What is Software Support
When there are new releases that provide new features, how do you handle questions or issues that arise? Bugs and Software go together like Bacon & Eggs or Vegemite & Toast. It’s nearly impossible to release completely bug-free code, as things change and happen over time and time, it’s part of software development. If you’re talking to a team that guarantees bug-free code, either they’re onto the greatest discovery in software development or you should walk away. Bugs are not the only reason you need support; just because you’ve got a custom-developed system and you know how it works, doesn’t mean your users will always know how to use all features. This is where a support process educates, trains and helps users understand how to use a system, fix their problem and know what to do.
Support is just as critical to an application as the development. If there isn’t a reliable method to get help or provide help to users when something goes wrong, it will stop being used and that could affect your product or business in many different ways.
Support is something that we have put a lot of thought into and have provided a number of options that provide flexibility to end-users to try and get their problems solved, or provide a source for information in a way that’s convenient to them.
We’ve found, through experience, the following support mechanisms provide effective training, information and provide confidence in end users when using a piece of software:
- Phone Support with Remote Desktop
- Support Ticket management
- On-Premise Support
- Help/how-to guides
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Phone Support with Remote Desktop
Phone Support is probably the first thing most people think of when they think of support; when something is going wrong you need a person to talk to that can help you. Phone Support is a great way to provide instant relief to users.
Phone support would generally involve a Remote Desktop method to allow the support staff to dial-in to the user’s computer and actually see the problem as it’s occurring. This is very useful and helps identify what is actually happening or the root cause of the issue.
We once had an issue where a ticket was lodged and we performed the steps as described exactly, numerous times and couldn’t recreate an issue. It wasn’t until we dialled-in and saw they were calling something by the wrong name as they were clicking it. Without being able to see their actions in real-time we had an issue that couldn’t be replicated or fixed as we were looking in the wrong spot.
While it might sound great in theory to provide phone support for every level of issue keep in mind it is a very time-consuming process and does end being quite a costly process. Phone Support is generally reserved for the high priority or critical issues that have to be addressed immediately – everything below this level can be addressed by the following methods.
Support Ticket management
Support tickets are a great way to manage queries and should be a must for any software that is used by many people. If you’re managing support queries manually via email, you really have to reconsider how you’re doing it.
There are so many Support Tickets systems available that all do a great job with fairly similar functionality. I won’t provide a list or compare them because what we’re talking about will apply to all of them.
A Support Ticket will easily allow you to bring in a team of people to work on issues. One person can begin to support a user and then hand that ticket off to a more technical person as they dig into the issue more. The systems provide traceability of a ticket, a complete conversation that has occurred and a better way to manage the process with statuses, automatic notifications and follow-ups. You don’t get this when you forward an email or send a message over your messaging app to a team member.
The Support System can almost always be embedded directly or indirectly via an API into your application providing your end-users with a direct way to lodge support within the app. Your users will be able to view all the tickets they’ve lodged, the status of them, be notified when issues are being responded to as well identify if they need to respond or are waiting on your response.
On-Premise support doesn’t apply to all types of solutions but it’s another great way to either train a group of users at once or observe people while they’re using the solution and provide advice and support as they need it in real-time.
We’ve normally seen this method used heavily at the start of a new project to ensure a smooth roll-out and help improve up-take among the user base. But sometimes you just have to be out on-site with a user to be able to use the software properly or to even replicate an issue.
You might have heard of webinars in the past and though they’re only for online conferences, etc. However, you can host your own webinar or live video stream. Webinar or live streams can be set up to run group training, announcements, how-to’s or live Q&A sessions with your users. You can even record your webinar live stream and let your users re-watch them at a later time that suits them.
Help and how-to guides used to be user manuals that were shipped with software in the box. You would get a CD and a user manual, it then progressed to a PDF on the CD and now it can completely live online. Where you put it doesn’t really matter as long as you provide information to your users on how to use the system, and is easy to access and locate while using the system.
The help and how-to guides should be provided to your users in an easily accessible way, they can be placed in a “Help” section or your system or app, on the website promoting the product or downloadable as a PDF. You’d be surprised how many times we’ve had clients requesting a physical copy of the user manual, there are still people who prefer print-outs, particularly among the older demographic.
These days we have some great platforms that can be leveraged and they can provide in-system help based on the context of the page. This context-aware help can be set up remotely on another website and then embedded, offering tips or help based on the page the current user is on. These systems can also be leveraged to include links to support systems and videos.
When you think of videos, YouTube probably comes to mind, and with that, you can leverage the great free video service to provide useful content to your users. You can provide so much value through videos and it allows users a quicker way to visualise and follow along with a how-to guide.
The videos that you make can cover:
- New features
- Product Tours
- Step-by-step instructional videos
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
FAQ’s are a great way to provide some quick tips about very common issues to your users. When deciding what information should become your FAQ, you need to analyse your support queries and understand what issues or questions are raised with great frequency. Can any of these be turned into a mini-guide or within a couple of sentences can the problem be explained or a solution provided?
By following this process we can then provide quick information to the majority of queries/questions that are coming in and reduce the amount of support time that has to be done by real people.
“Live chat software has a 73% satisfaction rate as a way for customers to interact with businesses”https://learn.g2.com/facebook-chatbots
Chatbots are not a new thing but their recent ease of deployment and integration makes them another key element in your support arsenal. This is one element that can be moved to as the technology is growing and evolving and how it can be used can change over time. There are numerous platforms that help you build a Facebook Messenger Chatbot that can answer basic questions and provide prompts to your users to respond with. But AI and Machine Learning are being integrated to provide more “smarts” and provide more meaningful responses from a knowledge base rather than a set of canned responses.
Chatbots have the benefit of being always-on and don’t need to sleep (they’re not another employee). Having this always-on 24/7 available option can provide quick responses and solve some customers issues. It provides them with another avenue or a chance to solve their problem without waiting until the next day. This is why a great way to use a chatbot is to provide your FAQ or How-to Information. If the user is still having trouble and then needs to talk to a real person, the bot can hand-over the conversation to a real team member if they’re available, otherwise, queue it up and let the user know that they will be dealt with soon.
58% of customers say emerging technologies such as chatbots and voice assistants have changed their expectations of companies,https://www.salesforce.com/form/pdf/state-of-the-connected-customer-3rd-edition/
Some people prefer dealing with real people however, more people are expecting chatbots to be available as an option with your organisation.
Not all Support Processes are created equal
A support process for any software is not a setup once and stop the thing, like the software you need to be agile in your approach and provide new avenues that allow you to solve your user’s questions or queries easily. New technology is always being released and utilising it as it appears is a great way to provide extra value. A great support process will not use only one of the above methods but a combination of the above to cater for issues or queries at any severity level and provide a more manual physical interaction depending on the severity of the issue. The process used today can evolve and constantly be improved to ensure that you’re providing the best value possible to your users.
One more key thing to remember is recording the support questions and queries that are coming in. These will help inform what sort of support to provide and even identify problem areas with your UX/UI or feature improvements that you can then use to help mould the future of your platform.