A Supplier Worries That Free Information Online Can Sometimes Do More Harm Than Good
The amount of help that is available to today’s broadcast engineer is truly marvelous. It’s a testimony to the power of the Internet, particularly the popularity of the list server. Assistance can now come from people on the other side of the world, where in the past such help could only be obtained one-to-one.
A lot of us were fortunate to enter the business when many excellent engineers were available to turn to. I was always picking the brains of Dave Garner, now market engineer for the Washington, D.C. Bonneville stations, and Milford “Smitty” Smith, vice president of radio engineering for Greater Media.
These great engineers helped me to really understand and apply concepts learned in textbooks and equipment manuals. They could answer anything I threw at them. They were, and continue to be, mentors.
Today, we see broadcast professionals in countries all over the world offering and receiving tremendous amounts of advice from one another via the Internet.Who could have imagined how enabling this web of computer connections could become for our industry?
There’s no doubt that the Internet can be incredibly helpful, but I have begun to notice an unfortunate trend: an increasing tendency to turn to online friends to solve equipment problems before contacting the equipment manufacturer to seek assistance.
Why the concern? Because many posts seek information from the group to solve problems that we as the manufacturer could address quickly.
This has the potential to be counterproductive, because the advice from the list may not be accurate, especially in light of the changes that can occur with manufacturers’ hardware and software upgrades. It also contributes delay to finding the solution because the engineer must wait for the “ring in” from the others in the group. In some cases, failing to contact the manufacturer first can even increase the severity of the problem.
Of course, some manufacturers are no longer in business. Some folks are in locations that make it difficult to have real-time communication with other parts of the world. Some may not have information on where to find the equipment manufacturer. And some firms don’t support their products very well. The only solution in these cases may be the list server.
However, for the rest of us, the manufacturer is the best place to start. At Telos/Omnia, and in many other firms like ours, there are a number of people dedicated to supporting customers. We take this function seriously and have devoted significant resources to it, including the writing of comprehensive user manuals.
In addition, these manuals can be downloaded free from our Web site or via CD-ROM (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you one). We also have an online tool to help customers determine the current software revision levels of their Telos and Omnia products.
Most important, we have full-time telephone support dedicated to answering questions that come up before and after purchase. These are just a few of the things manufacturers do to support our customers.
Of course, nobody’s perfect. There’s always room for improvement in any endeavor. But I’m told that Telos does pretty well in the area of customer support, and I’ve been told most other manufacturers do too.
Yet, like other manufacturers that I talk to, we often see posts asking for answers to problems we could quickly solve. Sometimes we even get “flamed” by somebody who never sent us an e-mail, gave us a call or looked in the user manual prior to “going off.” In many cases the negative postings are never retracted publicly in spite of their inaccuracy.
I know that our group is committed to providing the best support possible. Many of us are former radio engineers, so we know that good support is vital. We will continue to grow in this area and we welcome your suggestions on how we can do this to serve you more effectively.
In the meantime, it is my hope that you will contact the manufacturer first when you have an issue with a piece of gear.
We’re standing by to help you.