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Customer Relations Done Right

By Fjodor on Apr. 30, 2013.

Customer relations, especially of the support kind, is an area fraught with peril for any company, especially since:

  1. People will tend to contact customer support only in times of trouble
  2. On those occasions, most answers can lead to some sort of disappointment, but the customer is especially primed towards negativity

Much as negative blogging in cases of severe Customer Relations deficiencies are both warranted and needed, I am happy to be writing this post as an example of what I believe to be one of the best experiences I have ever had with any support department of any company ever. There were some initial misgivings on my part, but as you shall see, those were either unfounded or of no importance in the end.

Now, on a whim of wanting to get my system upgraded to some SSD lovin’, I recently bought a HighPoint Technologies RocketRAID 620 dual-port SATA 3.0 controller. I didn’t want anything to do with the actual RAID capabilities, but wanted it to control a 120GB Intel SSD and a 3Tb regular HDD as two different and independent drives.

Buying hardware, especially on a lean budget, can be somewhat of a challenge if you, as I, exclusively run Linux as your OS. I was thus disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that I would need an out-of-kernel driver, which I,though, had no trouble finding instructions for installing under DKMS.

Shortly afterwards, I began to notice some seemingly ominous warnings in the system log about I/O errors to the effect that a SCSI command, WRITE_SAME, had failed on the HDD connected to the board. Since no errors where reported for the SSD, I decided to swap out the HDD with another, dissimilar disk. The problem, however, manifested itself again, pointing towards a problem with either the board or its driver.

At this point, I had had to patch the driver with an unofficial patch in order to support Linux 3.6+, had had to DKMS-enable the driver in order to use it at all, and was presented with a, quite frankly, shoddy looking support page design, so my hopes were modest, to say the least.

On the plus side, though, they actually did have provisions for me to accurately state that I was using Linux (not a given, sadly), so I made a reasonable effort to describe the problem and hoped for the best.

Now, writing bug reports for software that you haven’t reported bugs for earlier is not always easy – you don’t know what information is the most relevant, and you don’t even know if the developers prefer to have any and all info dumped on them, or if they prefer to engage and ask specifically for what they need, based on a more sparse, initial, report. I would prefer the latter myself, so that’s what I normally do.

Here is when the magic seemed to happen. Obviously, the responding developer or technician needed more info in order to find the root cause of the problem, and whereas I was initially dismayed to read that “The driver does not support WRITE_SAME”, I was obviously too negatively biased in my assessment of that answer, since the reply to my subsequent question as to whether that meant that I should just make a habit of disregarding log messages to the effect of I/O errors, which came in on a Friday, was that they would send me an updated driver during the course of the following week.

Imagine that!

On Wednesday that following week, well within the promised time frame, my support ticket was updated with an upload of the next version of the driver (subsequently offered on their product page as well), and as far as I can tell, no further problems regarding this board present themselves in the logs.

To recap:

  1. I notice a problem and misdiagnose it
  2. Upon later, correct, diagnosis, I report the problem with a Linux driver to the manufacturer
  3. Even though the driver is external to the Linux kernel, I get extremely swift response in order to pinpoint the problem
  4. Within less than a week, the manufacturer releases a new version of the driver to address the problem and also sends me a copy of that release in the actual bug report
  5. I hereby endorse http://highpoint-tech.com whole-heartedly, not least to show that stellar customer support is in the actions of your company’s developers and technicians and not in how fancy your bug reporting interface might look

HighPoint, you have my highest appraisals for how you handled this issue!

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