Last month a story hit the news wires about United Airlines unplugging their phone number for customer complaints. Their reasoning was that they are "able to respond better to customers who write, since they often include
more detail, making it possible to provide a more specific response."
I understand that point of view. But I don't agree with it.
At a software company, the same thinking sort of applies. If you have a problem or a question about an application, it is sometimes easier to communicate in writing, so that you can describe things in more detail and include error messages, log files, etc.
But there are other situations where there is no substitute for the real-time feedback of a phone call. Even better, a phone call with someone who understands your problem, can ask intelligent questions about it, and is empowered to do something to help solve your problem.
One of the questions I asked when I interviewed for this job was: "Who does the technical support?" The developers answered: "We do." As in, tech. support at Smart Bear is literally handled by the exact same people who write the code for the product. It's a rotating responsibility - each day someone is assigned to handling the tech. support emails and phone calls.
When I heard that, I thought: "How cool." And it is. :-)
The key thing is that customer-friendly companies try to provide more channels for their customers to reach them, not fewer. In addition to email (support at smartbear dot com) and the support phone number (512.257.1569), we have a page on UserVoice and we're available via Twitter as well.
What other channels do we need? Leave a comment and let us know; after all, this blog is yet another channel.