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Tips for successful online customer service
All too often companies (and the people behind them) don't take customer service
seriously. If you are doing business on the WWW today, this can make or break
your online venture. Having an email address or mailbox that you respond to every
day or so seems easy enough, but that does not cut it in today's "instant gratification"
marketplace. People want answers, people want service and they want it on their terms.
Many of us have started out online businesses because we know that people's time is important. The web is a great resource, allowing people to shop or research products on their schedule. Most people, in this day and age, are leery of online companies. Horror stories are commonplace about the awful or non-existent customer service on many web sites. Email allows you to answer requests for support at your own pace but, by the time someone is contacting you for support or service they most likely aren't in the mood to wait. Because of this, your online customer service has to be just as responsive as any live support system. Here are a few tips for good online customer service, all of which SupportSentry's WebSupport and WebSupport PRO can help you provide.
1. Answer requests as quickly as possible.
This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many people we talk to tell us that they just don't "feel" like responding to people's questions sometimes. SupportSentry WebSupport sends an immediate email to the customer letting them know you have received the request and provides them with a tracking code for their request. It can also (if you set it up, and we recommend you do) send them answers from your Knowledge Base (which we can help you build in no time) to see if the system can answer their question automatically...you do nothing. This is very important as many people feel their emails will never get answered. By being responsive, your customers will have more confidence in you and your products.
2. Be sincere, be happy.
Don't create a missed opportunity, create a customer for life. When someone takes the time to contact you, be sure that you take the time to answer their questions completely. Try to put yourself in your customer's shoes and really understand their concerns. Be sure that you sound like you want to answer their questions and hope that they have more for you. You can lose a lot when you are communicating over email, be sure that you sound sincere and happy to help.
3. Provide ways for your customers to solve their own problems.
SupportSentry WebSupport helps you build a FAQ and Knowledge Base on the fly. This helps you cut down on the number of support requests you will have to handle by allowing the customer to search and find their own answers. They are happy because their question was answered quickly and you are happy because you spend less time answering requests.
4. Don't hide behind the anonymity and non-immediate nature of email.
SupportSentry WebSupport provides the ability for you to input your company phone number. Individuals can then call to check up on the status of their support request and you will both be able to view the information in the request online. Whenever possible provide good phone support in addition to your web support.
Create a customer service policy or set of policies for your website/company (sales, return, privacy, etc.). And, not to use a cliche, but, "learn it, live it, love it." Spend some time and create policies that people can understand, are fair, and that you can stand behind 100%. Once these policies are in place, stick to them! Don't accept a product in return from one person and then deny another the next. Be consistent in your returns and your reputation with your customers will be solid. People, especially those shopping on the Internet, don't like wishy-washy or shopping somewhere they feel is not reputable.
6. Make sure your customers are satisfied with the answers you provide.
SupportSentry WebSupport allows the customer to select if your solution has solved their problem, and in the case it has not, allows them to input followup information. The don't have to mark the problem solved until they are satisfied with the solution.
7. Be fair, but be firm
In the event that something goes wrong, don't run, don't hide, make it right. This is not to say that you need to give out the farm. Our experience on the Internet has been that people always feel they are entitled to whatever they ordered for free no matter what happened or who was at fault. As we all know, this is just not realistic. We are not in business to pay for other people to get things. With that said, you should always try to make things right for your customers even when you are not at fault. Explain to your customers what happened, why it happened and why it will not happen again. Explain that their business is important to them and if they have requested something you cannot accommodate, then let them know why you cannot do it. But, always try to add something of value that can help them understand that their business is valuable to you.
8. Follow up silly.
Again, customer service is not rocket science, it is customer service. Do what you would want someone to do for you. If you have a free minute, or ten, follow up with your customers. Did you answer their questions? Can you offer them something of value or a special offer that might help them to "decide"? Be pro-active and help your customers along in the sales process. Answer their questions, follow up and help build their confidence. The rewards will be obvious.
9. Help yourself
Help yourself by using tools that will save you time and money. Find and use tools that do the things you dislike the most. For most online business owners, this is anything but marketing your business and bringing more sales to your website(s). Of course we recommend using our WebSupport online customer service solutions to help you with your customer service questions and requests. We know that tools like WebSupport will free you up to do the things you like to do the most.