Lab seeks to improve how TPV support issues are addressed

C & TM Linden Research

As mentioned in the TPV/Developer meeting of the 24th August, Oz Linden has been taking steps to try an improve how issues are addressed by the company’s support teams when dealing providing support to users who are using a TPV as their viewer of choice.

That TPVs are collectively more popular than the official SL viewer is not that surprising. However, a lot of people still turn to Linden Lab for help when they encounter issues. As a result of this, LL have come in for criticism as to how they handle users who report that they are using TPVs, and it is this that has prompted Oz to try to improve how matters can be handled and addressed.

Identifying the Problem

The first part of dealing with any problem is correctly diagnosing whether it is in fact viewer-related or server-related. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because there are many parts of SL where the problem could reside either within the viewer or on the server-side of things (inventory issues being a good example) – hence why LL often get the call when things go wrong.

Because of this complexity, and in order to help improve the initial viewer issue / server issue diagnosis, Oz is working with LL’s support teams to put together a better set of heuristics for use in support staff training and guidance in identifying where a particular problem may reside. To help with this work, he has asked the TPVs supply lists of issues they have encountered which they know are not viewer issues, and how to recognise them. These lists can then be added to the information supplied to LL support staff to both speed the initial diagnosis of a problem and reduce the chances of a problem being mis-diagnosed from the outset.

It’s a Viewer Problem – But Can it be Reproduced on the LL Viewer?

When it comes to trying to resolve what appears to be a viewer issue, LL support staff will ask a) whether the user is using the official LL viewer; and b) if they have tried to reproduce the issue using the official LL viewer. These questions are often taken to mean LL’s support staff “do not want to help” with the problem if it appears to be TPV related.

However, this is not the case; the question is a perfectly valid part of trying diagnose a problem because:

  • If the problem can be reproduced using the official viewer, there is a chance support staff may be able to provide SL-viewer based assistance to resolve the issue
  • If the problem cannot be reproduced on the official viewer, then it at least helps point to the problem potentially being related to the TPV itself.

Obviously, if the problem does appear to be viewer-related but only manifests in a TPV, LL’s support personnel are unlikely to be able to give detailed help (simply because it is unfair to expect LL’s support personnel to be intimately versed in how to resolve issues occurring with all of the TPVs used to access SL). As such, they are going to pass the matter back to the user. When this happens, it can lead to frustrations and a feeling that LL “aren’t interested” in solving the problem.

To avoid this in the future, Oz is working with TPVs to ensure LL’s support staff are better placed to provide onward guidance rather than leaving users feeling they “don’t want to help”. This is being done by each TPV listed in the TPV Directory being asked to:

  • Add the details of any in-world support group(s) they operate to their Directory listing if they haven’t already done so
  • Use a new field in the Directory to give details of any additional locations where help on a specific TPV might be obtained (e.g. a website, a support forum, etc.)

Thus, should an issue appear to be related to a specific viewer which LL staff cannot help resolve, they will at least be able to point the user concerned in one or more directions where they can receive more focused assistance in order to resolve the problem.

Asking People to Complete the Survey

During the discussion, Oz reiterated that every support issue dealt with by LL staff should trigger a follow-up e-mail to the user concerned. While this might not happen until up to four days after the event itself, the e-mail does include a customer satisfaction survey. This is important for two reasons:

  • All survey responses are reviewed by a Linden Lab staffer; they are not farmed out to a third-party survey company or ignored or handled by an automated process
  • They are seen as a primary mechanism for determining how well support is identifying and dealing with issues to the satisfaction of LL’s users.

As such, Oz emphasised the importance for feedback to be given, particularly where there is strong evidence to show that support have failed to provide the correct assistance. While completing the survey may not help in resolving the issue itself, it may help pin-point errors within the support process, particularly if a number of surveys are received highlighting the same fault.

The current process by which support issues – particularly those with TPV problems reported to LL – are handled doesn’t always run smoothly, and there are times when issues do get mis-directed. However, Oz’s response to concerns raised during recent TPV developer meetings demonstrates that steps are being taken to address them. It has been suggested that LL post a blog entry on the initiatives explained here (particularly on the need for TPV users to understand why LL do ask about reproducing issues encountered using the official viewer). In lieu of that happening, I hope this piece will serve as an informational.

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4 thoughts on “Lab seeks to improve how TPV support issues are addressed

  1. Wow, this is actually rather nice of Linden Lab! After the flurry of messages that “Linden Lab has lost their ideals” and so forth — turning to gamers instead of focusing on developing the Metaverse — it’s very nice to see how Linden Lab is actively encouraging TPV usage by providing some support to TPV users, even if in a limited way.

    It’s also good to know that they’re following up on support requests. LL has always been seen as a company who provides little customer support, and only reluctantly so, specially after the days they had in-world Liaisons, Live Chat on the viewer, and thousands of Mentors and Greeters to help residents… of course that was mostly amateur volunteers, and obviously a company the size of LL is supposed to do a bit more in terms of professional customer support, but since the end of volunteer support, one of the biggest complaints (besides lag!) has always been the way LL handles their customers.

    This attitude seems to have been abandoned. That’s very good news.

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    1. I think it is very good that Oz has, since hearing about the problem of LL’s first-line support asking a very reasonable question (“Can you reproduce this problem on the official viewer?”) being taken to mean “LL don’t want to know”, been working to smooth over the bumps and ensure there is more feedback provided to users.

      This problem isn’t so much one with LL’s Customer Support as it is one of user perception of Customer Support (which admittedly isn’t that great at the best of times anyway) – so it is great to see a positive response from LL in trying to overcome the misconception. I just hope that users respond in kind and react more positively when the question is asked, rather than perhaps taking umbrage.

      It’s also good that Oz is turning to TPVs in order to furnish LL’s First Line support with better information to help recognise those issues that are not viewer issues, but do get misdiagnosed be LL Support on the basis that the user is using a TPV (and also may be unwilling to try to reproduce the problem using the official viewer). Again, in the case of the Phoenix / Firestorm support team in particular (given the popularity of both of these viewers), the support teams have probably been able to amass a wealth of information relating to what is / is not likely to be a viewer issue. Supplying such pointer to LL can only benefit the entire issue and problem management process for all.

      There are still some barriers that are likely to impeded the process however – although it is hard to see how they can be overcome without a lot of additional work. For example, should a problem be seen as a TPV problem, but the TPV team investigate and confirm that it is a more generic problem, say, with the viewer in general, their only official recourse is to raise a VWR JIRA with LL – which can, in some respects, put the matter in the lap of the gods as to when it will be dealt with.

      Overall, though, this is a positive move on LL’s part, and will hopefully be seen as such by users as a whole.

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  2. This sounds as if they’re reverting to how things were a few years ago. The last time I used Live Chat for a viewer-related matter was way back when V2 first came out and I was using Emerald. I asked why half my inventory had apparently vanished (I wasn’t worrying too much because I then had Windows and Linux on the same machine and, since my inventory was there in Linux but not Windows, I knew had to be an issue at my end).

    They told me to relog in the Official Viewer and explained pretty much what you’ve said in the article — that they weren’t trained to support Emerald but were trained to support the Official Viewer and thought they could talk me through recovering my inventory, and, then, it it transpired I could see it the Official Viewer but not Emerald, I’d know to take it up with the Emerald devs. But if we couldn’t get it back in the Official Viewer, then they’d know to escalate it to the next support level.

    It all sounded perfectly reasonable and sensible, and I had no idea anything had changed in the meantime (though I know that some of the more militant Emerald, and, later, Phoenix users used to react with horror to the suggestion they use the Official Viewer for anything, even for debugging purposes).

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    1. I think that one thing which may have changed is that LL altered elements of their support environment a couple of years back (I think I’m right in saying some of it is outsourced – but I’m lacking 100% certainty in saying that). TPVs issues aside, there does seem to be a broader possible lack of knowledge in the First Line support step-up, as another common complaint is that what amount to server-side issues frequently get putted back as being TPV issues – hence the request for information from the TPV support teams. Certainly Oz indicates in the meeting that there is at least one problem of this nature to have occurred often enough for it to have been directly addressed by LL.

      That people react so negatively to being asked to use the official viewer to try and repro problems doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, sadly.

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