The last stage of the Customer-Driven Quality life-cycle is the support phase. Each of practices described in this series of posts were developed with successful software product, which have multiple upgrades and iterative development. As such, the support phase is not the final stage of development, but is the first stage for the next iteration. The support phase is provides opportunities to learn about customers, learn how to improve your testing practices, and prepare for future development iterations.
Development Team Support
When we develop and release new features of significant complexity, a very useful process is to include the development and test team on the front line for customer care. This practice helps by supplementing the customer care team, as the call load is likely to be greater for a new feature that is not yet understood. By putting the developers and testers in the support role, they get that direct interaction with customers which helps them tweak the design.
Analytics & Feedback
In addition to the feedback channels mentioned above, the support team is an excellent source of knowledge. Since they interact with customers as their main task, they are able to give customer focused insights to the development and test team.
For example, records of support calls and tickets should be tagged with meta-data that describes the area of the product and the type of call. These tags allow us to perform a Pareto analysis on the calls/tickets and study in more depth the root causes behind the most frequent (or longest duration) calls.
Root Cause Analysis
If customers are experiencing problems with your software, you have existence proof of gaps in your development and test practices. Each time this occurs, it’s a great opportunity to learn how to improve. Root cause analysis for software helps improve the development and testing practices of your team.
Interacting with customers through social media, like Twitter and Facebook, were mentioned earlier as way’s to build empathy with customers and discover their definition of quality. Likewise, it’s a great way to interact with customers in a support capacity. Customers will frequently post their problems to their friends. Replying directly, proactively, and helping solve the problem usually results in a positive experience for the customer. Most of the times that I’ve used this, the customers are very pleasantly surprised to receive a direct response from someone on the development team.
See more practices for involving customers to improve quality in the Customer-Driven Quality page.