A couple of days ago I had a good conversation with a friend of mine regarding customer support. Before going into the actual discussion, I want to say that I'm a very strong believer in actively engaging your customers/users on all level, specifically one of the competitive advantages any organization can develop is having great support. In fact there is no excuse for not having great support. You don't have to be a big company, you don't have to use any fancy management system, you don't need to hire special experts at doing so. All you need is the will to establish great support and the persistence to actually go and do that.
Establishing great support, from my experience, has one of the biggest ROI in the organization.
But back to the discussion, specifically what we talked about is how far will they go and expose their support database to their users. Currently, while they do have great support, from a user perspective, once a call has been acknowledged as a defect or a needed feature there is no visibility as to its progress.
In most cases, either you have stumbled on a critical thing, resulting in an almost instantaneous fix (sometime in a matter of hours), or you have stumbled on something less important which go into an arbitrary hidden to do list. as a user there is no middle ground. The things that go into that future to-do list are going into a big black hole and there is no telling how long it will take to actually get a fix.
On the other hand when I asked why do they not publish the above mention to-do list, he told me that currently he fears that seeing the entire picture might scare off some potential and even existing users.
To that I said not likely!
Granted I'm sure that some will be scared if the list is big enough, However like I any kind of relationship being honest is probably the best long term strategy. Hiding the truth from your users has a big chance to backfire. As been demonstrated in several occasions (and being on that end as well I also can testify), you can't hide forever behind a hidden to-do list. At the end the users, will start noticing that some defects are going down that drain hole never to return. And if enough of them does so eventually you will have to deal with a damaged reputation and that's even less fun. Hearing once and again that "this will be fixed/added in a future version" without committing to a time frame, becomes annoying unless you actually see those in a reasonable time. And you never but never want to have annoyed users.
Personally I prefer to hear the truth, if you decided that the issue is not that important just let me know. If its that important to me maybe I'll be willing to pay for it. If not, just help me to work around this. I'm a grown up and I expected to be treated as a grown up.
of course we have also discussed some middle ground, one option was to allow all users to track only their open cases. Which probably wont change the fact that these things are not fixed, but will give a better indication to the actual status of things.
naturally in the long run the only true solution is just to make the product so good and the number of defects so low that this will become a non-issue. However that's probably a whole different story.
So share with me how are you handling your support at your work place? what more can be done in order to mitigate and find a good compromise?