Why You Should Listen to Your Customer Support Team

Chris Rude

Senior Engineering Manager at Facebook



The team that was handling customers’ billing and subscription operated in partnership with customer support. At times, the customer support team would inform us of issues customers faced regarding their billing or ability to purchase. The customer support team was distributed globally but would periodically meet with our team in the US. The most pressing issue they repeatedly emphasized was a great number of refunds for customers who were purchasing our services through Paypal. We didn’t take it seriously until we learned that it was 300 refunds a week -- which was half of the total purchase through Paypal. By neglecting the concerns of our customer support team, we failed to understand the order of magnitude and the effect this issue had on our customers and the company’s revenue.

Actions taken

Once we learned about the bug it took us only a few days to fix it. Moreover, customer support had shared some other interesting data that helped us fix not only this particular bug but solve other recurring problems as well.

We introduced a regular bug triaging and extended our invitation to the customer support team. Prior to this, we had situations where a bug would wind up in engineering and without the complete information, engineers were skeptical and dismissive. If they had access to the customer ticketing system they could have checked what was already tried and what worked or not. Also, engineers were not able to see what was happening on the support end -- and the other way around -- because they were using different systems. The solution seemed obvious once it was pinpointed!

The customer support team would document the issue that engineers could access directly via a link. That data became our main data source to determine how often a bug happens or how annoying it is.

The solid relationship that developed between the billing and subscription team and customer support expanded throughout the company and resulted in the replication of tools and metrics that we created. This relationship was highly beneficial for senior leadership to detect underlying organizational problems. They could not only assess how well our engineering teams were doing at fixing support issues but also which teams were struggling with it.

Lessons learned

  • Engineers inherently enjoy fixing things but often lack context and relevant data that can help them prioritize and use their time most efficiently. This is when the customer support steps in. They are your direct channel of communication with customers and without them, you will operate in complete randomness.
  • Never underestimate the role of customer support and belittle it as a call center. The same amount of engineering effort in synergy with customer support will result in a far greater impact.

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Chris Rude

Senior Engineering Manager at Facebook

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