By: Steve Adcock
If you sell products or services online then one of the most important aspects of your web site should be customer support, both before and after the sale. There are a number of different methods to add support services to your web site, and in this article I will discuss a few of them including FAQ's, discussion boards and email support.
I subscribe to many e-mail discussion lists, all centered around web development and Internet computer programming. Often, participants will e-mail a question regarding a hosting company, an ISP or another site providing some type of Internet service. Responses from other members give helpful feedback, but the driving force around all good testimonials is in the customer care they receive.
Customer care includes everything from tech support, billing inquiries and shipping statuses to good old-fashioned feedback methods. Web users, especially those who pay money for a service online, often require tech support, and they want it fast. Customers who order products need to be able to track their goodies through their route and some just like to provide feedback to the company or service they ordered from. Customer care can literally make or break your online capitalistic endeavors.
Take a careful look around the Internet and be cognizant of businesses emphasizing customer service as a major selling point. Providing after-sale support not only helps the customer, but it creates good and often lucrative relationships with their customers. Amazon.com certainly did that for me.
The type of customer care your web site must deliver depends entirely on your respective product or service. It can be as simple as a no questions asked money-back guarantee for all products or providing quick and effective e-mail tech support, to a courteous 1-800 representative answering customer questions. Whatever customer care you offer, make special note on your web site of how your company exceeds in the after-sale relationship. As witnessed on e-mail discussion lists, your reputation will follow you to other potential customers and clients.
Types of customer care
We have looked at the importance of providing customer care to each and every visitor, now let's take a look at what exactly you can provide. The world of customer care is endless and a creative imagination is great, but a few methods of customer care should always, at the least, be provided.
Customer care is not only intended for after-sale relationships. Give your potential customers specific and direct instructions on how to use your web site. Show them how to add items to their shopping cart, how to place an order and browse your products. Then show them how to checkout and the tasks involved. For example, what credit cards do you accept? Shipping methods? Shipping company? Also tell them how to track their packages after shipment.
If your web site does not provide an actual product, show them how to use your service. If you provide service demos, tell them how to use them and where to locate them. Give them a place to report script errors and other web site or support issues. Give them every opportunity, and all instructions they need to contact you.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ pages are both easy to design and extremely effective in answering customer questions quickly. With new sites the web developer should come up with a set of questions he/she expects the user will have. After some time and when other questions are asked through e-mail or on the phone, the developer should add them to the FAQ page. If the number of questions becomes large, consider creating a search utility for them.
Discussion boards are wonderful and can save your tech support team a lot of work. Because discussion boards are public, any customer of your company can answer any other questions other customers have, which frees up your time and your employees to perform other work. Many web-hosting companies have implemented such a system, and also use it to post announcements regarding the service.
E-mail support is cheap, takes little resources and is extremely effective. When utilizing e-mail support, however, special attention needs to be placed on turn-around time, that is, the amount of time for an answer to be provided for the customer. If you have a team of tech support technicians working in varying areas, provide different e-mail addresses and guide them through the quickest route to the support representative.
If your business is large enough and generates sufficient revenue, also consider telephone support through a 1-800 number. The very mention of a 1-800 number produces credibility towards your business and lets the customer know that you are available toll-free.
If you're selling physical products, giving the customer a way to track their order should go without saying. After the package has shipped, provide the customer with a tracking number and provide a link to the shipping company's tracking system. UPS's tracking system is located here, while FedEx's tracking system is here and the U.S. Postal Service's system is located here.
The aforementioned types of customer care are only a start to what is possible on the Internet. Remember why you have a web site in the first place: to further your company's products and services and provide easy and cost effective customer interaction.
Customers are in search of the exact same thing, especially when money is involved. If the customer is not satisfied that after-sales support efforts are in place, they simply will not whip out the plastic.
E-mail Support Scripts
E-mail support is the most popular and possibly the most effective type of customer care available. With just a little time searching script repositories, you can find much help in implementing such a system to organize and manage all support requests. Aside from programming a support ticket system yourself, you can download and implement pre-made scripts from script databases. A few are:
Download a few of them, test them out and decide what script, if any, works best for you. Of course, no script is required, as an e-mail address can work fine, but some scripts help to organize and manage support requests within high volume environments.
Customer care narrows down to the bottom line, revenue. Satisfying and helping the customer before and after the sale will bring in new customers to your web site and keep them coming back for more. Give the customer what they want, and they will give you what you want.
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