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Developing The Right Support Processes
Making Sure Your Support Processes Don’t Stink
I want to talk about setting the stage for my alpha launch. In order to get Bella Scena ready for the market, I’m in the process of running a closed alpha test. In other episodes, I get into what we’re testing as part of it. I want to talk about setting the scene and what are some of the upfront things that we did before we even launched the product. In some previous episodes, I’ve talked a lot about how it’s been important to me to use human-centered design processes to develop Bella. That meant I had to have customers involved and be sure I was solving their pain points. Otherwise, this journey was not worth it to me. That also means in addition to having customers along and building a product with me, that I also had to think, “What does it mean when they’re using the product and how do they get support?”
In addition to human-centered design, I also had to start thinking about service design. How do you support your customers? It’s still in the early days yet. I haven’t worked hard on the product market fit. I don’t know exactly where the uptake will be. I have some ideas in target markets, but I also don’t know the customer journey like, “Who’s going to buy this?” I have targets but until you start to get out in the market, you can’t know any of this for certain. I was wrestling with this whole idea of the customer journey, and how do I have some efficient and effective mechanisms in place as I get started on this process? I’ve spent several years in tech. It’s always been in the SAP world. Our implementations and our goals are well-orchestrated, well-planned events. The SAP world, there are a lot of change control processes and I’ve never launched a SaaS product before. This was very different from that perspective. I wasn’t coming into already established processes. I had to develop them myself.As important as the human-centered design is service design. Click To Tweet
I admit more than once in the last few months, I have woken up at night worried that I wasn’t going to have good support processes in place and I wasn’t sure, “Am I ready for this? How am I going to handle this?” Those middle of the night gremlins, I know most of us get them from time to time. I am not immune. As I prepared for this closed alpha of the product, I’d like to equate it back to the stages of a baby because sometimes it feels like that even though this is not a physical person. If I were to equate this to a baby, I’d say this is trying to learn how to sit up. I’m not even crawling or walking yet. I want to sit up at this point.
A secret confession, I’m a process nerd. Even though I’m new to launching a SaaS product, I totally get my nerd on when it comes to creating and crafting processes. While my team was putting the finishing touches on the product, I’ve been thinking about my support processes and my alpha processes. I talked to other founders along the way and this is a common challenge when I ask, “How are you going to approach customer support? How are you handling support?” They usually pause and they get a look on their face, and they go, “I have them email me or we don’t have a very good process for that.” I’ve talked to founder after founder, I wasn’t finding any easy answers. I’m going to have to craft this myself. My inner process nerd didn’t like that idea that the only mechanism was to email me. That doesn’t scale like, “How do I outsource that at a point in time when I want to bring someone on to help me?” It’s strange to think a few steps forward and say, “I want more than that. I want to make sure problems don’t slip through the cracks.”
I selected a series of products and have crafted a process to do my initial support. I wanted to share it because I hear so few people talk about it and it’s a common challenge for a lot of us. I’m going to talk about four products that I use and how I use them and have put together my support process. I know it will evolve over time. The first product, the keystone product to all of this is something called Intercom, a lot of you have likely seen their little icon pop up. It’s usually in the lower right-hand corner and is a little smiley in it. Most of us have seen it, might even be tired of it. I set up Intercom because it was going to allow me to both do some lead generation on the marketing side as well as the customers support aspects of it as well. I use it as a ticketing system for me initially.
We got this installed within Bella and the first piece of it was up and running. It was quite easy to get it installed. That took an hour. There were a few little code snippets we had to put in place inside of Bella. The other thing that this gave me is a communication mechanism with people that are signed into the platform. If I need to send out alerts or I need to send messages or things about releases, I’d be able to do this through that Intercom product. I thought this is a nice initial starting piece for me. They also offered some startup pricing and they’re a startup as well. They offered some reduced pricing for startups, which was nice because I know a lot of tools can be quite expensive out there. That was very helpful.In human-centered design, you get customers involved and make sure you’re solving their pain points. Click To Tweet
There was a second product that I came across. I’ve been using this during the development and testing phases of our product. It’s something called LambdaTest. It is a browser testing tool. Before you think about tons of automated testing, that’s not how I’m using it. It has a whole bunch of capabilities that I’m not using yet but I’m using it to allow me to do a combination of different operating system and browser tests. One night, I would wake up and I was worried about what’s going to happen with anybody that uses a Mac and is on safari. I’m using my Lenovo ThinkPad, and I’m using Google Chrome usually and I can’t even put that on this machine, and then people get technical, “You do these weird virtual machine things.” I’m like, “No, I don’t do that.” I needed something more pragmatic than that. I ended up using LambdaTest for that because it would let me pick the operating system. It would let me pick which browser and then more specifically which support level of that browser it was in. I knew this was critical because that meant if particular bugs were coming up or things were happening, I’d have mechanisms to try to recreate them. I love having this one in place as well and have been using this one for several months to run integration tests to a lot of the product to make sure everything’s ready to go.
The third product I’m using is called LogRocket. It’s a little startup out of Boston and I have had a fantastic experience with this product. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. My platform is web-based, I’m not talking about apps at this point, no Android, iOS and progressive web apps, none of that yet for me as I’m still understanding what that experience needs to look like. For me, it’s primarily a web-based platform at this stage. What exactly is a LogRocket? It lets you replay what users do in your site so that you can reproduce bugs and fix issues faster. It recreates the screens and what people do. This has been super helpful in our alpha test but this is incredibly helpful to know what operating system they are on, what browser are they using, who the user was so that you can see what was happening. I’m looking to use this as also a tool to understand how people are clicking through things and what they’re doing. This only retains them for fourteen days and throws them away based on the subscription plan. It’s not like I’m keeping this indefinitely and it’s for support purposes and to see how people are using it and see if there are things that people are struggling with. It also lets you be proactive because if you start looking at some of the sessions and you see particular types of problems, it gives you the opportunity to reach out to people to find out if they’re having challenges or not. There are a lot of reasons that this one has been extremely helpful in identifying and troubleshooting problems for us.
The final product that’s indirectly part of support but it’s part of what you do and what you tell people after the bugs or issues are encountered and you’re going to work functionality. I’m using Jira for project management and we’re doing agile project management. I’ve got to admit this about Jira. It’s not my favorite tool. There are things that could be improved but what I will say is I know enough about the platform and I know enough about how to manage it well. It has enough features that it lets me do what I need to do in working with my team as a product owner and planning out all of our sprints and our activities. It also has a tremendous number of integrations. There are integrations between Jira and Intercom and between LogRocket and Jira. A lot of those things are already in place and can be very helpful as you work to manage a process.
I’m sure some people are going to say, “That’s all nice but that’s too expensive. I can’t afford this.” As I thought about it too, that was something that worried me because a lot of other products I looked at on the market were prohibitively expensive for me as a startup. Between those four products, I am paying less than $100 a month across the four products. That’s the beauty of SaaS subscriptions. It let’s all of us that are small play in the sandbox. One of the reasons I’m able to keep the costs down there is what I’m doing with LogRocket. It’s normally about $100 a month but that’s only when you get up to 10,000 sessions a month. I’m able to use their free introductory tier because I’m still small. It makes a tremendous amount of sense for me as a small company to be able to have the tools in place so that I know I’ve got a good support process.
My customers that are inside the Bella Scena if they have a problem, they can message me right through the application. Of course, they can still email me separately, that’s no issue. People have a way right to the application to message me. They tell me they’re having a problem, even better LogRocket and Intercom have an integration that works together. If they report a problem, their LogRocket logs are automatically attached. I can see exactly what was going on and where they’re experiencing the problem. This has been incredibly helpful and has helped me not wake up at night all the time wondering how in the world will I support people. It’s been instrumental in getting things up and running on the back end so that I can focus my efforts on designing what does that front-end process look like with my first customers.
That’s how I have crafted my support processes to start with and where I’ve begun in light of the fact that I’m not a paid product in the market yet. In our next episode, I will talk about what does my alpha look like? Why am I running an alpha? How did I structure it and what am I hoping to learn from that process? If you want to learn more about me or my company, you can follow me on Twitter, @BeingWonderly or you can go to WonderlySoftware.com to learn more about our company or even MeetBellaScena.com to learn more about Bella. Thank you so much. It’s time to go be wonderly.