An observation about tech support 06 Apr 2005
49 comments Latest by John
One thing I’ve realized about providing tech support is that most people who have a problem have no idea how to document the problem. This isn’t their fault, it’s our fault. They’ll say something like “I can’t login. Can you please fix this?” or “My client can’t see a project. Do you have any idea why?”
This is a challenging dilemma. It almost always causes anxiety on both ends. On their end, confusion and a sense of hopelessness. On our end, a lack of information necessary to diagnose and correct the problem. When someone doesn’t send enough information, I know I’m in for at least one or two more email exchanges before the customer is satisfied. This is potentially time consuming and resource intensive.
I’ve seen specialized tech support forms that go half way towards solving the problem by asking people to fill out multiple form fields, pulldown menus, radio buttons, and checkboxes. I don’t like that customer experience. I think it’s a penalty incurred by the customer for the developer’s problem. Asking me to work through a detailed help form after I’m already shaken by an error leaves me a little cold.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I’ve recently come to the conclusion that less information first is actually better. Allowing the customer to explain their problem their own way (via their own email application), and then quickly and politely following up with some simple questions, almost always leads to a better experience for the customer. There may be an initial burst of anxiety for the customer, but there’s also a comfort level achieved when people can speak their own voice in their own way without having to shoehorn their problem into the developer’s maze of classification fields.
What do you think? How do you feel as a customer when you have a problem with a product? Do you prefer the simple support email address, or do you prefer an elaborate ticketing system with multiple levels of issue classification? Somewhere in the middle is probably ideal (a simple ticketing system without all the scary fields), but I don’t see that middle ground much (and the middle ground really doesn’t help people clearly explain their problem any more than a simple email link).
I guess in the end this really isn’t an issue of a link or a ticketing system, but instead providing a comfortable way for customers to report problems and provide the support people with adequate information as early on as possible. As I said, I feel better about people describing things their own way first and then asking them for specifics instead of burdening them with specifics up front. If there’s a problem I want to know about it as soon as possible — putting barriers up to report problems is in nobody’s best interest.