Nobody likes to be ignored.

Parametric CAD has been a major part of my life for the past 20 years. I’ve been an engineer working mostly on robotics control and automation systems – designing with CADKEY, AutoCAD and Pro/ENGINEER – and also have seen life on the other side as a consultant and support professional for SolidWorks.

As a CAD customer, I’ve filed more than my share of bug reports and enhancement requests. What all the CAD vendors have in common is that none of them ever got back to me. I don’t remember any requests of mine being implemented. Working in the reseller channel, I did finally get a few things implemented – but that was usually 5, 6 or 7 years later!

Why is filing software enhancement requests typically such a painful process? Why do so many CAD users feel like nobody is listening – as if their requests are just sucked into a black hole?

I don’t think it’s intentional. Although every CAD vendor wants to be responsive to their customer needs, it is often difficult for users to accurately describe their problem in an email, through a feedback form, or over the phone. And sometimes the support team simply cannot reproduce what’s happening.

In addition, it usually takes a year or so for the next version of traditional installed CAD to be released. Improvements are usually included with the latest release versus being part of the more frequent service packs. To date, waiting “forever” for results has been inevitable.

A Better Way to File Customer Requests

At Onshape, building a brand new CAD system from scratch gave us an opportunity to press the reset button on how we approach customer support, too. For starters, the advantages of a full-cloud system allowed us to rethink the way you report problems or request help.

A picture is worth a thousand words. At any point while using Onshape, you can initiate our Feedback tool, which is either a menu command or a hot key. This will let you take a snapshot of the screen – at the moment when you are experiencing difficulty – and you’ll be provided with a whole bunch of markup tools. You can write, draw, circle and type comments all over the screen to vividly illustrate what’s happening.

If you come across a bug, you can visually highlight everything that’s going on instead of trying to explain it in an email.

Because Onshape is a full-cloud CAD system, we’re able to work with you faster to get to the bottom of a problem. Our system recognizes which browser you’re using, your hardware and which commands you’ve clicked. In the event that you grant us permission to access your model, we can look at it together and more easily try to recreate what happened. 

One thing that I cannot stress enough: We can look at our logs and track actions, but we have zero idea what you are building unless you explicitly give us permission to look at your model. As we attest in our Statement of Principles, our responsibility to protect your intellectual property – even from our own eyes – is sacred.

How Onshape Tracks Bug & Enhancement Requests

When you send in a request, we will send you an acknowledgement that we’ve received it, and then have a back-and-forth dialogue about your issue. We then create a job ticket and attach it to an actionable item – a task on our development team’s to-do list – and enter it into our internal tracking system.

Anytime your ticket changes status, you will be notified. If it goes from a new ticket to an open ticket or a pending ticket, you’ll be notified.

We’re committed to be as open and transparent with you as possible about how and when we’re responding to your requests. You can also track the status of all of your tickets whenever you’d like and add comments. Just click on the “View support tickets” command in the pulldown menu under your username in the upper right corner of your Onshape window.

Once our development team has fixed a bug and it has gone through Quality Assurance, you’ll receive a notice that tells you that the update is live:

There’s nothing to download or install. Just refresh your browser and Onshape is automatically updated.

To date, I’m proud to say that Onshape has already fixed over 65% of all customer-reported bugs since pre-production began last summer. More often than not, users are pleased to discover their issue has been resolved within six weeks – not within a number of years!

Unlike with traditional CAD, which requires every user to know about and install each hotfix, Onshape can push out a hotfix as quickly as 24 hours – and it’s likely that most users may not even know there was ever a problem.

Customer Support is Part of Onshape’s User Experience (UX) Team

Many of us here at Onshape have also been CAD customers, and our goal is to eliminate that frustrating black-hole feeling that’s been so commonly experienced throughout the industry.

Support is not just a department of Onshape that exists to keep the customer happy. It also is an integral part of our User Experience and Product Development team.

Your feedback and suggestions are a barometer for how our customers are feeling overall and how they are using the product. Your input influences what you see us develop in every new update (which we aim to push out every 3-4 weeks or so). You are helping us build Onshape.

Whenever you strike up a conversation with any of my co-workers, you’ll quickly discover that the engineers who are writing code are just as customer-focused as our marketing/sales folks. In fact, all of our teams – Customer Support, User Experience, Quality Assurance and Development – share a strong sense of purpose to make your job easier.

But you’ll also find that Onshape “support” is not something you only experience with our employees. It’s a community thing. Sometimes the issue blocking your productivity might not be a bug or enhancement. Sometimes it might be advice on how to do something or approach a task in a new way. On the Onshape Forums, often you’ll get answers within an hour – with your fellow engineers and designers being just as likely as our staff to offer solutions. 

Our full-cloud CAD system is only as good as you think it is. Our top priority is adding features that will help you build what you want to build. Making some complex surface doesn’t matter if it doesn’t actually fit what you’re trying to design!

So please keep your feedback coming. Where we go next very much depends on you.