It’s impossible to make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time but every help request is an opportunity for your business to shine. The way you handle problems and respond to customers in their times of trouble could position you as a HERO and can also seal your fate in the marketplace.
Smart and successful business owners look forward to the opportunity of solving a customer’s problems because that’s how loyalty is formed. Remember that customer satisfaction is important BUT satisfied customers will buy from anyone. Loyal customers will keep buying from YOU so you should strive to create loyalty. Being there for someone when they need you the most is a sure fire way to create a raving fan and a salesperson, yes I said a SALESPERSON.
In case you didn’t know it, your customers can outsell you 10 to 1. People are more likely to buy a car based on the recommendations of a friend than based on anything the car salesman preaches to them at the dealership.
However trivial the question or problem may seem to you or your staff, that challenge is a big deal to the customer because it’s preventing them from taking advantage of something they just bought. Furthermore, human nature often causes people to assume the worst when something isn’t working as expected. They seldom credit themselves as the problem but rather tend to think they’ve been bamboozled. An expeditious and courteous solution to their challenge is just the first part of what the customer needs, there’s more. You see, they expected it to be all sunshine and rainbows after the purchase and somehow it isn’t so fixing their issue doesn’t make you square. You’ve got to go above and beyond for that and there’s no room for error in the process of handling this support request because on the customer’s scoreboard you are already 0 – 1.
USING A TICKET SYSTEM VERSUS USING EMAIL TO HANDLE HELP REQUESTS
Chances are that your customer is already somewhat frustrated when they turn to you for help. The only thing that could make things worse is if your support system ALSO appears broken to them. When a problem surfaces the customer should be able to quickly locate a way to contact you. There should be easy to find instructions for help on the website they purchased from. It’s also a good practice to include this information on your welcome email or receipt. Giving them a clear way to reach you may even save you the hassle of a PayPal dispute.
If your contact instructions only consist of an email address then you may be asking for trouble. The last thing you want is for their request for help to end up in your spam folder or for your response to end up in their spam folder. In both cases, the customer will think that you’re ignoring them which will only compound their frustration. Email alone is not the ideal way to handle support especially as your sales volume grows because it starts to become unmanageable. If you have to include a partner or a team member on the email thread for assistance now it becomes possible to miss messages when someone forgets to hit “reply all”. It also becomes hard to keep support topics organized via email as you start to get more and more customers.
The alternative to using email is a dedicated help desk. This is a website where you and the customer meet to discuss the issue. Problems are handled through what we call “tickets” which form threads. The benefit here is that each of you logs in to post questions and comments in a conversation without the risk of spam filters. The ticket system also allows you to invite other users into the conversation and there is a record of everything. Each ticket is assigned a reference number and can be searched by username, email address, ticket number or even subject.
You can quickly locate specific customers purchases inside your JVZoo Account. This feature makes it super fast and easy to check the status on any one of your buyers when they put in a support request.
You can find customers by searching with their Paypal Transaction IDs, Customer Emails, JVZoo Payment IDs and even Coupon Codes!
Go to the “Sellers” tab in the main navigation menu and select “Reports” and “Transaction Reports”. Enter any of the search criteria mentioned above and BAM!
You can quickly locate a specific customer’s purchases inside your JVZoo Account. This feature makes it super fast and easy to check the status on any one of your buyers when they put in a support request.
Go to the “Sellers” tab in the main navigation menu and select “Reports” and “Transaction Reports”. Enter any of the search criteria mentioned above and BAM!
BEWARE OF THE POTENTIAL FOR SOCIAL MEDIA SUPPORT NIGHTMARES
Helping people on Facebook or some other social media platform may seem like a smart and convenient idea but it may come at a cost. When someone shoots you a quick question via Facebook private messenger or Skype and you happen to be online at the moment feel free to answer just be mindful of your time. It’s important that you set the tone for any type of social media support interaction.
You could be opening a few can of worms if you chose to answer people’s support requests via Facebook if you don’t preface the situation properly. It’s a good idea to start your response with instructions on the best way to handle their question which is through the support desk. This will give you an “out” when the dialog becomes too involved or complicated or time-consuming.
When it comes to public Facebook posts and tags, you’ve got to be mindful of the public image. People are watching the way you handle the situation. By “people” I mean not only existing customers but also POTENTIAL customers. This sort of public interaction could turn ugly if the customer is very upset. Some vendors create a private Facebook group for product users which can really help because the community will police itself. Peers will help one another and some will even take charge and make it their mission to help people in need. You can promote someone to admin and leave a pinned post in the group with support instructions.
Here’s the thing, we live in an instant gratification society right? That means when someone needs help they want it NOW. Combine that with the fact that we each have at least half a dozen social media accounts, customers tend to hit vendors up all over the place in search for that quick answer. Some answers are indeed quick, like “yes and no” but most answers are not cut and dry. For those longer replies, you now have a “thread” going back and forth with this person ON TOP of the fact that they sent you an email AND on top of the fact that they submitted a ticket. You could end up with multiple conversations across several platforms with this one customer over several topics.
It can get confusing when you are responding to a customer’s help request across various platforms and it gets even more confusing when you are doing it for several customers.
KNOWLEDGEBASE ARTICLES & A STRATEGIC APPROACH CAN SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE SUPPORT TICKETS
You can effectively deliver top notch support without a giant staff. As a matter of fact, if you are properly organized you can deliver excellent support to a substantial amount of customers by yourself whether you are a single dad running a part time online business or you’re a soccer mom selling her first product online. The key is being prepared and setting things up so that the ticket volume is manageable.
There are various things you can do to help and it starts with setting the proper expectations. Don’t promise people instant support if you are a one person operation. Remember the web is WORLDwide so time zones play a role in your ticket response time. Be realistic when you tell people that you’ll be replying in a timely fashion. Generally speaking, 24 hours is an acceptable response time in most scenarios and if you respond sooner than what you promised then you’ll look like a hero. It’s a good idea to put your business hours on your support website so that people know when you’re working.
Address all tickets immediately. There’s no reason to let the tickets sit there, don’t procrastinate. When the ticket comes in, address it right away. Even if your response is just a general acknowledgment till you find a solution for their problem, the customer will feel at ease knowing someone is looking into their issue.
One thing you can do is have a pre-written response that says something to the effect of, “Hey thanks, we got it, we heard from you, we’re looking into it, give us a minute.” Now, the person knows, “Okay I am not being ignored.” If you don’t do that and it’s a weekend, that person doesn’t know if you’ve got the ticket, it is kind of like when you walk into a store and it says, “Hi welcome to the store, we will be right with you.” They’re acknowledging that you are there, they know you’re there and they don’t want to make you feel like you’re being ignored, they want to let you know, “Hey we know you’re here but we are busy at the moment, we’re going to get right with you as soon as we can.” That makes you feel better about being there and it also makes you feel better about waiting. By the way, thanking people for their patience BEFORE they even commit any is a great way to kick things off in the right direction.
A BIG help to small teams or a one person operation is the addition of a KNOWLEDGE BASE. This is a collection of articles (kb articles) that provide answers and solutions to common problems. A good knowledge base with well-written solutions will significantly reduce your ticket load and improve your customer satisfaction score. Customers will now have answers available to them right away without having to wait for your response.
Another thing to consider using is an alert system. Many help desk services have a mobile app that you can install on your phone. You can be alerted by the app immediately when you receive a ticket and you can acknowledge and begin communicating with the customer even if you’re not sitting at your desk.
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT! …OR ARE THEY?
Every business has its share of upset customers and sometimes they’re even irate. Handling difficult customers is just part of navigating the support minefield. It’s going to require a certain degree of patience and tactfulness if you’re going to be manning that help desk yourself. Frankly, this is why so many vendors outsource support.
As the product creator, you are emotionally attached to your product and you may be adversely affected by someone’s negative criticism. This is where things can fall apart. An emotional response to a customer support query will seldom accomplish your goal. For the most part, people just want their problem fixed and remember, their perception at the moment is that there IS, in fact, a problem on YOUR side of the arrangement. You can’t dismiss or diminish that concern, remember that you can attract a lot more bees with honey than vinegar.
A few key points when dealing with an irate or otherwise difficult customer…
#1 Be mindful of the language you’re using. Be courteous and professional, always use friendly and professional greetings and use layman’s terms when talking to them. Don’t assume that they are at your same aptitude level.
#2 Acknowledge their problem and ask questions . Get involved and show them a genuine willingness to understand what they’re going through.
#3 Be accurate and succinct with your response. Don’t just guess at the answer, know what you’re talking about before you reply. Word your responses in a clear and concise way to avoid misunderstanding as a result of language barriers.
#4 Strive for clarity. Be very clear with the steps they need to take next. Let them know what will happen after this replay so there are no surprises.
#5 Stay in touch. Don’t just close the ticket right after you respond. Check back with them the next day to see if the problem is solved. This one little step can make a world of difference.
For those REALLY difficult customers, it’s worth mentioning here that no one expects you to endure any verbal abuse. If the conversation reaches a point where the customer is so emotional that they are using foul language, insulting or berating you it may be best to politely bow out of the conversation until he or she calms down. Taking the high road can be a difficult thing sometimes but everyone has their breaking point and it’s better to abstain than to say something you’ll regret.
Remember that the internet is written in pen, not pencil. Your words can be screen captured and shared publically so don’t ever say something to a customer that you wouldn’t want the public to see. Treat everyone with respect or don’t engage with them at all. The public is unforgiving and will always hold you to a higher standard than an irate customer.
THE TIME WILL COME WHEN YOU HAVE TO OUTSOURCE YOUR CUSTOMER SUPPORT
This may be a tough pill to swallow if you’re an overprotective, perfectionist type of business owner. Hey, we get it, you’ve worked really hard to build your business and amass the customers you currently have. You pride yourself on the personal attention that you’ve been giving each and every customer and you love it when they sing your praises on Facebook.
If you are growing your business and striving to reach even greater income goals then you have to face reality. You simply can’t do it all by yourself anymore. This doesn’t mean that the quality of your support has to suffer either. As a matter of fact, after outsourcing their support desk many online business owners often ask themselves why the heck they hadn’t done it sooner.
It’s a good idea to start recording videos of yourself doing everything. You should record all those menial daily tasks you perform to run your online business with Jing or some similar sort of screen capture software. These videos won’t be for public consumption but rather for training your support person once you finally decide to bring someone on board. It’s amazing when you stop to think of all the little tasks and skills we do automatically on a daily basis. We may take for granted that the person we chose to hire for our support desk will know how to do all these little things. Even if you outsource your support to an experienced person they still need to understand your products and how to solve common issues so it just makes sense to start compiling a folder with short little training videos for when that day comes.
Speaking of “that day”, is it a specific daily ticket amount or revenue amount that will tell you it’s time to outsource? We think not. This is more of a personal decision that you need to weigh based on your specific life goals. Are you looking for more time freedom or are you trying to expand your business? Business growth requires resources, especially human resources to free you up for expansion tasks.
Finding the right individual to handle your support for you may require some interviewing. There are lots of services out there like 123Employee, Upwork, FreeUp and others that can help you find the right person. Some business owners hire a few people on a temporary basis and assign them all some tasks to see who will be the best fit. Once there is a clear winner you can offer that person a more permanent position and give them all your training videos!
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF A QUALITY CUSTOMER SUPPORT PLAN
Many online business owners dismiss the importance of a proper plan for handling support requests because they think their business is too small at first. Sure, a few customer issues here and there may seem easy to handle via email in the beginning but it doesn’t stay that way for long. The problem is that as your business begins to grow, those emails begin to pile up and they start getting missed. By the time you finally decide to create a dedicated help desk or bring on some staff you realize that you should have had a better plan in place from the beginning.
You don’t need to use complicated or expensive help desk software at first. As a matter of fact most hosting companies provide a free help desk script right in your website’s Cpanel but saving a few pennies there may cost you quite a bit more in time and technical frustration. Zendesk is one of many cloud based support systems that you can get in on for a low monthly fee and it can grow at your own pace. We’re talking like $5.00 per month to have a professional help desk and centralized ticket system for your business.
There are even WordPress plugins that you can install on your website for support so customers can just create a ticket right when they’re logged in. That also may seem like a cool free alternative until a year has gone by and now you have 4 or 5 websites that you manage and you’ve got to log in to each one every day to check for support tickets! ONE central support desk for your company is the way to go.
You don’t need to hire a staff or outsource your support right away. Put a plan in place that enables you to manage support yourself at first but allows room for you to scale as your business grows. Your support system should be able to handle 30 tickets a day just as easily as it can handle 3.
Customer support is inevitable in the digital business space and you should anticipate it. Map out the growth of your business and anticipate the need for handling tickets. Devise a practical way to manage your customer support so that you can delight your customers in their time of need rather than adding to their frustration. Strive to create LOYAL customers by going above and beyond just satisfying their needs.