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customer serviceSome companies are having a very difficult time to offer a serious level of customer support, not only externally but also internally. Some of them are small companies with few resources and others are very big but with wrongly managed or focused.
I´ve been working on IT user and customer support for more than 15 years and I´ve seen and experience a lot of things that are just wrong, here I compiled a list of some of them. Feel free to add your own experiences on the comments below:

1) Answer the phone: If your company offers a phone, make sure somebody is available on the other side when a person calls. If your infrastructure is tiny, you can offer the caller to leave a message and make sure you return his call.

2) Don’t hide form your customers: One of the worst things you can do is avoid your customers and don’t allow them to find your contact information easily. It’s understandable that some companies offer a FAQ through procedure before being able to place an email for support, but make it very simple, don’t hide. You have a customer needing your help on the other side!

3) Use the right tools: Some days ago I had to contact Paypal to report a problem with my account, I completed an online form explaining my problem and the following day I received an email with some comments about it. When I tried to respond to the email I received an automatic message saying that I couldn’t reply to the message and I should create a support request using the form (again). This is totally wrong; the tool you use should allow you to go come back and forth with the customer so a fluent conversation can be done. Make sure you don’t close the incident until you receive no more replies from your customer or until you get confirmation by him. If you use a ticketing platform avoid forcing the user to have to log in to the system to be able to reply your support answer. Remember the customer wants it plain and simple; allow them to write you by email too.

4) Test your platforms: You will never know if your platforms are working correctly if you don’t use it yourself from time to time. Create a generic email address on each of the main email services (Gmail, Yahoo, and test how your support platforms work.  Make sure all request arrive to the correct system and in the correct format. Also make sure that when you reply from your tools these email addresses receive the updates accordingly. Ask somebody at your company to test this at least once a month or more often if you are making changes to the procedures and systems.

5) Social Platform support: Nowadays Twitter and even Facebook are being used to interact with customers. Some companies still offer chat which is really a great way to offer a direct one to one support experience.
The main advantage of Twitter is to offer a quick response when somebody is having a problem or a doubt. Make sure your infrastructure allows you to respond as soon as possible. The following day is not an option here, otherwise wait until your infrastructure can handle this before implementing the alternative.

6) Timing: If a customer is contacting you is because he probably has a problem, a doubt or is asking about a new product or service he wants to purchase. He would need the answer of his reply instantly, as we know that instant is very expensive, be sure to let your customers know when they should expect a reply. Stand for your promises, a company that offers a 24 hours reply and doesn’t reply is not going to have a happy customer and thus might leave with the competition.

7) Read what the customer is saying: You can’t imagine how many times I experienced total nonsense replies to things I´ve reported. The person on the other side has to be a person with experience in support, if it’s a new hire make sure to train him accordingly so he can actually help, avoiding making the problem even worst. Cut & paste answers could help only when the representative verifies that the answer fits to the request, otherwise your customer would be pissed. Dont tell him something that has nothing to do with their original request,  if you ask him to do things that he already did and told you he did on the first contact he will hate you.

8) Customer Support = Sales: Some companies feel that they should offer a very fast sales contact request but not a fast customer support request. This is so wrong, if you want to show respect for the customers you already won, show them that you care and really support them as you would expect from a service or product you already paid for. Balance your infrastructure and don’t put all your resources into sales only.  Make sure your support infrastructure can handle all the daily requests in a correct way. “A customer that is not satisfied will let know a lot of people about his discomfort. A happy customer will bring you more customers” don’t confuse this with a cheesy line, it’s a fact.

9) Advance Support: I live in Switzerland; it’s a great place to live but any service that involves the interaction of a person it’s very expensive (salaries tend to by high here). Something interesting I´ve seen some businesses offering the possibility to get faster support at an additional cost. Some customers are willing to pay a bit more for a faster solution when they have a problem. They could be charged a fixed premium support subscription with a 2 hour response (instead of 24-48 hs.)  or just pay for a by-incident quick response plus. Some other companies prefer to just set-up a “premium support hotline” clarifying that this will cost them USD 1 per minute or something like that. (I would stick with a fixed price for each premium support request). Logically if you offer this service make sure you have the top and fastest resources on this resource. Ideally the best level of support should be provided (according to costs) to all customers without making them pay any extras. If you cant afford the cost of your support team, double check if your product or service has any flaws that could be solved to lower the support requests. An incorrectly explained service or product could lead in a lot of questions from the users, contact a marketing professional to help you with this.

10) Be polite: On some situations your customer might contact you anxious because they expect a “problem less” product or service. Make sure your support personnel know how to address these issues, coach them technically and on how to write and how to talk over the phone. Always be polite. It’s better to be known as a good supporter and not as that company that doesn’t offer a good level of support. The next time your customer needs something your company has to offer he will consider going to the competition unless you treat them as the most important customer. If you expect your support team to be aces with your customers, make sure they are very happy and comfortable at their workplace.

Whenever you have a doubt regarding what kind of support your company is offering, put yourself in the shoes of a client. I bet you will clearly see what main things you need to improve. Managers and friends posing as mystery customers could help you with feedback on your service level.  If not, you can always hire a customer support professional, with the experience to organize things up for you ;).