The Pain Business

Product Support's job is to both treat and prevent pain.

Product Support is about pain.

Pain happens whenever a customer has to spend time or effort not accomplishing their goal. Poor UX, unclear documentation, missing features, and bugs can all make a product hard to use and cause confusion, frustration, or worse.

Any time a customer has to reach out to Product Support, it’s because they are in pain.

Contacting Product Support should be painless.

Any customer trying to contact Product Support is already in pain. You know this and they know you know this. If it’s difficult to make that contact because you hide Product Support’s phone number or email address, force customers to wade through phone trees or scripted conversations, or put in any other obstacles to make it harder to get help, that’s a clear message that you do not care about their pain.

This is one of the worst things to do if you actually care about retaining customers. Anyone who gives up on solving their problem with your product is that much more likely to give up on your product entirely. And anyone who perseveres and takes on the extra pain to get through those obstacles is going to be in a needlessly-worsened mood, making it harder for Product Support to help them.

Make it as easy and frictionless as possible to get in touch with someone who can actually help them.

Product Support should treat pain.

This is the obvious core of Product Support work. It’s immediate and visible; the customer either gets their solution or they don’t. If Product Support isn’t treating pain, customers will find some other way to accomplish their goals - probably one that doesn’t involve your product.

When a customer in pain reaches out for help, the immediate priority of Product Support is to solve that pain. Product Support team members should be qualified, trained, and empowered to provide meaningful help. They should own issues through to completion and loop in other resources as necessary to get the customer a solution or at least a workaround or alternative way to achieve their underlying goal.

Make sure that customers who reach out to Product Support get actual help accomplishing their goals.

Product Support should prevent pain.

Even when surface symptoms vary, the vast majority of pain points that customers run into are not one-off flukes but issues that can strike repeatedly. Fixing root causes prevents entire classes of problems at once. Leaving them untouched means you are accepting preventable pain, which is a message that you don’t care about customer pain or the pain of your Product Support team.

Repeatedly treating customer pain that could have been prevented is a waste of Product Support time and effort that could have been spent learning or improving the product. It’s not a good use of problem-solving skills to solve the same surface-level problem over and over. It’s frustrating and boring and it will drive away your best Support people.

Pain points accumulate as products grow in scale and complexity. Prioritization is hard and resources are limited, but if you consistently fail to address recurring pain points today, you’ll effectively have fewer resources tomorrow.

Make sure that the root causes of recurring pain points get fixed.