SDL Trados Why is Your Customer Support So Bad?

Dear SDL Trados,

bad-customer-serviceYou have created a wonderful product. It makes my life easier, ensures consistency, and increases my translation speed. Sure, there are agencies who try to turn its awesome powers against us translators by using it to lower prices, but that is not your fault and I’m perfectly capable of handling my own rates.

You have also made a lot of money off of this wonderful product; according to the preliminary statement published on your website, revenue for 2016 was 264.7 million, up 10% from 2015. That’s a lot of software. And at its current price of $825 a pop, that comes out to a lot of new users in 2016 alone.

Now most of us are about as proficient with the technical aspect of the software as most drivers are with the mechanics of their car. We know how to use it, not how to fix the rotary camshaft unicorn converter or whatever if it gives out before we drive our new car off the lot.

And out of so many software packages sold, little glitches like that are bound to happen. I’m not going to hold that against you. But is there any reason why you’re not using some of those millions to set up a simple, straightforward support process for when stuff like that happens?

I recently bought the new 2017 Studio upgrade, and shortly thereafter discovered that the software would not open documents for translation in single-file mode. New software, had only used it a few times for projects, had not messed around with any settings. So here’s what I did.

Step 1: click the Help button. Read all remotely relevant sections of the manual in Help Topics. Nothing.

Step 2: Check the online Knowledge Base. It offers four links:

  1. Knowledge. Promising! Nope, just general info.
  2. Perhaps Technical Docs. No, more general technical info for all SDL products.
  3. Support, then; sounds good, I can get someone to help me. I scroll to the right product as instructed, click on the button to create a support ticket and … I am routed right back to the previous page. After wading through many more random pages I finally read somewhere that support tickets are for license and installation issues only. GREAT.
  4. Okay fine, Community. Click. A labyrinth of information and new options. I finally find a promising group, figure out how to join, and ask my question. Several people do their best to help but alas, the problem is not solved.

So as far as I can tell, your customer support consists of:

  1. Have customer figure it out herself
  2. Have customer ask other customers to figure it out

I understand there is an option to buy a support contract, but forgive me if I don’t think I should pay for fixing a bug in a new, expensive piece of software straight out of the box.

And that is the end of the line for Joe customer, because unbelievably, it’s impossible to connect with a live human being. Your website does not list a single phone number. Or e-mail address. If your staff is too busy to deal with constant phone calls, would it kill you to use some of that stash you made last year and pay some high school geniuses to staff a simple customer support line? I’ll even listen to stupid elevator music for however long it takes to be on hold.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending, no thanks to you: a wonderful colleague from Argentina happened to see my question weeks later and e-mailed me out of the blue with a solution she had discovered when she had a similar problem: the document will open if I specify the languages manually, and the source language before the target language instead of the other way around. Random but effective.

I suppose you could say that this actually proves your system works (see customer support step 2). This is true in the same way that United had the right to drag that passenger off the plane last week. Technically justified, but do you really want to be known for “We Do the Bare Minimum to Get You There” or “After You Pay You’re on Your Own”?

I hope not. When I bought my first Trados Studio software years ago I had no problem reaching tech support by phone when I had software problems, and two human beings — paid by you — spent hours helping me fix the issue. What happened to that company?

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12 thoughts on “SDL Trados Why is Your Customer Support So Bad?

  1. Oh dear, Marie, I’m so sorry to hear this! I haven’t had the same experience at all and have always managed to have any issues resolved pretty quickly, not always by the orthodox channels, though, I must admit. I find posting problems on social media (Twitter, Facebook) helps and Paul Filkin, who I’ve always found immensely helpful, aims to respond to queries on the SDL Community page as quickly as possible – although it helps if you actually subscribe to threads/posts so you can see the answers, as I found to my cost 🙂 If you can manage to attend any of the SDL roadshows, that often gives you access to actual people who you can then contact directly if you need to at a later date. I hope SDL will be able to provide a more informed response!

  2. Hi Claire, thanks for commenting! Yes, SDL did respond on Twitter and referred me to an SDL blog post about 9 ways to contact them about issues. The thing is that almost all those options are ones I already describe in my post. I almost got excited when I saw one new item about direct chat, but it turns out that is only for product/upgrade information and licensing/installation problems. I know social media is often very effective, but when all that doesn’t work, as in my case, you’re stuck with no more ways to reach out. Knowing actual people would be helpful, indeed! I just got an email for a roadshow so I’ll check it out. But it’s all very roundabout. Why is there not a simple, direct contact option the first time you click the “help” tab on the Studio, or a big “Submit a Ticket” button for any issues right there on the SDL home page? In any case, I love the product and I know all the individual employees are super helpful, but the system itself just seems too labyrinthine.

  3. Hi Marie, I often wonder why more translators don’t pay for a support contract? For a business critical solution it makes sense to have the insurance policy in place that you can always speak to a real person and get help when you need it. What’s your view on that?
    However I do think we provide pretty good support for people without it, and the community is a great solution… in fact your problem seemed to have a solution so perhaps that’s why the conversation stopped? If there is no solution we always escalate this to support so a support engineer can take a look. Your posts didn’t seem to need that.
    Finding your way around the community can seem daunting, I’d agree. We have so many groups and the naming conventions are not straightforward in some cases. But if you remember http://xl8.one for translators then it’s simple as you’re straight into the right place.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for responding! I agree that buying a support contract is a good idea for issues that come up down the line, but I don’t think I should have to pay to fix a bug in a brand new system I just bought. I also appreciate the community forum; everyone is very helpful. The solutions were work-arounds, though, not fixes of the actual problem; the software should open up the file without me having to change the source file name, ideally. Also, I found out that that didn’t always work anyway, so I was back to square one. At that point I thought I had exhausted my community forum help options; I didn’t know the problem would have been escalated to support if I had persisted. But that is my point: it would be helpful for users like me if that kind of information was supplied somewhere upfront, like the first time you click a help button. So perhaps it’s more a communication issue than a support problem. When I have a deadline looming and I can’t open a file, it’s incredibly stressful to have to navigate this labyrinth of options and nothing seems to be relevant or helpful. It would be really nice if there could be a flowchart upfront that shows the process all on one page. In any case, thanks for listening, I appreciate you making the effort to reach out.

      • Hi Marie, I guess we cleared the payment thing already. Nobody expects anyone to pay to get a bug fixed! You can pay for prompt support one on one from a support engineer and this gives you some SLAs for support on any problem you might have. It also gives you the ability to report bugs and have them tracked for you in your account. If you don’t pay for this then you can still use the community and report bugs in there, but there is no SLA and no tracking.
        On the difficulty of navigating the community and having a flowchart. Where would be we put it given we probably have to do this for every product we have which will have a different solution? I would have expected people to use the Help in the product… I always look there first. But I guess you didn’t or you would have used the SDL Community button which takes you directly to the correct location for problems with Studio – no navigation needed. I guess you’re not the only one either. So where do you suggest we put this flow chart if a direct link from the product doesn’t help?

  4. But … as I said in my post, I did first try the Help Topics in Studio, which provided no solution, and then the online Knowledge Base, which offers four options including Community. It was not obvious to me at the time that Community would be the best option so I first tried Knowledge, Technical Docs and Support. Within the community section there are many options as well, and it took time for me to look at them all and figure out the most promising one. In hindsight or for a frequent user it’s all common sense I’m sure, but not to a new user who is seeing all this for the first time in a stressful situation. About the flowchart, it wouldn’t be to give specific solutions for each product, just an overview of steps you’d take for types of problems. Could it be added in the Help pull-down menu in Studio?

    • Hi Marie, in the Help ribbon in Studio there is a big button that says “SDL Community”. If you click it you are taken to here – http://xl8.one
      If you have to go the main community page then I guess the easiest way to find things is via Product, but I agree with you that things are not so clear when you enter that route. Shame you didn’t see the big button, we tried to make it easy with this.
      I like the way you’re thinking with the steps for types of problems. We used to have this in the old KB using the solutionfinder, but if you are a new user then you won’t know just how complicated that got and it only scratched the surface. We also have the problem that if you didn’t see the button that says SDL Community then would you have found the flowchart?
      I believe we offer a lot of help and many ways to get there. We have gone from having a terrible reputation for support to quite a good one and in the process now have users telling us there are so many options it’s hard to know which route to use for help… I don’t mean you here, we do see this complaint from time to time. Part of the problem we have is everyone has their preferred way of finding help and if they don’t find things that way we’ve failed. I can guarantee you that if we did the things you suggest we’d have complaints form others even if you thought it was an excellent solution.
      I totally agree we still have room for improvement and we are continually working on it, even to the point of searching for the complaints people make in the most unusual places and trying to help. If we had a simple “ask here” in the product and allowed every user to contact a person directly then I reckon that would do the trick, and if everyone paid for a support contract then we might be able to deliver that… but they don’t.

  5. Hi Paul, I saw the button, but it just didn’t suggest “immediate help” to me, that’s why I tried all the other buttons first. Thank you though for sharing your perspective; you have obviously been around the block with this a couple of times more than I have, and it must be frustrating to put all the information out there the best you can and people still don’t get it… The whole system was confusing to me, but in light of what I have learned it was unfair to call it bad, as I did in the title of my post. I’m thinking of writing a more positive update to share what I’ve learned with other novice help-seekers.

    • Thanks Marie, did my frustration come through 😉 Actually I enjoy these exercises because it does give us cause for a rethink every now and again. It’s important to to see things from the perspective of our users because they are the reasons we put all this stuff out there in the first place. If this all helped you then this is also good… I’m glad we managed to get to the bottom of your technical problem too, so all in all it was a useful couple of hours.

  6. Final note: in the interest of fairness I should also mention that Paul was also working on my issue on the SDL forum while the above discussion was going on, and after trying different things he was able to resolve the problem completely. Thanks Paul; a new post is definitely in order!

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