Building developer empathy through customer support
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Technology

Building developer empathy through customer support

Lena Guerrero
Aug 19, 2019

The term "user-first" is frequently used in product development. For designers, this is a key part of their job; making sure the product is accessible and intuitive. However, at a quick-moving start up, once the feature is passed to development, focus can easily fall from user-experience to optimization, design execution, and deadlines.

It can be really hard to conceptualize, and more importantly, empathize with a user if you’re only learning about them through analytics or assumptions. The user begins to feel more generic persona than unique human. 

How, then, can a product team work to empathize with their users throughout the development process, and keep the user experience a top priority?

Answer: regularly interacting with users through customer support!

One way to familiarize developers with their users is to have them regularly respond to customer support tickets.

Here at MoveSpring, customer support has long been a part of developer onboarding. Rather than just reading summarized user data, developers are afforded time to talk with real users, learn the product, and understand what issues are top of mind for the average user. This also gives new hires a chance to confidently ask questions on behalf of users, and communicate frequently with the whole team.

As part of the onboarding, developers were required to answer up to ten support tickets a month. We found developers became more invested in the bugs after hearing about them directly from users. We began to see how issues large and small can really frustrate people! An otherwise low-priority bug could not be ignored after reading five passionate support tickets about the same issue. 

For example, we often heard complaints about our Google Fit syncing speed. While we all agreed it was an issue, it was hard to justify it as a high priority item. It wasn’t until the developers began answering support tickets, that we saw just how much the Google Fit issue was negatively impacting the experience of our users. We looked at how many users were syncing via Google Fit and realized this device connection was increasing in volume across our user base. 

As with most syncing issues, we are at the mercy of the data provider, in this case, Google Fit. While we determined this was a high priority item, we couldn’t make a fix until they upgraded their APIs. We closely tracked the Google Fit product updates and immediately enhanced our syncing service when their new APIs were released. Result? Huge decrease in Google Fit support tickets and a major increase in user happiness.

The empathy gained from responding to support tickets made us act quickly on the major pain points affecting our users’ experience on the platform.

In addition to empathizing with customer issues, talking with users also helped us realize the positive impact of our work. At MoveSpring, we are dedicated to making fitness fun for everyone - whether you’re a marathon runner or just starting your fitness journey. It’s incredibly satisfying and rewarding to see firsthand how people are using our product to improve their own health. 

Although it’s easy to argue developers should stay focused on the creation of the product, your output is only as good as your inputs. Talking directly with users helps us keep their experience top of mind while we build new and exciting features for MoveSpring.