The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has announced that it will help fund the development of an affordable, alternative internet solution for low-income…
My first job was in product development. Our team consisted of 120 odd people spread out over the third floor of our building. The support team was an equally big bunch situated on the fourth floor and to be honest, we had a fair amount of disdain for the support team. After all, we were the visionaries. We were the humans doing new things, creating code, changing the world (in our eyes). They? They were just fixing little things here and there, tending to customers, doing things we could easily do but weren’t because we didn’t have to.
Come one fine February and a few of us were being shifted to support. Tears were shed and horror stories told (“It’s going to be so boring.” “You’re going over to the dark side.” “Goodbye creativity.” etc). I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t being shifted.
Two weeks later, our spies reported back to us saying that *gasp* it wasn’t quite so different after all. There was still the racking of brains over an unusual bug, the same tension to stick to a deadline and even, an added difficulty of dealing with actual clients.
The Trouble with Developers
Product development takes over your life. You spend so much time working on a product that finally you know everything there is to know about it. Every feature has been gone over. Every nook and cranny has been looked at. But the thing is some of the most intricately designed features might look incredibly simple to the outside world. As a developer, you know why that window takes a second longer to open and why that button looks like it could do with being a few pixels to the left. For those of us who build products, we can safely say: this product is our world. And that’s what makes us so terrible at customer support.
A customer does not want your long-drawn out explanation for why it’s okay to wait a second longer for a page to load. Because it’s not okay. Customers do not want to know the why of it. What they do want to know is how you’re going to fix it.
Basecamp has a pretty nifty system in place, called Everyone on Support, which basically means:
“…everyone on the team—no matter what their normal job is—spends one day per month as a customer support agent.”
Jason Zimdars talks about taking off the developer goggles, which cause you to view your product in an extremely biased light. You know those Instagram filters that make you look like you have flawless skin? That’s how developers view their product. It’s time to remove the filters and see your product for what it really is.
Feel the customer’s pain
Your customer isn’t going to be impressed by the technology you used or the absolute magic you know is behind a great piece of code. To them, technology can be clunky and frustrating. In customer support, the job is to make technology a little less clunky and a little less frustrating for the end user. And a developer cannot often see that.
A large part of the lean strategy involves customer development, which is basically finding the pain point for your customers, or who you think your customers are going to be. However, during development, developers get into the mode of writing awe-inspiring code that makes them forget about everything else.
Customer support is about listening to customers after development is done. It’s a task that isn’t the easiest but is very important. Customer support isn’t about justifying what’s wrong with your product but empathising with the customer (which can help a lot) and finding ways to fix the problem.
Customer support helps you too!
There is more to a company’s success than just an excellent product. Here’s the thing: Happy customers mean more referrals ie more business. Unhappy customers can be downright detrimental to your product. It’s a proven fact that a bad review reaches far more places than a good one ever will. So in a way, a good customer experience is a sort of promotion for organisations and who doesn’t want that?
Remember, your customers are what will keep your business running. So maybe it’s time you put as much thought into keeping your customers happy as you do, product development!
Image by Lorenzo via Flickr