We are working hard to improve our support. Sometimes it is very good, sometimes not. We are receiving about 20-40 requests each day via emails and Help Desk Portal, also we have several chats and phone calls. I want to share our experience and problems we are facing with, maybe it will help other companies to provide good support faster.
Manage Support using Email Client
Initially, as may other companies, we just use email client to handle incoming issues and requests. It worked fine for 2 years. There was a single inbox for all support requests and there was a single person who handled it. You may flag important requests and track them. For example, if important issue submitted, you may ask for additional info, submit a bug into TargetProcess and notify customer about new build when the bug is fixed. Usual questions are even simpler, you just answer them and forget till customer asks for more info.
However, support management via email client has several important problems and constraints.
1. It is really hard to track many requests with it. The good thing is that you have requests queue and may handle new requests nicely, but what about old requests that are not resolved so far? For example, bug created from request and it is still not fixed due to various reasons. Also we may ask for some additional information, but customer did not replied. It is likely that we want to re-ask again, but it is quite easy to forget that.
2. The other problem is when you have several people working on requests. It is not clear what request already answered and what request still waiting for the answer. 37signals uses gmail client for that and it seems it works fine for them. However it is not true for usual email clients like outlook.
3. Third, if you have several channels (live chat, phone, email) it is hard to manage them. For example, you have discussed the problem in the live chat and now want to create a bug. You add a bug, but forget to notify customer about new build when it is ready, since there is no such email in support inbox at all.
As you see, email client does not scale. It can be used if you have low volume of requests, but at some point you need something more efficient.