I just read an InfoWorld blog entry by contributor Matt Asay. He covers the world of open source computing, but this particular item happened to start out with his frustration in dealing with a remote (outsourced) support person at WebEx. He found the experience frustrating. Amen, brother.
While WebEx is not alone in this area, they are one company that has exemplified the problem for me as well. I have dealt with WebEx on quite a few client engagements. Not surprising, since they have significant market share and one of the leading web conferencing suites for large scale enterprise use. I have run into the same problems as Matt, dealing with overseas support personnel who are working off a script, taking me through each stage of preliminary questioning before being able to dig into the specifics of the problem. I sometimes get snippy with these people because I know enough about the software to have tried the obvious level-one stuff myself. I'm not proud of my attitude in these cases and I try to watch out for it... they are just doing their job in the way they are trained and evaluated. But gosh... sometimes you just want a tech support person who can get his/her hands dirty, knows the insides of the product, and if they don't know, can call across the room to an internal guru. At WebEx, I eventually got the magic phone number for in-house level-two tech support, which is a closely guarded secret. I made it my direct line for help when working on tricky situations and I've been much happier.
Note that this isn't always the way it goes... I called the folks at Macromedia (now Adobe) Breeze to ask some pre-sales questions on behalf of a client. I got shuttled around to a few in-house numbers and eventually they dumped me off on a reseller - Clarix. Expecting the worst, I was delighted to find that my contact at Clarix knew everything I had questions about and provided good support that the Breeze folks seemed to have trouble fielding.
My best vendor support experiences so far have been with Raindance. Even though they were recently acquired, the support team handling their enterprise webinar software answers the phone directly and every person I've dealt with has been able to help me without a transfer. Oh yes, I also got a followup email from a client services rep to make sure that everything had been taken care of to my satisfaction.
Many of the serious enterprise-level large audience webinar software vendors (Microsoft, WebEx, Breeze) offer their products through resellers as well as direct. It's worth checking out whether a reseller offers direct technical support themselves and finding out if they have better access and better knowledge than the front-line teams at the vendors.
When you are doing vendor selection, support should be a significant consideration. Call the tech support line. Do it a few times. Find out how many hoops they make you jump through on qualification questions before getting to your question. Find out if they know the product themselves or are following a numbered script. Ask them if they have direct access to engineering if you manage to stump them.
Finding the parties who will be best able to serve you and answer your questions in a hurry will head off a world of frustration later on.