Support – the secret gold when building a digital product

I often get the question “But why are you, an executive, working in support? Don’t you have anyone else to put there?” This post is a reply to all of you who are wondering what happens when product owners meet users directly in a support situation.

During a party a couple of years ago I and a few guys discussed long queues in Swedish health-care. In high spirits we came up with a solution by looking back in history. On the battlefields, the barber-surgeon went out among the badly damaged bodies and chose whom to treat based on greatest likelihood of survival. If we were to use this practice on more ICUs, by letting experienced doctors be the first to meet the patient instead of a receptionist, more lives could be saved. 

It creates a calm atmosphere and promotes quality when an experienced person is first on-site and delegates to others. The interesting thing is that this does not only apply to healthcare but to most industries.

This is not new. Many of us have heard about “The Toyota Way”, where workers in production line pull a string to stop the line and by doing so also call executives on site (Genchi Genbutsu*). This way they are able to solve problems at an early stage.

To build a sustainable product

We are many who have been in contact with a support team and asked for help, but felt that the person in support didn’t understand the problem, didn't have the authority needed and sometimes did not even seem to care about you as a client (maybe the lack of authority is the cause, as they might not be able to do anything anyway).

In our digitized world, who’s the barber-surgeon and where is the battlefield when we buy or use online services? For me as a product owner, the support department is the battlefield. This is the place where you instantly will know if the UX, the product and the communication works as it should. Your clients will tell you the truth and you better be there to listen.

I feel a responsibility and have chosen for more than ten years to work in support, answering as many support-questions as I can. And I’m not the only one. At Snowfire, the business owners, developers and decision makers hang out in support as often as we can.

Our SaaS (Software as a service) platform is digital and unlike working in an 
ICU-unit, where every act could be a matter of life and death, it still means a lot to be present throughout the whole process. The most magical thing is that we get precise feedback from our clients about what doesn’t work, how it should work and if many of our clients share the same problem.

Respect your clients

This is the secret gold. A bond is created between us and our clients and at the same time we can address bad UX directly. Of course, we are only human and sure enough answers from our support might be clumsy from time to time. But I think our clients feel that we are doing our best to help.

This is pure gold for a quality-driven entrepreneur who wants to understand the whole picture early on and feel the vibes of what is needed in the future. With a passion for the craft and in-depth knowledge of the platform, we can find better solutions for our clients.

“The winners of tomorrow will be the tech platforms where Executives go to the source and spend time in support.

- Ditte Hammarström

Place decision makers in support

Think about it for a while: why aren’t more executives and product owners spending time in support? Wouldn’t a client get the right help faster when decisions can be taken at speed?

Shouldn’t we be more interested in our products and platforms?
Having decision makers in support is like candy for our company. This way of working is something I would like to share with you who also work with SaaS. Everybody will be a winner, as you will be able to go faster from decision to action. You will get happier and more satisfied clients.

*Genchi Genbutsu – “going to the source” – is about checking the facts yourself, so you can be sure you have the right information you need to make a good decision.

Ditte Hammarström has a long background as Art Director, both in her homeland of Sweden as well as internationally. She loves user-driven design and feels good when helping entrepreneurs to succeed online. Ditte is one of the founders of the Snowfire design community where marketers, designers and developers can work together in growing their business on the Snowfire platform.