In my last post, I expressed my frustration with SDL Trados over unresolved problems with my new Studio software. The cathartic but perhaps somewhat unwise title of my post (see below) immediately unleashed the whirlwind in the form of SDL technician Paul Filkin, who valiantly defended SDL’s honor in the comments to my post, on Twitter, and on the SDL forum. If we ever need another Winston Churchill to fight the enemy on the beaches, the landing grounds, the fields and the streets, I nominate Paul.
We had a lively discussion in the comments, which I like to think was productive for both of us. I learned that the SDL team actually puts a great deal of thought and effort into making help available, and it is just as frustrating to them as it is to us if people are not finding the help they need. It is still true that I was very confused about the whole process and I think there is room for improvement, but the blanket judgment I issued was unfair.
Paul pointed out that the simplest solution is to have a maintenance agreement in place. The thing is that I was not even aware of this option until he mentioned it.
I don’t remember any message offering a maintenance agreement when I bought the software, but someone else told me that you do have that option at the time of purchase. Still, judging from the fact that so few users apparently have a maintenance contract, my guess is that many of us get so caught up in the (often complex) purchase/upgrade/licensing/activation process that we don’t have much thought for anything beyond getting the software up and running. A very explicit prompt in big red letters at the end of the process would probably result in more contracts, something like: “Congratulations, software successfully installed! Click here to buy a maintenance contract for continued worry-free enjoyment.”
Also, for those who miss that first opportunity, information about the agreement is not easy to find even if you are looking for it. I went back to the Help section in Studio and spent a lot of time searching for info, preferably with a link to sign up, but I couldn’t find anything*. I even asked a colleague who is a long-time Trados user to look for it, but she came up empty as well. I finally discovered a link in a different location by signing into my account on the SDL website. However, most people who are looking for help are not going to think to sign into their account; they are much more likely to search the Studio Help section like I did, and I think it would be helpful to have a link there.
(* Except for one pdf with detailed information about three levels of support: Essentials, Enhanced and Elite. However, there are no prices and no button for signing up. It is also inconsistent with the two levels of support offered in My Account, which is confusing.)
And even when you find the link, assistance is not exactly imminent. When I clicked on the link, I got a “Sorry, the page you were looking for does not exist or is not available” message. It looks like the only way to get information is to submit a request for a quote. If you are panicking because the software doesn’t work and you have a deadline to meet, this is not going to bring your blood pressure down. It’s also quite pricey at $249.00 for the cheaper of the two options
However, on a positive note: I love the user account Support page itself. It offers a perfect, brief overview of the four types of help that are available, i.e. Community, Knowledge Base, License and Activation Support and Maintenance Agreement. I think it would be great if SDL could consolidate all four options in the same way under one big green “How to Get Help” button on the Help ribbon in the software itself.
And while I’m making a wish list: based on my own confusion about how the forums work, I think it would be helpful to see a message at the top of the forum that if an issue remains unresolved it will get escalated to a technician for further assistance. I stopped short because I did not know this; I figured that anyone who had any insight to offer had already done so, and that there was no point in coming back again. I thought the well was dry, so to speak. I’m happy to report that my software problems did get resolved thanks to Paul, who looped in on my thread and was indeed able to fix the issue.
Another great resource I highly recommend is my colleague Emma Goldsmith. Her blog Signs and Symptoms of Translation is a treasure trove of information about anything Trados-related, including reviews, detailed how-to’s and troubleshooting posts. For a fee, she also provides personalized assistance for users who prefer working with a real person to slogging through tutorials or manuals. She does not deal with software malfunctions, but for anything user-related these sessions are money well-spent.
So long story short: help is available at all times, but unless you have a maintenance contract it may be anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to resolve the issue, so the safest bet for immediate support is, indeed, a maintenance contract. Which is why it is so important, I think, to have that information front and center — with a sign-up link — when you buy the software and when you click on Help.
Dear SDL Tech Support Team,
Your support system is not perfect but much better than I gave you credit for, and I hope we can be friends again. Discussions are all well and good, but I do know better than to risk the wrath of an irritated engineer…