Product Management

How to turn support from a cost into an opportunity

Typically doing support is seen as a burden and a cost. Some companies try to solve that by just eliminating direct support completely. However, answering support questions does not have to be a chore. I strongly believe doing user support well, can turn the most unhappy user into your most loyal customer.

Let me illustrate with an example:

Years ago I got a support question of a user that had inexplicable errors and mostly unable to use our website from her home location, but it was fine in another location. After back and forth with a process of elimination I was not really able to solve it.
Weeks later she e-mailed again, to tell us that it was her router and once it got replaced everything went back to normal.
This user ended up becoming the first paying customer to our service and after more than 10 year is still a customer.

A user that contacts you with a problem is seriously invested in your product, so the only thing you need to do is make sure their problem is heard and properly dealt with.

This builds trust and loyalty. If you know a company will solve your problem if you every run into an issue why would you risk it by switching?

Furthermore, you now have an active personal conversation with your customer that you could use to learn more about how they use your product and other issues they may have run into.

Finally, a customer is much more likely to recommend a company they know and trust to others. You are no longer an anonymous name on the internet, but something much more approachable and likable.

Product Management

Why you should never treat a support question as a one-off

Users dread having to jump through the support hoops we usually put up: phone menu’s, 15 minutes of music while they hold, copy/pasted solutions that do not remotely match what they are looking for. So a users that contacts you must be truly invested in your product already.

For every user that takes the effort to contact your, there are probably multiple that just shrugged it of and either continue being annoyed or even worse, just never return again.

So instead of regarding support questions as a chore and a cost that has to be dealt with, it’s an opportunity to learn. No matter how stupid the question seems, there is almost always some small change you can make to eliminate the question.

Support questions can help provide you with the feedback and evidence you need to decide what to work on. Not just on how to improve, but also what is valued by your users. The users are surely invested in that feature if they take the time to ask you questions about it. In my experience, the users with the most questions and problems are likely to become your most loyal customers.