The technical support staff is a voice of the customer that not enough developers cultivate. While sales and marketing representatives never hesitate to offer client feedback, customer service analysts’ views often go neglected. When customers call technical support because something has gone wrong, their feedback is often more pure than what marketing and product management can generate through questionnaires and surveys. Getting access to this customer information will give you critical insight into your product’s performance when it’s stretched to its limitations.

Your development organization may already have some ties with the technical support team. If it doesn’t, this article will illustrate the information resource you are missing.

What is a trouble ticket?
A trouble ticket is a record logged by support representatives into a CRM or help desk management application in response to customer support calls. In many ways, it’s like a bug database for customers. Trouble tickets typically include the following information:

  • Customer hardware
  • Customer operating system
  • Version of the software installed at the customer’s site
  • Other software installed on the trouble system
  • Any patches or maintenance releases installed on the system
  • What actions the customer took before the issue occurred

Out-of-the-box ticket systems, like Remedy Help Desk, also offer some customization options.

Customer data is stored in a database that can be indexed and searched through keyword and/or Boolean searches, depending on the trouble ticket/CRM system in use in your organization.

Internal quality assurance and beta testing of software can’t anticipate the myriad of issues that may crop up on a live customer implementation. As a result, the details captured by customer service representatives are invaluable; real-life experience can feed into future use cases, test plans, and related materials.

Getting access to trouble tickets
Your organization’s technical support staff typically controls trouble tickets and related systems and dutifully tracks the issues encountered from customers via phone, e-mail, chat, and Web-based resources. Supporting customers is a game of economics, and the way to manage costs for your company and its customer support organization is to develop a feedback loop between customer support and development.

This loop can take many forms, including:

  • Building a relationship between development and technical support management through meetings and annual communications.
  • Providing key development management and senior developers with access to the trouble ticket system.
  • Considering technical support as a stakeholder in the requirements and specification development process for new products.

Inside technical support
Development and technical support often don’t communicate because their respective jobs seemingly never intersect. Including technical support staff in the requirements and specifications process is a good method to gain a better cradle-to-grave picture of the customers who purchase and implement the software you develop.

Development organizations and support teams sometimes don’t get along because their motives and objectives are so different. Development organizations are focused on pushing the product through its launch to paying customers. After launch, developers just want to move on. Launch time is when work for technical support staff and their call center representatives begin in earnest. This means that the concerns of technical support may not match the concerns of developers and their management team.

Listen to what your customers are saying
Technical support feedback needs to be valued by product management and developers. Positively integrating technical support trouble tickets into your development processes will boost the reliability of maintenance and subsequent releases.

Asking for trouble

Does your team work closely with the customer support staff? Tell us about it or post a comment below.