Benefits of providing customer support

Doing customer support can bring more benefits than just another happy customer.

An interaction with a customer of your application can lead to:

  • Understanding what the customers want from your application
  • Learning where customers learned about your application
  • Ideas for future features
  • Recognizing which problems return with different customers
  • Leads to other customers
  • New vectors for marketing
  • Fixing the underlying issue for the above problem or otherwise reducing this support request in the future
  • Writing an FAQ article
  • Creating a how-to-video for the issue
  • Publishing the above video on YouTube
  • Publishing an article explaining this video on the blog
  • Tweeting and posting on Facebook about the article on the blog
  • Mentioning it in the newsletter as a tip, perhaps
  • Writing an article on the blog about how customer support can benefit you
  • Tweeting about the above article

On Efficacy of Business Books

These days I’m reading what appears to be a fantastic book by Daniel Kahneman, called “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. It’s about how the intuitive and analytical minds think and interact. It’s about statistics and the fallacies of our minds with regards to statistical intuition and other thinking fallacies.

The quotes in the image are just a sample of quotes from one chapter. These specifically refer to the efficacy, or rather lack of thereof, of a specific kind of business books, those that try to teach the readers how to be successful in business by analyzing previous successful businesses, as if their management was somehow especially smart. The thing, as Kahneman explains, is that luck plays a much more important role than a specific CEO’s abilities are and eventually, over time, the companies come to some middle ground because luck averages out.

In short, read the quotes. Better yet, get the book.

Think it later

I love the concept of “read it later” services. Whenever I hit something that is too long to read at that moment I send it to Instapaper. Later, when I actually have time to read, I launch Instapaper app and see the list of the articles that I queued for reading.

In my previous article, “Thinking time”, I described how I love to schedule dedicated time for thinking about my business. Sometimes, though, the time comes and I’m not sure what’s on my agenda.

So lately I’ve come up with a concept of “Think it later” notes. The idea is so simple that it’s embarrassing. During the week, whenever I get a thought that requires time or depth of thought, I add it to “Think it later” list. These notes are then my “thinks to do” during the “Thinking time”.

Technically, you can use anything for your “Think it later” notes. It can be your favorite note-taking application on your phone, plain pen and paper, or you can use your favorite to-do application. If you use a system based on GTD you can create a special context called “Thinking” and use it for this purpose.

Even if you don’t set a dedicated time for thinking you can refer to this list whenever there’s some time that you can use for this purpose.

If you like this idea but not sure how to implement it, just write it down and think about it later.

Thinking Time

Being an indie software developer, developing products and running the business, takes lots of time. I work during normal working hours and then often have a “second shift”, when the family, or at least the kids, fall asleep. Still, I have enough planned stuff to do, when I’m near my Mac, to fill months of work. And most of this better be done sooner than later.

I’m pretty sure that if you’re an indie software developer, a designer, a businessman or almost anything where you have some control over your time and work, you know what I’m talking about.

In this state, we may become so reactive to the tasks that need to get done that we just don’t stop, take a step back and reflect on the whole situation. We may just forget to think deeply, strategically about the business and even about the work tasks themselves.

Enter “Thinking Time”

When I was at the uniquely great NSConference 2011 this March, I had the opportunity to discuss some of this with Matt Gemmell during a dinner there. Matt is a well-known Cocoa developer, conference speaker and, should I say, thinker. He appears to think deeply about stuff and publishes many of his thoughts in the articles on his blog.

So I asked him how he approached the thinking about software design, and his answer included something like “I take a walk, in nature, by the river, and only take my Moleskine and a pen with me.” It’s not a quote but the gist of his reply.

And I thought to myself, “Why, that’s a good idea. Step back from the monitor, the distractions, and devote time to just thinking for some time, writing thoughts down with analogue pen and paper”.

So, on my way back home I grabbed a couple of notebooks at the airport (they just happened to be Moleskine, of course), one for me and one for my partner, Kosta, and decided on having “Thinking Time”.

I put it in my calendar, weekly, as the first thing to do each week. It’s a good way to start a new work-week. While most of the population rushes to the jobs thinking “It’s @#$%@#$ Monday again”, I start the week slower, walking the streets or sitting on a park bench or under a tree to write things down, breathing real air. If the weather doesn’t allow being outside, I’ll sometimes go to a cafe, instead of skipping it completely.

During such couple of hours, I can make good progress planning software architecture, sketching application design, preparing a conference talk, or thinking about strategic business stuff.

Then, by noon, I come back to my home-office, feeling refreshed, satisfied that I already did something important today, and overall feeling inspired for the rest of the week.

Try it yourself

If you don’t yet have such “Thinking Time” on your schedule, I suggest you try it. The beginning of the week works the best for me. But maybe you’ll feel that the middle is actually better because it splits your work week and you get some kind of a break from your regular tasks.

In this age of Internet and social networks with all the fun distractions that they provide, it becomes more important to go away from it all at least for a couple of hours each week, sit down with a pen and a paper (or even an iPad running some notepad-type application), and just think it all through.

Update: take a look at my other article related to this: Think it later