Think smarter when supporting your customers

Author: Neil Kay-Jones, Online Support & User Experience Manager

With so many social media applications and software as a service carving a new way of working, why not adopt some of those working practices.?

Like anything in life, behind all good business practices are the relationships that you build and carefully nurture along the way. So how can social media applications and collaborative software change the way we think of offering support? I started with the main features and thought how I could apply them.

1659321885_082127d165_mBuild your Network/Community
This was the most obvious place to start, but i want you to think of these two words ‘Micro Community’. We’re not talking about building up a Facebook page here, what i am talking about is building your Micro Community of clients like a live online directory with which you can touch from time to time and re-offer your services.

To do this you’re going to need a service that offers the ability to create a contacts list with ‘presence status’. This will let you know when your clients are online and vice versa.

Live Twitter searches
Depending on the type of company, a live twitter search can reap many rewards to building new and existing relationships. Services such as Twhirl and Tweetdeck both offer the ability to search for keywords on twitter but here’s two ways in which i use them to provide support to our customers:

1. Search for your company name – This allows you to support anyone who is twittering about you and your services. Using Tweetdeck allows you to keep your search active and you receive live comments as they happen to which you can give an instant reply. Twhirl on the other hand is just as easy to manage, allowing you to search at your convenience rather than notifying you ever few minutes.

2. Search for what your company does – Think of the main features or functions of your company and then search for anyone talking about that terminology. These potential customers could easily be looking for your services and by offering them free advice can easily result in a loyal customer.

Collaboration tools
Screen sharing and sharing control of your customers computer can offer some real interesting uses for support amongst different industries other than the normal IT remote support. Here’s how i see two short examples of utilising these features.

Creative companies – For anyone in the creative industry, you can benefit from harnessing the power of online collaboration tools. Simple fast screen sharing can make showing concepts a much more valuable experience for both you and your clients. Instant feedback without the travel would save you time and money and help projects run smoother. By building in this form of support on projects, your clients will now see you in a new light and be much more likely to work with you again.

  • Watch out for my future extended article on ‘how to enhance the project lifecycle for the creative industry
  • Business consultants – It is often the case that Start-Ups and established companies of any nature seek business planning advice from professional consultants. By using tools which allow sharing control of computers over the  internet and allowing collaborative work on the same document, you reduce  the risk of working on obsolete versions as multiple copies get emailed  around. Offering support remotely can increase your pool of prospective customers to a global scale.

    Integration with other Networks
    Now that so many people have access to so many networks, choose a service that can syncronize with other networks and import your contacts into the one application for easy management. What’s more, you don’t then have to ask your contacts to.

    Integrated Conference calling
    For when instant messages are not practical, integrated conference call services in collaboration software can enhance the experience of your clients and offer real benefit when clients reside in other countries. Make sure you pick a service that offers bridge numbers in other countries such as Yuuguu or a service that allows you to pay for the full call.

    Update through social media
    Don’t just wait until your customers have a problem to react. At Yuuguu we work with an attitude towards ‘proactive’ and not ‘reactive’ support. You simply can’t keep track of all of your customers by first name if you have a customer base in the hundreds of thousands and notify each one with a feature they wanted some months ago when it goes live. So be proactive in supporting all customers with new information.Use social media services such as the new Facebook pages to instantly update your customers. Facebook pages offer customers to become a fan of your page. You can offer  them the chance to provide feedback and share that feedback with other customers, online discussions and to participate in your latest poll on new features.

    Let’s sum it all up
    Put aside your thoughts of what you think remote support is – the IT support person telling you to switch off and then back on again. Well it is now time to ‘switch on’ and think about how you can make a difference to your customers.

    If we all keep in mind that behind most things in business, relationships play such a big part, then support is more than what we offer at present. It’s not about just giving customers a set of instructions on how to do something or just completing a project. It’s more about how we can use new technology to enhance our day to day relationships and workflow to provide a better experience.

  • Image by: Luc Legay – Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/luc/1659321885/
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