Telephone support

So you have made a killer product. You are playing with the big boys and girls now.

Is there a particular reason why you are not hiring a telephone tech support team? This thing is great, but like every other product, people are going to run into snags. You have the ability to diagnose problems in real time. Your tech support should be amazing.

I am sitting here pulling my hair out because I can’t print. I am sure you could help me in a few minutes.

Your tech support staff are extremely knowledgable and cleaver. … but they are days behind and troubleshooting through email is brutally slow and very inefficient.

What is your plan to have a proper telephone support team in place?

Yours in Tough Love,



Having managed support teams for a couple of decades now, in my experience, telephone support is considerably slower and far less efficient than a standard ticketing system. E-mail support without access to the back-end ticket system is a good 2nd choice, but it leaves the user powerless to know what’s happening. Whereas if they can just hop into their ticket, they can know that “Since the last time we spoke, Julie has {action1}, {action2}, and is waiting for results from {action3} before contacting the customer again.” But telephone support is, in my opinion, quite likely the worst way to try and provide excellent support.


Not sure about that… If the ticket is opened and responded to within an hour, ok. But three days?

I will say it depends on the issue. If it is a common issue that users run into that is confusing enough that they need an expert to walk them through a solution, I feel that a live human being is fantastic.

Still, it depends on the customer’s style on how they consume information and how they best receive help. For some, asynchronous email works… for others it doesn’t. Me thinks.


Thinking it depends on which side of Support we are discussing. If it’s the Company side then Tom’s suggestion is likely accurate. The current approach is probably many times more efficient for the company. Of course it sucks for the individual when asking about quick fix problems. More involved issues that require investigation by powering up and down, calibration and time sucking test prints won’t fare well with telephone support because it ties up a paid person.

Of course we all want instant or quick solutions so the current approach is painful to us.


Having worked as a tech support provider for 3D printers for almost three years, I can tell you that I am much more efficient via written medium. I can provide instructions that the users can easily refer back to, I can store and provide answers to common questions, I can track the status of each ticket. For phone support, you have to do all of this while still explaining to the customer what they need to do.
About 1/3 of the phone support I provide starts with 10 minutes of calming the customer down before I can even get started. About 1/3 of those, the customer can’t calm down long enough to even start troubleshooting.
Email removes emotion from the equation. My customer service voice really makes some users angry. Others calm down immediately as soon as it comes out. This lack of consistency means that I have to take more time to work through a ticket, often 3 to 4 times longer.
I also notice that many users are unable to follow simple directions over the phone. It can take three or four different explanations to get someone to understand a set of instructions where if they are written they can go back to them as often as they need.
There is also accountability and records. Phone conversations are not easy to record and store and refer back to, especially as unless they are transcribed, only one party usually has access. There are also legal issues with recording the phone conversation and storing it.
I prefer written communication for technical support, both providing and receiving. It gives me the ability as a customer to go back and realize that even though it seems like it has been 2 weeks since I heard from anyone, in reality it was only Friday.


A modest proposal:

How about paid phone support for those users that can’t or won’t wait for the free email/forum support? Either per incident or by subscription.


  • Motivates users to RT :glowforge: M: support website, forum, etc., first
  • Weeds out the callers that just want to vent (unless they really want to !)
  • Reduces the number of users whose knee-jerk response is to speed-dial support
  • Subsidizes the cost of maintaining a call center (most people don’t understand how flipping expensive this is)


  • Infuriates users that feel entitled to instantaneous support

Before folks break out the pitchforks, torches, and flags – none of the above “users” described above are based upon actual persons, either living or deceased. They are based on actual helpdesk callers in non-GF settings. No animals were harmed in the posting of this reply.


Are you sure this is a con? :wink:


Suuure they’re not. :smile:


Well, maybe not whilst I’m in BOFH mode… :wink:

Any similarity is strictly coincidental.


Obviously no matter what method of support, it needs to be staffed appropriately. And I don’t think Glowforge is, at the moment. I think they’re a little shy of where they need to be today, which means they’ll only get farther behind as they produce units more quickly. Honestly, though, I bet they’re only about 1 or 2 techs short of where they need to be today. I think they should over-hire today and cherry-pick who they want to keep once initial issues disappear.

Excellent point. Like you said, there’s no emotion in an e-mail. No time wasted on things that won’t resolve the issue.

I was going to edit my post to include this language once I got back from lunch. Now that I’m back, I can just say… Yep! This, too! :slight_smile:

Clearly you don’t remember the year of whining we all had to endure every time a Glowforge was delivered 30 milliseconds before someone with a more entitled sense of existence.


It is hard to judge based on the information we have if there are enough technicians. Three days sucks, yes. My 5 days was bad. I wonder though if the ones that wait longer are possibly where a tech sees the ticket, looks it over, and doesn’t see an immediate need for a return. The tech then leverages the community to see if a solution comes up, assigning the ticket a lower priority than tickets that require a return. As we have seen, some users need Glowforge to call them to arrange the return even before the Glowforge is delivered in order to be happy, so I assume DOA units are highest priority.
I also suspect that they are either training additional techs or are attempting to work through the current rush. The company environment I see from available information is that GF likes to get and keep good people whenever possible and it may be that they don’t want to cherry pick or risk getting someone who isn’t good. I can tell you from experience it is hard to find good techs and they are expensive to train.

I always prefer techs who can think for themselves. “Techs” who simply read from a script are the worst, but they’re considerably easier to get up-to-speed, of course. I can’t tell if Glowforge is using a combination of both at this time or not.

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I am of the belief that phone support would not work in the case of a Glowforge, at least not in the current state of manufacturing and delivering. Trying to get a machine talking to the Wifi would be a phone support benefit, but is it worth it without the rest?

A phone support group is going to have their list of 20 question responses to roll through. Once that is done with no success, you would be passed on to a better knowledge source. For us that would probably entail one of the tech’s. I like to think they have their hands full just doing their job and am willing to bet the forum responses here are already done well beyond normal working hours (no evidence other than having worked with energetic techs before).

There is also the proofgrade concept that they adhere to. Smart move there.
With so many materials out there that could (and also some that shouldn’t) be placed into the machine, they are only supporting the tried and true Proofgrade brand. A large part of the forums today are Beyond The Manual for Goofgrade support (love that term) just for this reason. So no phone help there, but a metric ton of fellow user support and suggestions on the forum.

Moving into the myriad art and cad programs, and the peculiarities of each is way way beyond any phone help, since it is not their job to flatten the learning curve for your art program of choice. Almost beyond the forums from time to time until someone pauses their current endeavors to poke at it and figure out why it is breaking.

So your best bet with phone support is going to be those 20 questions and they are pretty much answered already here in the forum from past query responses.
Here is an often repeated response, which will probably be Phone Support Response #2 (response #1 is always = ‘Check If Plugged In’).

Use Proofgrade™ materials
Enter the thickness of the material if it’s not Proofgrade
Use material that is not warped or tilted
Place your design near the center of the bed
Clean the area underneath your crumb tray, particularly the four indentations on the floor
Reboot the machine if you see the alignment drifting

Sorry for the ramble.


I think you’ve a good point there, and immediately jumped to the idea of a FAQ section.
Where is it ?

Well, sort of.
But most FAQ’s that I’ve visited (and that’s quite a few) are really for the brain dead, who do need to be led by the hand, and I suspect that we have our share on the forum, from what I observe.

I don’t want to go too deeply into this, it was just an idea from our side of the fence, and the Support’s Troubleshooting FAQ’s definitely seem to be seen from 'their ‘side.
No, I’m thinking more along the lines of the sort of repetitive questions that are mostly answered by forum members (you know who you are!) who give up valuable cutting time to answer the same or similar questions that crop up so often.
There is so much wonderful info spread across the pages of the forum, but I believe a lot of newcomers don’t have the experience to make good use of the search tool, and a ‘go to’ page might at least reduce that load a bit.
Just my 2 old pennies’ worth.

Given the range of experience from folks having it for over a year to those like myself that barely got it in the door there are plenty of folk with different levels of knowledge that I could be helped by almost anyone as they all have at least set up their machine, to more sophisticated issues that I am not yet able to imagine but I can help with Blender, AutoCAD, Gimp and a bit now with Inkscape.

The technical problem is a system that the one helping opens the conversation and phone # are masked but can volunteer as there time allows.

Yes, absolutely.
I think my idea of the FAQ’s would be a first point of reference, so hopefully reducing the load on a telephone support system, and that it might be more favourably considered by Support.