Solve your customer service issues

Jul 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Business Start-up Strategies, Customer Care/Service

All right, I can’t actually tell you how to solve your customer service issues forever.  If I could, reading this article would cost you more than Warren Buffet makes in a year.  I can, however, tell you how to make those issues manageable by approaching them in an intelligent, systematic way, and this advice won’t cost you anything at all!

The key to successful customer service, whether on a website or  anywhere else, is making it easy for your customers to get the information they need.  It’s important to remember that “easy” doesn’t mean what it used to mean.  Twenty years ago, being able to speak to a customer service rep on a weekend made things easy.  Ten years ago, people were happy with 24-hour information lines.  Today, consumers look to the internet for information first– they expect to find a lot of information there, and they expect to find it easily.  Customer service is one of the many areas where a website can either help you or hurt you—a good web-based customer service can improve your customers’ experience and keep them coming back, but if your website doesn’t meet your customers’ expectations, you are going to lose them.

Luckily, it’s not too difficult to meet your customers’ expectations.  There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to web-based customer service, including FAQ’s, troubleshooters, help desks, and live chats. 

I’ll talk briefly about each of those options here, but here’s an important point: no matter which way you chose to provide customer service through your website, your “Help” or “Support” page should be accessible from every other page or section of your site.  If you have different “Help” pages for different sections of your site, those different pages should be consistent in appearance, function, and organization.

FAQ Documents:  It’s hard to find a website that doesn’t have an “FAQ” (“Frequently Asked Questions”) document, and there’s a good reason for that: FAQs are easy to build, and they’re one of the most effective ways to answer customer questions.  If your customers are fairly web-savvy, they’ll expect you to have an FAQ on your site, and hopefully they’ll look for it as soon as they find that they have a question.

If you’re building your FAQ from scratch, you should be able to identify your customers’ most common questions by going through your old email or phone records, or by talking to your customer service team.  Some FAQs provide a list of questions at the top of the page, each of which links to an answer below.  Others follow a simple Question/Answer/Question/Answer format.  However you build yours, try not to overwhelm your audience.  If you have more than 20 or 25 items for your FAQ, consider splitting it up into separate documents or pages.  Remember to update your FAQ when you notice new questions coming in from your customers.

Troubleshooters:  A troubleshooter is basically an interactive FAQ.  It asks the user a series of questions, and provides answers based on the user responses.  A troubleshooter is an excellent choice if you have a large number of FAQ items, or if your customers’ inquiries tend to be more complex than a one-sentence question.  You’ll need to pay extra attention, though, to make sure it works the way it should.  A troubleshooter that asks unnecessary questions or leads the user in the wrong direction will do more harm than good.

Helpdesk software:  Larger companies may want to consider purchasing some type of “helpdesk” software.  A helpdesk is a centralized resource which gives customers a place to start when they have questions.  It may include FAQs or troubleshooters, but it will also allow the customer to email your customer service team, and it may also host customer message boards or forums.

Live Chat:  If your customer service team spends a lot of time on the phone answering questions, consider setting up a live chat function for them as well.  You won’t get all of your customers to use it, but the ones who do will get their answers more quickly and directly.  Depending on the chat program you use, your customers may also be able to keep a transcript of the conversation for future reference.

If you’re not using any of these techniques now, it’s time to start thinking about it.  An intelligent, organized approach to customer service is the next best thing to having no customer service issues at all.

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