Every business owner, sooner or later, comes to the realization that her time is money in the bank!
Wasted time is cash burned . . . and really for no good reason.
Every business is a little different, but in most cases where the owner principally operates online, requests for support by customers can be a major daily time drain.
In some cases, it is the major activity that keeps the owner/operator glued to her computer and telephone during regular business hours and then some.
I know of situations where giving help and support to customers is 60% of the daily routine of the operator.
Some niches, like retail software sales, require lots of buyer “hand holding” and problem solving.
Any product that requires computer installation, uploading of files, or any kind of digital prowess will carry with it the baggage of an inordinate amount of customer questions, issues, and occasionally complaints.
In addition, most products that are physically shipped to the customer will come with its share of support issues as well.
Ditto for some leading edge or technology-based products that are new to the market and may not be fully understood.
Really, anything that is sold (or even given away) that is even mildly technical, complicated, requires assembly, or is anything but totally easy and obvious will carry with it some typical support issues.
I remember a friend that was selling CDs jokingly telling me that he had a buyer call him from thousands of miles away asking him to explain how to “install” the CD into her CD player.
She didn’t know which side of the CD was “up” and was worried that she might hurt something if done wrong.
Well, the whole purpose of this introduction is to suggest the importance of trying to keep support and questions handled by email or telephone to a minimum. In other words, cutting down the time it takes to answer incoming questions from customers.
The less time an owner spends in replying to customers, the more time she’ll have to work on her business – doing things like marketing and product development that bring cash into the business.
Of course, I’m not saying that the owner should avoid customer contact as much as possible. It’s important to nurture customers with some personal time, if possible, so they will put a face or a voice to your business and understand that you really do want to help them and assist with any issues they may have.
The friendly, understanding and accommodating owner will reap great rewards from satisfied buyers. We often speak of customers buying from those they know, like, and trust. Being accommodating and helpful is one of the ways to increase customer trust and comfort.
I’m just saying, the fewer support requests the owner has, the happier she’ll be.
Time is so critical to the solo business operator – there are always other important things knocking at the business door.
So, how does the owner minimize support requests?
The best way I know is to have a great set of online FAQs. Put them plainly in sight where customers can find them easily.
Don’t be afraid to call your customer’s attention directly to them.
For any that may be new to Internet business . . . “FAQs” stands for “frequently asked questions.”
These are usually short sentences or statements the owner displays that attempt to anticipate and answer typical questions so that the buyer doesn’t have to call the business to understand something.
Obviously, every question, problem, or issue can’t be isolated or anticipated. But any seasoned business owner will tell you that 80% of the questions she gets are repeated or frequently asked. Unique concerns are much more rare.
So if most questions are repeats, that should clue the owner that a FAQ is in order. Don’t be lazy or shrug off the importance of creating useful and relevant FAQs. Who wouldn’t want to address a potential question ahead of time and avoid a service call?
It should be obvious that creating a FAQ should be in direct response to a real issue(s) that have arisen over time.
The owner doesn’t have to guess at what to include. She should keep a running list or notes of recurring questions or concerns of customers and prospects.
FAQs should be simply stated, limited to just one issue at a time, and they should always be accompanied by a statement like . . . “If you need further assistance or have questions that aren’t covered here, we encourage you to contact our Support Department at . . . (email and phone number).” Include the best times to call.
If you have a large number of support requests, I would strongly encourage you to look into outsourcing your business support if you can do it profitably.
Even so, be sure to utilize the effectiveness of a good set of FAQs posted to your web site within easy view.
They have the potential of saving you hours of work each day.
To your online business success!