In this post, Penguin Pete argued that Linux users are too soft and hence they don't get paid attention to. Well, he is partially right: most of us are outraged by the MS EULA stipulating that we must waive some personal freedoms, like the right to buy a computer as separate from Windows. In general, despite we are fed up with the "we don't support Linux" mantra that companies chant to brush us off, we don't do much about it...especially if we are Linux beginners.
However, there are instances in which we can show companies that, if they want to do business with us, they MUST offer us QUALITY SERVICE which, in my opinion, does not include refusal of support.
I had such opportunity two days ago. You see, because of the new grounds established by a Free Trade Agreement, my ISP (a cable TV company that formerly had to operate in conjunction with the government telecommunications agency) is now trying to get users to change their contracts, so that they essentially dump the government agency. I, therefore, received this call from a representative of the cable company. The guy on the phone went on with his speech, a talk full of rhetoric designed to trick gullible customers. The keynote was "we do this in the behalf of our clients. We charge you the same, but you have to pay only one bill: ours!"
Now, as I pay my bills online, paying one or two bills does not represent any benefit to me if it's the same amount anyway. There is a major consideration for switching, nevertheless. This issue is support: The government agency sent a technician to help my mother once. Given the fact that this unsuspecting techie did not chicken away when he saw that my mother uses Pardus GNU/Linux and solved the problem to the best of his abilities, I decided to ask a question to the overly friendly representative on the phone to assess the real service that they were offering me.
"Excuse me. Before I change my contract, I need to know something. Do you support Linux?" (With an inaudible crack, I could hear the script falling apart)
"Er...uh...Yes, of course. Is that an anti-virus?"
Since he had no idea of what I was talking about, I explained to him that I do not use Windows, but a different OS.
"Let me talk to my supervisor, please". I waited ten seconds and he came back with the rhetoric-covered half-truth I was expecting.
"My supervisor indicated to me that, yes, you can keep any operating system that you like."
"Sure, I already know that but, unfortunately, that's not what I asked you. I want to know if you support Linux. That is, when a client calls you because of any problem, you follow a script to troubleshoot. The script is Windows-based and, therefore, no good for me. I need to know whether or not you will help me if I ever have a problem with your service."
Panic's in the air...or in the line. "I'll transfer the call the my supervisor." (Touché!)
Some more waiting and I get the supervisor, another extra-kind employee. I laid the question on him plainly:
"Listen, they are offering me a change of contract. However, I am concerned about the support you can give me. So, do you support Linux?"
"I'm sorry, we don't..." His answer came with utmost desolation.
"I see. Then my contract stays as it is. Good day."
And that was it. Boy, it's so good to know they are recording calls for quality, hahaha!
Above all, from this interaction, the cable company must learn a rule of competition:
Concerning support, you must make your Linux clients an offer they can't refuse before expecting them to drop an agency that supports them.
(Special thanks to Penguin Pete for the lesson)