Software isn’t perfect, no matter what. When the people using your software are confused, need to get started, don’t understand a new feature, or are experiencing a problem, they will want to get help. If getting help is too hard, they will stop using it.
Depending on their age and technical literacy, they may prefer reading how-to articles over asking for help, or prefer to talk to someone over email rather than phone, or prefer to just jump to the phone over any other option they have. Your software is for the customer, so there should always be support catered for the customer and their needs should always be met.
When support can help
- New features
- UI changes
- Maintenance periods
- Onboarding new users
- When things go wrong
Ideally, a well-designed feature shouldn’t need extra verbal or written documentation. But nothing is perfect; bugs can arise within the new feature, or the feature might need some extra visual cues in its UI. Or the new feature has caused an unrelated bug in another section of the product that wasn’t caught (even with extensive testing, this can still happen). In these cases, help by a support team should be available a phone call or email away, to alleviate the problem experienced. In the event of a usability issue (was that button really clear enough?), immediate feedback from the users is a great way to quickly discover something that’s causing confusion. The support team can notify the developers as soon as possible so that it can be resolved soon, and prevent more support queries.
Even after a feature is thoroughly designed and deployed, depending on the technical literacy of the user, there could be a change in the UI that ultimately goes over someone’s head or isn’t actually as clear as you thought. Something as simple as re-wording a button could be enough to throw at least one user off, even if it’s just in the moment. In this case, the user might want to quickly talk to someone to clarify their confusion. Again, this also gives the project managers or developers great instant feedback when something should be changed.
Although not a live act of support interaction, a simple message on the app or website which appears when your system is in maintenance mode can prevent a lot of unnecessary phone calls from users who may be confused about why they can’t use the product.
Onboarding new users
There should always be a process for training new users. However, within the first week or so of using a product, the user may need clarification on something or may have accidentally uncovered a completely new scenario such as an incompatibility with anti-virus or some other technical limitation that hasn’t been encountered yet. In this case, they should be able to immediately get help on this, so that a solution can be achieved as soon as possible.
When things go wrong
Your server or a third-party service can go down at any time (even Google can experience downtime), and the people using your software will notice. If you’re lucky, you’ve got some UI that explains to the user that the system is temporarily down. But there can always be unexpected scenarios that haven’t been specifically developed to show that message. Either way, you should be ready to explain that it’s down, being looked into and the estimated time until it’s resolved. If the user needs the software to do something critical, taking down their number and calling them back when it’s resolved can be really helpful to them, while others may prefer to just try again later rather than calling or getting called back. It generally just boils down to the user wanting to know whether they’re doing something wrong, or if something is actually down.
These are just some of the most basic reasons why users will want to get in contact with a support team. There are many more. You might find that a lot of the support requests you get seem minor, but you need to remember that if they’re putting in extra effort to ask you for a resolution then the issue was not so minor to them. And if the users aren’t able to at the very least feel heard with their frustrations, then this can reflect badly on your product or service, turning them away to different products – or even having them recommend others to stay away from yours.
But beyond making users feel heard, you must also hear what they are saying. Sometimes they can reveal the little changes that will help your product or service grow into the future.