Ah, the Internet Age!
I carry the equivalent of a supercomputer in my pocket, able to perform massive data searches in fractions of a second, finding anything – well almost anything – I need online. Except what’s most critical…like someone to provide a little customer support!
For all the benefits provided by technology there are many drawbacks, too. One of these is the ability for companies to put up digital walls, hiding from their customers after the sale.
It’s a great advantage to be able to run a business almost entirely online, reducing costs and streamlining sales. Customers generally appreciate the instant access to product information, up to the minute inventory, and the convenience of researching and shopping online.
Sometimes organizations take this a little too far. The proverbial “voice mail jail” has been replaced by customer support games, like cat and mouse “find the support staff.” Emails go unanswered or worse yet, companies (yes, you Google) make it virtually impossible to have a dialog about an issue in any way, shape or form.
The best companies provide multiple points of contact for customers, giving them a range of options like online chat, email and phone support. Some provide a respiratory of manuals, user guides, tips and videos that allow customers to solve their own problems.
Customer self-service occasionally turns into “duck the customer,” as anyone who has had a problem with a Google application can likely attest. Others abandon outdated content, misleading customers into trying solutions or services that no longer exist (Amazon Listmania comes to mind.)
So what can you do to avoid alienating your customers online?
Know Your Customers – Deliver a better customer experience by anticipating how and why your buyers may want to reach you. If you have products that you know cause issues for customers, add extra online help and a clear path to connect with a real human.
Let Logic Prevail – Check your information flows to ensure a logical progression of steps. If you bury your support under layers of cumbersome questions, customers will inevitably become frustrated with interfaces that ask “Is your problem, A, B, or C?” (when the answer is “D”) and then they’re advised to “Choose option 1, 2 or 3” when “none of the above” is the real answer.
Keep It Current – Establish clear communication between your product teams and digital asset managers to be sure that product information is current. That means deleting outdated copy, redacting discontinued products and pointing customers to more current solutions if the old ways have changed.
Connect People to People – Videos and animated tutorials can answer a lot of questions, saving the need for a person-to-person intervention. But no matter how hard you try to ensure a seamless and hands-free support experience, preserving the ability to access live support is a must.
Don’t Rely on Community – The generosity and support of some online communities is amazing, but that doesn’t absolve your business of the responsibility for providing support. Encourage community, support active members, but keep a formal channel for users that need priority support or extensive troubleshooting.
Ultimately, the best approach to creating happy online customers is to remember that behind all those bits and bytes are real, live, organic people. They’re not avatars or IP addresses, they’re people. And sometimes, those people don’t want any part of the customer support games companies play.
They simply need a little support.