Online Customer Care – Your OptionsBy Steve Adcock
On the Web, news travels fast — and a good customer testimonial is worth its weight in gold! If a client feels they’ve been mistreated by a business, word will get out more quickly than if they’d had a good experience. Today, companies pull out all stops in a bid to woo their clients, but the driving force behind a good testimonial is in the customer care the user has enjoyed.
Customer care includes tech support, billing inquiries, 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 as they progress along the delivery route, and some just like to provide feedback to the company or service from which they made their ordered. Customer care can literally make or break your business’s online endeavors.
Amazon.com allow customers to search for the type of help they need.
Take a careful look around the Internet and be cognizant of businesses that emphasize customer service as a major selling point. Providing after-sales support not only helps the customer, it creates good and often lucrative relationships with customers.
The type of customer care your Website must deliver depends entirely on the product or service you sell. It can be as simple as a "no questions asked money-back guarantee" for all products, or providing quick and effective email tech support, or a courteous 1-800 representative to answer customer questions; whatever customer care you offer, make special note on your Website of how your company succeeds in the after-sale relationship. As you’ve probably experienced on email discussion lists, your reputation will follow you to other potential customers and clients.
Types of Customer Care
We’ve 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 basic methods of customer care should always be provided.
Customer care is not only intended for after-sales relationships. Give your potential customer specific and direct instructions on how to use your Website.
Show them how to add items to their shopping cart, how to place an order and how to browse your products. Then show them how to go to the checkout, and the tasks involved in purchasing. For example, what credit cards do you accept? Shipping methods? Shipping company? Also explain to customers how they can track their packages after shipment.
If your Website doesn’t provide an actual product, show your customers how to use your service. If you provide service demos, tell clients how to use them, and where to locate them. Give them a place to report script errors and other Website or support issues. Give them every opportunity, and all the 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 or she expects the user will have. After some time, and when other queries are raised through email or on the phone, they should be added to the FAQ page. If the number of questions becomes large, consider creating a search utility for them.
Discussion boards are wonderful — they can save tech support a lot of work! Because these boards are public, any customer of your company can answer the questions other customers might have, which frees up you and your employees to perform other work. Many Web hosting companies have implemented such a system, and have since found it useful for other purposes, for example: to post announcements regarding their service.
eMail support is cheap, takes little resources and is extremely effective. When utilizing email 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’s email. If you have a team of support technicians working across a range of areas, provide your users with the different email addresses, and guide them through the quickest route to the appropriate support representative.
If your business is large enough, and generates sufficient revenue, you might also consider telephone support through a 1-800 number. The very mention of a 1-800 number generates a degree of credibility around your business, and lets the customer know you are available toll-free.
If you sell physical products, providing the customer with a way to track their order should be a given. After the package has shipped, provide the customer a tracking number and a link to the shipping company’s tracking system.
Borders allows inventory searches for books, movies and music, along with real precise instructions.
The types of customer care mentioned here are only a snapshot of what is possible on the Internet. Remember why you have a Website 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 reliable after-sales support efforts are in place, they simply will not whip out the plastic.
The Bare Essentials
Email 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 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 email address can work fine, but some scripts help to organize and manage support requests in high volume environments.
The Bottom Line
Customer care really boils down to the bottom line: revenue. Satisfying and helping the customer before and after the sale will attract new customers to your Website, and keep them coming back for more. Give the customer what they want, and they will return the favour!