For developers, it sometimes feels like the job is over after the launch party, but for support staff, the postlaunch celebration usually marks the beginning of crunch time. While development and support staff often seem at odds because their agendas are not closely aligned, they’re part of the same team to the customer. Consider the following:

  • Product management and development are focused on creating new products and services to meet customer demands. They need to build something that customers will pay money to own. This means they are a profit center.
  • Customer care and support staff are focused on the “proper care and feeding” of existing customers who have already purchased a product from your company. Support is a cost center because, even with paid support contracts, it costs money to support customers.

Share product knowledge during the development life cycle
While you’re analyzing requirements, writing specifications, and coding, support staff are already working with your company’s customer base. They need to prepare themselves and their call center representatives to support a new product and the increased support load it will bring.

Product management, development, and marketing amass a wealth of information during product development and launch, and support staff members need that information to be knowledgeable about the product they’re supposed to support. The need is even greater if your support efforts are outsourced to a third-party provider.

Educate your support staff as part of the development process
Here are some ways to educate your support staff during the software development life cycle:

  • Include support in your requirements documentation. For example, support staff may have good input on requirements for technical documentation and service level agreements.
  • Include representatives from your company’s support staff during the development of functional specifications.
  • Maintain archives of mock-ups, proofs of concept, presentations, and related materials in an accessible location on your corporate intranet or network, and let support know where to find them. Also, advise them of the “freshness” of these archived materials.
  • If your project teams use internal e-mail lists or intranet sites for the dissemination of project communications, make sure representatives from the support staff have access to this information.
  • Include support staff as part of the review cycle for the documentation. User guides, administrator guides, and other application-level documentation can bolster support’s knowledge base and improve call center representative training.
  • Include representatives from the support staff in any kind of user acceptance or informal testing efforts.
  • Include representatives from the support staff in beta testing with live customers.

A small investment goes a long way
Knowledge transfers between development and support at key milestones in the product life cycle serve your company and your customers by keeping support costs down and support staff up to date on the questions that customers are sure to ask.