airspace to the other to do some sight seeing.  Class B means BIG as in BIG AIRPORT, BIG AIRPLANES, no screwing around, you better be prepared and PROFESSIONAL.  Class B are for the biggest airports in the USA.  Think Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, LA, just about everything from Boston to Baltimore.  Get the picture?  Now I know that to go across that airspace, they're probably going to want me at 1500' and flying directly east-west over their east west runway.  

The way you can tell how high you are in an airplane is with an altimeter.  Basically it is an instrument that is very sensitive to pressure.  The higher you are up in the sky the less pressure there is.  But that also means you have to account for the local weather and adjust your altimeter to the local barometric pressure (see, that thing the weatherman rattles off actually has a use!).  An incorrect adjustment will lead to an incorrect altitude shown.

Sure enough I get my clearance across the class B at 1500 feet.  There I am fat dumb and happy. looking at the airport below and enjoying the sights when on the radio I hear approach tell me "Cessna 31X Local Altimeter 2995".

I just got 'poked'.  What's a poke?  In this case it's a gentle way of telling you that you are doing something wrong, without actually telling you that you are doing something wrong.  A quick glance shows that I have dropped down to 1425 feet.  OOPS.

What the approach controller said was 'Your altimeter must not be adjusted properly since I know that you know how to fly an airplane and keep it +/- 25 feet.  I'm showing you lower that what your altimeter must say, so the pressure must have just changed around the airport.'   What he actually did was elbow me in the ribs and say 'Hey dummy!  Check your altitude!'

We like to poke people on the help desk as well.  Again we will never come right out and say it, but if you get some additional 'help' (perhaps links to tutorials) you may have just been poked.  The thing NOT to do at that point is proclaim how smart you are and how much better you are than the guy on the other side of the help desk ticket or radio.

Probably for the best if you take what they are saying to heart - since they are giving you a way to save face.  Even better is to acknowledge that you are smart enough to understand you were just poked.

In my case my answer back on the radio was 'Altimiter 2995, THANK YOU!, 31X' (along with a quick climb back to 1500) ;)

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Being nice does really help!

The call to 'customer service' is usually one that NO ONE likes to make.  Today I had to call what is usually the 3rd worst customer service to deal with behind Cable Companies, which are so bad they occupy spots 1 AND 2, an insurance company.

Yes, I am human, and I do have to go to the doctor or dentist once in a while.  January 5th I was in the dentist's chair for an unplanned root canal and crown.  Yech.  I have cruddy dental insurance, but they do pay something towards this.  Cut to the chase - for whatever reason they denied part of the claim.  So yesterday I get a letter from the dentist asking me (nicely BTW) for the cash.  Can't blame them since they are owed the money after all.

Here is where being nice pays off.  I may not like going to the dentist (who does?), but the fine receptionists and the office manager didn't cause the pain nor are they responsible for the thousands that ended up costing me.  I am always nice to them.  I drive down there real quick, say hi to everyone (which, because I am nice they all know my name) and ask nicely for the supporting documentation so I can figure out what is going wrong.  No problem!  I was there 30 minutes while the office manager took the time to explain everything to me in detail so I knew what I was looking at.  In fact, she even gave me some printouts of some internal-only stuff she probably shouldn't share to help me.  I see exactly what has happened, but only because they took the time to help me.  

Today I have to make the dreaded call to the insurance company.  Now remember, insurance companies don't make money by paying claims, they make money denying them.  If they deny this again, I'm the poor sap that is on the hook for the cash they rightfully should be paying.  After all, what recourse would I have other than to sue the insurance company?  Yea.... Good luck with that!  Don't pay the Dentist?  That's hardly fair since he did perform the work.  What about my poor credit score after not paying (which I am currently proud to say is in the 800s)?  Not to mention I'm going to have to find a new dentist!

Get nice large cup of coffee, settle in for a long call and dial the number....

My initial experience is not good -- an automated system that can't understand me.  When I do get an option to work I can't get to a person.  I really need a person!  When in doubt, # out (or 0).  My expectations are low because I had to guess on how to get a person - they should have just told me how.  Grrrr

Even though my experience to this point is bad (possibly paying money I shouldn't have to and an automated system that stinks), I still have absolutely no choice other than to be nice.  By definition, since this IS an insurance company, the person who eventually answers this call is neutral at best and not an ally at the worst.  I must change that - they are the person who can help and I have to convince them to do so.  Yelling and screaming is not going to do that.  Being nice may.

I have to admit that some of this looks pretty manipulative. BUT just being genuinely nice to the person is pretty manipulative in its own way.  Is that so bad?  You may get what you need AND maybe you gave the other person a lift.  Win Win!

"Hi Shannon!  This is Mike. I'm doing great, how are you this afternoon?"
(ok.....ok... small talk...  but it does lay the ground work)

"Good to hear!  I'm calling today because I need your help to fix an issue."...
(I just 'empowered' her.  I acknowledge that she has the power to help and I would like her to use that power.  She is not my underling or lackey.)

..."The company has denied a part of my claim and I'd like to see what the issue is and get everything straightened out."
(Nothing here is threatening or even remotely makes it sound like it is HER problem.  I explicitly said it was the company's problem.  I would like her to give me information and fix the issue - again 'empowering' -- letting her know that I know she is on my side.)

-give her initial info to start the process. I have all my info ready, including my policy number, member number, service date, dentist office code number, etc.  I'm prepared and not wasting her time - bonus points!

"Sure you can put me on hold.  Please take all the time you need to research the issue, I am not in a hurry."
(Now she knows I am 100% not frustrated at her or the amount of time it may take to get this resolved.  I am not going to be angry if it takes time.  In reality my time is valuable.  I am annoyed at this entire situation, but it's not HER fault nor is it her fault if it takes time to research.  She knows that)

--another few minutes of nicely giving her more information, listening to what she is saying, and integrating that knowledge into what I know, and nicely responding back.  I don't want to get into my insurance details, but this is key!  It shows that I respect what she is saying, and that she knows her stuff.  In this case, since they did pay part of the claim, what I don't want is a quick 'well we paid, what are you complaining about?' type answer.  I need her to take a little more time and dig.  By listening and incorporating what she says, she knows I'm not here just to yell or complain nor will I just be dismissed.  Eventually she hits on the right area where I need help...

"Absolutely correct!  The company DID pay some amount for that day.  I'm referring to these treatment codes that it appears they did not pay on [codes here]"  
(He knows the treatment codes?  I've just elevated my stature in her eyes.  I know what I am talking about I have done my homework, and am not here to waste her time)

-more talk about the claim...DING!

"Woo hoo!  Yes!  That's the part!  Can you tell me what happened?"
(Here is where all this being genuinely nice hopefully pays off.  I need to know what she thinks happened so I can add that to my info just in case I have to escalate this issue.  Hopefully since I've been treating her like a person she will tell me exactly how to fix it, or possibly just override their system right then and there. )

"Perfect.  That's the answer I needed!  So all I need to do is have the dentist re-submit and it will work this time?  Is there any way you can just re-process the claim right now?"
(Hey, sometimes you just gotta ask.  It is amazing what some cust service people can do if you ask nicely)

"Oh, you can only do that for certain circumstances, but you'll make an exception!  Wow!  THANKS! That is above and beyond service! Thank you for taking good care of me and fixing my issue!"  
(Ok, it's a bit thick, but I think she'll appreciate it -- Thank you goes a LONG way!)

...Shannon then makes a comment about how 'up beat' I am.  Guess I was caught putting it on a bit thick, but what she really means is 'Thank you for not yelling at me!'  

"Mistakes happen.  Things break.  You're not the one that caused the issue, but you are the only one I can talk to who can fix it."

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Sale Notifications and ISPs

It's August, and according to a couple of customers on the help desk, we've already killed a few babies this season.  First, let me go back and tell you what I mean when I say 'we were accused of killing a baby'.

Some people have a way of equating what they perceive as bad customer service into an issue so large that it can only compare to the unfortunate death of infants.  IMHO, it is a corollary to Godwin's Law or perhaps is a very close cousin to  Reductio ad Hitlerum.  Honestly.  They feel that what has happened to them is SO tragic that we:

  • enjoy watching babies die
  • are, are related to, or must be descended from the worst mass murderer in the world
  • are possibly Satan himself

I kid you not!  Here's an example - recently we were accused of disrespecting someones many many years of military service because they did not get an eMail about the sale.  Rad that again.  This person is comparing the loss of many of America's sons and daughters, and his personal sacrifice, to the fact that he is upset that an ISP flagged our eMail as spam.  Really.  I wish I could show you the actual text - it's much better than I can paraphrase.

Most of the time, these attacks are for the SMALLEST of issues.  FYI:  In the future expect this.

We are very sorry to any of you that did not receive our eMail about a sale, or any of the eMails we send (which are NOT many).  Let me explain why it happens:  Spam.

Depending on what statistics you want to believe, somewhere between 50% and 90% (and some say even as high as 97%) of the TOTAL WORLD WIDE EMAIL SENT is spam.  One statistic I found said that the total number of spam eMail sent PER DAY in 2010 was 294,000,000,000 (thats 294 Billion with a B ) messages! 

So ISPs have a vested interest in aggressively finding and deleting spam before it travels through their network, or gets stored on their eMail servers.  Bits are Dollars, and the less bits sent/stored, the more money saved.

Now when I talk about ISPs, I don't just mean the people you pay for internet service, or even your eMail provider (if it is different).  eMail is built on a technology that allows the message to skip through multiple different servers on it's way to you.  While that eMail may be addressed to you at hotmail.com, it may have gone through many different servers owned by many different companies on it's way TO you.  ANY ONE of those servers could examine the eMail, decide it is spam, and throw it into the bit-bucket.  

So, knowing this we play by a set of rules that 'the internet' has decided is the best practice for sending an email blast:

  • Our eMail list is 100% OPT IN.  There is no default of being entered onto an eMail list.  Even going as far as ordering from us does NOT place you on our eMail list.
  • We are 100% can-spam compliant 
  • We use a reputable company that abides by all current rules/regulations and self imposed restrictions for eMail marketing

Want to know what happens?  A certain percentage of our eMails are STILL caught by over aggressive spam filters.  The amount of control we have over that eMail once it leaves our server/contact company's server:  0%.  

Aside from checking to make sure you are on the mailing list, unfortunately there is not much else we can do - if anything.  I'm sorry if you don't like that answer but please don't blame us - we've done everything we could to ensure the message is delivered.  And we don't kill babies.  Ever.

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Prepare to be tested (but you'll never know it)

Like I have said before, Help Desk people have to quickly assess what kind of user you are:  Are you a power user with something off the wall, or are you a newbie that doesn't understand how to tie your shoe?  One of the other things we need to assess is how well you listen and can follow instructions.  When talking strictly about the success of a help desk interaction, you may be surprised to hear that YOUR computer/LOR experience usually has VERY LITTLE to do with the outcome.

One of the things I sometimes do when assisting you is give you a very simple task to perform.  That task will definitely be related to the problem you are having, which is the reason you'll never know you are being tested.  Answering the question not only tells me a little about the status of the problem, but tells me how successful we will be in solving the issue. 

Checklists RULE

Which brings me to checklists.  I LOVE checklists.  Well, maybe it's actually bigger than that.  I LOVE logically breaking a problem down into smaller chunks that progress from step to step.  Before I was an LOR guy, and even before I worked in the entertainment biz,  one of my specialties was 'Workflow Management' and creating programs to facilitate those workflows.  Sometimes you skip steps, and sometimes you go back and repeat steps, but you always work to eliminate those branches/loops.  Basically you want 'work' to come in at the top and out the bottom comes 'completed work'.  In the middle are all the steps needed to be followed sequentially.  Should one fail, you simply stop until it is corrected.

When we give you a checklist or other list of steps to perform, we expect that you follow those steps from top to bottom in the order they are presented and perform the tasks required.  Let me give you a sample - in fact this is the largest and most complicated checklist we have:

 

Bare Minimum PixCon16 Setup Checklist

Be sure to follow each of these steps IN ORDER. Do not proceed to the following step until you are sure the current step is complete. Please note that you may be further along in your testing than where this check lists starts. Please do not skip any of the previous steps even if you think you have performed them correctly already. Start at #1.

Critical checkpoints points are in bold, but you may experience a problem at any step. If you are having problems at a checkpoint, check ALL steps up to this one to ensure they are completed properly.

The PixCon16 is a professional level board, and does require some in-depth knowledge about how E1.31 works, DMX and Networking Concepts.  You may need to consult other sources if you run into issues or do not understand a concept. 

If you do have an issue and if you think everything is good to that point, and you would like to contact us for help STOP. Do not go further and do NOT change any configuration. If you would like to experiment and try to resolve the issue, please do! We encourage you to find the solution on your own. However if in the end you must contact us, reset the board and start again at step 1 and then stop at the failing step and contact us. We rely on the board being in a known state at every step of this checklist to help you.

Please ensure that you have AT LEAST S4 V4.3.14 Or Higher to configure the board.  Some older versions may not be able to properly detect the Pixcon.
 
  • 1.  Pixels have a front and a back (IN and OUT). Ensure you know which side data goes IN to.  Pixels from LOR are plainly marked, or are correctly pre-wired.  if your pixels have an arrow, that arrow points AWAY from the board.
 
  • 2.  Pixels have a voltage. Ensure you have the proper power supply.  LOR Pixels are 5v.  If your pixel package from LOR included a power supply, you do not need to worry about this step.
 
  • 3.  Pixels have current draw (amperage). Ensure you are not exceeding the amps per channel/power supply/etc.  Pixels from LOR will draw 3A per 50 pixels at 5V (15 Watts).  If you pixel package from LOR included a power supply, you do not need to worry about this step.
 
  • 4.  Wire power supply to PixCon16, if not already wired.
 
  • 5.  Remember – never connect or disconnect anything from PixCon16 with power applied.
 
  • 6.  Power up board. Follow instructions in DMX and E1.31 for pixel control document if needed.  Otherwise, open Network Preferences/Find Configure PixCon16/Click on PixCon16 in list, and open the PixCon16 configuration window.  

    Only work with a SINGLE Pixcon16 connected to your network at one time until properly configured -- IP address conflicts can occur if you attempt to configure 2 or more.  

    Do not continue until you are able to reliably talk to the board and configure it.

    If you are having difficulty reliably talking to the board, read:

    http://www1.lightorama.com/PDF/IntroductionToDMXandE131.pdf
    Pay particular attention to page 8.
 
  • 7.  Ensure board firmware is AT LEAST 1.4.8. Do NOT downgrade if higher. Do not continue until firmware is updated to at least 1.4.8. Instructions are found in the manual.  If you have the LOR Control Panel loaded, UNLOAD IT before attempting to update firmware. Updating the firmware while the Control Panel/Comm listener are running can cause the board to FAIL.
 
  • 8.  Properly set up Pixel Type and Pixel Speed in configuration. Ignore all other parameters.
 
  • 9.  Properly wire 1 pixel string to a 4 wire connector. Follow pin-outs in the manual.   Note -- Some pixels do not have/require the clock signal.
 
  • 10.  Connect pixels to a single port, and power up. Pixels may briefly flash. Pixels that stay ON indicate incorrect pixel type or speed selected in #8.
 
  • 11.  Run hardware test on the pixels as documented in manual by using the buttons on the PixCon16.  If pixels do not work, problem is most likely #8. Go back there. 
    Do not continue until the Hardware Test works properly.
 
  • 12.  Wire the rest of your pixels to the 4 wire connectors. Connect them to the PixCon16. Run the hardware test again. Ensure all pixels are working correctly. Pixels that are not working indicate a problem with the pixel itself, or an under-rated power supply.
    Do not continue until the Hardware Test works properly for ALL pixels.
 
  • 13.  On the first tab of PixCon16 configuration, ensure you have the correct option specified for J3/J4. If you will use the board in ELOR mode, turn this option ON. For E1.31 ensure this option is OFF.  If you have not done so yet, install the drivers for the USB adapter and ensure the USB adapter is working properly.
 
  • 14.  On the Second tab set up each port of the PixCon16 properly. You can use simple mode or advanced mode. All options are documented in the help file for the software or in the manual for the PixCon16. Remember, for E1.31 universes must also be set up in Network Preferences (the software will also offer to do it for you), for ELOR, 500K speed and Enhanced Light-O-Rama network (done in step 16). It is best to write down the settings.
 
  • 15.  Ensure you have the LOR Control Panel loaded (which will load the LOR COMM Listener).  The COMM Listener is ALWAYS required to control pixels.
 
  • 16.  Properly configure your network preferences.
    • E1.31: Ensure Universe matches universe on the board & Set IP address correctly (multicast or unicast/specify).  It is easiest to use multicast.
    • ELOR: Ensure the COM port is set to at least 500K and ELOR mode is turned ON.
 
  • 17.  E1.31: Do not disconnect anything. 
    • Both LEDs should be SOLID ON. 
      Do not continue until they are.  NOTE:  Your computer may need to be rebooted.  If you reboot go back to step 15.
    • ELOR: Disconnect Network cable, ensure jumpers on PixCon16 for J3/J4 are set to LOR. Connect HS USB adapter to computer, CAT5 from USB adapter to J4 of Pixcon16.   NOTE:  You must have previously installed the drivers for the high speed USB adapter.  Use another non-PixCon16 unit to test if you are unsure the USB adapter is working properly.  
      Both LEDs should be SOLID ON. 
      Do not continue until they are.  NOTE: Your computer may need to be rebooted. If you reboot go back to step 15.
 
  • 18.  Start Hardware Utility. If asked if the HWU should take control of a port say NO. Open the pixel console. Set Pixel Console params correctly and test pixels with sliders.
    Do not continue until you can successfully control pixels.
 
  • 19.  Your board is now ready to use.

I've sent this to more than a handful of people.  The most returned answer:  "I did all of that and it still doesn't work".  No you didn't!  Step 19 clearly says 'Your board is now ready to use'.  If you had followed all the instructions, one of TWO things WILL happen:  

  • You get to step 19, grab a beer and celebrate.  
  • You get stuck on step (whatever) and can't continue.  

The instructions clearly say:  "Do not proceed to the following step until you are sure the current step is complete and that you understand it."  If  "I did all of that and it still doesn't work", then you didn't follow directions.

Instead the answer I am looking for is something like "I don't understand how to wire the power supply in step 4", or "I got to step 8.  I don't know what kind of pixels I have."  or "I got to step 17 and am using E1.31.  The status LED is flashing and the power light is on solid" or even "At step 1 I have NO IDEA which way the data goes into my pixels".

We spent hours not only identifying all the steps of getting a PixCon16 to work, but to get those steps in a very precise order.  The order is important, as is that you follow EACH step.  The fact that you got to step [whatever] before you had an issue answers many other questions that are not even part of this checklist.

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Be Reasonable

This person, let's call him Jacob, places an order on Wednesday at 11:57 PM.  Just to make sure we all understand, in 3 more minutes it would be Thursday morning.  All the LOR elves have been snug in their beds for several hours already.

Now, the product Jacob orders states that it ships 'Next Business Day', and Jacob orders this product with Ground shipping.

Since he placed his order well after we were closed, we processed his order Thursday morning when we re-opened.  It was prepared for shipment during the day.  Friday Morning we ship Jacob his order - one business day after his order just as we said we would.

While we are in the process of turning over his order to the shipper, Jacob opens a ticket stating that this order MUST arrive by a certain date no exceptions.  Well, unfortunately it is going to be the next business day after that date since it shipped on Friday,  NOT GOOD ENOUGH!  to quote Jacob:  " This has been horrible customer service thus far.  "  Jacob feels that we should have packed his order within the 3 minutes we had before midnight, and got it out THURSDAY so it reaches him in time with ground shipping.

I guess there is at least one person out there that does not understand what business days are.  Let me explain:  Since we were closed when this order was made (It was 3 minutes to Midnight), the business day this order was made is Thursday. The next business day after Thursday is Friday.  

Most people would have paid for faster shipping if the date was as important as Jacob makes this one out to be.  But even so -- when we do exactly what we say we will do, It's "horrible" customer service.   Please.  Don't be a Jacob.  

8/2017 Update:

I realize this is a year later and some of you may not believe the following actually happened during the same time period with the same customer.  You will have to trust me that it did (and seek out another message here on the forum where I posted most of this previously).  To this day this is still my #1 bad customer story.  No one believes this actually happened.  Except when I show them the help desk ticket documenting it ALL.

So to pick up where we left off, Jacob's package was packed and sitting on a pallet - one of several going out that day and already loaded into the shipping trailer.  Being the middle of November, we were in the midst of our second busiest time of year (the first being the summer sale).  Jacob is of course angry.  He's not just angry he is fuming.  He is accusing us that we 'just printed his shipping label' to try to make him look bad after the fact.  He wants his order cancelled and cancelled NOW.  We tell him, it's already on the truck.  Jacob now throws THE BOMB.  For a merchant a bomb is a chargeback.  

Jacob has said that he WILL dispute the charge with his credit card company.  That is a double whammy for a merchant - not only are we going to lose the money for the sale, chargebacks are counted against us - too many and our CC rates increase/etc.   The last thing any merchant wants is a chargeback.  As irrational as Jacob is acting, we know for a fact should he get his hands on the equipment he's not going to return it - free equipment for him, loss of sale for us AND a chargeback.  Oh boy.   Ok, Mike grabs the phone and calls shipping.  

At that point shipping stops ALL packing of orders, and all of them start ripping apart multiple pallets - AFTER pulling them out of the trailer.  It of course takes several hours of packing and unpacking of pallets.  They find his order and cancel it.  We wasted several hours of our time on this guy because he didn't understand the concept of a business day.

Now the story gets EVEN BETTER!  "No Way!" you say.  "Yes Way!"

Several days go by, and we are into the following week.  They day Jacob WOULD have received his order from us, had he not cancelled, Jacob replies to his ticket.  We get another rant:  Where the heck is my package?! You people are the worst ever!  Blah blah blah.

WHAT?!?  You said cancel the order.  You said you would charge back the charge.  Now you want to know where your order is?  I'll tell you where it is, back on the shelf!  You threaten us with a chargeback.  You are a complete jerk.  You tell us to cancel.  Now you want to know where your stuff is?  REALLY?

... and even BETTER:

So we tell him, hey that's what you asked for.  You said you were going to charge it back, so we went through extra-ordinary lengths to get the product back.  If you still want it, place another order.  Now remember, Jacobs original rant was that he absolutely needed this product by a certain day and we would miss that day by 1 (because he didn't understand what a business day is).

Jacob placed another order.  For the same products.  Again with ground shipping.  So in the end he got his order - almost 10 days later  than his initial order would have arrived.

To this day, I still don't know what he was trying to accomplish with all the posturing, yelling, and threats.  I could understand if he truly needed stuff on a certain day,  didn't understand how business days work, and that he was upset.  Let's assume that 1 day late is in fact TOO late, so he wants his order cancelled.  Personally, if I need something by a drop dead date, I am not going to rely on ground, but that is me.  Ok.  I accept all the yelling up to the point where his order is cancelled.

But to be upset that we did exactly what he wanted us to do: cancel the order?  And then, to place the same order AGAIN with ground shipping.  Was his original drop dead date a lie?  

After Jacob, I stopped trying to understand people.

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The Canned Response

Yes, we use them.  In fact, we use them a lot.  I know this since I write and re-write many of them many times each year, as do several other of the people on the help desk.  We re-write/add/simplify these replies to keep them relevant as well as easy to follow.  There is a fine line (which I admit to crossing over far too much) between making a reply too specific or to generic.  That means sometimes customers catch us when we use them.

The reason we have canned responses is that they are, well, canned.  They are a fast way to reply to a ticket where a customer has a particular issue.  But some of our customers, much like the ones who we tell to RTM, sometimes get upset that we use them.

Again let us stress that we are not some third world help desk where all we are trying to do is close the highest number of tickets in the shortest amount of time.  Trust that we have:

 

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No Design Work Here

One of the things we don't do is design work.  By that I mean, you call us and say "I have an x (house, truck, parade float, whatever).  Send me a list of everything I need to buy to make a show'.  There are simply too many options to do that.  I can't tell you what to buy since I have no idea the look that you are going for.   I can ask you questions however: "Let me tell you a little bit about regular controllers, dumb RGB and Pixels.  Now, which would  you prefer?"  Questions like those are design issues - there is no one right answer, the right answer comes from the question "What do you want?

If you are new to this, you may not even realize you had to make that decision.  NO PROBLEM.  The information and/or questions we give/ask you will allow you to make a decision.  If you want time to think about it, no problem!  Call us back/email/etc. We will help you regardless of your knowledge level of our products.  It is understandable if you don't know all the answers to the questions we ask.  Our questions are there for you to discover what YOU want.  Once you make that decision, let us know and we can continue to help.  

So you call me back and say 'I want to outline my house in Pixels.'  Maybe you even add 'I'm considering the Pixie16 package.  Is that right or How can I do that?'.  Those are all great starting points!  I now know what we are up against and you have made some very important choices.  I know you want pixels.  I know you are talking about a spread apart display.  I know you are probably purchasing everything from us.  Now I can educate you a little bit on what is going to be best (fyi:  It's not going to be a Pixie16 Package - it's going to be multiple Pixie 4s, or even possibly Pixcons).  

The example I had today from a customer was "I have a semi truck.  Send me a list of everything I need to buy to light it".  There is no one correct way to answer that question.  So the questions start:

"Regular lights, dumb RGB or smart RGB?"

"Give me everything to do all 3 and I'll decide"

There are literally MILLIONS of ways.  "I need to know which.  Let me tell you a little about each one and the looks of each." (20 mins later)

"Ok, Pixels.  Give me everything to do pixels"

Again there are MILLIONS of combinations here.  "Do you want strips, bulbs, bullets or squares?"  "Self Contained, or you will build enclosures?"

"How should I know.  You are the one selling them!" (Customer is now getting upset)

"It all depends on the look you are going for.  Let me tell you a little about each" (20 mins later)

"Just tell me what I need to run 100 pixels!  Forget about the truck."

"You need a CCB, Pixie or a Pixcon controller.  CCBs come complete.  Pixie and Pixcon require pixels and the correct power supply."

"How much for a pixie controller to run 100 pixels?"

"How many pixels in total are you going to run ? (Pixie may not be right.  Cosmic Color, or Pixcon may be better) How many strings can be centralized?   (So I know the number of pixel ports 2,4,8,16) 5V or 12V?  I want to make absolutely sure you are getting the CORRECT product for your application."

"Just tell me what I need!"

"I can't until you answer those questions"

CLICK

I know I am at the root of this problem - I absolutely can not stand salesman and I will NEVER sell something that is not 100% perfect for your application.  I will also ALWAYS give you the best money saving options and tell you where it is foolish to try to save a dime.  I can (and will) tell you technically where you may run astray.  What I can't do is select the product for you if you yourself don't know what you want.

 

The Negative

This is another example of the "Human On Board".  When you place a call to any customer service, beware of how you start out the conversation.  You get better results if you stay neural than go negative.  For example:

"Hi Mike.  I hope I am not going to be angry..."
"Hi Mike.  Why is this item so expensive?"

Those (and many others) immediately put me on the defensive.  You have opened the conversation trying to use leverage against me, and regardless of what I say next I know you are already upset about something.  You may expect to receive better treatment using a negative open, but I can assure you the opposite happens.  I (and I am sure any other CS rep you would talk to) do not like having pressure applied to them.  Which leads us to....

 

Mike's Three Levels of Service

I offer 3 levels of customer service by phone/eMail/Helpdesk/etc.  Please select the service type you would like on initial contact ->

  • Extra Special Service:
    Be friendly even if we (or I personally) royally screwed something up.
    "Hi Mike!  I hope you are doing well today!  I'm sorry to say I have a problem with my order, it appears that a couple of items are missing.  Can you help me?"
  • Top of the Line Better than 99.9% of the stores/merchants out there service: 
    Just don't be a jerk.
    "Hi Mike.  I received my order and a couple of things are missing."
  • Minimum service that fixes the issue and nothing else:
    All others
    "I opened my order and I'm mad that I am missing items.  I buy a lot of stuff from you and I expect you fix this NOW"

 

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Please write down who you spoke to

When calling or interacting with any CS rep, you should note the name/CS ID/etc. of the person with whom you are speaking.  Here at LOR, we are a small company, so a name works just fine.  We usually answer the phone with some variation of "Thank you for calling LOR.  This is [name].  How can I help you?"  If you call a larger organization (say a national bank, huge retailer, etc), they will typically have some kind of ID number they can give you which uniquely identifies them.  This is important.

With that said, let me tell you a little story about why writing down who you spoke to is important.  A few years ago, we had a thief (if that person is still around, yes that is exactly what you are) try to take us several times for free equipment.  What this person discovered is that if he opened a help desk ticket and said the magic words 'I talked to (or got an eMail from) Dan and he said to send me [some product]', we were stupid enough to do it.  It's Dan's show around here, so whatever Dan says, goes.  Dan is known to bend over backwards for people, and we tend to believe all people are good, so no red flag went up.  Thankfully someone noticed something (probably Brittany in shipping), asked Dan about it, and the thief was busted.  In the end we were able to recall all the shipments we made to this person, but this incident taught us something:  trust but verify.

Now whenever someone calls, eMails, or opens a help desk ticket and says something along the lines of "I spoke [emailed/opened ticket] to someone and they told me..." the very first thing we are going to ask is 'WHO did you speak to?"  Not only does that protect us, it ensures YOU get exactly what you were promised.  

Anyone who answers the phone here has great power - we can send equipment on our word alone, issue refunds, speed up shipping, etc - but since we are individuals, not all of us will handle a problem the same way.  Letting us know who you spoke to allows us to get you right back to that person - which ensures you get the exact service promised.  If you say you don't remember, and if I can't find any documentation (ticket/order notes), you are stuck.  Naturally I'll give you the best service I can, but it probably won't be the same you were promised.  

Some LOR people have better information than others.  A prime example is how fast things ship or if we have stock on an item.  Remember some of us are not in the factory, and so we rely on eMails from them about current inventory, shipping delays, etc.  Perhaps you spoke to someone in the factory that promised to ship something in a day or so who has the power to make that happen.  You call back and get me and don't remember who it was who said that.  My best information is 1-2 weeks, so that is all I can tell you.

From our standpoint, it puts a check in place for thieves like the one from before.  LOR can do whatever LOR wants with their money,.  If Dan decides to send a $2000 pixel package to someone for free, that is his choice.  When you contact me however I need to verify that.  If you don't remember who it was, then I can't help you.  If you do remember, I'm transferring your call or ticket or eMail to that person for verification - to stop thefts like the one that nearly occurred a couple of years ago.

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I NEED IT ASAP!

This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for us.  Now through Friday we will do thousands of orders, thousands of tickets, and a ton of calls.  If you look at our online store you are going to see that most things now say 2-3 days to ship, if not longer.  Not to mention this is going to be a short week with the Thursday holiday.  

I'm sorry, but there is just no way I can promise that you will have whatever it is you order in time for Thanksgiving or even this weekend.  I understand that you promised the world things would be running Saturday, but that doesn't allow me to put you in front of everyone else who placed an order before you.  

The same will hold true for technical support.  We do our best to serve all and we do that first come first served.  

The following are ALWAYS going to be true in this world:

  • You will forget to order something
  • Something will break requiring repair
  • You will forget how to do something or use something

If your date is very very important, YOU must give the date the importance.  That means testing your entire setup WELL before the cut off date.  You should be set up well in advance, and should be checking and rechecking things daily.  You may also want to have spares in case of failure if your date and/or display are that important.

We sympathize with you if something fails.  We will do our best to try to get you up and running and keep you up and running.  But only you can ensure that you are going to be successful, and if that includes a drop dead date, or 0 down time, you should be planning accordingly.

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Thanks!

I've talked to many of you this season, and about once a day a conversation goes like this:

"Are you DevMike on the Forums?"
"Yes I am."
"I love your posts in that one thread of yours! [Ed:  This thread you are reading now']"

THANKS!  I will say that it is difficult to put some of this down without offending people (which I am very good at!) or our customers.  I am not sure if I succeed in that or not, but right now the number of people who like this thread is many, while I have not had anyone tell me I was a jerk because of it.  About the only negative I hear is that it is locked to other people.  Sorry!  What I don't want is a 'bully' thread where we start to make attacks personal.  Of course you can always send me a PM and ask if  you like.  Or share.  A problem shared is a problem halved.  A customer halved on the other hand won't be calling back! :P

How much has this thread helped?  I suspect 0.  Let's face it - everything I've ever posted here really should be common sense.  99% of you take all these to heart because it is either the logical or decent thing to do.  The other 1% (the ones that prompted these postings in the first place) are never going to learn.    I will say that this thread is therapeutic for the author!  Writing about the circumstances of the incident here gives me an outlet.  

I did go back through some of these posts and estimated how many I had of each this season.  

On 10/29/2012 at 10:11 AM, DevMike said:

Examples of information you should include in your help desk ticket:

  • if you looking for an order's status, include the order number
  • if you need international shipping costs, include your address
  • if you have a software license question, include your license number and registration eMail.

HUNDREDS.  Thousands maybe didn't include basic information.

On 11/9/2012 at 2:41 PM, DevMike said:

So what's all this rambling got to do with being Human and having feelings? Well..... While I won't say that you won't be helped (see above), personal attacks on us poor humble folks probably won't endear you to anyone. Saying things like we're stupid, or that we don't respond to you fast enough because that's all we have are problems will not get you service any faster. Inferring that we are clueless and that everyone must be having the same problem as you will force me to go looking to ensure that is not true -- which will take much longer than just asking about the issue you have.

At least 1 per day.   Since Nov 1 I've killed at least 15 babies (according to the customer's anger).

On 12/3/2012 at 11:10 AM, DevMike said:

So while what he said is TECHNICALLY correct (the car won't start), he could have saved us all a lot of time by saying the keys were missing up front.

2-3 times a day.  If you can't figure out how to write an SD card for your MP3 director, don't tell me the FM transmitter is only broadcasting dead air.  (Happened.  No lie)

On 10/14/2014 at 11:58 AM, DevMike said:

Unfortunately, some customers either don't perform the steps as outlined, get upset that we are asking them to do something very simple, or refuse to believe us when we take them down a path and tell them where the issue is.   At that point we have to ask you to perform the steps again and stress that they are done as described, or we have to convince you that we know what we are doing.

One in every 20 tickets.  Most will pound their chest that they are some magical 400lb gorilla of technology and they know the best way to test something.  One even used the argument that he was a rocket scientist in real life!  (I kid you not).

On 10/14/2014 at 11:58 AM, DevMike said:

So when you create a help desk ticket, or even post here on the forums, you need to try to type coherently with at least a passing nod to the rules of proper grammar.

One ticket a week is so bad that I can't decipher it.  Our Japanese customers who use Google Translate write more coherent English!  (FYI:  if English is not your first language we will NEVER make fun of you!  We will work our butts off to try to understand you.  DO NOT let your embarrassment prevent you from opening a ticket.  We very much APPRECIATE that you are trying, just like you would appreciate someone trying to speak your language.  On the other hand, if you are a native English speaker use a period, a capital letter, and a comma once in a while will ya!)

On 10/24/2014 at 4:14 PM, DevMike said:

When I'm assisting customers it is my responsibility to solve your issue as expediently as possible.  I have to quickly assess the current issue, formulate a plan to fix the issue, and then convey to you that information.  Many times the fix for an issue is telling the customer to 'Read The Manual'.

Many tickets can be dumped into this bucket.  The ones that are the most frustrating (and the ones I count here) are the people who make 0 effort to read anything.  Do you have Netflix?  If so, go watch 'Canada's Worst Handyman'.  Have one of these handy.  (Note to my dear Cannuck friends:  I do not mean to imply that all Canadians are bad handy men.  That's just the name of the show.  It was filmed there.  Go get a twofour!)

On 12/3/2014 at 10:04 PM, DevMike said:

When you are interacting with another person, that person deserves your FULL UNDIVIDED attention.  It doesn't matter if you are ordering a sandwich at the local deli, in the checkout line of your grocery store, driving your car, or talking to me on the phone for a software/hardware issue.  At that point in time your full attention should be on what you are doing at that exact moment and NO WHERE ELSE.

Time to get serious for a moment.  PLEASE DON'T CALL ME WHILE YOU ARE DRIVING!  Just DON'T DO IT.  In fact, don't call ANYONE while you are driving.  If you get into an accident while talking to me on a phone I will not forgive myself and that is guilt I can do without.  Your lights are not that important. 

On 10/28/2015 at 2:03 PM, DevMike said:

For example, let's say that we screwed up your order and this is your initial contact with us over the issue.  You are NOT going to get any better service by saying things like "I'm not impressed!" or "Handle ASAP!"  

Not so many recently, but in Nov?  WHEW!  We screw up orders.  It happens.  It shouldn't but when it does we ALWAYS make it right.  I know I need to do better on these too.  For the ones that demanded stuff ASAP (and it's variants), I seemed to always forget to ask shipping to expedite them.  Drat. ;)

On 11/15/2015 at 12:23 PM, DevMike said:

We like to poke people on the help desk as well.

I've been doing more of these lately.  This year's poke (with the exception of the PixCon.... grrrrrr...) is the V2 Pixie.  'My Pixie always goes back to Unit ID 1!'.  "Read the manual, pay attention to the section that talks about setting the DIP SWITCHES to set the UID'.  :P

On 11/18/2016 at 7:51 PM, DevMike said:

This person, let's call him Jacob, places an order on Wednesday at 11:57 PM.

Jacob is STILL leading in the 'Worst customer EVER' contest.  No one is even CLOSE yet.

On 10/13/2017 at 4:51 PM, DevMike said:

I offer 3 levels of customer service by phone/eMail/Helpdesk/etc.  Please select the service type you would like on initial contact ->

To those of you who where happy and jolly in the face of frustration and got to talk to me- I hope that not only did I fix your issue, but that I also taught you something in addition AND we had fun doing it!
 

On 10/25/2017 at 11:29 AM, DevMike said:

"I spoke [emailed/opened ticket] to someone and they told me..." the very first thing we are going to ask is 'WHO did you speak to?" 

Sigh.  EVERY ticket and phone call I've got so far that mentions something like this does NOT know who they talked to previously.  Please folks.  We all have EASY names.  Mary.  John.  Dan.  Mike.  Brian.  Matt.  Chuck.  Tor.  Ok, so maybe not that last one, but it is pretty short!

 

Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukah/Joy and Safety in the new year (or whatever other greeting you prefer)!

-Mike 

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