So why doesn't Product Management pay more attention to their Service and Support staff? Perhaps they don't want to hear about "problems"; it's not as "glamorous" as interacting with Sales; or perhaps they simply haven't even thought about them.
The Service and Support Group:
1. Knows your products technically better than almost everyone else (since they have to train and troubleshoot).
2. Sees how users interact and use the product in the “real world”. They are the real UI testers.
3. Sees what users like and dislike in your products.
4. Sees competitive products at customer sites
5. Hears what customers are saying about your products and company…and sometimes the competition. They will know the latest swear words.
6. Tend to have the most interaction with customers after the initial sale
7. Are usually trusted by the customer more than your Sales force (just a natural tendency since they are not selling anything) so they are a very credible source.
8. Usually tell it like it is.
Here's Your Actions:
1. Go out on installations and training sessions with your Service staff…and just listen.
2. Actively solicit feedback at regional or group Service meetings to better understand their perceptions and concerns, as well as gather suggestions.
3. Ensure that any product development includes feedback, suggestions, review from the Service group. Better yet, have a Service person as part of the team.
4. Engage them in your User Story, UI/UX development, alpha testing. I had a team of Service Engineers review a new software product and I refused to release it because they all came back with the same comment about a missing functionality. I knew that their reaction was based on years of customer interaction and not to be taken lightly.
5. Take them out for a beer and dinner to show your appreciation as the front-line for your company and products.
You make their life easier, they make the customer’s life easier…which makes your life easier.