Support before you even know you need it

Working in customer support for years, I’ve learned that one of the most important skills one can have is pattern recognition. Support folks are reactive, responding to the ticket, phone call, or alert. We could be picking up a pattern related to a service not working as expected or simply a request that we’ve seen before. In any of these situations, your “supporty-senses” need to start tingling and making bells go off in your head.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the situation where you’ve identified a situation that you’ve already encountered and what steps you can take to make a more productive, lower-effort experience for your customers.

In many ways, identifying something like this quickly is a sign that you’ve grown in your support experience because you’ve been able to parse the situation and can now quickly identify the solution the customer needs. That’s a win, though only for you. If it’s a repeated situation, I’d wager good money it will happen again. And if your customer base is segmented through various skill levels, it means you’re working with people who don’t always want to ask for help first.

Save yourself and your customers time by documenting any and every situation that you can. Not all responses need a full tutorial or guide. Instead, use tools like online forums to post the issue and the solution on a public platform that customers can search for. Even if a customer reaches out to you without searching that platform, you still have a resource to pass along for them.

Some key wins that come from empowering your customers by posting solutions in this way are:

– Reduce time and effort for customers who are adept with your service enough to be able to find the solutions themselves
– Reduces overall tickets in your queue, thus making you and your team more productive, and reduces response time for the customers with more unique issues

At Linode, we do this through our Community Questions website. I’ve done a number of these, including this recent one: What is the best way to handle an ownership change for my account or services? In this post, I outline multiple approaches a customer can take for situations where there’s a change of ownership. There is no set answer for all situations, so I used my experience answering this type of question multiple times to draft for any of our customers that find themselves in this situation.

As I mentioned, support work is mostly reacting to what is in front of you. Documenting repeated questions and solutions allows your customers to get the support they need before they knew they needed it.

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