Getting Your Research Questions Answered Quickly with the Various Golden Helix Support Mediums

         March 9, 2011

From the Customer Support Desk…

At Golden Helix, we place a strong emphasis on customer support and helping our customers use the software to the best of their abilities to answer any research questions they have. Due to such a strong emphasis on customer and technical support, there are numerous sources of help available. These include the low tech option of a phone call or the fastest way to get a situation-specific response… email. There are also additional resources on our website where customers can locate a solution or learn about an analysis approach on their own. These online sources include written tutorials, video tutorials, blog entries, the SVS Manual. It can be confusing trying to determine where to go to first for help, especially in the support climate of today that tries to distance the user from a real person. I’d like to help you figure out how to navigate our multiple support mediums while still encouraging you to contact us directly when you want to talk to a human being that can tailor an answer specific to your needs.

With advances in our software moving at a rapid pace, it has been hard to keep all of the possible sources of help and information simultaneously updated as features have been deprecated or fixed in later releases of the software. The tutorials and the manual will always contain the most up-to-date information for the current release of the software. The information in these might not be applicable to older versions of the software as new features are added or adjusted to meet our customers’ needs. However, older versions of the manual can always be requested (the manual as always comes with the software both in a PDF version and in an interactive help dialog version).

The newest form of communication we have with our customers is this blog, Our 2 SNPs…™. Of course, as development on the software continues, information contained in our blog will become outdated. Fortunately, most people expect technology blog posts of a certain age to not always contain the most up-to-date information. It is also handy that blog posts identify the date they are created. Even if the version of the software used when describing a workflow or tips is not specifically stated, it would be easy to determine the version needed to replicate the steps based on the blog post date.

This brings us to the knowledge base. Theoretically, a knowledge base is a good repository for questions asked by customers and responses from Golden Helix or other customers as well as comments on the knowledge base article. When we first established the knowledge base, it was the hip thing to do. We seeded it with frequently asked questions from our customers and waited to be inundated by requests for knowledge base articles or have comments posted by our customers.

It turned out that the knowledge base framework is not the most ideal way to convey information (and current information to say the least) to our customers. We did not want to remove old posts when we moved from version 6.4 to version 7.0, and there was no easy way to flag old articles that are no longer relevant to the current version of the software. Visitors to the knowledge base can (and some do) submit comments which are then sent to the support team directly.  Because we care about providing a personal response to our customers or prospective customers instead of directly posting answers to comments or questions on the knowledge base, answers are sent directly to the customer (as long as a comment was not posted anonymously).

Sometimes on the knowledge base, misinformation is posed in a comment, and the poster has elected to remain anonymous. Yes we could just remove the comment, but we would rather be able to contact the individual directly to address any concerns or problems that they are having.

More and more these days, it seems that knowledge bases are being replaced by repositories for short tutorials to address any questions or problems. Or even support blogs. While Golden Helix does not have a dedicated support blog, we have and intend on continuing to address common support questions or concerns in our company blog. More complicated questions and responses are being turned into tutorials at a greater frequency. These tutorials are easier to manage and keep up-to-date. Finally, we always encourage our customers to call or email us their specific concerns. When we are able to have a conversation with our customers, we can determine how to best resolve the issue. Whether the resolution requires writing a custom script, updating a tutorial, creating a tutorial, updating the manual, or so on. We can also usually solve the problem “live” (on the phone, via webinar, quick emails) or within a few days.

Most of the questions our customers have cannot be summarized in one or two sentences. As you probably know, most things having to do with genetics are not straight forward. There is rarely a definitive answer on any one topic. I feel a blog is the best forum for best practices or workflows that are still under debate. Tutorials are best for more concrete workflows. Emailing or calling us here at Golden Helix support is the best way to bring to light potential bugs or inaccurate results or ask how a certain kind of data can be imported.

If someone is unsure of where to get an answer to a question, the best solution is to contact us here at support. We are more than willing to walk you through a sticking point, or if you’d prefer, point you in the direction of a specific tutorial or blog post. Sometimes the answer to a question exists in multiple places, and it can be confusing as to which is the best answer.

We like to encourage our customers to get to know us and to feel comfortable asking for help when it is needed. I hope that I have persuaded you to seek support when it is needed and provided clarity on where to look for answers to support questions. …And that’s my 2 SNPs.


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