Did you know Customer Support teams help the Product teams at every stage? Being a core part of day-to-day client interactions, support teams are super dynamic and help everyone in your organization.

There is a strong connection between product developers, customer needs and good-to-have features. It’s the customer support team! Eternally vigilant and ready to help like minutemen in the darkest hours.

Customer support teams have the tools to provide key insights at every stage of the product cycle. Support function works as a heart of your product, providing it life. But often the team is a disregarded stakeholder in the product development process. Often, the information your support team has is extremely valuable as it is, but the team can make your product process even more robust with just a few specific steps.

Let’s walk through the product stages and see how support can help.

 

Your product is a living, breathing thing:

Imagine the product as a baby and all the different teams play the role of caretakers. The support team is the one who knows the baby best – they know every bit of the product; they help customers understand how the product works and what is the expected behaviour; share best practices with the customers; collect customer insights and share them with the product team, and so on. At every stage of product development, you’ll find the Support team can add their inputs on how to shape that product for current or future customers. Our baby goes through the toddler stage, becomes a teenager, then an adult.

 

Concept

Before the product is even briefed or designed, support teams are helpful sounding boards. It’s the support team, after all, who talk to customers every day.They usually have a good understanding of what users are trying to accomplish. The Support team tracks customers requirements and requests to find the perfect solution and design that solves the problems. If they are given the opportunity to share that with your product team, it can help product better understand what customers are expecting from the product and its features.

 

The Infant Stage

When a product is first released, it needs tender love and care to grow. When it comes to new features, the support team is vital with improving adoption and introducing the feature to existing customers. The team performs various tests, spotting potential bugs and ensuring they’re fed back to the engineering team. Since they deal with the customers day-in and day-out, they are best placed to approach those who are looking for a similar feature. This helps the product team get a list of beta testers for their initial product or feature and then perform the testing in a more natural environment. Every customer uses a product in their own way so seeing it in its natural element is often very important.

 

The Toddler Stage

Toddler stage comes when the product is no longer brand new, but still in need of further nurturing. This stage is crucial for all the teams. This is the stage when everyone  focuses on making sure the product or feature is on the right track, meeting customer needs, and so on. This is where you get to really understand if your new feature is meeting the expectations of your customers, see what is missing and get to grips with what needs to change. The Support team helps in bringing all this data to the table and this is where defining improvements and helping understand customer usage start to take shape.

At this stage, a competitor analysis typically comes into existence. Competitor analysis is not only done to understand HOW and WHAT others may be offering, it also helps to establish WHAT you are offering to the same industry and HOW much will this help you stand out from the crowd.

Your support team are best placed to let you know what exactly your customers are looking for and what others are offering. They are best informed to then also help you decide what YOU can offer to make yours the best product on the market.  Last but not least – at this stage, the support team will help you develop documentation to help support usage.

 

The Teenager Stage

When your child enters the teenager stage, you already know that they have developed the habit of adoption and can gel with others. Similarly, at this stage, your product becomes strong enough to integrate with other products.

Your product needs to grow – it needs new features and functionalities. You’ll need to expand the audience or improve the adoption by offering various integrations. Support can help by helping to prioritize growth-minded improvements like frequently-asked-for integrations, specific feature requests, platform improvements, launching features, etc. All this information when shared with the product teams helps to make sure that everyone is focused on the customers’ as well as the business’ needs.

 

The Adult Stage

This is where your product is well established, has a presence on the market andis able to do most of what your customers want to achieve.

Here, the support team should spend time with the product team to see where things can be even better. These could be particular areas of focus or some specialization. This is where your support team starts _really_helping your customers to achieve what they need by communicating usage issues with the rest of the company. The support team can now give feedback on minor product improvements on an ongoing basis and track the development cycle to keep customers better informed.

Also, at this stage you can start tracking the product NPS and use that tracking to improve the product as well as support and other services. This is the best way to track and measure overall progress.. At the end of the day, it’s your customers who use your product for their business. From a user point of view, they are the ones who know most about it. Luckily, all of these insights are tracked and worked upon by your Support team.

Deciding When to Move On

After a few years, every (most) product reaches its EOL. This is the last stage of its life cycle, when all development comes to an end. This is the stage where your old product needs to regrow as a new product. Subsequently, the old version becomes extinct.    

The most important aspect of support team participating in the EOL communications and processes is to answer the questions of the end user:

  • What should I do?
  • Will I have to look for other product? Will I be on my own with bugs and difficulties?
  • How to make this painless for me and my work?

It is the primary task of customer support to cover the customer’s back on this, making sure the EOL trouble is minimized and all concerns and questions are thoroughly addressed with the product stakeholders.

The support team helps deal with the challenges of EOL products, writing detailed EOL support policies to the self-service section. This helps users understand what happens after a product reaches the end of its life. It also involves proactively communicating with the customers about EOL, setting the right expectations, advising on the best ways to migrate any systems, and avoid the loss of support.

To get the best out of your Support teams, you need to talk to your teams more often. Introduce a communication process to collect feedback from them to understand your customer’s needs. Let it be formal or informal — that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is having communication between your teams. Last but not the least: involve your support team more to work and help the Product managers and developers get closer to real, live customer feedback.

Vision with action can change the world!

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