Resistance is NOT futile: The Battle Against Off-Site Support

Posted on 29 July 2010

Who is providing the support for the user experience on your website?

It’s probably not who you think!

Most 1st tier “support” isn’t really support, these people are facilitators.  It’s their responsibility to go through a checklist of questions designed to direct the support request to the right people.  This extra step is potentially wasteful not only of company resources but of the user’s time away from the designed experience.

The reason for this buffer is that companies don’t like to directly support a specific product or group.  It’s far more cost effective to create a massive support infrastructure that you can plug customers into.  The only problem with that is that it’s impersonal and usually leads to many steps for the customer to get an answer.

A great deal of those customers don’t actually make it to the imposed depth required to actually ask a question, which also must be cost effective or they wouldn’t do it, right?

Firstly, no matter how large the user base, you have to provide site specific support.  I know this is contrary to what you’ll be told, but trust me, if you can’t truly support someone’s experience they won’t come back unless your product is AMAZING, and few things are that amazing.

Secondly, giving dedicated support technicians the training and the tools to make changes such as account, editorial, and administrative modification does several things:

  • The user’s support request is resolved quickly.
  • Ability to identify and resolve requests that don’t require escalation.
  • Much easier to identify bugs, write tickets and route those tickets to the appropriate engineer/group.
  • Eliminates wasted company AND user resources by turning facilitators into support people that resolve issues.
  • Makes it easier to collect performance data, problems and traffic specific to the user experience.

Automating is easy, that’s why so many companies do it.  I’ve heard a bunch of excuses over the years, “It’s not scalable,” or “People EXPECT a forum,” or whatever!  We all want to AMAZE our users, so let’s be willing to go to amazing lengths for them.

I’m so tired of project managers discounting the need to plan for support because “we can plug it in to what we’ve already got.”  That person should be fired!  It’s amazing that in this age of silicon and social networking, when there have more support tools THAN EVER, that such little emphasis is placed updating support practices.

What type of support experience would you want your mother to have?  How does your company handle it’s support requirements?

-Eric


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