Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When you hear "We're moving support to Stack Overflow" say, "We've moved our business".

Do a search for: "We're moving support to Stack Overflow" (without the quotes). You'll find there's a number of companies making similar announcements.

At first glance it seems to make sense, after all that's where the developers are going to get their technical questions answered isn't it?  So why bother maintaining a separate support presence?  May as well just send all the support to Stack Overflow.

But it's a bad, poorly thought out idea.

Stack Overflow is not a product support forum.  Stack Overflow is a place to get highly specific, tightly defined programming questions answered. Stack Overflow is also run by a community with a reputation for being somewhat hostile and with a reputation for heavy handed moderation.

If you are a software vendor who is "moving support to Stack Overflow" then you should consider a few things:

1: If you think that all your support questions are tightly defined technical questions and answers well suited to the Stack Overflow format, then you are wrong.
2: Have you given any thought to how your customer feels about your company and your product when their question on Stack Overflow is voted down within seconds and then closed within minutes? Are you comfortable with your customers being roughly handled by the tough rules enforcement at Stack Overflow?
3: It is your job as a software vendor to be accepting of the varying levels of your customers technical capability, and to help them regardless of how well they are able to formulate their question
4: Your users will have questions that are not technical but they still want an answer from you. They have questions like "when is this happening?", "what is happening with feature X?", "I'm evaluating your product, does it do Y?", and of course "why the fuck is your product not working, I paid you good money, please fix it now."  How are those questions going to go down on Stack Overflow?
5: Your sales come partly through your support channel.  You've just thrown it at Stack Overflow, brushed your hands and walked away.  How does your sales hungry CEO feel about that?

None of this is the fault of Stack Overflow.  That's the way it works.  It's a technical question and answer site with clear requirements and a tough community.

So if your software vendor says "We've moved support to Stack Overflow" say to them, "We've moved our business".

A place you can ask questions that don't fit at Stack Overflow.

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