Employing actual software developers for Level 1 tech support and email a good and sustainable idea?

Has anyone tried this before at a "software company" and had it sustainable?

After working at two BigCo's over a span of 6 years I recently joined a startup with friends from colleges. The CEO even reads the same blogs as the rest of the core team does!

... and that seems to be creating a few problems.

The startup is a SaaS that offers hosting of transaction data and analytics as value added services for the shipping and logistics industry.
For example, we read and implemented http://blog.asmartbear.com/one-benefit.html

... and now we are all f**ked

Quotes from the article and the effect it has had on our company:

We answer the phone on the first ring. When you have a problem, we connect you directly with developers instead of hiding behind off-shore Level 1 support. We’ll stay on the line with you at 3am as you work through a problem. We’ll do a conference call helping you through best-practices on using the tool for your specific purpose

We have all our 10 devs on a rotating shift of 24x7 in answering customer calls, emails and pages.

The shipping and logistics industry is a 24x7 business that never sleeps and there are a few clients in the US that effectively operates on the Asia/Shanghai TZ

We employ actual software developers for Level 1 tech support and email, so you’re talking to someone who not only can answer every question but can even read the code to get answers. You’re talking to someone who has the power and ability to change the code to fix a bug or add a feature. That’s an inside track that no big company will offer

When answering customer calls, emails and pages there are a few random contacts from people who just stumbled across our contact information.

The devs get mostly frustrated by the number of parents who call us and tell us how to get our webpage "off the internet" because their son/daughter set it as the homepage on the family computer when vacationing at their parents

And consultants? Our consultants write blog posts about best practices

The "partner consultants" ("consultants" as in the article are, in our case, our own employees who manage the client accounts) are busy attending and pitching customers on-site and complain how they have to write those blog posts later in the evenings and on the weekends just because they don't have time during the weekdays.

We are suffering massive staff turnover and when we are honest during the interviews, the good quality devs just flat out refuse to join us.

This does not seem to be a "software company" issue: when I mentioned our troubles to my doctor, he laughed and said that's exactly why he never gives out his direct line or cell.

My doctor's answer is well captured by this comment:

Just try getting a doctor's direct line or cell. It's almost impossible, they have receptionists because they'd be overwhelmed with patients calling them with stupid questions all day if they didn't.
My question is this: Has anyone actually tried employing actual software developers for Level 1 tech support and email and been able to keep good developers on staff and have the process run in a sustainable manner?

Of course this process runs well for Jason Cohen, but perhaps it does not work in most software companies (and his is just an odd exception?)

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asked Aug 12 '14 at 03:43
11 points
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2 Answers


It's great to expose your software developers to real customers, within reason. But 24x7 rotations are way overboard. Keep a dedicated first-level support team, but rotate one developer at a time, during normal business hours, to take some calls as well, during an entire week. That will expose your developers to real customer issues, without burning them out.

answered Aug 12 '14 at 15:07
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points


Yes, Bloomberg LP does this. Tickets go directly to developers. They are paid very well, and Bloomberg terminals also cost a lot of money. Their customers can afford that level of support. Your product or service requires a high profit margin.

There is nothing wrong with hiring software developers for tech support. It helps to have an idea what's going on. It will be much more expensive however. Developers cannot BOTH provide general tech support and develop however. Your developer support must be exclusively support - they just happen to know software. It takes exceptional concentration for extended periods of time to develop software. Any, and especially frequent interruptions, especially from dumb people, only degrades productivity. Having product developers do general public tech support is very unwise. Level 2 or high value customers would be OK.

answered Aug 13 '14 at 17:22
Starrychloe S.
83 points

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