Web-Based Customer Support

Whether your organization targets commercial installations, residential or a combination of both, the forecasts for your future are a mixture of good news and bad. As your business grows so will your support requirements—it’s unavoidable. But you are a solutions service provider after all.

If you are like most companies in the industry, 70% of your customer service budget is staffing; therefore, your support knowledge goes out the door and home at the end of each day.

The biggest problem a company faces today is not competition who threaten to undercut pricing, the breakneck speed of keeping up with technology or the struggle to balance income with outgo—it is creating and maintaining relationships. While people are pivotal in the relationship picture, it is even more important to use technology that is available to you to cement and enhance that relationship.

Some industry experts may tell you that automating these processes and activities will be expensive and painful, but we disagree. You do not have to jump into a total customer relations management system with both feet. You should instead focus on customer retention, then customer acquisition. Implement technology where you can produce immediate returns: at the help desk. Then add other capabilities and solutions.

Knowledge-Based Customer Support

Customer support has historically been labor intensive and stressful.Talented and patient people have had to help a caller identify his or her concern; their level of sophistication; develop the right query and sift through the selection of options that would solve the problem. It was a time-consuming, expensive and frustrating process for everyone involved.

Fortunately, the Internet and Web are enabling us to shift from labor-based to knowledge-based support. An automated help-desk solution that is available 24/7 to both customers and support people will produce the results everyone wants. The new solutions that are emerging help businesses increase their response rate and efficiency.

According to Forrester Research, the average live-agent customer-support transaction costs $20, but the average web-support transaction costs only $.03. With a robust Web-based support system, organizations have found they cannot only reduce call center costs by 53% but they can also handle 33% more inquires at only 43% of the cost. Properly selected and used, the new applications enable firms to effectively handle more calls. In addition, they can provide management with better data about customers and enable them to improve the complete customer acquisition and management and support process.

Automated & Integrated

The help desk or support solutions usually fall into two categories: automated self-service products and integrated knowledge-management solutions. The self-service products tend to solve a specific and basic set of queries. The knowledge base can automatically provide solutions to common problems and will take care of the majority of queries so the help-desk staff can focus on those situations that require in-depth diagnostics.

If the customer cannot solve his or her problem, the support staffer can access the customer’s records, skim the procedures that have been tried and more quickly solve the problem without aggravating the customer by asking them to repeat their initial information and troubleshooting attempts.

Regardless of the help-desk solution you start with, it should incorporate a robust database that can be searched by an unlimited number of random word approaches. This is important because the words with which customers access the database to resolve his or her problems will be completely different. The support area should be easy to navigate in order to guide the customer through his or her problem and solution.

A well-founded and well-executed customer support program will enable customers to solve more of their problems themselves, thus putting them in control of their own environments. Those users who cannot resolve their problems can receive fast assistance from customer-support personnel quickly before they become irritated because they have been on hold for 45 minutes. At the same time, your company saves time and money. The organization develops a proven database of workarounds and fixes that can improve the quality, speed and value of service the company provides to customers.

G.A. “Andy” Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc. Marken can be reached by e-mail at marken@cerf.net.

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