As a developer, I don’t particularly enjoy customer support. Questions are either about things that are obvious (or should have been) or about things that I don’t have a clue about either and need a lot of investigation. Some customers are just plain rude with “it’s not working” in the subject and nothing else.
At first sight it seems to be a huge waste of your expensive developer time to spend time on this. However, I strongly believe you should. (And this holds for everyone involved in the development of your product, not just the ones that write code)
1. Developers can ask the right questions
Users don’t always know how to ask the right question. A developer that actually understands the technology and implementation of your product is much more able to aks the right questions for clarification. In this way you prevent a lot of unnecessary back and forth of irrelevant questions before escalating the problem. No matter how well you’ve trained your support staff, a customer can always tell if you asking standard questions.
2. Developers can provide the right answers
There is no-one better at actually telling you how you supposed to use a system than the person that built it. Even if you can’t solve the issue immediately, telling a user what actually went wrong will make them feel like their input is valued and taken seriously. Furthermore, many issues can be resolved on the spot or worked around, instead of having a ‘escalated to the tech department’ and waiting for a week for a follow-up. Users will notice a personal response with actual substance and will turn them into your most loyal customers.
3. Developers will learn about your customers
As a developer, it’s easy to get lost in just crunching on lists and lists of features and bugs. Product development is not a vacuum. There is no better feeling than actually solving a problem for a customer and being able to answer them that the issue is already fixed. Being in touch with customers will help fuel ideas about new features to make life easier for everyone involved.
4. Developers can stop the questions
The most powerful action a developer can take is to actually prevent the question from re-occuring. Of course bug reports will get to the developers independent of whether they answer the reports directly. However, there is more to support than bug reporting. The standard way support will deal with re-occuring questions is to provide canned responses. Instead of that a developer should be able to take away the root cause of the question even if it is just by providing some extra help information in a form.
5. Support requests help set priorities
One of the hardest problems for developers is to get a feel for priorities if your backlog grows faster than you are ever able to cross items off. Of course you need someone managing those priorities from a business perspective, but there is a difference between your product owner telling you something is important and to actually feel it is important. Interacting with customers can greatly improve this internal compass.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about phone support, that might be too much of a disruption. However checking and answering support tickets a few times a day can be worked into anyones schedule.