Maybe I’m just naturally nosey, but I’m fascinated by other companies’ support staff. When I’m talking to my bank, my phone company or whatever, I always wonder what it’s like for the person on the other end. What is their desk like? Do they like their job? How many other people do they work with? So I thought some of you might like to hear five secrets from support@delib.

1. We’re not a vast, outsourced call centre

If you are an existing Delib customer, you will know that you have your own account manager. You can phone up and ask for them by name, and they will know who you are, which organisation you work for, and that you’ve just got back from holiday in France.

But did you know that the personal service continues when you email with your query? The first person who sees your query is likely to be your account manager. Often, they will be able to answer your question very quickly. If not, they’ll usually drop you a line to say that they’ve passed the question on to a developer who can look into it in more detail. The useful thing about emailing the support address is that it pops up in our support ticket system and I (the support developer) can see all the info you’ve provided, and the account manager’s response, straight away.

I might never speak to you on the phone, but I almost certainly recognise your name too, and know which organisation you work for. I might even know you went to France last week, if I overheard your account manager chatting to you about it. You see, in the UK office we all work within earshot (and potentially nerf-shot) of each other. When we answer your question, we sign our names, so hopefully you’ll get to know us too.

At any time, there will be one or maybe two developers answering support queries, along with one or two testers to check our work. That means it’s very likely that your entire query will be answered by the same developer. If you ask a couple of questions in the same week, you will probably get the same developer each time.

2. All Delib developers take turns on support duty

We think it’s vital that the people who develop Delib’s apps are the same people who support them. This insight works two ways: As one of the people who designed, coded and deployed the feature you’re having trouble with, I am the best placed to help you use it, or to track down the bug (sorry!) and work out how to fix it.

Conversely, having talked to you – a real user of the system – I have a much better insight into how you use it every day in your job. This really helps us when prioritising new features and understanding how we can improve the usability of our apps. In some companies, developers see their users as an anonymous “them”. When we plan the work for each release, we always like to use real names. “Bob from Westonshire Council had trouble using feature X last week. Is there anything we can do to make it easier to use?”

At the moment, we have a fortnightly rotation and hand over the support baton on a Thursday morning, so if you ask a question on Wednesday you may get answers from two different developers. Don’t worry though, we always have a handover chat with the person taking over, so they know which issues are open and how far we’ve got with resolving them.

3. We love our Knowledge Base

If you’re not sure how to use one of the features of our apps, the first place to look is in our Knowledge Base. If you don’t already know about it, I recommend you bookmark it. It’s a huge, searchable repository of user guides, FAQs, tips and tricks. If you’re using Citizen Space and are logged into your site as an admin, you can also get to the Knowledge Base via the ‘support’ link at the top of every page.

However, we don’t only recommend the Knowledge Base to our customers – we use it for all our internal documentation as well (obviously you have to be a Delib employee to see that stuff). One of the things that support developers do when we’re not answering customer queries is to keep the documentation up to date, and write handy how-to guides for our future selves, so that the next time a particular question comes up, we can answer it even more quickly.

4. We like it when people say ‘thank you’

Sometimes when I contact other companies’ customer support and they solve my problem, I wonder, “Should I drop them a line to say ‘thanks’, or is that just using even more of the support person’s valuable time?” Well I still don’t know about other companies, but here at Delib, we always appreciate a quick “Thanks, that did the trick.”

Of course it makes us smile to know you’re happy, but also it means we know we can close the support ticket without offending you, or worrying that we’ve left any of your questions unanswered.

5. This is what my desk looks like

  1. This flag means I am on support duty (we cheesily refer to the role as ‘Support Superstar’). The flag is attached to the side of my monitor with velcro. This morning I will give the flag to Alan, who will take over from me. Support Superstar doesn’t only do customer support; they’re also the go-to developer for any sales or operational questions that need a technical answer, so this flag makes it obvious who to ask.
  2. Kanban board. This is one of the ways we visualise the tasks we have in progress. It helps keep our turnaround times low on things like new customer rollouts.
  3. Consultants sit here.
  4. Account managers sit here (see, I told you they were nearby).
  5. Samuel the spider plant. He is a bit under the weather at the moment but I am expecting a full recovery.
  6. Tea.
  7. This blog post (paradoxically)
  8. Other developers, testers and sysadmin sit just there.

So, I’m signing off from support duty for now, but if you write to in a few weeks’ time, there’s every chance that I might be in touch.