Managing customer related tasks and communications is critical to having a useful and responsive customer service. The data captured here will also improve marketing efforts, product development and ultimately make you better at serving your market. Here are some common software elements.
Online Customer Service Ticketing Systems – Organizing, delegating and streamlining customer communication is made possible by ticketing systems, which is basically an email system with bonus features. These ticketing systems take email from customers, then assign them a ticket number. These tickets hold all recent communications with that customers and organizes the messages in in different categories, route to certain agents and even automatically respond to messages with suggested answers. Some basic elements you need from a ticketing system are:
1. Automatic Response – You can setup a trigger to send an email back to a customer as soon as they send you a request. This can be tailored to keywords they provide in their question. Also, average response time can be relayed(should be less than 12hrs). Further you can solicit them to sign up for your newsletter and possibly provide instant answers to frequently asked questions or at least a link to your FAQ or Self Service Portal.
2. Ticket Routing – Have questions submitted to a single address(ie. firstname.lastname@example.org) and then route to secretaries, tech support, sales etc.
3. Self Service Portal – Customers can have instant access to FAQ(Frequently Asked Questions), check on order status’s and even answer each others questions.
The ticketing systems also let you prioritize questions and keep excellent track of urgent questions. Answered questions are separated out, so you always see the unanswered tickets on top as default, unlike standard email programs where unanswered messages tend to get buried.
Organizations large and small can take advantage of ticketing software. Many are free, or are charged incremental fees based on the size of your organization. Zendesk is one of the more popular ticketing systems and is highly customize-able. It’s also easy to setup and has a nice web portal. Zendesk integrates well with many other software programs like Magento, Capsule, Salesforce, etc. You won’t get much pre-post sales support for the free versions, but Zendesk does offer webinars to teach you the basics. Some other ticketing systems are Freshdesk and LiveAgent.
Online Customer Service Chat – This is a waste of time in my experience. Unless you are engaging in multiple chats the entire day, it’s not efficient. Chatting takes what could be accomplished in a 5 minute phone conversation and drags it out over 1hr. One nice thing chatting does is let’s people know someone is alive and kicking at your company, but that’s about it.
Online Customer Service CRM – Customer Relationship Management
It sounds like a large and arduous term from my 90s business management class, and actually most of the larger CRM software platforms are that old. In theory, you want to keep track of all your customers and contacts(like a roladex) along with pending activities for each. Customers should be managed and monitored along the entire chain of the sales process, and after. Sales Agents manage these interactions through CRM platforms. I’ve found that these systems actually require more time and effort to manage than they save and payback. Salesforce and Zoho(or it’s opensource version Vtiger) are designed to capture leads from webforms(contact us form online) and manage them through the sales process. It allows for forecasting, followup reminders and good lead management. They are also complicated ways to store all of your contacts. There are some other lighter and more nimble CRM systems arriving which are based on fresh technology and more appropriate for today’s business demands. Capsule is good contact manager.
CRMs and Ticketing systems don’t yet have automatic integration, they don’t talk to each other. Until then, there are cloud solutions that provide automated tasks between cloudware(Cloudwork and Zapier). My simple hope would be that when a customer sends an email, it makes a new contact or lead in your CRM software. We aren’t quite there yet, but technology is coming.
Online Customer Service and Marketing – Having a customer database which can be segregated by preferences and demographics will really assist with marketing efforts. Sending emails to groups, taking our cookie company for example, we can tag all customers who have bought chocolate chip cookies and send them an email when we add a new product to our line. Or better yet, you can survey that group and find out if they prefer 60% or 80% cacao chocolate chips. Segmenting customers allows for better marketing and/or ultimately better service to the customers.
Software/Cloudware should make your life easier, not make more work and complicate things. Ticketing and CRM software will help organize and assist you in providing better customer support and management, but unfortunately they won’t do the entire job for you.
So, what’s your favorite email system, ticketing system or CRM?
by Jason Jelonek