Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Meeting Your Customers Online Support Expectations


Many of your customers have already interacted with some sort of online support system and most have come to expect a certain degree of usability and service-related information from a company's website. Understanding and meeting these expectations will go a long way towards establishing your company's credibility and confirming your ability to help your customers.


Internet users have begun to consider information found on the web at least as important as other media, such as newspapers, magazines and books. In fact, as far back as 2002 when the University of California at Los Angeles performed its third annual nationwide survey on the Internet, nearly 61 percent of Internet users rated the web as a "very" or "extremely" important source of information.
Compare with the following sources rated in that survey:

  • Newspapers: 58%

  • Television: 50%

  • Radio: 40%

  • Magazines: 29%



Since your customer's attitude towards valuable sources of information has shifted, how has your support department responded? Do you provide an easy to access FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)? How about a searchable knowledge base? Are the manuals for your product or service available for download from your website?
When your customer visits your website looking for these common support features, what will their impression of your service department be if they do not find them? Will you lose credibility? Almost certainly. Will your Customer Service rating drop even though they haven't even picked up a phone?


Start by learning what your customer's expectations are. Perform a survey asking how your website might better serve their support needs, what features are they most likely to use often. Visit the web sites of your competitors - are their customers receiving better service online than yours?


Next, investigate the technologies available to you. There are many software solutions out there for providing online knowledge bases ranging from very expensive to open source projects. If you have an internal IT or web development department capable of developing a custom solution, find out how large an effort it would require. Get a price tag.


Do some math. Determine how much one lost customer is worth. If meeting your customers online support expectations is going to cost your company $5,000 and one lost customer is worth an average $1,200, thatmeans you can only lose 4 customers as a result of missing service features before it is more expensive to not invest the $5,000 in the effort.


Create the content. Most support centers will have their support personnel create one or more knowledge base solutions or articles per week as a regular part of their job description. A senior support resource will often review the content for technical accuracy. The information should also be reviewed for grammar, spelling and style before it is published.


The Internet continually enables companies to greatly improve their customer service. With this trend, your customer's expectations will also continually increase. Keep up and keep your customers.

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