It has been an eventful year so far being a part of CircleCI's Support Engineering team. This also marks my first year in Customer Engineering.
This has been an interesting challenge for me, as I transitioned from a past life as a software engineer.
I have learned a lot.
I hope this list will be useful for folks switching to Customer Engineering like myself.
1. Empathy is important
Empathy is an important element in communication.
This remains true even when two engineers work through a problem.
Customers write in a support ticket because they need help solving an issue.
They likely spent a lot of time trying to solve it, and are frustrated at this point.
On that note, a good error message will help users better than a technical support answer can.
In addition, English may not be the main or strongest language of the customer.
I find that short and simple instructions can go a long way.
Always remember to factor these points, when you reply.
2. Detect XY Problems early
It helps to see the bigger picture of a customer's ask.
At times, their original question can be a XY problem.
I find that these questions tend to exhibit the following smells:
- the customer is trying to do something that veers from the common use-case or best practices
- the solution they are looking for, and their end goal are disconnected.
In these situations, never hesitate to confirm what they are trying to solve exactly.
This makes sure that you understand their problem and end goal.
This brings about my next point below.
3. Clarify, clarify and clarify
Solving a problem requires understanding the problem first.
Not everyone is great at writing about their problem at hand.
There will likely be details missing, and these could be important.
Remember that asking further questions is also a valid response.
It is even better when you can explain how their answers will help in the next step.
“Would you be able to do 123, and share the output here?
This will help us confirm or rule out ABC.”
At times, these questions can help customers arrive at their own answer or solution.
4. Anticipate the next question
Solving an immediate problem for the customer feels great!
Anticipating potential challenges, and sharing them is even better.
I find this to be a useful trick when dealing with new users in particular.
New users are likely still trying to figure out how to use your product.
Beyond the immediate question, they may bump into another hurdle soon.
If you can anticipate this early, share your knowledge while you close out the ticket. This proactiveness will help with ticket deflection too.
5. Share knowledge
Overtime, you may end up being the “subject matter expert” for certain topics around the product.
Instead of being the bottleneck for information, make efforts to distill this knowledge to the rest of the team.
This can come in the form of:
- pair ticketing (like pair programming!)
- internal or public knowledge base (even better)
- Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions
This can only help the team, as there becomes a better balance of knowledge amongst members.
You can apply for time off in peace, knowing that your teammates got this!
Oh, and one last piece of advice.
Slack should never be your team's knowledge base;
Invest in documentation! 📖
#customerengineering #empathy #software
buy Kelvin a cup of coffee ☕