Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Livesite Support – Who should do this?

Customer service is the first line of support for any e-commerce. Traditionally these people have admin rights to the system and written instructions to follow them.

Second line of support when something goes down on live site is to call the developer on pager duty. Workaround for the problem is found and fixed on a ASAP basis and then we tend to stick with the work around forever.

Kayak has this great idea:

Why would you pay an engineer $150,000 to answer phones when you could pay someone in Arizona $8 an hour?" If you make the engineers answer e-mails and phone calls from the customers, the second or third time they get the same question, they'll actually stop what they're doing and fix the code. Then we don't have those questions anymore.

Pager duties are not fun but why Developers should be the only one to be quad-damaged by them. It should be a shared duty of the team. The tester on the team should be equally responsible for it and at the same time the program manager too.

These 2 other disciplines have their own excuses to escape such responsibilities.

QA/PM: I didn’t write the code, I don’t know the fix, how am I supposed to handle it.

You as a part of the project is expected to have a level of debugging skills, or investigation and identifying the cause based on symptoms. May be the code is right and its a network issue or service is down. Could be a false alarm etc, may be something needs to be bounced. If things are beyond your understanding I am sure developers will be more then happy to help you out. Also the ground work on investigation is going to help in getting things fixed earlier.

Its hard to sell this idea to these disciplines but then there are some smart asses who know how to frame and sell it and here’s an example:

This is a great opportunity to be close to our real customers and it will be a good learning experience for everyone to be involved in this highly visible customer service exercise. Remember that as a pager carrier, your only responsibility is to triage the issue and escalate them if necessary. Developers will always be around to help out if there are any questions.

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