By Mark Goldbar
Too many online business people assume that because this is a "digital age" and the internet is a "digital medium", their customers expect and prefer to interact with their company via digital, automated means. While it is crucial to the success of your online business to automate certain time consuming but necessary tasks, it is extremely important that you know right from the start that your customers do not belong in that "time consuming" category.
You must always remember that without your customers you have no business. You must be readily available to your customers when they need you. You must avoid trapping your customers in voice mail hell, giving them late responses to emails and phone messages, or worse yet, no response at all. Exceptional customer service breeds satisfied customers, which in turn produces repeat business for you and even new business from referrals.
When you have an extremely well funded organization, adding a customer service solution to your business is as simple as finding the appropriate staff to handle the job and then deciding on the right tool to handle the customer service requests.
But, what if you are a one (or two) man operation. Can you really do everything that a well funded company with a fulltime customer service staff can do to keep customers happy? Yes, you certainly can. And if you leverage the correct technology, you may be able to do a more efficient job than those larger companies are able to do.
If you run a company, regardless of size, you should consider implementing some of these unique tools and techniques to increase the productivity of your customer service staff.
My small company, Goldbar Enterprises is run by two people, my wife and I. We have been blessed by much success which we attribute not only to our hard work, perseverance, and the quality of our products and services, but a huge chunk of our success is directly tied to our exceptional customer care. We're not happy until our customers are happy. Our business has become a lot more than a fulltime job. We wear several different hats: marketers, dealmakers, customer service, technical support, and business website providers.
To avoid extra work, we set up our members only marketing supersite, The Ultimate Marketers Resource to be completely automated from the start. We spent days working out the technical details so that a customer could purchase membership, receive his/her logon details, and gain access in under 10 minutes time.
The system works great, but customers naturally expect and deserve top notch support. Our customers get all the help, advice and consulting they need as part of the package. We knew that thousands of members would be difficult to support, but we also knew that if we put our heads together we could come up with a plan to use existing technology to help assist us with the support and still keep our overhead to a minimum.
To implement a basic support program, you should have an email address devoted solely to support requests. This will allow you to set priority for these requests so they do not slip through the cracks. Moreover, your customers, like you, expect to receive a timely response to their questions. If it's impossible to respond within minutes of receiving an email, at least get it done some time that same day. Your customer will not hesitate to take his/her business elsewhere.
If you know what ICQ is, I highly suggest that you implement it so as to enable your customers to access your support person when they are online so that requests can be handled instantly. If you do not have ICQ and need to learn more about it, visit http://www.mirabilis.com to download it free.
In addition to ICQ, your support program should include new web based tools that can help you to manage and fulfill customer support requests.
One of the first of these web based tools that we implemented was an audiochat room. Using free technology that we acquired from hearme.com, we were able to setup a "room" within our website where members could meet and talk with us and other members (as long as they have a microphone and speakers installed). Our members can click onto an audio enabled page in our site and utilize the service free of charge. We can set appointments to meet with them in the audio room where we can address their questions and other customer service issues.
Anyone can utilize this free tool to help run their business more effectively, offering live "speaking" customer support on their site.
Due to the number of technical support issues that may crop up when operating an e-business you can become overwhelmed if you do not have a well trained, technical staff. If you are fortunate enough to have a technically sound staff (or like us, you are technical yourself), you can use a great new technology called desktop sharing to help your customers. For instance, you can:
a. Show them how to use your applications
b. Fix their computers
c. Demonstrate exactly how to do something on the web right on their own machine.
We use "desktop sharing" to help us support our customers. Using a site called http://www.buddyhelp.com we are able to take over our customers' desktop and demonstrate exactly how they can use our site to grow their businesses. We can also use this free service to help setup software and other tools for our customers which they can then use to increase their traffic and sales.
If you are not technical, have no fear, buddyhelp is the brainchild of Expertcity http://www.expertcity.com/p/affil/cj5?AID=57890&PID=156418 a company that offers free and low cost technical support for anyone right over the web. The service is great and the people there know what they are doing. Many companies are turning to them to outsource their technical support issues.
Once you have these mechanisms in place, you should then set up a call tracking program that you can use to keep track of your support requests and their status. This can easily be set up using a spreadsheet or database program. Many programs may even have templates that you can use to set up a customized call tracking manager. This is important as it will save you time and also let you track the progress of requests until they are completely resolved. The goal is always to strive for complete customer satisfaction.
If you can develop a reputation as a company that supports its customers, you will be well on your way to developing a successful internet business. The web offers many free and low cost options that can be easily set up to allow you or your staff the ability to excel at this very important and integral part of your business.
Reprinted from internetday.com.