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Okay, deep breath here. I'm going to put on my "Tech Support" hat and speak as a former tech support rep. Fair enough?
Years ago I earned my living by working in a call center. I wasn't an Adobe employee, but worked for a different company. Specifically, I supported PC Hardware, Software and Communication Lines. Based on that experience as well as making some generic observations based on my own experiences with "tech support", I can attest that it boils down to "you might get what you pay for". Hang onto your hat. This explanation is going to expose the ugly gritty truth. The underbelly of most software houses.
You have to understand that tech support in general is an area to be avoided. Everyone avoids it! The brass that run companies most often see it as little more than a drain on profits. Profits that could otherwise be used to light their next cigars. They have made the sale already and if they had their way, nobody would ever call tech support because it wouldn't exist. Tech support makes them no money. In fact, it costs them money. So they look only at the dollars and cents and in nearly every case it makes sense from their financial picture to simply outsource it to the cheapest bidder. Think about it. Even when a company decides to run their own tech support, who do they choose to staff their phones with? The bottom level folks. While to do it right and effectively, the job most often requires the skills of a ten year veteran that has worked in all departments and has a better understanding of the whole picture than most anyone else working there, they decidedly make Tech Support an "entry level" job to be staffed by unskilled folks off the street at the most bottom dollar they can get away with paying.
I've used RoboHelp since version 2. I judge myself to be average in skills. I've never had a need to call Tech Support. The thing is, with a resource such as these forums, I struggle to see or understand why anyone would consider an ability to connect with support to be an advantage. Most often, an advantage you are willing to pay for. So I stand on the sidelines constantly shaking my head when I read posts such as these. Chuckling to myself at the frustration many must feel to finally reach support only to be given misinformation or a simple solution for something that could have been so much more easily remedied if they had only dropped a question out here in the forums.
Help software is not unlike a marriage. Go ahead, switch to Flare if you feel it is better. But just like trading spouses, don't be surprised if you find that afterwards, all you really managed to do was to trade one set of issues for a completely different set. Or maybe even the same set in different packaging!
I will say that in the end, Flare and RoboHelp are both tools. One may be better in one respect while the other may be better in the other respect. Sure, Madcap is a smaller and more nimble company. Just last week I recall seeing a post somewhere where a Flare user was complaining about the frequency of updates and how hard it was to stay on top of all of them.
I'm sure Madcap will be quite happy to promise you the moon and to tell you how gawd awful and outdated RoboHelp is. How the RoboHelp code is just horrible. But keep in mind that these folks hate Adobe's guts for no other reason than Adobe decided to continue developing RoboHelp. See, if Adobe hadn't decided to continue with RoboHelp, it would have died and Madcap would have had an automatic vast customer base as a result. When that failed to materialize, they were mad as all get out and just hated Adobe. Additionally, keep this in mind when they tell you that RoboHelp has gawd awful code held togther with twigs and rocks, that if this is truly the case, where did the twigs and rocks come from? Oh yeah, it was the same folks! (Sort of makes you wonder what they will be saying about Flare in a few years, doesn't it?)
Ahyhow, I do hope you find a tool that works for you.
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I'd echo Rick's thoughts about Tech Support (as a former Support person, it's too often the case).
In my company's case, we bought the "Gold" level support package when we first got TCS2.0; any time I reported anything, I never saw a fix for my issues (hard errors in RH & FM); this year when the contract came up for renewal, we scaled back to the "Silver" level. It just wasn't worth the extra money (the portion for upgrades however is worth every penny). Next year, we may even drop the Silver level as I haven't needed to call them at all.
The forums and other mailing lists can often give you much more than support can deliver. Also remember that the front line people you talk to in Adobe aren't really the ones who can usually solve your problem - those guys are too busy (and too experienced) developing to do any support. All the front lines can do is log your problem and collect info so that a programmer can figure out what the fix could be in the next patch or release.
Hi, and thanks for at least raising the issue instead of just leaving for the unknown!
You are absolutely right that Adobe's Technical Support has not been up to the mark in the past. There are clear signs this is changing especially with regard to Adobe RoboHelp and the Tech Comm Suite. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Adobe RoboHelp Product Manager, Ankur Jain, at the WritersUA conference and I asked him about the status of the technical support changes that are being beefed up.
He assured me that since taking over management of the product, he is particularly focused on this issue. In addition to some reorganization of this effort recently, he has also asked his engineering team to take a more direct interest in this forum. As you know, the Adobe Forums are "peer to peer" assistance. Folks like, Rick, Peter Grainge, Jeff and a ton of others spend countless hours monitoring the messages and responding (on a voluntary basis by the way!)
Meanwhile, I have noticed quite a few posts that have been made directly by Adobe engineers even though they do not monitor the boards officially. Sometimes, we "experts (cringe)" will forward a post to engineering when we hit a wall on some issue. They often post back directly very quickly.
Bottom line is that you can certainly be assured of Adobe's commitment to RoboHelp after so many years of neglect by the former owners. There have been four excellent releases since 2007 and many more exciting things are on the horizon.
No one is better at raising "fear uncertainty and doubt" than our competitive friends. They are masters at it. So, weigh carefully your experience and knowledge of RoboHelp vs the learning curve that's sure to be needed no matter what tool you might use.
Regardless, we authors in the trenches as well as the Adobe folks will be here to help.
Adobe Certified RoboHelp and Captivate Instructor
I appreciate the various, detailed responses to this question.
It's good to hear that Adobe hasn't abandoned the concept of providing quality tech support. This information is encouraging.
I agree that for most questions or issues, these forums are the best place to go for information about using RoboHelp in the real world. However, I do think that there are infrequent instances when it's completely appropriate to expect to be able to interact with a technical expert, inside the company, if, for example, a software bug has you blocked and no forum-proffered workaround will do.
Thanks again for sharing you insights.
Rick is right - front line tech support at any company tends to be dismal. His post reminded me of the last two times I called Apple tech support, which supposedly has stellar customer support. Each time I got such bad information that I felt like throwing my iPad under a bus. But when you actually do find expert help, it makes all the difference. As a result of escalation, and making appointments with a "genius", my iPad does not feature tire tracks today. It turns out it is worth the trouble it takes to show up with the iPad in hand.
Same thing at Dell - I have 5 Dell computers, and recently got a rep who was an absolute pro - but usually get Tier 1 people who are clueless. You can't be mad at them, it's state of the art across the industry.
I switched from RoboHelp years ago because after the Macromedia acquisition, there was absolutely no information on the Adobe site on how to generate print publications. I'm sure they are better now, though. I too met Ankur, and he is smart as hell, ambitious and hard-working, and a credit to Adobe. But like all big companies, phone tech support at Adobe is a crap shoot - you may or may not get someone who knows something. For my other Adobe products, I use the forums before I even touch the phone. In their defense, I must say that I haven't called about RoboHelp since 2005 - it has probably improved a lot.
But I must say that at Madcap it is a different story. I no longer use Flare, but there are no clueless people on their front line. I don't know how they do it, but I found that even the new guys I spoke to over the years caught up very quickly. And their Forum is outstanding because people just love the products - even though sometimes it's love/hate - and they want to contribute and connect with other users.
Because of my years of experience with Flare, and because it is at XML-based and at least half DITA-compliant, I always recommend it over RoboHelp. I think Adobe has huge challenges with other tech writing tools too - in most of the big companies in Silicon Valley, FrameMaker use is diminishing steadily and being replaced with XMetaL. And Captivate is a fantastic tool, but I see more Camtasia usage in my company (I prefer Captivate).
Nevertheless, as an Adobe stockholder, and a dedicated user of their excellent CS products, I wish Adobe well. Over time, I believe they will adapt and grow.
I think what you are seeing with the difference between Madcap and Adobe is the difference anyone would see between a tiny company and a mega company. Madcap is tightly focused only on their few products while Adobe has pretty close to a hundred products. There is likely no single support area specializing in RoboHelp or Framemaker. The front line or tier 1 tech likely has to field questions on Photoshop one moment, Frame the next and the next it may be Flash or Premiere Pro.
LOL, one of the old jokes with the call center where I worked was hearing the lazy or less experienced techs advise customers to "reboot your system and call us back". It was their standard way of getting folks to hang up and boost their stats. (Hey look! I handled 70 calls today in record time!) They knew the odds were that the customer would just get a different tech upon calling back.
I'm admittedly biased, but personally I feel that the many folks that hang out here in the RoboHelp forums make them equally outstanding. I'd like to think that a large part of the fact the forums are outstanding (Madcap as well as Adobe) is because of the nature of help development. Those of us in this area tend to like being helpful.
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"Those of us in this area tend to like being helpful."
Bingo! Where's the Thumbs-Up button?
Thank you for sharing your experience on Adobe support and apologize for the inconvenience that you’ve experienced as part of your conversation with support, but would like to bring everyone up to speed on the changes that Adobe has made in the recent past.
We have moved away from the traditional outsourced support model for most publishing products such as RoboHelp and have transitioned using an in-house model with Adobe badged employees. We’ve made some significant improvements in our overall delivery processes and have been observing the impact it has created with various customers on their overall support experience.
We encourage you call the Adobe helpline numbers and check for yourself on the changes we’ve made on RoboHelp. And for you to navigate the IVR systems easily, here’s how you can reach the support team > 800-833-6687 followed by Option 2 > Option 5 > Option 3.
We would be glad to get your feedback as we evolve on this new structure and potentially provide the best imaginable support experience going forward to all Adobe customers.
Thank you for your co-operation and looking forward to your inputs,
Adobe RoboHelp Support
Thanks for publishing those phone numbers and giving us an update on the efforts to improve Technical Support for RoboHelp. I teach RoboHelp classes and I have had favorable feedback since you have moved "in house." Clearly something is changing for the better. This is encouraging.