My team and I are software support representatives – when end users struggle with issues they can’t resolve themselves or encounter bugs or glitches, they call us. We’re the first line of defense – being there for our customers and putting their minds at ease. Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about why the position I hold is necessary (and I’m pretty sure the developers we help would agree).
Frustrated customers don’t remain customers for long:
This one should be fairly obvious. If a product or service you’re using causes you more grief than benefit, you’ll probably stop using it. When a support call comes in, it’s the support representative’s job to provide the feeling that someone associated with the product cares about the customer’s issue. If the end user is forced to leave a voicemail and wait for several hours before hearing a response, they might begin feeling like their problem will never get fixed. No one ever wants to feel as if they are being ignored when they have a problem; letting customers fend for themselves is bound to have them looking for alternatives.
Support representatives are the face of the company:
Support reps are frequently the first people to have contact with a customer, and first impressions can be everything. A positive experience can make the customer feel confident that their issue will be addressed quickly. A negative experience, however, can deter the customer from calling again. Although support representatives often make up a very small part of a company, they’re usually closely associated with a customer’s opinion of the entire organization. When a customer hears my voice, they have something tangible to associate with their product and my demeanor can set the tone for their continued relationship with the company. Ideally, you want the person on the phone with your customer to be caring, kind, and patient, so the relationship will be as well.
Developers often don’t mix with customers:
While it’s not true in every circumstance, there are a lot of developers who don’t necessarily want direct contact with the customer. Certainly, it’s tough to concentrate on coding if your phone is ringing several times an hour, but developers can also suffer from being too “sophisticated” for their own good (and the clients’) – since they’re surrounded by colleagues who understand complex processes, it can be difficult for them to put a description into layman’s terms for an end user. Software support provides a bridge between end user and developer; the reps have enough technical know-how to work with the developers on more complex issues, but can easily relate to struggling (and, sometimes, impatient) customers. Plus, I know some developers who just “don’t like talking on the phone” and that’s not the kind of person who should be communicating with customers on a daily basis.
Support representatives take pressure off developers:
This is obviously related to my previous point, but important nonetheless. When a customer loses patience (and nearly everyone does, at some point), they can lash out. Support representatives are trained to handle this pressure and work to prevent it from reaching the developers. The goal of the development team needs to be producing quality software; the goal of the support reps needs to be managing the expectations of customers and helping them resolve problems quickly and with minimal pain.
It’s no coincidence that the most profitable companies have excellent support teams to back up their excellent products. Now more than ever, these companies have come to realize that without a strong, committed support team, there would be no customers to support. Don’t underestimate the value of a great relationship with your customer!