Contributor: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
good Internet support is a common feature of any
successful company, and
forms a high priority in many purchasing
Discover what makes for an effective support
policy, how support is as much what you sell
creative service or product itself, and what tools
can help in the delivery of great support.
A company that provides good support is significantly less likely to loose custom,
and far more likely to prosper over the longer term. Here's a telling breakdown
from a recent report as to why customers go elsewhere:
- 45% because of poor service
- 20% because of lack of attention
- 15% for a better product
- 15% for a cheaper product and
- 5% other
The scope of this article is limited to support
delivered over the Internet. In particular the
kind of support that a creative studio, software
or creative freelancer offers. For businesses in the creative sector, providing
time consuming, as each client may have very specific needs relating to a particular
important that at the outset in any business-client relationship, the client
is made fully
I've created a template below that covers the essential features
of a Support Policy. Be especially mindful however that your policy is
support you decide to offer must be within the limits of your capabilities:
Company endeavors to respond to
questions in a timely
manner, and to resolve problems in
due course, taking into account the
severity of the problem. All issues
will receive our best effort, but
we cannot guarantee a resolution
of all support issues, nor can we
guarantee their resolution within
a certain time frame.
Please read this document carefully to understand the full terms
of our Support Policy.
Company's support will cover: [define
coverage - for example, what questions
and issues you're willing to
Support will not cover: [define non-coverage - here's where you
say what you don't support]
to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm [define
Note that support is also not available on the following days:
[define holidays and religious festivals your company wishes to
The online support center is your one-stop destination for everything
* NOTE: Support ticketing is only available to commissioners.
My Company provides a support Forum. If you've tried searching
our FAQ's and your question is still not answered, head towards
the Forum where you'll find advice from ourselves and general users.
This is a free support resource and is available at:
Unsupported Methods of Support
The following methods are not supported:
direct email support, phone support.
Reasons for not
1. Support requested is for an unsupported or related area.
2. Abuse of support representatives.
We do not allow any abuse from clients to our support representatives
in any way. If such a situation occurs, you will be given a reminder,
and then, if the issue continues, ticketing options will be removed
from your account.
the time of purchase customers receive
a free support period of 30 days
[amend as required]. After the free
support period, My
Company reserves the right to request
service fees from clients seeking
My Company Tag Line
So what is good support and why is there a need
to provide it? Let's take a simple example
photographer. You might think a photographer takes pictures,
provides the image files or prints, and that's fairly well the end of the matter.
A client may
however have a support question about
to hang a photograph so as not to cause it damage from light, especially if
they've paid a great deal for it to be hand printed
by the photographer. If they feel confident
that they can
kind of question, or that the photographer
provides information and resources on their website, they will be engaging
in a deeper association with the photographer,
and will be more likely to return for
commission at a later date.
might also provide additional services like high quality reprints and
digital albums for their clients. These additional
services broaden the relationship of the
photographer and client.
Support for such services might take
the form of:
Static web pages and documents which
provide support information,
(if limited to a handful of support requests
3. Email support, or
Support Ticketing: a more sophisticated and dynamic
online support area that
delivers support ticketing which significantly
improves the support experience from a clients
perspective, and provides a more robust framework
to track and respond to client support requests
(an example of which follows below).
In all the above examples it's important that
the mechanism of support allows the client to
express themselves clearly, and in as much
detail as allows the support professional to
quickly and easily respond. Phone
support for example, can be speedy for the client,
but is very time consuming and costly as compared
with email. Make
that you've thought through the pros and cons
of each support option, and that they are practical
Support takes place on a two
way street, and effective support staff try to nurture this
works when all parties
clearly in a personable, concise, and informative manner.
The support staff must have the ability to see their clients
point of view. That doesn't mean they need to agree
with them, nor assume them right, but they do need to have an open mind of
what the client is saying.
Clients will often contact support in a negative frame of mind,
and may well be aggressive or accusational. The job of the support staff
is to reassure the client their issue is being addressed, and to rise above
the initial poor attitude the client may at first communicate. Support professionals
must be effective communicators in their given medium. If
support is by email or an online ticketing system, the respondent must be
able to express themselves very well in a written medium.
I've come across
instances of a factually correct support reply to my first support request,
but have also been given the strong impression I'd not be too welcome in making
requests. Here's an instance when support failed in one important regard.
Customers who are treated with respect, irrespective of their initial attitude,
be far more likely to continue a relationship with a company. The bottom line
is that being polite pays.
customers will accept
errors, faults, and failings when there is a willingness and effort to resolve
them quickly. The support process then becomes a powerful force that cements
between the customer and
An Example of Great Support
Developing a support strategy is the simple part, delivering
one is another matter entirely. Ascad Networks - www.ascadnetworks.com,
the developers of an excellent online ticketing system called Support System,
are a shining example of how good support can lead to benefits for both
the customer and company providing support.
Designed to be an all-in-one online helpdesk,
Support System v2.1 features a powerful ticketing system, an advanced
live chat system, a knowledge-base
builder, and a built-in frequently asked questions manager. Support System
requires Unix or Linux servers with sendmail. You can find an online demo of
their system at:
After buying Support System v2.1 I discovered some serious issues relating
to licensing that I wasn't happy about and contacted Ascad Networks about
them. I began communicating with Jonathan Belelieu,
the lead programmer, and Michael from sales about my concerns, and within a
of Support System that wholly met my concerns. As a result of our exchanges,
the licensing procedures for the program where improved.
It would have been very easy for Ascad Networks to have said: 'there's nothing
wrong with the program, you agreed our terms, tough', but they didn't. We
came to a solution, partly as a result of
my persistence, and partly as a result of their going the extra
mile and responding in a way that went far beyond the usual level of support
one might expect. Great support meant that everybody won.
It's easy to think of support as a chore, an extra. Don't. Your
support provision is vital to the future success of your company. As a creative
professional, support should be part of what you do. Offering support is
a powerful vehicle in connecting you to your customers, and discovering the
product. Never forget that support provides an invaluable opportunity
to improve upon what you do. Your underlying motto should always be that
comes as standard...