No matter what your business is selling, regardless of the industry, the target audience, the vertical, the geography or the combination of all the above, one thing remains central to it – and in fact can make or break it.
And that’s none other than offering the right levels of customer support to all your customers as well as (or perhaps especially) prospective clients. Getting it right is something with a double meaning. On one hand you don’t want to leave anyone unsatisfied but on the other you need to balance offering customer support with the other aspects of your business – and do it all within the 24 hours of the day too.
Fortunately, the past couple of years a number of tools have been developed which have allowed business to offer support in much more efficient ways than were available in the pre-internet days. So here is a number of tools for your business to consider.
Plain old email
Actually this amazing invention has perhaps all the advantages for the job. It’s as asynchronous as you want it to be – you can answer immediately upon receiving it or as late as a day or a week after it, depending on its priority and your resources. You can include as much or as little information in it and of many formats (links to videos, e-book content or simple free form text to cover the most demanding recipient). It’s free and anyone with computer literacy can handle it. It’s traceable and can be archived for reference and reuse. What more could you ask for?
These day people are familiar with chat and want it also in their more business-like or official functions. Chat is immediate and allows for that instant gratification both your customer and you want for them. It’s especially suited for quick and easy issues which customers want short clarifications for and in cases where pausing for a day to wait for an email answer is not an option.
Careful though – stating IM support and never being available at it is very bad manners. There’s many ways to do it Olark or similar custom infrastructure on your own website (esp. helpful for prospective clients), offering your Skype, Gmail or other IM chat handles are both good ways to answer those quick questions.
Community & Helpdesk software
Setting up a Uservoice, Zendesk or similar infrastructure is the most advanced approach. It involves setting up an initial knowledge base and creating a community around it which can essentially support answer questions for you. Anyone with an issue can refer to the knowledge base and find their answer instead of addressing your staff. If that’s not possible they can ask the community forming around your business – and only if that fails too will they fall back to your employees’ (or your) precious time.
Of course creating that community is a challenge in the beginning. And sure you can miss some of that business along this funnel but the tradeoff in efficiency is worth a lost client here and there.
Video or Voice
Finally the most direct but also costlier (in time and money) is none other than allowing people to contact you over the phone, in Skype voice or a Google Hangout. While as immediate and direct as it gets it’s usually something very few companies can afford to spend time on. It might be worth doing in the beginning where every customer counts or for very important/premium customers but eventually it’s a huge investment to offer face time to all your clients. But it’s also the most effective (especially if combined with a screen sharing method of addressing customer problems).
Ideally all four approaches can be put in place and see what works better. In any case certain people are more comfortable with one method compared to the other and as such it’s a good idea to support all four methods if possible.