What is one of the most important critical success factors for a small business? To me, the answer is customer support. The big question is, how to effectively and efficiently manage your support requests, disputes, claims, and such? The answer might lies in your choice of enterprise collaboration software.
During my web entrepreneurial journey, I’ve signed up with dozens of services, ranging from productivity tools to online storage services. Of all the services I keep, they have one thing in common: Outstanding online, live customer support.
By customer support, I refer to communication between the service providers and me, which includes: pre-sales support, after-sales support and technical support – any kind of supports you can think of.
I rate customer support high in term of the speed of response and helpfulness of the online support team. I run web businesses, and I can’t afford a website goes offline for 5 minutes. I will be anxious at best and the first person I go to when I experience such issue is the online customer support.
So yes, I value 24/7 online customer support well, simply because I live in a different part of the world – the time difference between mine and the service providers’ is typically 12 hours; 3 PM support request on my side means 3 AM on the service providers’ side. You need a well-managed support team (most possibly outsourced) to handle such request.
Outstanding online customer support is your critical success factor
As a small business owner who wants to reach the global market, you can’t say, “Well, our office hour is 9-to-5, so if you want support outside the office hour, you need to wait.” Well, unfortunately, not all customers can understand the office hour, especially those from different time zones.
“Sorry – we’re closed. We will respond as soon as we can” could help, but it’s not enough; customers want to learn how to deal with their issues – and if no real person available for the job, they need something, such as knowledge base, FAQ and/or support ticket system, that might be able to help them solve their problems.
Moreover, there are also more issues you need to address; customer support – either online or off line – might be more complex that you think… It’s often that customer support requests encompass many business functions, such as accounting, technical and sales. For example, a customer might want to upgrade to a better service plan; he might need help from technical and sales team to guide him with options and how-tos; internally, accounting team needs to keep up with the changes.
All in all, your live customer support is your critical success factor; it can literally make or break your business, especially if your business is an online business.
Tips to boost your small business customer support
I do have some tips to help you devise a plan to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your online customer support:
1. If you can’t have in-house employees to handle 24/7 customer support, outsource it
Employees are important, but they are expensive to small business – as a small business owner you need to be creative in managing your budget for human resources purpose. You might want to outsource to a call center or remote technical support to overseas to cut your costs.
There are two benefits of doing so: Firstly, you can save on your budget; secondly, you can take care of issues coming from customers on different time zones. So, do consider to outsource your customer support.
2. Invest in software
With today’s cloud computing rising trends, it’s no better time than today to invest in software that can be accessed online. Online, cloud-based issue tracking software can help you deal with your business’ daily issues, such as bug reports, requests, claims, help desk tickets, etc.
One example of such software is Comindware. Comindware offers flexibility in internal and external issues management based on its patented Semantic Data Storage technology. You can plan and manage your support, as well as collaborating with other departments in your business – all in all, you can serve your customers better.
3. Use social media
There are more businesses using the social media – especially Twitter – as a way to offer customer support. Social media can also allow you to demonstrate your support response and quality to public as all who follow you will practically see your responses to inquiries, complaints, etc.
Please be aware, this strategy could backfire – be sure you have the right person to handle the “social media customer support” effort. In social media, good words do get buzzed somehow, but bad words spread like wildfire.
4. Enhance your internal system
You need to encourage better collaboration among the different business functions within your business – for example, your technical team needs to be able to collaborate with the sales and accounting teams. You might need a task management system that can help you schedule and manage tasks, as well as collaborate with other team members. The software I mentioned above, Comindware, can also help you do all of those literally in minutes.
So, all depends on your decision as a small business owner. Will you take the extra miles in your customer support? Will you invest in those that can help your business to be more productive?
Good luck in your online customer support endeavour!
Live, 24/7 customer support rocks!