Once a sale has been made, the customer has a limited range of interaction points with the vendor. There is the product or service itself, there is the documentation that supports the product (and more frequently delivered on-line rather than hard copy), there is the monthly bill, and there is the customer support center.
In most companies all these elements are treated separately from a process and personnel point of view. Customer support rarely interacts with product management, product marketing, documentation groups, billing, or sales, yet all these groups revolve around the same core: the customer. Sales is overtly focused on customers, product marketing focuses on customers, but normally on an aggregate level, product management interacts with select customers to define requirements for product roadmaps (unless they’ve implemented crowd-sourcing, which most companies have not), billing interacts with customers on a monthly basis, documentation rarely interacts directly with the consumer (in spite of the importance of the deliverable), and customer support deals with customers on an exception basis, when something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.
Every one of these interactions provides product or service vendors with an opportunity to get a step ahead of the customer and anticipate requirements (and in all fairness, most people do take their customers seriously), the problem is that all these groups are probably dealing with the exact same customer, gaining multiple perspectives on incredibly valuable information, yet a holistic and integrated view that factors in all organizational facets in the context of the customer is rarely available. The best example of this is probably the customer support center. Why? Most people are calling because they’re having a problem; the product doesn’t work, the documentation isn’t clear, something is not working, etc. This is an ideal opportunity to gain meaningful insight because the customer is dealing with the vendor on an emotional level; as a vendor you’re actually much more likely to get unambiguous feedback from someone who’s upset, and of all the organizational groups, Customer Support is most likely to take the hit.
In most instances we find the core problem is ambiguity in documentation; complex products that are poorly documented can be a nightmare for the customer, which draws a direct correlation between the documentation and customer support groups, who rarely, if ever, interact. This is another push for a fully integrated rich media deliverable, pictures speak louder than words, moving pictures speak even louder, and providing a direct feedback loop to customer support through the documentation deliverable (which is quite possible in an on-line model) closes the focal gap that keeps most companies guessing about their customer intentions.