Why support from 3rd-party APIs often falls short of your wants and needs

The vast majority of issues facing your business are well within your control to manage; addressing a given issue is often simply a matter of allocating the right personnel and allowing them enough time to resolve it.

That said, when a product integration breaks because the response body from a 3rd-party API isn’t what your team expected and accounted for, your engineers are often at the mercy of the 3rd-party API provider. And, unfortunately, 3rd-party API support resources often fall short of what your engineers need to quickly and effectively diagnose, troubleshoot, and resolve issues before customers are heavily impacted. 

We’ll break down how 3rd-party API providers often provide support that falls short of your engineer’s (and, ultimately, your customer’s) needs. But before we do, let’s align on what support from 3rd-party API provers entails.

What we mean by support from 3rd-party API providers

It’s any of the support materials and resources a 3rd-party API provider offers externally in an effort to help its API consumers troubleshoot and resolve issues. Depending on the 3rd-party API provider, this can take the form of web pages, a live chat, forums, or even a Slack community.

Where support from 3rd-party APIs falls short

Here are some of the top challenges to keep in mind:

The different ways that support from 3rd-party API providers falls short

Outdated API documentation

Third-party API providers often update and enhance APIs frequently, but the same can’t always be said about their API documentation. 

There are various reasons why this can be the case: separate employees might work on API documentation and API development, and they may not be fully aligned; the 3rd-party API provider may not have enough resources dedicated to updating and maintaining their API documentation; and significant and/or frequent changes to APIs can be hard to keep up with and document thoroughly (e.g. documentation can fail to cover the latest version of an API).

Poorly written and organized documentation

Even with up-to-date documentation, your developers can still struggle to find information they need and understand from a 3rd-party provider. 

API providers may fail to offer developer portals that have intuitive and effective navigation. The API providers also need to present the information in a way that’s clear and actionable; if the developers themselves are writing the documentation (or anyone else without a writing background), this task can be all but impossible. 

A screenshot of Zendesk's API documentation
Zendesk, a widely-used customer service software, provides a search bar at the very top of its API documentation and tabs on the side to make it easy for developers to access the information they care about; most API providers won’t provide these UX features.

Lack of support channels

While certain vendors offer multiple means of support beyond documentation, the majority don’t. This means that when one of your developers runs into API documentation that appears outdated or simply fails to cover what they need, they’re out of luck. Their next best bet is to ask engineers at other companies, undergo research on forums, or even message the company on social media—all of which are time consuming to perform and are unlikely to prove helpful.

A screenshot of HubSpot's API documentation
HubSpot, the popular CRM and marketing automation platform, offers several resources within their API documentation to help developers find what they need; this level of support is the exception—not the norm.

Company instability

As we continue operating in a high-interest rate environment, technology companies are putting a microscope on their investments—and the employees who play a role in supporting API consumers are far from immune.

Depending on a company’s priorities, the employees who are responsible for managing API documentation at a given organization, such as technical writers, may be laid off, leaving the remaining employees poorly positioned to add and modify any documentation over time. Moreover, the support teams who can respond to your developers may be affected by layoffs, extending the expected response time for your developers and potentially preventing them from contacting support altogether. 

Avoid the drawbacks of depending on 3rd-party API providers with Merge

Merge, the leading unified API solution, lets your developers build to a single unified API to access a whole category of integrations—such as HRIS, CRM, file storage, etc. 

Once connected, Merge handles maintenance activities with 3rd-party API providers on your behalf. 

More specifically, we’ve built out a partner engineering team that has deep expertise in APIs and that’s split into different software verticals (e.g. CRM). The latter ensures that each team member can dedicate the time necessary to gain a deep understanding of specific 3rd-party API providers within their category. That way, they can not only build robust integrations for their designated category but also respond to any issues quickly and successfully. 

You can learn more about Merge by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts.