Why Your Developers Need To Pick Up Support Queries

I’ve taken so many bullets for my development team that I’m starting to look like Butch & Sundance. A recent update to one of our systems led to a 500% increase in support tickets, all a result of issues that looked trivial on paper but had a huge impact on the customer experience.

computer club

But how do you make your tech guys sit up and take notice of bugs they see as minor annoyances? When the workaround is “just press F5” or “log out and log back in”, how do you convince them you need an urgent fix?

One surefire way to get your developers to fix and release bugs at lightspeed is to make them work on your helpdesk. Nothing gets a query resolved like an irate customer berating your Lead Developer.

In many companies, development exists in its own bubble where “works on my machine” is the ultimate stamp of approval. In that sort of world, though, there are always going to be issues.

works on my machine

Your customers don’t think like developers. Why should they? The secret is to try and get your developers to think like your customers; by talking to them and understanding their issues and annoyances.

Here’s how to do it, without causing a mutiny:

Set up focus groups where your developers and customers can meet

Your customers are your biggest source of ideas for new products, features and improvements. If you don’t talk to them, then you’re just making assumptions about what they want. But why leave your developers out the loop?

If you’re relying on your Product Manager and UX team to do all the requirements gathering, then how can your development team put what they’re building into context?

The best way for developers to find out what can make their product better is to spend time with its users and learn about their issues firsthand. Involve your development team at the very start of the product development process; they’ll come up with ways to meet your customers’ challenges that you’ll never think of otherwise.

Create a culture of “all company support” (which includes your development team)

If the responsibility for managing customer satisfaction only sits with your support team, then you’re absolving the rest of your company from taking accountability for the quality of your products. Fostering a company-wide culture of excellent service means everyone takes an interest in keeping your customers happy. And that includes your developers.

Get everyone in your company to spend some time handling support queries; it’s the quickest way to get an understanding of how your customers actually use (and feel about) your product. It’ll open your team’s eyes to issues that seem trivial when you’re looking at them in the office, but have a huge impact on your users’ experience.

And nothing encourages a developer to fix a bug quicker than a load of irate customers hassling them about it.

get sued

Make resolving customer queries part of your developers’ KPIs

Without targets for resolution, your bug backlog will grow and grow. Who wants to fix a mundane issue with a simple workaround when they can dive into a in-depth science project?

By nature, most developers are inquisitive types who like nothing more than solving a (brand new, complex) problem. Customer queries are just a distraction from the real work.

To stop bug tickets sitting in the backlog indefinitely, make them part of your development team’s KPIs. Incentivise your developers to get them resolved and find the time for the projects they really want to work on.

feature or bug

Implement a support process which mean your developers don’t need to speak to anyone

Many developers, by their nature, are introverts; try and get them to pick up the phone to customers and you’ll have a potential mutiny on your hands. That doesn’t mean you should keep them at arms length, though. There are plenty of tools out there to bring your development team into the support process and engage with customers.

With services like Intercom and Zendesk, developers can talk to customers from the comfort of their own keyboard. We’ve even implemented a dedicated Slack channel for one of our larger clients to easily facilitate the conversation with frontline staff using our software and the back-end developers who built it. It’s removed the “Chinese whispers” approach where the support team would need to relay a problem to development.

Foster a culture of collaboration between your frontline support team and your developers

Your support team wants to help your customers, your developers want to develop. In many companies, the two hardly ever cross paths. If you want your products to really address your customers’ issues, though, you’ve got to bring your customer-facing staff and your back-end team together.

The easiest way to do that is to create a product team accountable for delivering a world class end-to-end customer journey. This includes product management, UX, design, development, marketing, sales and technical support.

Delivering awesome products that leave a long-lasting impression is the responsibility of everyone in your business, from the CEO down. By insisting your developers become part of that journey and interact with the people who use their code, you’ve got a much better chance of building a loyal customer base who’ll stick with you.

test on prod

#essays #prodmgmt