You’re building a company. You’ve got a product. But shit breaks. You need people to handle tech support. First, when it’s just the founders in a garage, you all handle tech support. Then when you’re a little bigger, the whole team chips in. With a little bit of luck, at some point, you’ll grow to have a dedicated team to support technical issues.
But how do you get there?
Unfortunately this is one of those questions that has no singular, correct answer other than “do what works for your company”. But what we have found is a common set of truths, and those are easy to distill. They read a bit like a road map for new companies:
- Expect to need technical support from day one.
- Start with a single point of contact for all support requests.
- Let that single point of contact grow and become the leader of your CX or tech support team.
- Keep conversation open and often between support, product and developers.
- Don’t be afraid of change just because it doesn’t fit a mold.
No matter where you are in your company’s growth, there are a lot of common setups that you can use to manage technical support requests. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons to each setup, and how they can work for your company.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that we’re talking specifically about technical support here, not just customer experience. It’s important that we differentiate the two because your CX team might not be technical to the point of writing and pushing code, but they work hand-in-hand with the ones who are.
Setup 1: The Developers
When you’re a small team, the person doing the coding is often the same person who is handling technical support for the product. But as your team grows, you’ll likely move out of a developer-focused technical support setup rather quickly. That being said, it will always be important to keep an open line of communication between the developers, the product team, the CX team and technical support.
Pros – There’s a certain advantage to this setup, given that there’s really no better person to be able to find what’s going wrong than a developer. They have the most intimate knowledge of how every piece of the puzzle fits together, and where things can go wrong.
Cons – As your team gets bigger and your customer base grows, developers have less time and more demands. Beyond that, it’s a somewhat proven fact that developers tend to work better when we leave them alone and simply let them get their job done. Interrupting their code marathons to answer technical support questions is usually not the best way to keep them productive.
Setup 2: Dedicated Technical Support Team
In a perfect world, we’d all have a crack team of technical support gurus. They would dedicate their entire day, every day, to solving customer problems and answering questions. But the world isn’t perfect. Unless your company is in a position to shell out for a multi-person team, technical support has little chance to stand on its own. This is a setup that is often best left to large companies which need support teams to deal with different aspects for their products.
Pros – The dedicated tech support team works hand in hand with the developers and your CX people to make sure that they always know what’s going on with your product. Second only to a developer, their knowledge is going to be the highest in the organization because it’s all that they deal with on a day to day basis. This team is often best staffed (at least in part) by developers who are given the ability to actually push code changes and fix real problems, rather than having to hand off the ticket and add it to a queue.
Cons – Budgets are limited and hiring needs may put five engineers before a single tech support person. The technical support “team”, in many companies, consists of a single person who can’t possibly scale their level of work as fast as the business will grow.
Setup 3: The Customer Experience Team
Is technical support really just another part of the customer experience? For many companies, yes. If this is true in your organization then it might make sense to leave technical support as a responsibility of CX. The important factor here is one of maintaining balance.
Pros – These are your problem solvers. They’re the people you’ve hired because they know how to make customers happy. The CX team will likely go deeper than just solving a problem and they will try their best to delight the customer with their response.
Cons – The problem here is that your CX team has more to concern themselves with than just technical support. By offloading the whole of technical support to them, it’s possible to overload them quickly, which can lead to a lesser experience for all customers and not just those with tech support questions. There’s also a good chance that your budget doesn’t allow for engineers on the CX team, so they’ll still need to hand off more technical problems to the right person in order for them to be fixed.
Setup 4: The Product Team
Who knows your product better than the people who eat, sleep and breathe it? While developers understand the code, and the CX team knows the customers, the product team spends their days looking for ways to eliminate every possible problem. In many cases, the product team is your “white glove treatment” team. Whether it’s someone who’s paying you a lot of money or simply a user with a loud social voice, it’s important to keep these customers happy at almost any cost. Your customer experience team should treat everyone like a VIP, but the customers with the most value (monetary or otherwise) deserve even more.
Pros – In many cases, the product team will have both the customer-facing attitude and the technical knowledge that will be needed to be tech support rockstars. As mentioned above, they also understand customer pain points more than just about anyone in the organization. That’s a great person to have representing you when problems arise.
Cons – Much like the developers, the product team will work best when feedback is controlled rather than chaotic. Because of their problem-solver nature, they will want to make everything right. While that’s definitely a goal to be worked toward, it’s often distracting and a false flag that can pull them away from the more important, more immediate tasks at hand.
Which Setup is Right?
From the genesis of an organization all the way through its long-term success, the role of technical support liaison is one that will perhaps see more shift than any other. Nobody has the perfect answer for your company other than you. And no matter how well you know your company, even you should expect some trial and error. In many companies, the answer is “all of the above”.
Regardless of where you are in your company’s growth, the one truth that will always hold firm is that communication is imperative – not just with the customer, but also between your teams. No matter your company’s size, an open dialogue between developers, CX, product and your customers is the one true way of making certain that technical support is handled effectively, efficiently and in the manner possible.