Support. That’s the most important piece. Hands down. Very very few people do it well. I think that’s because 1) software developers don’t put themselves in the shoes of their users (or their managers, or their salespeople, or their support staff) and 2) everyone thinks too narrowly of “support.”
Most people think support is a knowledgebase with frequently asked questions and a link to a support email – possibly connected to a ticketing system. The best we can get is suggested remedies to common questions as we type our questions. This is important, don’t get me wrong – it’s just not enough. It isn’t enough. It doesn’t start soon enough. It’s not in enough places. It doesn’t give enough support to enough people in enough roles.
Let’s start with the perfect world of support and back out from there. If you start with the notion that you want your users to be happy and keep paying you money to use your software – then put yourself in their shoes. Start when they discover you – through the sales and marketing process – into deciding and signing up – and setting up and using – and learning and asking questions – and coming back and eventually to moving on or becoming a long-term customer.
Each of these phases is a separate piece of a larger lifecycle of support that is directly tied to the lifecycle of a customer. Besides making you feel like a good person – lifecycle is important to understand regarding how much it costs to acquire a user, how long they typically stay with you and the barriers between the two.
- If you think of sales and marketing as a form of support then you are supporting your sales and marketing staff to make their numbers and support their customers.
- If you think of getting people up and operational on your software as a critical piece of the barrier to entry then you, can see and mitigate operational issues within your feature set that keep people from fully buying in.
- If you make an effort to understand user activities, questions and confusions you find yourself addressing usability issues in your interface and making changes that keep them happier longer.
- If you feed feedback back into the system from helpdesk interactions and feature requests you grow software that serves to justify the long-term use for users who are more likely to recommend the software to others.
Each piece of this puzzle is support for your business model. Getting lazy about it and shirking these priorities is just a shortcut that will cost you greater rates of attrition down the road.