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Susco Says

It's easy to assume that a user needing support is not using the application correctly. What if there really is a bug?
Catching butterflies in a net
We've all seen the acronyms used by support techs: ID-10-T errors, PICNIC, PEBKAC, and so on. On the one hand, they're pretty mean-spirited (but kinda funny). On the other hand, support techs can legitimately be exasperated when rude, frustrated users scream at them to solve problems that aren't their fault. Yes, some support techs really do have to walk users through the most basic of operations like making sure the computer and monitor are plugged in and powered on. On the OTHER other hand, it is the job of support techs to bridge that knowledge gap. As consultants, we are often called upon to support our own or someone else's software. We have to be the opposite of that acronymic stereotype. Users aren't idiots; they're experts in something we are not proficient in, and vice versa. Once in a while, we are on the receiving end of customer support, and these experiences can be real eye-openers. I remember one instance where we discovered an undocumented limitation of a mature third-party application.

Dig a little deeper to determine the customer's real need.Customers != Solution Architects

A few years ago, we were asked to quote a small automation for an existing, repeat client. They wanted help streamlining a spreadsheet-based process that took about 1/2 day of a high-level employee's time each week.

Customer: Can you help us save some time by writing some Excel macros?

Susco: Of course we can develop some Excel macros for you. But first, why do you need them?

 

ONE:  Don't just "break the system" I remember my very first QA task when I started here three years ago.  I was testing a client’s internal employee management system.  I had never tested anything before, so I asked my project manager, “How should I QA the software?  What does that mean?”  He answered simply: “Do your best to break the system.”  Okay, I thought, should be easy enough.   So, when I sat down at my computer, I opened the user management screen and did my best to mess with it – invalid email addresses (example: cersei@lannister.net, ned@winterfell, harryunderthestairs.com), phone numbers with too many or too few digits.  And I made sure to document in Notepad every “error” I found this way. After about an hour of this, I proudly sent my list to the developer.  Look at all the bugs I found!  A few minutes later, the programmer walked over to my desk and explained gently that these were not the only types of bugs I should be looking for.  While it is worth knowing which fields catch invalid data types and which do not, this is only the beginning of the testing process.

Leadership 101: The Midnight Coaching EmailLet me take you back to the year 2011.  This was a big year for us, as Susco had made a big name for itself as one of the first movers in mobile app development studios in the State of Louisiana.  We were growing revenue at 50% per year and collecting awards like they were going out of style. At the time I was a babe at 33, not a grey haired 39 year old –  so needless to say, the success started going to my head. I thought of myself as being very emotionally intelligent with how I dealt with people, but it’s very easy when growing a company to do a great job focusing on the way you treat your clients and referral sources but not apply the same effort with your staff.  This blind-spot almost cost me one of my best employees at the time.  In the interest of protecting the innocent, I’ll refer to them as “Jim”.  So, here we go…

We get this question a lot from business owners in the middle of a growth phase. Often, they are already using systems for accounting and CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and they are not sure what processes could be improved, and if there is a business case to improve them. Over the years, we've identified a number of clear indicators that it's time to invest in technology. This can be in the form of implementing a pre-existing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), implementing a platform solution, or developing a custom solution. We'll elaborate in an upcoming post on which of the 3 solutions is the right fit for you, but for now let's focus on the "smell test" of determining if there is a need. Some are oblivious, while others are more subtle.