Copyright 2005 Richard Grady
My regular readers will know that one of things I highly recommend doing with any online business is automating as many of your day to day tasks as possible.
From a personal point of view, one of tasks that takes up a lot of my time is answering emails. It isn't just answering email that eats up hours - sorting through and deleting spam and junk mail absorbs a lot of time too. In good old days, I used to get a couple of spam emails a day. Now it is closer to 1000 a day!
In fact, when you look at it, email isn't always best form of online communication. Not only is there junk mail issue to contend with but also fact that email is not 100% reliable. Emails do 'go missing' far more regularly than you might expect. Often this is simply because recipients email software has decided that a particular email is junk and has transferred it directly to 'Delete' folder. Other times it may be because recipients ISP has decided that email is junk and deleted it BEFORE it has even been seen by recipient! (Yes this really does happen - imagine if your postman sorted through your mail and made decision of which letters you want and which ones he should throw away?!)
One way to help avoid spam problem when dealing with customer support enquiries is to make use of a contact form on your website instead of posting an email address. This will certainly help to cut down on spam but it still means that you have problem of emails not getting to their destination (and when you have a frustrated customer waiting for assistance this is not ideal).
Therefore, probably best option on market presently is a full-blown helpdesk system. Setting up a dedicated helpdesk is a superb way of automating your customer support and speeding up process of dealing with enquiries and support emails. Not only that but if you use a system that allows customers to create 'tickets', you don't have to rely on email as your customers can login to a special web page and view both their tickets and your replies online.
Another feature of many helpdesk scripts is an 'FAQ' or 'Knowledgebase' section. This is simply a collection of most frequently asked questions/queries/problems along with answers and solutions. This means that customers can search knowledgebase and hopefully find answer to their question without having to contact Support at all.
Some of more advanced scripts will even scan customers support ticket prior to submitting it and then list a few possible answers to their questions just in case they didn't read through knowledgebase before typing ticket out - very clever stuff.
These scripts are also very powerful in terms of how they can benefit you. Just think how much time you could save if, say, 40% of your customer support emails just stopped coming due to fact that your customers were now able to find answers to their questions automatically.