128: Support’s Relationship to Product with Matt Dale

128: Support’s Relationship to Product with Matt Dale

Matt Dale returns to the podcast, to share the importance of two-way conversations in this relationship.


I’d love your thoughts on this episode! Comment below, and like/love/share/support if you found this inspiring, thought-provoking, or useful!

Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 128 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week we’re talking about supports relationship to the product team. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. I would like to welcome back to the podcast today, Matt Dale. Oh, man, it’s lovely to have you back again, it’s talk about supports relationship to product.

Matt Dale 0:43
Awesome to be here, Charlotte, I’m super excited to talk about that.

Charlotte Ward 0:46
Awesome. And so do you think this is a particularly important relationship, then when it comes to how your support team interacts with the rest of the organisation. And

Matt Dale 0:54
I think this one is a unique one, especially in a company that’s a software as a service, which I know many of your listeners are kind of in that field. At illuminate that’s, that’s what we do is we build software for school districts. And I think support and product have a unique relationship. And that support is the one that is I always talk about us as the voice of the company, to the customer and the voice of the customer to the company. So we’re kind of that middleman, that’s helping the customer understand how to use the thing that we built, but then also sharing back, hey, this is how that people are actually using it. I know as an engineer or a product person, you kind of imagined this is how it should be in a perfect situation. And it’s kind of like being back in high school physics class where you know, you’re doing your calculations on gravity, and you remove everything, you know, air resistance, and all the other factors, and you’re looking at things in a very pure way. And I think I think sometimes engineers and product folks think about things in a very pure way, when they get out in the real world, we start seeing real people use them. And there’s a need there for that feedback. And so having a good relationship with the folks on your team that are in charge of the product is really important. So that you can help them make the product better. And that, in turn will then reduce the friction and the pain that our customers are feeling, which reduces the number of support interactions we have. So it’s kind of this beautiful thing, if it’s working well. You know, your job as a support professional is going to be easier.

Charlotte Ward 2:10
And halfway done, isn’t it? I think that I think he said a couple of things there that I really want to hook into, and explore some more, use the word voice, a couple of times support being the voice of the customer and the voice of the organisation. in both directions, I like to quite often refer to support as a translator. And I think that, you know, that kind of concept of us being that voice sits very nicely with that, that we do translate between what the customer is trying to tell us they’re trying to do to what what we the product can do or what the product can deliver or what we as an organisation can deliver. Right. So I think there’s that translation, it’s two way exactly, as you said. And as you moved on there, though, you talked about sort of product having this quite pure view of, of what they produce that the the the product itself being used in the way they designed it, and no other way. And once it gets out into the real world, it’s an entirely different ballgame. What do you think we can do within support to bridge that gap, then do you do you think it’s simply saying, This is what customers are really doing? Or do you think it’s more nuanced than that?

Matt Dale 3:30
Um, I suspect it’s more nuanced than that, I think at the start saying, Hey, this is how customers are using it. This is what what’s going on, it’s important that having that clear, channel, you know, to communicate information and feedback, I think is really important. And as you kind of dig into that, there’s, there’s a lot more that can kind of be unpacked there, right? It’s not just simply saying, Hey, this is how they’re using it, you know, fix it, but it’s kind of a Hey, you know, help us understand how we want to position things and help. He went when they see this, you know, for example, we have a new product that we just released that replaced an older one of our products. And I was talking to the head of product yesterday, actually. And she said he hasn’t house back to school going a busy time for a school software company. I said, Well, you know, this new software we had come out, it’s working well. But But you know, as we talk there, that we don’t have feature parity between the old and new yet, there’s a couple key features that people are expecting, but they’re not ready yet. And the decision was made, you know, several months ago, hey, we’re gonna roll this out. Anyway, we’re gonna give them the option, choose the old product or new product for the next six months or so we kind of work out the kinks and kind of do a soft launch, which is one of my favourite things because anytime you say we’re going into this new system, and I can’t go back Let’s burn all the bridges. That’s that’s never a good day for support after after that happens. But but in kind of doing so we realised that there were a couple areas where people were getting to a specific part of the process and realising that in the new system, they couldn’t do these three things that they were used to doing. I said, Hey, you know, Amanda, let’s let’s talk through this. Like if we just had a warning at the first step. saying, Hey, if you’re trying to use this feature this way, you’re not going to be able to do that in the new system, we recommend you field system, that’s going to reduce the calls that we’re seeing about this particular problem quite significantly, and it really doesn’t make sense. It’s not a major change to the product, right. And so for us to be able to say, Hey, here’s how people are using it, and we might, if we can make this change, that’s gonna really impact you know, our volume and in our customers happiness, they’re not gonna get in the middle of this thing, and then go, Oh, I can’t do it this way, I gotta start over. And so I think that’s just an example of kind of thing. It’s not just me telling product, this is what this is what’s going on, but also kind of saying, hey, like, here’s how we can help each other, here’s how you can make a change that’s going to help my team, it’s going to help our customers be happier, and just help us provide the right understanding to the customer. So I don’t know, I think it’s, it’s pretty straightforward when you look at it, but I think there’s a lot of levels.

Charlotte Ward 5:51
Right, then and there is a lot to unpack. And I think the thing that you said there about support volumes is kind of an interesting way of applying some measure to the way product prioritises this, and I think that’s definitely like a really early thing you can do, isn’t it, you can say if you do this, we will see this impact and, and ultimately support volumes or time and time is money to the organisation. So it’s very easy to argue things in terms of like dollar savings, right?

Matt Dale 6:25
Right. And I think with product too, it’s really important, at least in my experience of product managers and people on that side of the house, they tend to have a very focused, they’re kind of more of an engineering mindset, very, very analytical. And so when I, you know, when we talk to different groups of people, we speak different languages go back to that idea of being a translator. And I think it’s important to understand who your counterpart is net net product organisation. And at least in my experience, a lot of it’s been focused on numbers and metrics. And so collecting the right information from your ticketing system, being able to say, hey, look, we’re seeing, we’re seeing you’ve rolled out this part of the new product, we’re seeing an increase in this area, and, you know, we think maybe if we change this or, or something, or how do you think we can reduce this volume, because that’s, like you said, time is money, this is taking, you know, time on our team and having that back and forth, and that that relationship and speaking their language can be really powerful and getting what you’re trying to accomplish done, which ultimately is giving our customers better experiences, because the product that we’re building is more thoughtful how they’re actually using it.

Charlotte Ward 7:25
Yeah, exactly that the time is money thing is easy to talk about internally. But ultimately, it’s also customer pain, isn’t it? Which comes down to you know, which which really affects reputation. And, you know, basically, the way people feel about your product is quite a, it’s quite a difficult thing to quantify. But but that, and so you can easily apply value to that you can apply value to data to support volumes and that kind of thing. The only thing I’ve often found is you talked about product folk be having quite an engineering mindset. I would also say that they have quite an idealistic, and as you said before, kind of pure approach to their creation, right, I think that there is a tendency to say, to design a product almost based on Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s been my experience, you know, that it’d be nice if we moved this menu here and did that and you know, we think that’d be better for our customers, because it feels better to us. But of course, they have that, a that kind of that bond to their own product. But but also not necessarily that real world experience. And that’s the other part of the conversation you can have isn’t that you talked a little bit about this before just in terms of deflecting tickets, but, but actually where customers expect to find things, how customers expect to use things, features, you know, when they when they do exist is is something you can be really informative about as well and isn’t necessarily the direction of a product person could take the product. And

Matt Dale 9:06
I think and I ran into this, several years ago, we had a we were a much smaller company kind of in startup mode. And we had a brand new young product design guy, and he saw the world in these perfect, beautiful, like, let’s have the right font, and let’s have the right pleasing colours and all this stuff. And he got very hung up on this is the perfect way to do something. And that was actually the we had three parts of the product that were redesigned in getting ready for back to school again several years ago, and that was the worst back to school we’ve ever had. Because we had these one area in particular the key function of our product, and we went to version 2.0. And there was an option a big box of the user could check say, hey, do you want to try the new thing? I’m like, Yeah, sure. I’ll try the new thing out and they try the new thing out and there was no way to go back. And the new thing wasn’t feature full yet. It wasn’t it wasn’t done. And the but the idea with this kind of this person was approaching like, well, this is the perfect and they’re gonna see this, they’re gonna understand it. It’s like, Yeah, but and that’s where we ultimately ended up like over the last couple years we’ve polished his design. And it’s, it’s, it’s a good place to be, now that it has the full feature, but he wasn’t looking at how are people actually using this, he was just like, this is beautiful. And this is the way it wants to be. And so there’s kind of almost an arrogance there in the approach and learning how to talk to him and being able to share and communicate better. And that was something I didn’t do well. And that ended up us having really negative effect on support, because we rolled out software that we shouldn’t have rolled out and as I’ve gotten more mature, in my experience here, it’s like oh, having a closer relationship and helping be an advocate for our customers internally, while stuffs getting built before it’s even rolled out is really important. So developing that close relationship with the the different folks that are the movers and shakers on that side of the house. And being able to communicate making sure they know that you are trying to have the best product that we can two together like we’re trying to build this thing together. And we’re just coming with a different perspective, a different mindset and I’m here to help advocate for what we see is where the customers are coming from. You’re here to help advocate for good design and, you know, good principles. Let’s work on this together and build something awesome as opposed to kind of being adversarial and geez like this is can you believe what product shipped this he knows it’s terrible, you know, so I think having each other’s backs and having that relationship.

Charlotte Ward 11:23
I say for today, go to customersupportleaders.com/128 for the show notes and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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