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When you visualize customer support teams, what image pops into your head? Probably a roomful of listless people in cubicles with headsets on.  They read from a script or punch questions into their computer and try to get you out of their hair as quickly as possible.

I've never enjoyed that experience as a customer, and so I vowed that our company would always strive for direct engagement, honest answers, and real assistance.  Over the years, we've used various methods to provide support, usually centering on a community-based website.  We also supplemented with private tickets using our own home-grown system (dubbed QuestionShark years ago).

We've generally had a small team of people who were "support," and backed them up with help from area experts from outside of "support."  In addition, we've been fortunate to have a hard-core group of customers and friends of the company who help each other too.  And this gets to the heart of our latest system...we're all in support.

Now that we've turned QuestionShark into a publicly available product, we're using it ourselves to take customer support to a new place.  Literally everyone in the company is responsible for monitoring incoming inquiries and offering help.  That means that a billing question can be answered directly by Bean Counter Jenny, a product suggestion can be read by our CTO, Barry, and a "hey, my site's down" can be answered by Jeff in Ops.

We're skipping the middleman, saving time on all sides.  It takes Jeff 10 seconds to provide an answer because he just came from the data center, whereas a "support person" would have had to seek Jeff out and find out why the customer was having a problem.

This system also gives everyone a chance to interact directly with our customers....the reason they have a job.  As a developer, you might have a better understanding of why a feature has been requested if you just talked to a real person who is trying to accomplish something new with your software.

For years, we've enjoyed offering "the CEO answered my question! On Thanksgiving! At midnight!"  I hope to continue that tradition for years to come, and with QuestionShark, allow more companies to do the same.


I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, or connect with me on Twitter.

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I think how we'd like to handle that is by tag-teaming those really slippery technical questions, training everyone to listen first, and truly making sure that even the unspoken concerns get addressed.
Now I like that way of looking at it! Yes, tag-teaming... or brainstorming a problem!

And thanks for your offers of help... Goodness knows I'm testing them at the moment!
I actually think that's a completely valid point Xochi!  Very often highly technical folks have a hard time explaining things in a simple way, and non-technical folks can't really express the hard-core information you need.  It's an art not a science, for certain.  I think how we'd like to handle that is by tag-teaming those really slippery technical questions, training everyone to listen first, and truly making sure that even the unspoken concerns get addressed.

And if you ever feel like you're not getting a responsive answer, feel free to let me know directly.  We're always looking to improve the way things work!
Rosemary O'Neill
I suspect you may not like to hear this from what you explain Rosemary. And you know I'm a supporter of LiveCloud.

You see... there is actually a need for a 'support' function in the way it may not be seen by many in the way you explain. Someone who will just say... don't worry... Someone who can interpret concerns expressed here and express them on behalf of members who can't do so. It's like pastoral care. 

There are people who can respond appropriately to questions they are asked as regards technological issues. I'm not like that myself, but I have learnt to be stronger about doing that the longer I've been here. The people you ask for help have all the know-how... but may not be so able to unravel what your question is and explain to you how to implement their advice. However you like to paint it... there are people who can mostly do one of these parts of their functions but not both.

In my life I've learnt the difference between the two Rosemary. I've neglected the issue I had on QS because of my sense of ignorance... but have sent it back now in the only way I can express it. 

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