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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Customer interaction - Ensuring that solutions to problems are put out frequently on the product page

Just selling a product is not enough. Unless a company is in a very niche area where there are very competitors, customers should be seen from the long term. There have been some good products that have failed because of inadequate attention being paid to ensuring that the customers are happy and satisfied. Every product will have defects (if somebody is claiming that there product does not have any defects, you can be confident that they are lying), the way forward is to ensure that you have the right strategy in dealing with such defects.
There are many defects that have a workaround. So, for example, a customer may be running into a problem with a specific workflow using a set of steps, and there is a certain defect in either the process of the workflow, or in the information generated at the end of the workflow. Now, there are certain customers for whom this workflow is not important enough, or was something that they tried only a few times, and did not try again, or that they feel that they will not try. There could be other customers for whom the workflow is very important, and they do not feel right about this workflow not working.
Along with the different impact of such a defect to customers, there are also differences with the way that the customers raise such issues. There are customers who will actually raise such complaints to the customer service team of the product, who will search for this issue and look for any solutions posted by the company or by other users, and will visit user forums seeing whether other users are also getting such solutions and whether the company has posted anything with regard to such solutions.
In earlier posts, I have mentioned how the company should be monitoring the user forums, looking at customer complaints and the like, so that they know whether their customers are facing issues, and so on. And it is not just looking for such complaints or issues, but reaching out to people who have reported such issues. This reach out gives customers a great feeling that the product is supported by people who are responsive to customer issues, and this increases their attachment to the product.
There is another higher level in terms of responding to customers. If the team reaches a point where they feel that the case is critical, or where a number of customers are reporting the same issue, the team should consider investigating the issue such that some kind of solution is available. This might mean interacting with customers to get more information about the problem, and then putting in the best possible effort to solve the problem and figure out a solution. This solution could be in the form of a small patch that is posted on the product site along with an article that details how to use the patch; it could be in the form of some steps that prevents the product from getting into a state where the defect occurs (for example, we once had a case where we could edit a specific registry entry and an application crash was prevented), or it could be in any other form.
The point to all this was to figure out that there was a problem that needed the attention of the product team (often this would be flagged by the customer support team, since they kept a track of what issues were becoming critical; but this could be seen by looking at items / complaints getting posted by users on other online forums), investigate the issue and figure out a solution. Once the solution was available, then the next step would be post an article that detailed the issue, and then list the steps needed to solve the issue. The advantage of posting these on a site was that the post would also bet picked up by search engines and when a user ran across the issue and did a search, they would quickly find the solution.

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