Author Avatar Web Disasters V – Support

by Webnme2 on Mar 20th 2010


When do you visit a website’s support area? Most of us ignore this important area of a website until something goes wrong or until we figure out we can’t get something to work as advertised. By that time the manual is long gone, the drivers are probably on a floppy or CD that hit the garbage ages ago, and the chances are good we don’t know the product number. Don’t stop us from getting help just because we don’t know the magic number or understand your corporate jargon. And most of all don’t give us a support area with a dozen clicks to get to a page that tells us it is under development, that no drivers are available, that the product is discontinued, or any other excuses.

1. Do It Right With Pictures

If you have more than one supported product, help out your web visitor. Provide pictures of the merchandise so that the visitor can figure out what they have.

2. Help Us Help Ourselves

Don’t tell us we need to order a CD. That is no comfort when your visitor has to meet a deadline with a non-functioning product. Provide downloadable drivers, specifications, manuals, and useful help documents. This can go a long way towards reducing your need to answer e-mail or respond to phone calls from unhappy people.

3. Help Needs to Be Helpful

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a website and found that the help pages were written by morons for morons. Yes I’ve plugged in the computer. Yes the device is connected correctly. I can read the manual.

If you have a product, you need to have a real knowledge base where you provide solutions for common problems that people experience. If I have installed your product’s software and the install got hosed, what do I do? Suppose it won’t uninstall and I get a message that says that it can’t be installed when an install is in progress – what do I do then? Tell me what services need to be terminated, what processes need to be halted, and what registry entries are going to have to be hand edited to have a successful uninstall and re-install. Don’t leave it up to the customer to guess. These are real world types of problems and your customers need answers.

If you are starting up, test the product rigorously and make sure you document problems and solutions. Open a forum on your support site where users can ask questions and get real help from other experienced users and your own experts. This goes a long way towards finding solutions.

4. Add the Personal Touch

When your customer is in a panic, all the neato whizbang support stuff you have is not going to help. Sometime people just need to talk to an expert. They need to describe a problem in detail and it isn’t easy to fit it into a silly submit your problem box with 1000 characters or less. Give your customers a way to communicate effectively.

5. Avoid Frustrating Fumbling Scripted Answers

One size never fits all. If I explain a problem in detail and tell you what I’ve done without success, sending me back a robot response e-mail telling me to try the same thing is not going to help and it sure is not going to impress me or anyone else. If I send you a problem, you need to read what I wrote and answer the questions that I asked and not the ones you think I should have asked.

6. Temper, Temper, Temper

Finally, if you are providing support and the customer is having a problem, don’t get mad at the customer because they can’t figure out how to use your product. Maybe, just maybe you didn’t do all your homework or the customer wouldn’t be having the problem in the first place. If you treat customers like dung, they will get the message and find better places to spend their money than your website.

About Webnme2

The author's first experience with computers was with Fortran IV. Wow that's ancient. After graduate school, he taught history for a number of years at a community college before becoming an attorney. In 1997 he changed careers to become a web developer/designer with an interest in all things web related. He currently maintains several dozen websites. This is his personal blog. The opinions expressed are his own.

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