Soft Skills Book Series – My Job Went To India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book)

Or as I like to call it… “The day of the Coder is over..”.

While the title of this book implies that the target audience is people who feel their job is in danger from outsourcing I think it has a much wider audience.  In fact I would suggest that almost everyone who writes software for a living can find value in this book. 

I am a strong believer that the day of the Coder who sits in the corner writing code without ever interacting with others is quickly fading away.  In today’s market it’s important that we all understand how we can make the transition from Coder to Software Developer.  I myself have been working at making this transition (hence the soft books) and I found this book very valuable in doing so. 

The book is packed full of 52 different two to three page sections broken up into 6 parts.  The sections run the gambit from choosing which technologies to align yourself with to how to make yourself more appetizing to people who are hiring.  Out of the 52 sections there are a few that I don’t agree with but in general I found each section had something of value for me. 

The one thing I really liked about this book was that almost every section ended with an ‘Act On It!’ list.  This list would contain various activities you could do to strengthen yourself in whatever the section had talked about.  While there is plenty of value in just reading the book I personally always find I learn a lot better if there is an action I can take.

This book gets a strong buy recommendation from me for every one in the software development industry.  If you are willing to take the time to read it and try some of the various actions listed in ‘Act On It’ I think you’ll find this book as interesting and valuable as I have.

Supporting your Customers – It does not stop with forums..

I once had the fortune of working for a company that went out of its way to make sure the customer was always happy.  The benefit of this simple behaviour was huge for this company.  Word of mouth on our product was huge and more importantly when customers did have problems they were happy to give us the time and assistance we needed to resolve the issue.  Customer support is what made that company as successful as it was.

  For this reason customer support continues to be an area of interest for me.  I always find it funny when companies seem to go out of their way to provide a bad customer support experience.  Of course that is what makes the companies that provide a good customer experience so valuable.  These companies are always looking for new ways to interact with their customers.  Two examples of this recently came to my attention and I thought they deserved a mention.

The first is how ReSharper by JetBrains handles exceptions.  (It’s possible that the rest of their software does this as well but I’ve only noticed it with ReSharper)  When an exception occurs the user is provided with a popup letting them know.  More importantly though they are given the option to report it to JetBrains.  Either anonymously or via their JetBrains id.  Now up till now we’ve got behaviour which has become fairly standard.  Where JetBrains goes the extra mile is in how they handle things post reporting.  Once you report the bug you are given a link to the JIRA ticket.  This allows you to keep track of the problem and find out when it’s been resolved.  Even nicer is that if you used your JetBrains id you will be notified of any changes in the defect. 

The second way in which I’ve seen companies pushing the customer support envelope is in the use of Twitter.  I have twice complained about an issue I was having with a product and in both instances I received a response via Twitter that resolved my problem nicely.  The funny thing is I didn’t expect a response.  I was just complaining but that complaint got turned into action.  So far it appears that DevExpress, ViEmu and JetBrains are all using Twitter in this manner.

I think the lesson one can take from these two examples is that there is almost always something else you can be doing to improve your customer support experience.  If you can’t come up with any ideas on your own then feel free to see what other people are doing (not just your competitors.  You want to be customer support #1 in your niche which means going beyond what they are doing.).  You may find a new way to support your customers which is always has value.

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