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Why doesn't Second Life have better customer support?


MB Robonaught
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            First of all I want to say that, as one that has enjoyed being on Second Life since 2008, this thread not just a rant but a concern that I feel that Second Life is in danger from a business standpoint. Over those years I have watched where the biggest issue was when 100,000 people were online the servers would crash due to overload. Today, the number online may only be in the 30,000 range due to people being run off  by what is perceived as Linden Lab being uncaring to its customer’s needs.  This may or may not be true, but regardless it is how I have heard over and over from other users how they truly feel due to seemingly Linden Lab’s unwillingness to interact with its customers on a one to one basis of support.

            Yes Linden Lab has a top notch technical support team these days with a staff, for both live chat and tickets, that shows what good customer support can be in my experience. There are meetings one can attend to ask questions on technical topics. But what about the other areas of support? Other than this avenue, there isn’t any. There isn’t any method to have policy rules clarified. One can only guess at the interpretation of the policy and hope that the choice doesn’t get them banned. Sure one can file an abuse ticket when someone is causing trouble, but users never hear that their concerns were addressed or even if the report was even looked at by a human being and users can only take Linden Lab’s word that all abuse tickets are looked at. There isn’t any live viewer support, such as Firestorm has, or if there is it is well hidden from a general user.

            The point is that any business, big or small, must understand that its customers are its lifeblood. There are many users that love that Second Life allows them the ability to enjoy a more normal existence due to disability or other concerns. There are those that operate real businesses that generate income for Linden Lab through tier on regions. Instead of addressing the needs of these customers, and many others, in a responsible and caring way, Linden Lab offers very vague guidelines that rely on word of mouth interpretations of its users to each other. A customer must not feel it is akin to a holy quest to a magical mountain (plus pay $100) just to find out if something is considered skilled gaming, or if they will lose their investment when Second life 2.0 is in operation.

            The cure is simple, place users as the most important aspect of Second Life. There are thousands of users more than willing to give constructive input to make that possible. Make sure those in upper management actually log in to see, from a customer’s perspective, just what true issues need to be addressed instead of just thinking up the latest gizmo to install. By far the most important to incorporate would be to open venues to discuss needs with the company. These, and others, are all part of a sound business strategy that a happy consumer will continue to want your product. And to close out, I wonder if anyone at Linden Lab will bother to even read this.  

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This is such a familiar thread, it feels as old as SL, and the premises are, pretty much.

Just to get it out of the way, while I never saw 100K concurrency, I did see 94K one UK night in late 2008, so I do not know where the lower figures regularly quoted come from.  The current max concurrency is in the range 50-55K, depending on time of year and day of week.

Linden Lab operate a customer support strategy common to many US-based operations, and to my mind it always has been one that disregards the mass of non-Premium users and as such is woefully short-sighted.  I agree whole-heartedly with the OP on virtually (sic) every point.

It is now too late to save SL 1.0, but unless Linden Lab wish to see SL 2.0, whatever it ends up being called, dieing more quickly they must revise and improve their corporate attitude to non-Premium accounts and accord them better treatment.

To me, in Europe, it just seems like common sense; apparently to many in the USA it is "entitlement".  Balderdash!

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If LL chose to provide full support to basic accounts they'd have to hire an army of workers.  Who is going to pay for this?  They'd have to raise the income from somewhere to pay these people.  Higher Tiers, sales tax, no more free accounts?

Basic accountis have chosen to forgo all the benefits of premium accounts.  This means support too.  If you need customer support frequently you have to pay for a premium account.

I've been in SL for nine years and haven't needed live support.  There is plenty of info in the Wiki and Knowledge Base to use to find solutions to your problem.  The forum is also available.  There is even a Q and A section to help you staffed by experience resident volunteers.  Many of them know more about SL than your average Linden too.

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I'm going to have a second bite at this cherry.  While no-one with any common sense would expect Linden Lab to provide support for "free" non-Premium accounts at the same level as that offered to Premium account-holders, the level should be improved for all the reasons I suggested earlier.

One aspect of this would be an in-world support group staffed by volunteers, albeit volunteers with a "fast-track" to The Lab. I have never understood why such a body was not set up in SL by Linden Lab. This would provide a degree of help to folk that have most commonly occurring issues.  While it IS true that there are some folk who will not accept advice however it is given, there are many for whom searching for an answer when they barely know the question, these people need better support than they routinely get.

My essential point remains, in that SL 2.0 will need better support than SL 1.0 or it will fail, and fail rapidly.  That such support would be costly is not in doubt, but for a small diminution of the profit gained, a great deal of goodwill could be earned, surely that is worthwhile in the medium-to-long term?

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Ayesha Askham wrote:

<snip>

While no-one with any common sense......

</snip> 

 

Unfortunately what's 'common' is oftentimes not the same thing as 'good.'  ;)

But here is a thing I was thinking about recently.  Why do so many of us take the time to give free support that really Linden Lab should be doing?

Actually, what got me started on this train of thought is the amount of support we are giving here for some (many?) Merchants.  Questions about Lola's have trailed off but now it's about MESH Bodies, particularly TMP.  Why are we doing their customer support?  Let TMP do their own damned support or get the H out of SL.

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Ayesha Askham wrote:

I'm going to have a second bite at this cherry.  While no-one with any common sense would expect Linden Lab to provide support for "free" non-Premium accounts at the same level as that offered to Premium account-holders, the level should be improved for all the reasons I suggested earlier.

One aspect of this would be an in-world support group staffed by volunteers, albeit volunteers with a "fast-track" to The Lab. I have never understood why such a body was not set up in SL by Linden Lab. This would provide a degree of help to folk that have most commonly occurring issues.  While it IS true that there are some folk who will not accept advice however it is given, there are many for whom searching for an answer when they barely know the question, these people need better support than they routinely get.

My essential point remains, in that SL 2.0 will need better support than SL 1.0 or it will fail, and fail rapidly.  That such support would be costly is not in doubt, but for a small diminution of the profit gained, a great deal of goodwill could be earned, surely that is worthwhile in the medium-to-long term?

 

This service already exists here in the forums and also in the Answers section.  It is a lot more convenient for the volunteers.  I for one wouldn't have time to go to a location and stand around waiting to be asked for help.  However, I do look in on the forums and Answer section several times a day when I am taking a break from my work and contribute where I can.

It is somewhat unrealistic to expect qualified people to take time out of their SL to go someplace and provide this in world without being paid.  Most of the people that have the knowledge to answer most types of questions have businesses of their own to attend to.

Years ago there was a Mentor group that existed to help people, but LL disbanded it because there were problems with it.

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OK Amethyst, you make a fair point, but still I think that if viewers such as Firestorm can manage to provide in-world support fairly comprehensively with volunteers, it cannot be THAT hard to find sufficient default viewer users (NOT paid staff, I never suggested that, or Linden Lab staff doing unpaid work) to run a similar group.

The offline Q&A provided by LL is not (or certainly SEEMS not to be) sufficient to address many questions.

It DOES seem that post-sales support of many popular items in SL is woefully inadequate, as Perrie notes; maybe it is endemic to SL perhaps encouraged by the laissez-faire attitude that Linden Lab espouses.

I suppose it is true that online communities tend to provide "self-help" facilities, but that is more often than not a choice, not something forced upon them.

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Customer support has but one goal and that goal goes beyond simply helping the customer. That goal is to assure that the customer remains a satisfied customer that will return time and again to do business. A customer must feel wanted by the company and only by feeling wanted will a customer continue to be so.

            Ayesha makes very valid points on how and what customer support needs to be and how to do it. It is also true that wiki’s and forums are valuable tools in finding help. However, both have drawbacks that only direct one on one contact with a LL employee (or trained by LL volunteer) can cure. Wiki’s can never cover every contingency or variations on a question and if it can be edited by users it can be inaccurate as well. Forums can provide sound advice but can also be filled with misinformation and are seldom, if ever, the official word of Linden Lab. It cannot be support if LL doesn’t even read these forums as Alwin mentioned earlier.

            A proper customer support must contain the following aspects. First the customer does need to be directed to the wiki pages and forums. If the person cannot find the right answers they need the option of contacting a real person in the form of a LL employee or an official LL volunteer. This can be done with supplying an email address, live chat, phone number, or a ticket system. The most important aspect is that support needs to be a close to real time as possible.

            LL has already proved it has the capability to do so with its excellent tech support it now provides. What of the new person that just joined SL and doesn’t fully understand the TOS, or what about the veteran user that wants something new clarified like from the total confusion that happened when the skilled gaming policy was put in place? What about what is considered copyright infringement? Sure the TOS explains it but not in much detail. I often hear “I see others do it so it must be ok”. A user has to guess and wait to see if their items are pulled or if they get banned which all could have been avoided if a question was answered.

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LL made some serious errors in the past. Phasing out the orietation and help islands as well as the SL Mentor program was a big one. You could go to any of the help islands and public help islands and find someone that could help you . Then they went to a format where new avis were just dumped in a rotunda with very little instruction then randomly TPd to sims that were supposed to represent their interests...epic fail. 

They've now brought back an improved version of the Orientation and Help islands. I've also heard that LL is looking to bring back mentors in one form or another...we shall see. 

CS is there, just not what you want unless you are a premium member. Basic accounts are just that, basic, no frills. You can get some basic help with AR's and support tickets but beyond that, you'll need a premium account. 

I've been in SL 8+ years and never had a problem finding answers or getting help.

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I totally agree that LL has made some big mistakes Bobbie, and I really hope they bring the mentors back. A premium account doesn't solve all issues. For example, who do you contact if there is a problem with your account such as it being hacked or corupted? I'm sure there is somebody to contact but finding who is like finding the lost ark.

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I sometimes hang out at NCI, which is one of those volunteer support groups in-world.

What soon becomes apparent is that Linden Lab struggles to connect new players to all the support (such as the knowledge base) and do little more than let a new player pick an Avatar with no explanation, Most of them pick one of the mesh-based avatars which are a dead-end for modification.

With a few honourable exceptions, the Lindens seem disconnected from the world they provide. The "outfit" system works if you have a few outfits, and is a struggle to organise if you have many. The huge problem I see is that you're not allowed sub-folders, and it's not hard for people to have hundreds of different outfits: now try finding the one you want.

Linden Lab can't fix a problem with outfits that was fixed by Microsoft, in MS-DOS, with v2.0 in 1983. They call 'em folders and sub-folders know, and Linden Lab just don't seem to be bothered by their lack in the outfits sub-system. Which strongly suggests a lot of "Linden" accounts in-game are never used.

And that may be part of the reason why support is so bad, and some new ideas seem so misguded a use of programming resources. (We lost easy user access to alternative viewer color schemes when Linden Lab dropped Viewer 1, though there is a third-party add-on, and it has become very apparent that the Lindens do not have the colour vision of mortal men.) 

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WolfBaginski Bearsfoot wrote:

I sometimes hang out at NCI, which is one of those volunteer support groups in-world.

I take it that you found that secret warehouse at area 51. NCI, New Citizen Inc, is the ultimate new user support group in SL in my opinion.  With NCI's classes and group discussions on just about any conceivable SL related subject, it boggles my mind that LL doesn't not recognize its value by making it a default group when you first join SL. Still, at the moment, a new user has to stumble onto NCI to enjoy the benefits it provides. If funding is the issue of why there isn't more support in SL then all it would take would be to make NCI the official user support group. For any Linden that may view this, how about it?

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