Each part of your business works to its own measures of success. Each has its own differing priorities. Customer Support often tugs in a different direction to so many other business functions. They are focussed on the customer, where the sales team is focussed on revenue, or the engineering team focussed on new features.
Support often suffers the fallout of these apparently conflicting objectives, and, perhaps, the Support <-> Product relationship is the one where this is most keenly and immediately felt.
Customers will always hit product issues, and Technical Support will usually be their first port of call, and their portal to the organisation. Support’s ability to provide a permanent fix to complex issues depends on a solid relationship with the Product team. It’s here that you need to concentrate on process.
Formalising the working relationship into a process simplifies work flow, while allowing for common objectives and prioritisation. It prevents each business function deep diving so far into their own world view that they forget there is a bigger picture at stake. The single uniting factor that ensures the best process is a relentless focus on the customer experience.
So, how do you built a great working relationship between your support and product teams?
You need a solid cycle of feedback, and well-defined ownership. To achieve that, focus on these four aspects:
1. Gather, segment and categorise issues
2. Robust Support <-> Product processes
3. Get a seat at the Product table
4. Repeat on an appropriate cadence
Categorising product issues as clients report them gives you invaluable data-driven insights. Start with broad strokes tagging of issues: breaking them down by user type, product area/feature, and business impact (eg, whether something impacts live search, or whether it impacts the implementation of the tool).
All these data points, combined with numbers (incident count, support team hours, or even $ impact value), inform and influence the conversation with Product. This data is the first step to prioritising product improvement from a customer perspective.
Well-defined intra-departmental processes have a positive impact on each one’s ability to reach their goals & serve customers. Smooth collaboration between product and support teams is one of the best investments that an organisation can make.
Ensure there are mutually-agreed internal SLAs, and a clearly documented process of transferral of ownership between those teams.
With data to identify potential product improvements & their impact, the process needed to support the flow of ownership should be robust, collaboratively developed, & have buy-in from all parties. And, of course, if there are issues complying with it at any stage, an agreed process gives a firm basis for discussion.
A seat at the table:
Processes are all very well, but they don’t replace people. Have someone from the Support team involved during development sprint planning session.. It can prove invaluable in giving further context to that set of fixes or enhancement requests from Support. This might be a dedicated role, or shared among the team. Either way, build it into the process.
Rinse and repeat:
Whatever the cadence, this is an ongoing process. And neither is it set in stone. The data granularity, cycles of focus, and indeed the process itself need to be periodically and repeatedly reviewed.
Once you have a reliable cycle of throughput and feedback with your product team, your Support organisation will be able to confidently express expectations to their customers. Expectations, confidently expressed, and accurately and consistently delivered, are a perfect foundation for a great support experience.