Monday, September 29, 2008

Support thoughts from Teamness

Have you ever written an email to the support mailbox of a service and got back either an answer which had nothing to do with the question, or a generic one which didn't solve anything?

Image by bobdegraaf

Some of these companies outsource the technical support for their products, so many times your message ends up being bounced between different departments involved, until some has a clue. In the mean time you get back all sorts of standard answers that don't even touch your problem and you need to answer back, otherwise the issue is considered closed.

Small companies' advantages

Support in Teamness benefits from the advantages of a startup, as it is done in house by the developers themselves. This eases communication, as the answers come in a personal manner from either me or Paul.

Notifications about problems in the application are investigated personally by us, instead of forwarding the email to a QA department, as would happen in a bigger company. If a "problem" is spotted, fixing it becomes priority number one, without going through the process of testing, analyzing impact of the fix and so on.

Benefits for the team

There are also advantages for us in doing the support ourselves, the ones developing the application, because we get to "feel" the feedback. A person who is not involved in the development process will act as a buffer for the users' feelings. As a startup, you need to actually listen to the user and really get connected to the complaints and suggestions.

Generally speaking, I think it's a very good practice to put people involved in development to perform customer support.

In the past, I had colleagues that really understood the frustrations of the users, but others named some of the requests as being "stupid". Maybe some are not very "smart" questions, but something lies hidden under every request. Not finding a button on the page could also mean that it's not properly positioned, not necessarily that the "stupid" user overlooked it. Most of the users just want to use your software, not to think about how to use it, so don't make them think.

Always reply. Quickly.

I feel happy when I get an answer back in the same day, so we're trying to answer as quickly as possible, within a few hours after receiving the email. Adding a human reply, not like coming from an answering machine surprises some of the users in a pleasant manner.

When I ask for support, I also like to be the one ending the conversation, so in Teamness we reply to every email, until the person decides to stop.

Dealing with rejection

It's never nice to see users leaving, but we try to see the positive side. One of our users wrote about a problem we weren't able to reproduce. We analyzed the logs and nothing seemed weird and while we were trying to discuss and understand the problem he decided to close his account.

We sent a polite email telling that we're sorry he decided to quit and we tried to learn as much as possible from this experience. Feedback is not easy to get in the beginning stage, since most users just walk away if they don't like something.

Good support pays off

Two weeks ago we got an email from someone asking for something that didn't make sense to us in the beginning. Further discussing the matter, we understood that the user wanted a title for the tasks. He was kind enough to give us screenshots with visual explanations of what he wanted, which is something you rarely get from a user. We added his wish on our tasks list, in a way which will not interfere with the existing features and wrote back with details of what we intend to do. Recently we found this nice review written by that user.

We know this is only the beginning in terms of support adventures in Teamness. We intend to post more stories from support in the future, so please stay tuned.

1 comment:

Azhar said...

I really appreciate the teamness support.