Uber, Instagram, Airbnb, Spotify — what do these companies have in common? Other than being worth billions of dollars, these brands weren't around during the turn of the century just a short time ago. These types of companies, features, and technologies are all molding how modern humans function on earth. As technology rapidly evolves, so do the expectations of customers.

Each problem users experience is an opportunity to improve your software. In fact, problems are the gateway to fully understanding user experience and then improving it. In this post, we will focus on the innovation opportunity that support delivers for a product inside and out.

Innovation IS NOT Invention

It is easy to mistakenly use invention and innovation interchangeably. Most wouldn’t consider the semantics in everyday conversation, but the distinction is important for your product. Without the distinction, the next version(s) of your product will become too focused on what's new vs of what’s right.

Consider the automobile. Agreeably, Karl Benz invented the first car as we know it in the late 1800s. The self-driving Tesla is not a new invention but an innovation of what the automobile once was. It is important to understand that:

  • Invention is innovation but is generally net new.
  • Innovation is also ‘new’ but is usually bound to an existing invention.

The subtle difference should shift our mindset on innovation and open the door to consider the current when deciding the future. Too often, a product fails when there is an over-prioritization on competitor capability, trendy design-thinking sessions, and new features. Without a direct line to Support (aka your customers), it is simply working in a vacuum.

Inspired by Users

Having data on how customers use your product — and more importantly, how it’s being used incorrectly—is invaluable. Support is the perfect starting point to validate the next version of any product, as it gives you access to real-time user interactions of your current version. In studying users and prioritizing around customer values, you can validate ideas about your product, get live user testing and direct feedback, and ultimately make your product that much better.

Support is as informed by actual users as any person or division in your organization. Leverage their experience and knowledge by making them a part of building and innovating your product.

Discover what to do next by finding where you did it wrong in the first place. Support will guide you to consumer needs, goals, and pains:

1. Get Support Involved with Product, Design, and Software Engineering Groups.

When was the last time your Product Manager spent 8 hours — ONE day — solely talking to happy/confused/angry/new users? Your Designers? Engineers? Kill the silos and thrive within a more complete, accurate view of the product. Make your users a priority in the business. Every product workgroup should include Support representation in some capacity.

2. Begin Innovation with Support.

If you’re holding workshops for a product without including your Support Team, you’re missing the majority of your VoC (voice of the customer). The existing consumer knowledge that Support brings is not something to be ignored. Support helps understand your audience and knows how to keep them satisfied. Doing something right in the eyes of your customers inherently starts with the Support team. The issues they’re experiencing can be approached swiftly by innovation and product development, and over the longer term as inspiration for bringing value to customers in different ways.

3. Build with Support.

The industry spends time architecting, designing, writing user requirements/stories, and writing how to test before starting development. Some groups extend the software development lifecycle further to include ‘Maintenance’ which can route bugs or defects back to the beginning of the cycle. Deciding on how to support after it’s built will set your teams and product up for success. Building out a support plan from the beginning can save a tremendous amount of time and headache post-deployment. Will you need chat, phone, or video support? Will you need 24/7 monitoring? What happens when there are escalations and new prioritization categories? How will you manage support budget, 3rd party software or integrations, and related teams? In a matter of seconds, Support can be the most important feature you deliver. Build responsibly and plan for it in the beginning.

Assess. Adjust. Advance.

Success is not perfection; it’s correction. Your ability to provide Support directly affects adoption and revenue.

At Skookum we build for Support, because waiting to consider Support until you need it makes for bad user experiences. We also offer Support and Data Research as an end-to-end service for any existing product. Get in touch with us if you would like to learn more.