First, a disclaimer. What follows is not research, academic or otherwise. It is a quick list and ideas I picked up from my work with Fujitsu Services, the things I did for Fullsix and what I have picked up now and then on the web and conversations with people who do customer support or manage customer support teams.
Second, beliefs. I believe that over thinking and over engineering is a common pitfall for companies. Small companies with only a few occasional support requests don't need to apply all the ideas below. They simply need to focus on what matters most, understanding what is going on with the person on the other side and sharing with the team what is going on.
This being said, let's move forward.
Internal Knowledge Base
Every company needs a central location to store its documents, and where people can search to find the information they need. This is also where anyone doing customer support can double check information and if possible query for the status of an order for example.
Self Service tools and User Communities
This is more for the user's side of things. The goal here is to let the user find what he needs and keep him from clicking that ”send email” button. Digital Ocean is a great example on this.
They provide Virtual Private Servers, and it is not easy to configure those. So they publish several tutorials for the most common problems and configurations. When the tutorials are not enough, the user can also publish a post on the Digital Ocean Community. This is where users help each other get things done.
These user communities are where we can find real community managers, not on Facebook pages.
Want to step up a bit? Start writing a blog. A good example here is the Sublime Text blog. The blog features news about the new version of the software, with a walkthrough of the new features when it's relevant.
To make it even better, then have a newsletter called ”Sublime Text Tips” with tutorials and other useful information to make the best of this text editor. And if you take a look at their archives you will notice they manage it more like a blog than a newsletter.
Monitor and Respond
This one here is pretty straightforward. Even when you have a good user community people will complain on your facebook page or through twitter. So you are going to need a way to be alerted on new comments or mentions to your brand / service.
One thing to keep in mind, the person who answers customer support doesn't have to be your community manager. In fact, I have seen some brands link their Customer Support team with their facebook page using things like Desk.com to help make the community manager's life easier and of course, answer their users in a more effective and efficient way.
How long do you take to answer a question and what can you do to make the process faster?
Back in Fujitsu I learned about the Lean Six Sigma methodology. The heart of it was quite simple, measure the process and its main indicators to find ways to improve, cutting down on wait time.
To do this you can categorize the questions asked, where people ask them (facebook, twitter, email) and what is done to give them a reply. This is going to help write ”canned responses” improve the internal knowledge base or can even be added to the blog or newsletter to avoid further repetitive enquiries.
Of course, if there is only one person handling customer service, you will hardly need an elaborate set up.
Header photo by Stavos.