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4 Easy Steps to Better Online Customer Support

Customer support is very important when you're running a business, whether your business is on or off the net. If your customer support is hopeless, you'll soon find your customers running away from you and worse, telling others to stay away too.

If you're like many of us out there, the last thing you want to do is to spend the whole day replying to customer support emails. Here are 4 easy steps to help improve your customer support and at the same time reduce the time you spend replying to queries. The trick here is to help your customers help themselves before you help them.

- Step 1: Start with a Knowledge base / FAQs

The first step to your support system is to set up a knowledge base or, if you have a quite straight forward product, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section. This will save you a lot of time. Your customers will also be happier since they can find answers to their questions immediately. If you're just starting out, it is still a good idea to set up a knowledge base/FAQs. Just sit down and think of all the possible questions that your customer would ask. Maybe not all. Start with a few and you can always add more to it as time goes by.

- Step 2: Set up a Forum

A forum is a great addition to your customer support system. The forum should be the second place your customer would turn to for help. A lot of people associate a forum to discussions, moderating, a lot of work and a headache to maintain. This is only true if you use a forum as a discussion area.

Instead, you should use it as a customer support tool. Just create different forum categories for eg., pre sale questions, member questions, one category for each product. A forum is an excellent way to provide customer support because:

  • There is a search function for the customer to find related posts

  • You could easily set up a forum for free. Most good web hosts now has a one click forum installation function.

  • You don't have to worry about your replies being caught by your customers' email filters

  • If you get a question you've answered before, just give them a link to the answer in another post.

  • Usually, other forum members are willing to answer a question that they've managed to solve ... for free.

  • Hiring extra help is as easy as adding a new moderator.

- Step 3: Install a Ticket help desk

Not all queries can be handled via a knowledge base and a forum. Sometimes there is a need for your customers to send you private information such as usernames and passwords.

When a situation like this arises, you will need a way for your customers to send you the information without others being able to see it. One of the best ways to handle this is to set up an online ticket help desk.

A ticket help desk system will allow your customers to create a user account and log a ticket into your system. They can then send whatever information they need to send. You can even allow them to attach files. Most good help desks will also allow you to prepare pre-written responses for repetitive queries.

Again, a good web host would also have some kind of help desk script installation available at a click.

- Step 4: Use a good email software

And finally, you have the good ole e-mail. Which should be the last thing your customers resort to. After implementing the above three systems, you will find a remarkably reduced amount of e-mails you need to reply to. Customers are getting wiser. Most know that e-mails are seldom replied to. So, they would only resort to this as a last resort.

Don't make a mistake of putting your email address on your web site. Use a form. With email filters rampant on the net, also remember to inform your customers that your e-mail may be trapped by their email filter.

There you go. Just set these up and you'll find your customer support a lot easier to handle.

? 2004 Bina Omar

About The Author

Bina runs the WebSite Workshop that provides tools & training to help newbies build web sites. Subscribe to Bina's ezine 'WebBriefcase!' & get your free course on "How to Make Your Own Web Site in 7 Easy Steps" mailto:subscribe@website-workshop.com

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