What do software startups do for support type tasks once the product/site goes live?


5

For those of you that sell a software package that is installed within an organization (web based or not) how do you handle support? Do you hire a few people to take calls, e-mails and handle the requests? Do you outsource these tasks? I'm curious what other 1-10 employee software startup's are handling things like support inquiries, enhancement requests, implementations, etc....as the product grows.

Same could apply to web only products or cloud based SaaS (software as a service) types.

Customer Support Outsourcing Support

asked Oct 20 '10 at 04:41
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Reggie Dunlop
26 points

2 Answers


2

I believe that startups should be as agile as possible, that is their main advantage over more established businesses. That said, any layers that you put between the customer and the implementer of the software weakens your value. I would look at http://www.fogcreek.com/fogbugz/, http://uservoice.com/, http://www.livezilla.net/home/en/, http://www.bugzilla.org/, http://www.redmine.org/, webcasts hosted by developers, etc. If the developers don't hear about the pain directly, they can be unaware of it. Keep the loop tight between the parties with a vested interest in seeing the software succeed.

The only difficult thing should be balancing feature request priorities. If you think that your support calls might overwhelm your developers, then your software isn't ready to ship.

answered Oct 20 '10 at 04:57
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Larry Smithmier
226 points

2

We're roughly in that size range and we handle support internally. We go out of our way to make it possible to talk with us and interact with us directly. You can:

  • Start a live chat from our web site or within our app that goes straight to one of the founders or the lead software engineer.
  • Shoot email to any of the common email addresses you might imagine and end up in FogBugz, which we use for defect & customer service tracking. We make sure everything gets responded to asap and we know what we said & who said it by tracking it this way.
  • Give us a call to our local or 800 numbers (Having a local number is key because 800 numbers don't work internationally, and we get a surprising amount of our business internationally)

Regardless of what channel you use to contact us if we can't resolve the question immediately, we offer to do a desktop share with GoToMeeting so we can see the user's desktop and resolve the issue as fast as possible.

Would all of this scale up to a large company? Probably not. But right now you have to ask yourself: What else are you going to do with that next 30 minutes that could create more revenue or good will? We also find out the best feedback on our product this way - not by what people say, but by what we can see. Watching someone use it through a remote desktop sharing session and seeing how they got trapped & what they need to do illuminates a lot.

We track any enhancements we think we need to back into FogBugz as feature requests. In the end it's our experience you don't need to be particularly fancy tracking feature requests because the important ones will keep showing up on their own - either they happen enough through prospect/customer interactions to be front of mind or you've made a commitment to someone to deliver it.

From all of this my recommendation is that you keep your internal, non-visible processes lightweight and flexible and emphasize finding any path to get into dialog with your prospects & customers. Later on as you have revenue and volume you can incrementally address the most important business scalability limits as you go.

answered Oct 20 '10 at 06:57
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Kendall Miller
968 points
  • You must have a motivated team of developers who don't mind doing the support stuff. In my experience, it is hard to find those "half-breed" types that like to do support and code. Do you ever ask yourself if the time spent on support and watching customers snag themselves could be better spent enhancing the product or fixing bugs? – Reggie Dunlop 7 years ago
  • What we've found is that it motivates everyone from top to bottom to eliminate things that need support - improve documentation, build in startup aids, etc. It also illuminates to developers how our customers really use things that they wouldn't get otherwise. In short, internally it's gotten very positive reviews and several revelations, so far no one wants to change it - more that we're wondering how we can keep it as long as possible. We introduced it from the top down which may have helped - it's clear for everyone it's part of our values, not a burden. – Kendall Miller 7 years ago
  • I wish you the best of luck in that culture as I think it will benefit you in the long run. Thanks for your reply. – Reggie Dunlop 7 years ago
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