Streamlining support or developing better software?

Many organizations are resolving product issues with elaborate, advanced customer support. Instead, they should focus on the underlying software quality.

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We’re all familiar with the streamlined support processes that have been implemented left, right and everywhere. Press 1 for menu item X, press 2 for yet another…

So, when my last car issue arose, I knew I was in for a treat. The car wouldn’t recognize the key, nor would the doors open. Same issue with the spare key. Replacing the battery in the key didn’t work, so it looked like a real problem. I called my garage, where they told me I needed to call ###-assistance. So I did and gave all my personal details, name, address, license plate number, described the issue, etc. The representative on the line made a true attempt to help, then fell briefly silent. Apparently, it was the wrong customer support department, so I was forwarded to yet another helpful person in a completely different organization. And had to give all the same details again, obviously. Somebody was sent over to open my car, under loud protest from the alarm system (that worked quite well, I have to say). This allowed me to drive to the garage to get it fixed.

And there, an apparently rightfully stubborn person decided to check the key battery. Very frustratingly, that worked. As it turned out, the battery connections were a bit loose. Of course, lesson #1 is to check the battery more thoroughly than I had. Lesson #2 is that we all wasted an awful lot of time by not understanding the problem. Every modern car I’ve ever driven has given a warning that the key battery charge is low; not so for the most modern car I currently drive. This is a software issue that wouldn’t be too hard to resolve.

It seems many people are resolving support issues by creating even more elaborate and advanced customer service, whereas a focus on the underlying quality issues is perhaps a better way to go. Maybe it’s because support in many organizations is in a department separate from development. That may be the case, but many organizations (including the manufacturer of my car) would benefit by aligning the two better than they are today. It will lead to lower costs and happier customers.

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