So, you have a company and you have customers and they might have problems with your products. You need to provide a method for them to redress those problems. First thing first, decide if you are building a Help Desk or a Call Center. Hopefully you are building a Help Desk, because if you aren’t, I will cut you.
Now that you are building a Help Desk, the next thing to do is determine the avenues you wish to open for support. Phone support is a tried and true method, but you can also do support by email, text, live chat, message forums… So many options. Which ones work best will depend on the type of products and services you provide, but the key is to just avoid confusion. It should be clear to your customers how to contact you and the level of feedback they should expect.
Feedback is very important. If I call and leave a message and then no one calls me back, I feel ignored. Next time I go to buy a product, I might not buy yours if there are other options. The same goes for emails and forums and texts… anything asynchronous needs to have a response time, a point by which you will either have an answer or you will contact the user and tell them you are working on it. I worked for a company once that funneled all support calls to a voice mail box, then when a caller left a message a pager would go off in the office, the person in charge of the pager would listen to the message, create the ticket, and assign it to a tech. We would only call the customer if the message was unclear. The tech would have 60 minutes to respond to the customer, either with an answer or to get more information. The important part is that we explained exactly how this worked to our customers, and while some people I know predicted we’d be flooded with messages that said “I have a problem, call me” the opposite happened. Our customers began leaving extremely detailed messages. Later we added an email address they could send problem descriptions and screenshots to. Again, some people predicted we’d get lots of “I have a problem, call me” emails, but instead we started getting well written narratives with pictures. It was great. But the point is that we established an expectation – report a problem, get contacted within the hour – and since we never ever failed at that, our customers worked to maximize that system, providing the best detail to speed response and increase accuracy of solutions.
Now, the next step is one that nearly all help desks/call centers I’ve interacted with fail at on some level. Assume you are in the business of providing phone service. Now assume half of your network has shit itself and half of your customers are experiencing problems. You need a way to communicate to your staff that the problem is known, how to identify if a caller/user is affected and what to say to them to explain the problem. If I call your help desk to report a phone service problem and your people there happily take my information, assign me a ticket number and tell me a technician will call me shortly without even a mention of a wide-spread outage, you have failed. And the failure will just get bigger because in an hour when I’m still having problems and no technician has called me back (because he’s too busy trying to fix the problem), I’m going to be furiously angry and possibly seeking out a replacement for your service. What would have fixed that? “Oh, this issue is linked with the current company wide outage we are experiencing. Our technicians are working to resolve it as we speak. I will put your name on our call back list to notify you of any significant updates or when a resolution is found.”
The final part of a good help desk (besides good help) is the followup. After the problem has been resolved, probably the next day, someone from your company is going to call the customer and ask them if everything is okay and if the problem was resolved to their satisfaction. Don’t outsource this. And I don’t mean to another country, don’t outsource this to people who don’t know anything about the problem. I work with one company and their followup call is a person who not only doesn’t know anything about the problem, the only thing they know is my name, my phone number and the problem ticket number. They can’t even tell me what the problem was, which is a problem when I have a half-dozen open tickets. 83759374 doesn’t tell me anything worth knowing. And when I ask, “Is this concerning the [insert problem description here]?” they can only reply, “I don’t know.” And I can’t fault them, because they don’t know, they haven’t been given the tools. However, I do fault the company, and it means they exist with one strike against them all the time.
I just don’t understand how so many companies can get something so simple, so basic as setting up a functional help desk that provides actual help and makes their customers feel helped. No, wait, sadly I do understand. Lots of people just don’t care.