Many thanks to the anonymous reader who suggested this topic. I think we can all understand his wish to remain anonymous — and I know he is far from alone!
Here’s the scenario: you have just shipped a new, shiny release that includes some brand-new features that are in a rough state: they are not fully fleshed out, perhaps, they are not intuitive, or they have stability issues. And now customers are using these features, and contacting support because they are running into issues. What do you do? Here are 7 ideas to inspire you.
Idea #1: Influence the messaging, upfront
It’s bad for everyone if customers struggle with a feature that has been over-hyped. As part of the support team’s contribution to the product lifecycle, ask that expectations be set properly for new features in the documentation and other customer communications. All software vendors release features before they are complexly foolproof, at least some of the time, so customers will not be shocked to learn that some limitations exist — and they will appreciate the heads-up.
Of course this needs to happen before the customer ever contacts support with an issue.
If the customer is experimenting with a few features in a controlled test environment, your response will be different than if the customer is pushing it to production. Ask before you counsel. The customer in testing mode will find it helpful to hear about the limitations of the feature. The production-eager customer needs a solution, not a reminder that he chose the wrong path.
Idea #3: Be positive, but not Pollyanna-ish
We in support tend to be bearish and risk-averse, so the first reaction may be to warn the customers of all the dangers of the new features. Try flipping the message around and start with the positive. Of course, customers expect straight talk from support, so don’t oversell: temper their excessive enthusiasm and gently set realistic expectations.
Idea #4: Preserve the relationship
If the customer’s goals cannot be accomplished because of product limitations, suggest alternatives. Sometimes the best solution is to work around the problem, even if we know that the new feature will, eventually, work the way the customer needs it to work.
Idea #7 Be the voice of the customer
What other techniques have you used?