Good Developer eXperience includes excellent support as well. As API provider you try to avoid situations in which customer wants to contact you in need of support, but that is not always possible. You just can’t achieve “zero support” unless you actively try to make it impossible to contact you. Even then the support need is still there and most likely your product ends up replaced with another one or you end up as a meme circulating the giphy for couple of years. Or both.
Occasionally I get puzzled by the API or I get an idea how things could be better. The ideas are not always technical, but might be related to pricing or business in general. Of course sometimes I just need an advice. API customers need to be able to contact you in case they see that as a fit option. Most of the devs try everything else first and then if nothing else work contact the provider.
First “support” for me is the community. I ask around and seek similar cases from web resources. I’d rather use significant amount of time with peers than go for the next options (below).
Don’t hide email support
Nowadays it’s more and more common to hide all contact information from websites and all sources. That is friggin annoying! I need to have at least clear email and phone number to contact. It might be just me but the faceless “firstname.lastname@example.org” is not convincing either. But that is better than nothing at all. I’d rather deal with a person than something which sounds like a moloch’s hole or black hole. Put at least some support faces to see in your support pages! Since the email is hidden, there probably is some form for feedback.
Another option to contact is a form. That kind of sucks too. The message goes (if the form works) to “somewhere” and I possibly get the same message in my email too. Then what? At worst cases the email is “no-reply” email and I can’t do anything except hope and wait. Furthermore I’ve had several experiences that technical issues are responded with clearly stardard copy-paste replys which do help a god damn thing. At worst case those are copy-pastes from documentation. I would not contact you if the answer would be in your documentation! Too often the “support” is handled by a 3rd party which clearly has not idea of the system or API itself but is just following the standard instructions.
Phone…oh my god
I’d rather not call support since most likely neither one of us can speak native language. The length of the discussion is just too long and furthermore again I’m too often dealing with 3rd party “support” with no deeper knowledge but giving me parrot talk (repeating what has been told to).
I love contacting product owner in social media and give feedback or ask for advises. I’d prefer to discuss there with a person, not with a product or company handle. I want person to person support, not to interact with faceless brands. My preferred social media is Twitter, but that’s just me. Twitter gives me options to start the support thing in public, but continue it in direct messages if needed. This is the support that has worked the best for me.
Chat based support feels good to me as well as long as it’s not a bot. If the bots would be good, I could go with them. The bots I’ve faced with just suck! If the chat support is with a person, then it’s a different thing. I haven’t encountered too many of these yet.
If you want feedback and contacts from customers, put CTAs around the documenation and product site. The buttons do not need to be as obvious and noticable as “Get started” or “Create account to start” but still clearly noticable. I do not want to seek contact forms after I get an idea I want to share with you. You can use the frigging form, but put the links to that form from different places and sections of your site and documentation.
It should be obvious at this point that faceless corporate support is better than nothing, but you can do better. People don’t want to be objects or interact with support systems. We need people to interact. Or bots that really feel like persons. Anyone contacting your support is desperate. They are not doing to have fun. This is their last resort and if in that situation I feel like shit because of lowsy support, your product sucks too.
Some more to read from 100 Days DX
- #100 - The biggest open resource on Developer eXperience so far
- #99 - Hackers - the top 1% of engineers
- #98 - Invalid Open API spec files ruins the developer experience
- #97 - Lightweight API evaluation framework
- #96 - Embracing open source community driven tools development
- #95 - Exploring the multilevel nature of API Design Guides
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