The Hazards of Forum Software Support

Most software companies provide their support via user forums. This takes the pressure off the production staff because, since all users have access to the posts, if someone else knows how to fix a problem, they usually can respond quicker than the team would be able to. And, most of the sites also have a direct contact option in case the forum doesn’t work.

There are, however, some things to keep in mind when using a forum. The big one? Don’t Post When You Are Angry.

(That follows with Don’t go grocery shopping if you’re hungry and Don’t check your mailbox if you’re depressed).

I was lucky – I discovered this before I made the mistake. But it was close.

I had downloaded software from a company that had a brusque way of responding to requests for assistance. I posted a question and it came back and said I needed to update my graphic card drivers.

I was furious: I updated the computer every day, the card was new, etc. etc. I wanted to send a letter off telling them to screw off. Unfortunately, there was no way to do that directly for this company. The only people I would scream at would be the other forum users. Not a good idea.

After I calmed down, I decided to check the drivers anyway, just to have a clear conscience. Imagine my horror to discover that the drivers were out of date. I replaced them and the software in question worked perfectly after that. If I had gone ahead and posted that rant it would have been ugly and also followed me on the internet forever.

I was in another software forum where I saw it happen to someone else – the wrong way. This person was complaining that the software was defective; the developers were idiots; and publishers were robbers – the usual. They had offered him a solution but he refused to accept it (sound familiar?). When they didn’t respond, he started bombarding the forum with vitriolic posts.

It was beyond anything I’d ever seen.

The developers and support staff for the company finally told him they would refund his money and they did not want him back as a customer. That only inflamed him further. By this time several other folks on the forum had done their best to warn him to cool off. He continued to post but the support staff just ignored him (they probably blocked him).

And then, two days afterward, he actually tried the original solution they proposed. And it worked.

He was horrified and profusely apologized and took back everything he said – but it was too late. He finally had to stop posting on the forum because he would get nothing but snarky messages from the other users. The support staff never responded to hm again.

The fact that I came so close to doing the same thing left me shaking. I was on the same path but for some reason I recovered before I posted something poisonous. But it could have happened…

Whatever you do, do not ever post when you are angry. There are some things that are beyond forgiveness; and credibility and integrity are not replaceable once you’ve lost them. Rant all you want to at home, but don’t let any of it outside of your computer. Once it’s gone it’s going to haunt you forever.