That does indeed happen at some unfriendly times unfortunately. I certainly agree that using a call-center approach could lead to some less than desired results. You have suggested some good ideas but I doubt that they will meet with much success with the VAR's.
This discussion forum can provide some pretty timely help considering that there are users from time zones worldwide checking in.
If I come up with other suggestions, I'll post them.
I'm always amazed at what comes up on Google. Unfortunately, most of the problems I've been having lately are due to the new release.
You're dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.
If you wait to upgrade, there will be less problems, but then if everybody waits, nobody will find the problems.
One problem I had recently was I was installing SW on a new computer after hours. I had some red-hot consulting work to do and I bought a new mobile workstation. I'm allowed to install and have SW active on two computers. I had it installed on one computer and the mobile workstation would be the second.
When I went to install it, it said that it was already active on two machines. I had no idea what was going on.
This was at like 6:00 in the evening.
I was unable to work that evening and it cost me a lot of money, put my client back a bit, and was just overall frustrating not knowing what was going on.
The next day I called and found out that somebody was using my serial number. Everything got resolved, but I can tell you, I would have preferred at least having the option of talking to somebody in India than nobody at all.
Well, sure. Everyone's needed tech-support on the weekend at some point-the same as everyone's needed a bank to be open on a weekend at some point.
Having been an Application Engineer for a SolidWorks VAR, I can tell you the following.
Generally, AE's are salaried non-exempt employees. That means that they don't punch a time-clock, but there are still labor laws that require overtime pay if they report working more than 40 hours per week. Also AE's usually do training, consulting, product demonstrations and roll-outs in addition to phone support, so a lot of that after-hours time is spent preparing for those tasks. It's a pretty tough gig and when you finally do get personal time, you don't jump with enthusiasm at a customer call interrupting a date. And finally, an AE is a professional position requiring skill, training and experience: you can't call a temp-agency and get one from the data-entry/call center pool.
Another thing that might factor: when I was a tech, SolidWorks and Autodesks corporate help-centers weren't open on the weekends. The times I did work on the weekends or late at night for a client, I was pretty-much on my own if the situation went south (and once it did and I ended up wasting a thousand dollars of a client's money on an issue I couldn't resolve onsite.)
However, that's not to say that there aren't options-especially if you're willing to pay extra.
First, if you want something special from your VAR, talk to your account rep, not the tech. The AE isn't vested with the authority to enter into deals or take into consideration how many seats you bought or how long you've kept up your subscription. Your account rep has a lot more flexibility to negotiate among the interested parties. Resellers operate in territories, but some of them are global companies with offices in multiple time zones and might be able to offer an extended hours support deal
Finally, AE's are hired from and often return to manufacturing. You can hire talent with past reseller experience as consultants or directly as internal resources. But matter-of-factly, resellers are for-profit businesses and keeping a lid on overhead is a pretty important concern for them, so if you want something outside the customary level of support, you'll have to have something to offer in exchange.
I don't wholeheartedly agree.
I'm asking for creative solutions.
AE's as you call them, or tech support agents, would not be compulsorily required to participate. They could select when and if they want to respond.
Since they are salaried, that makes it a lot easier to manage. Especially here in the People's Republic of California. I have very little flexibility with my hourly employees, which is sad. I like to treat adults like adults, but the state says that these people aren't capable of making decisions for themselves.
If they are on a date, as you put it, no need to answer.
If they're at home drinking a beer watching the DVR, hit pause if you want and help out.
Compensation could be other than money. It could be time added to the work week (leave early on occasion, maybe, or an extra day off from time to time?).
I would imagine that if I was a tech, I would want a creative way to purchase my own seat of solidworks as well as other products, simulation, CAM, etc. This could be it.
Or they could get what I get when I help SolidWorks: Nothing.
For example, one weekend, I reported a bug by submitting it as an ER. I didn't know what else to do. There was nobody to call. I got an email back from SW saying that I needed to report it to my VAR. Here goes 20-30 min of my time on the phone, press 1, press 2, wait for callback, etc, for nothing. I don't get anything for my extensive amount of time invested in helping SolidWorks grow (except for angry trolls hurling insults here on the forums).
What if a VAR is in multiple countries around the globe? Then the support call could just roll to another english-speaking country. Does HawkRidge operate in England?
I'm just saying, I'll bet there are intelligent solutions.
You say: "if you want something outside the customary level of support, you'll have to have something to offer in exchange".
I say (to quote Les Claypool) "to defy the laws of tradition is a crusade only of the brave".
Maybe it's the brave VAR that comes up with a game-changing solution. I can't speak for everybody else, but I can tell you that if I only had one seat of SW, therefore, I could only interact with one VAR, the VAR that could offer some sort of extended tech support would almost for sure get my business. I can't imagine what would trump that. Not even Hawkware. Not even bottle-opening flash drives.
This would be up to VAR management to decide to offer this. I know when I was working for GEI technology (pre-GoEngineer) we offered extended support for customers (evenings and weekends). SolidWorks offers tech support to VAR's globally 24/7.
I can imagine that sometime in the distant future when the there are only a few select VAR's left and/or the VAR channel evaporates that direct support from SolidWorks would be available 24/7