Your company has an innovative product, a flashy and attractive website, a bevy of investors on board, and a technical support staff consisting of one intern that you spent five minutes training via email. What’s wrong with this picture?

How Tech Support Affects Your Company’s Image

In many cases, your tech support representatives are your only employees that regularly interact with your customers. When your support reps also happen to be your lowest paid, worst informed and (understandably) most short-tempered employees, can you expect your company to build a positive reputation among your target audience?

Tech support is under-utilized. Far too many companies treat their tech support teams as a last line of defense between angry customers and imminent organizational failure, and consider the idea of sending their tech team leaders to management schools as completely ridiculous . You should have two primary goals for your technical support services, both of which will improve your company’s image when accomplished:

  • Solve the problems posed by your customers in a timely, efficient and (this is important) friendly manner. It may sound simple, but it often requires more creativity than simply asking the customer to check his system settings or unplug and reconnect a few cables. Your customers want a fast solution, which might involve providing suggestions to use your product or service in a way that you hadn’t previously thought about.
  • Use the information gathered from customer support calls to improve your products or services. In their fits of anger, disappointed customers often reveal the weakest points of what you sell. Fixing the problem permanently will lead to satisfied customers who have no need for a tech support call.

How to Use Available Tech Support Channels Properly

Live Chat – This is a relatively new and increasingly popular technical support method utilized by many sites, including giants like Amazon.com. Unfortunately, many companies feel that simply offering live chat will distract users from the fact that the service itself can be woefully poor. Most of the live chat services I’ve used were staffed by support reps who barely understood my simple questions, let alone were able to sufficiently answer them. Live chat is ideal because it’s fast and it allows the customer to save the conversation for later reference. However, live chat reps that make grammatical and spelling errors can damage the user’s perception of your company’s competency.

Email – This is a standard tech support method that no company should sacrifice, even when offering a plethora of other support channels. Many users who have grown weary of real time support methods such as live chat and phone prefer email, simply to avoid the confrontation they expect when they complain about a product. Email has similar benefits to live chat in that it effectively records the conversation for later reference. The same general rules in regards to grammar, spelling and tone apply to email support as well.

Phone – The preferred tech support channel of most customers, phone support also calls for the highest level of competency on the part of your tech support staff. It can also make for the shortest successful support calls, especially when the problem is technical in nature and requires constant feedback (Try this. That didn’t work? OK, try this but change this first.).

How to Approach Your Customers

The basics are obvious: be nice, be respectful, don’t blame the customer, know what you’re talking about, say you’re sorry even if you’re not, etc. Following these common sense guidelines will, in most cases, lead to satisfied customers who will continue to use your products and services. However, that’s probably where the effects of the customer support inquiry will end.

Provide a customer support experience that’s so positive and so beneficial to the customer that he or she will be compelled to talk about it with friends and post about it online (blogs, social media sites, forums related to the types of things you sell, etc). In most cases, this will involve a monetary benefit for the customer, usually at the detriment of your own bottom line. Offer free return shipping, even if the customer ordered the wrong thing (Zappos, an online shoe retailer, has seen enormous success largely because of this single policy). Issue a full refund past the warranty period. You’ll generate such a positive buzz around your company that the initial financial burdens will be more than mitigated in just a few months.

How to Use an FAQ Effectively

An effective FAQ can intercept customer complaints and resolve problems before a tech support inquiry is even made. Follow these tips to write a good one:

  • Don’t think of a clever name for it. Angry customers aren’t in the mood to spend time determining whether that cutely-titled link on your navigation bar will have the answers they’re looking for.
  • Only include questions that you frequently receive. Technical details are better left to product manuals, though this can partially depend on the nature of what you’re selling.
  • Keep it updated.
  • Make it easy to navigate and scannable. If you do feel the need to post a lengthy FAQ, users should be able to find the answers they’re looking for without resorting to ctrl-F.

How to Bolster Your Tech Support with Social Media

Although social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can be used to beef up your tech support operations, they don’t replace phone and email. However, you can use social media to keep more customers happy and eliminate some would-be customer support inquiries. Search around on social media sites and see who’s talking about your company. Don’t like what you see? Interact directly: tell the angry customer to call your company, and promise a resolution to their problem. Don’t get defensive, and don’t use it as an opportunity for a cheap sales pitch.

With nearly 600 million users on Facebook and 200 million on Twitter, people are guaranteed to see how you respond, and it won’t take them long to make a judgment about how you handled the situation. Mobile Internet devices are constantly reducing the time it takes for word of mouth to travel.

How Not to Implement Tech Support

  • Don’t give your support staff less power than is necessary to do their jobs. If you don’t trust your tech support reps enough to allow them to authorize a return, for example, you either need to find more competent, trustworthy reps or rethink your customer service model entirely.
  • Don’t ignore your support reps. If they report receiving calls about the same problems every day, fix the problems even if your reps seem to be handling them easily.
  • Don’t take complaints personally. When a customer complains, it means that something is definitely wrong – maybe with your product or maybe with the way your customer is using it. Tactfully correcting the situation in either case is what separates good tech support from the mediocre tech support seen at many companies.

About the author

Kevin Lenton works with companies to build and maintain their online relationships with clients, as well as prepare content geared at high conversion rates. In his spare time he enjoys playing the harmonica – an activity he’s been involved in since the age of 12.

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