I received an E-mail blast from a CCTV manufacturer today describing a new five-point plan aimed to overhaul its technical support and customer service. Four of the five points were in line with expectations for a high-end company in the electronic security industry, but I suspect that the bulk of the objections the manufacturer hears will come from just one of the points it mentions.
The four that should raise few objections (and will likely earn some praise) include limiting support to authorized dealers (with some exceptions), adding support personnel, offering factory support in a number of areas, and upgrading its phone system to accommodate call-backs and appointments. While I certainly don't want to take away from the significance of these points, particularly when you consider they are adding people at a time when other firms are cutting costs, there's nothing groundbreaking here. A number of other companies offer similar services and have for some time.
But one of the things it mentions is "paring of support for obsolete equipment." Doing this frees up resources to support current product and improves support by reducing wait times.
I can hear the objections rising, and if you are expecting me to jump on the bandwagon and criticize them for this move, you're — wrong. In fact, I applaud them for being up front about this, instead of doing what so many other companies do. It sure seems like the industry standard is to claim you support obsolete product when in fact there's no one on staff who has ever even seen this older equipment.
Assuming the plan for eliminating support is reasonable, and that the definition of "obsolete equipment" is one we all agree upon, this company joins other high-end firms that have a support lifecycle policy. Microsoft is notable for publicizing this well in advance; their policy can be seen at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifepolicy. It's been known to make exceptions, as I am sure the company in question will, but Microsoft recognizes that there's a point where it would be better for all if it replaced the product and stopped nursing things along.
I am reminded of a phone call I received when I was responsible for tech support at a large CCTV manufacturer. The end user called me to complain that he couldn't get parts to repair his 17-year old pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) camera. "It's working great," he said, "and I could keep it going forever if you guys still sold parts." He was upset that we no longer had the parts in stock and wouldn't make new ones for him, despite the fact that this was a 15-inch dome camera in a 7-inch dome camera world.
"How about if the camera had died after 15 years and was unrepairable?" I asked him. "Would you consider a 15-year lifespan good for this type of product?"
"Sure," he replied. "Fifteen years is more than I ever got from one of your competitors' products."
"But you got 17 years and you're unhappy because you can't get a few more, since we no longer have parts left for this product."
"That's right!" he exclaimed. And went right back to complaining about parts availability.
Sometimes you just can't win. But I admire this company for their honesty — and for taking the high road.
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