Jamie's Blog

Ruby developer. CTO. Swimmer. Always trying to write more

The perfect in-app help system doesn't exist. Yet.

I’ve been looking for a solution that would allow our support team to screen-share with customers when providing support. When you have non-technical users, there’s no point in asking for a screenshot, or technical specs, or asking them to walk you through the problem. You just need to see it.

An ideal system would work like this:

  1. Customer rings support with a problem (or, perhaps, start a conversation in-app)
  2. We send a link in an email (or, better, in-app message)
  3. They confirm they want to allow the support staff to see their screen
  4. BAM!

Unfortunately, every current support tool works like this

  1. The support staff must work on Windows (because no one would ever give their support staff a Mac)
  2. The support staff log in and start a “session”
  3. They invite the user by sending a really poorly worded email
  4. The user visits a generic download page where you have to walk them through choosing the correct download (the very very best solution skip this ridiculous step. Most don’t).
  5. The user downloads the file. Aside: I tried one awful system that required the customer to *“cancel”** a confirm dialog in order to download the client app.* I have no words to adequately describe this stupidity.
  6. The customer eventually finds the installer/.exe they just downloaded, and runs it
  7. Answers at least one, if not three, scary security warnings
  8. Once the client loads, they need to enter a numerical code. For example, Teamviewer requires a 9 digit code and a 4 digit PIN.
  9. Yay?

Luckily there is some hope on the horizon: WebRTC. This will allow you to easily stream the contents of one browser to another — when it’s widely available. Already there’s the inkling of a decent support system in the likes of same.io and talky.

Whilst WebRTC seems inevitable, it won’t be widespread for a long time. Remember, most developers are still supporting IE 8 which is 5 years old — and it’s probably those customers which need the most hand-holding.