Online Customer Support: What, Who, Why, and How?
If you offer any type of support for your customers for the product or service you provide, keep reading to learn about why you should utilize the internet to provide your support and how you can do it. If you’re using WordPress, there are multiple ways to provide support. Overall, WordPress is a great system to provide customer support.
Online Customer Support: What is it?
Online customer support is providing the same, typical customer support (answering questions and offering advice) but, rather than doing so in person or over the phone (or even through email), you offer the support through your website. You can add a support method to your existing website or even set up a separate website, such as support.yourwebsite.com. If your support is a premium feature (you charge for it), you can include some restrictive rules that only allow paid users to access the support portal. Pretty cool, right?
Online Customer Support: Why should I care?
The most common ways many businesses provide customer support is via telephone or email, especially if you’re a small business (most large businesses offer a variety of support channels). If you offer telephone support, this means you have to be available to field a phone call at any time during your business day. What if the customer winds up asking 50 different questions or has a problem that takes you over an hour to walk them though because they don’t get it? That’s valuable time in your day that’s now gone. If you provide an email for your customers to contact you through, this could get out to anyone, including spammers. Soon, you may end up receiving more junk than customer queries and this can be a serious pain in the ass. Whether you get too much spam or just a ton of customer emails, a likely scenario is that an email can get lost or overlooked. This can lead to unhappy customers leaving bad reviews about how terrible your customer service is. As a business owner, this is a no brainer.
Advantages of Online Customer Support:
- Efficiency – Rather than dropping your current task to answer a potentially lengthy phone call, you will have a message waiting for you that you can respond to at your convenience (but still within a professional time frame). A secure support platform on your website will also eliminate spam and organize your customer requests to reduce lost/overlooked emails.
- Professionalism – Any business with a solid online support system is going to look like they’re on the ball. It shows that they have a reputable operation with enough business to need a support portal on their website and they care about the experience of their customers enough to provide quality support. Of course, there will be some customers that demand a phone number and providing one is a business decision to make (I’d recommend providing one upon request, at least). However, in today’s technologically driven world of commerce, many people will be okay with submitting a support ticket through a website.
Online Customer Support: Who should use it?
As I mentioned in the beginning, anyone who offers support to their customers can usually benefit from providing an online way for their customers to submit their questions. A few examples include website designers, software vendors, accountants, lawyers (although they may want to be careful to avoid the headache of e-discovery), and freelance writers.
Online Customer Support: How do I offer it?
- Customer Portals – Online customer portals are a great way to create a personalized hub for each of your customers. This portal can contain things like product documentation, invoices due, secure messaging systems, and personal documents. An example here is to think of your bank’s online banking system: you log in, see your personalized information, and do the tasks you need to do. An online customer portal is the most in-depth method of online customer support in this list. If you’re thinking a customer portal is too advanced for WordPress, think again. There’s an awesome plugin called WP Client that is extremely powerful and makes it easy to set up a professional client portal.
- Ticket Systems – Support tickets are typically just a messaging system that lets your users fill out a form to send an email. One of the reasons it’s preferable to regular email is because you aren’t giving out a direct email address and submission is limited to only those with access and who are logged in. Ticket systems also organize your support requests into categories (i.e. for different products or services), see which tickets have been answered, assign tickets to other staff members or support specialists, and close tickets when they’ve been satisfied. They’re not as advanced as customer portals but they’re more direct and personal than discussion forums.
- Discussion Forums – Most of use have either seen or used discussion forums before. They’re websites that show threads on specific topics and users post comments and discuss the topic of the post. With discussion forums, you’re usually allowing other customers to offer their input in the discussion. If a user needs to post private information in a forum post, this can be accomplished so don’t assume forums to be completely public. Although they’re the most open of the three methods, forums can still be a solid choice for offering customer support. If your support channel can benefit from other users assisting and offering advice (like software providers), then forums may be a solution. The most popular forum plugin for WordPress is bbPress.