Standing Up Your Product Help Desk
Great technical support is an integral part of any software commercialization plan. But how can you get high-quality tech support without breaking the bank?
Here are some ways to economically provide technical support that adds value and educates customers on using your product correctly, safely, and effectively.
Start with the Basics
Begin by providing a basic service to respond to customer inquiries. Establish a shared email with rules for who monitors the mailbox, who responds, and who’s the backup when the first responder is unavailable. With your shared mailbox in place, a more expansive help desk system can get underway.
Build a Product Website
A dedicated site becomes a focal point for relaying information. Create a Resources page with subsections for the following content:
- FAQs and knowledgebase: Before the first software release, develop content that addresses common problems and incorporates the solutions into a product knowledgebase. Ask your testers what should be included, and record questions asked by alpha and beta testers, evaluators, QA, and analysts, identifying their pain points.
- Training videos: Create product training videos and publish to the product website, YouTube, and Vimeo, and make them accessible from within the product itself. Start with sixty-second tutorials covering the basics or a specific problem, then provide two- to three-minute tutorials on complex technical issues or broader product functionality. Add tutorials as the product’s user interfaces and functions evolve.
- Installation and user guides: Post product guides to the website’s Help page and provide HTML-based guides accessible from within the software application. And don’t spend time getting fancy—write accurate and concise content, keep it current, and provide good examples.
Establish Response Times
Whatever response time you commit to, it should be within twenty-four hours, and your goal should be to respond in half that time. Post service-level agreement (SLA) terms on your website so that customer expectations are properly set. If opportunities arise for special SLAs with important customers, this can become a paid-for service with custom service hours.
Evaluate Help Desk Staff
While engineers doubling as tech support may work initially, it is not sustainable as inquiry volume increases. But they can train help desk agents in knowledge of the application, from both architectural and user perspectives, and how to communicate technical language to nontechnical people.
Use a Help Desk System
A help desk system is vital for managing larger numbers of tech support inquiries, and several good management systems are open source or free with a limited subscription. Designate one or two people to manage the system and respond to customers. When a customer sends an email inquiry it should automatically get logged into the system, generate a ticket and push it to a team communication channel, and notify the help desk manager.
Collecting key performance metrics such as time to respond, time to resolve, frequency of certain questions, frequency of customer inquiries, and level of customer satisfaction helps identify trends, measures your team’s effectiveness, and refines and improves your service.
A good help desk team can keep abreast of product technical changes and keep a finger on the pulse of your users. And as your relationships mature and user knowledge increases, customers will come to know what to look for, what to ask, and how to help themselves.