If you are running a small business or software company, you’ll know the importance of keeping your customers satisfied and also receiving feedback both critical or in praise.
The problem is that when you are starting out, customer support set-up is not the highest priority, version 1 or sourcing funding to keep going naturally come first, so customer support ends up being a piecemeal affair with FAQs, email, twitter, web forms and if you are adventurous, forums. Unfortunately in the long run, an inefficient system eats up your time and support issues drop through the cracks and that can lead to some pretty unhappy customers.
The alternative is outsourcing the mechanics of the customer support system. I’m not suggesting outsourcing the actual response and support, just replacing the email, twitter, web forms with a web service. If you are a big company or have ambitions to grow then these systems can also help you outsource the response/knowledge part since it will be easier to train support staff with a unified and centralized system. It will also be easier to track how problems are being dealt with.
Who are the main players in this field? Three companies dominate this sector, they are ZenDesk, User Voice and GetSatisfaction. If you have used any of the more popular web services including twitter, mint, or foursquare you’ve probably seen them in action. They usually have a tab on the left or right hand side and clicking it reveals a support form.
These services differ in their approach, here are brief summaries of each
Price $5-$35 per admin
- Quick response
- Built-in forums
- Issue Tracking
- Simpler, lighter-weight
- Requests can be divided into Ideas, Questions, Problems or Praise
- CRM Integration
- Moderation (and using brand advocates (fans) as community support staff possible)
- Long history, one of the first web services in this field
- Viewed as being heavy-weight
- Pricing $9-59 per admin/agent per month
- Integrated with email, web, twitter
- Tracking of responses by both company and customers
- easily customizable
- becoming popular with the latest web services
I don’t recommend you choose which service to use based on the above summaries. The only real way to choose is to try them out and see which suits your needs best. Luckily each has a free trial period and let’s you select the level of service (usually called plans) you need.
One additional tip I have is to visit some of your most accessed sites or services and try out the customer support from a user’s point of view. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see if you are happy or frustrated with the system.