The pandemic and great resignation has created many different pain points for today's technology companies. One area where this pain is felt the strongest, is in the area of production support. Production support is a maintenance process that many technology companies use to have software engineers and technical staff readily available to fix issues that are negatively impacting the customer experience. As it becomes increasingly challenging to find talented engineers, especially those who can be on call to support technical emergencies, what can you do to maintain or improve your performance and customer service?
In this article, I'll be discussing what you can do to reduce gaps in your production support process and how you can build a framework for your operations support teams that leads to increased performance. Before we dive into what and how, let's first make sure we clearly understand what's involved in the production support process.
As mentioned earlier, production support is a maintenance process implemented by many technology organizations to make sure there is always quick resolutions to issues that impact the customer's experience. This usually involves a customer support representative, (or someone who receives the initial bug or issue report), and technical professionals who can analyze the problem to determine and implement the solution.
Many companies will use an agile process and schedule to deliver the solution to the reported problem, and for emergencies those many companies will choose to deliver the fix as soon as possible without a structured schedule. In smaller organizations and startups, the technical professional is the company's lead engineer who will both analyze and deliver the solution. In larger companies, you could have several layers of support and individuals between the customer and the engineer, who check and validate the issue and maintain contact with the customer.
The overall process is as unique as the company and there isn't a one-size-fits all process when it comes to production support. Now that you have a general idea of what's involved, what steps can you take to reduce or eliminate gaps in your organization's support processes?
It's not a surprise that continuous education and training is a great way to increase the engagement of employees in the workplace and overall productivity. Customer and production support isn't different. Continuous learning in customer support is the fastest ways to close any gaps in the overall support experience.
For example, if you're a smaller organization or startup, providing soft skill training to your engineers could help them understand how to communicate effectively with customers, ask the right questions and understand how to explain solutions to non-technical individuals. If you're a larger organization, with support representatives, solutions engineers, architects and developers who are all part of the customer support workflow, then team development, collaboration and communication training might be more appropriate.
This goes beyond just soft skills as continuous learning can open the doors to new technologies and tools that can optimize your processes. One way to develop a culture of continuous learning within your production support teams is by creating a framework within your workplace that balances everyday work and support with learning in a way that allows your teams to learn and apply tactics in near real time.
The Right Monitoring & Updating Tools
When it comes to tracking and support, the biggest metric that companies want to improve is the customer service response time. Want to know how to improve that response time? Start by having the right monitoring and tracking tools. If you don't have visibility into every stage of the process from the initial issue being reported to the resolution, you won't know where you can (or should) focus on as a leader to improve the overall response time. Some of these tools include:
- Time Tracking
- Issue Filtering & Project Management
- Alerts & Notifications
- Customer Management & Feedback
Not only will the right tools help you keep track of the team's work, it'll also helps you find and establish the method of communication that works best with your company. Allowing you to keep everyone on the same page. Luckily, these tools are included with many of today's project management systems, but you can also get dedicated software platforms that focus solely on monitoring and helping you improving the customer experience.
Building on the previous topic of implementing the right monitoring tools, all the tools in the world won't help if you can't make sense of the data that's being collected. The best way to analyze and determine the success of your production support teams is through interactive dashboards that focus on your key customer service metrics. What metrics should you be focusing on with your reports? Customer satisfaction and resolution times are good ones to start with, but any others will be unique to your organization. While it's easy to become overloaded with all the data, the key is knowing what to track and what to have your engineers and other team members keep an eye on so you can strengthen your customer service.
This is a continuous process that involves regular evaluation each step of your customer support experience and knowing when to make pivots, apply different tactics or provide additional knowledge resources to strengthen that aspect of your process.
Focusing Your Production Support Operations for Improved Performance
Transitioning a culture of continuous learning and training helps with creating a basic framework for improved performance in your production support operations. With the right reporting and monitoring tools in place, you'll gain visibility on the entire customer and support cycle while using reports to act on the data. All of these combined go a long way towards improving overall productivity. As you can see, kick-starting your efforts towards reducing gaps in your production support process isn't difficult. It also isn't a walk in the park.
As with any performance improvement process that you'd like to apply in your organization, there will be resistance and you want to make sure that your management improvements don't distract from your core mission of delivering a great user experience. As you work to determine the best approach to focusing every member of your operations support teams and improving overall performance, what questions do you have?