8 tech support best practices

Technical support professionals and executives share their tips on how to provide topnotch support that helps both customers and the bottom line.

09 tech support

No product or service – or end user – is perfect. This is especially true when it comes to hardware and software. That is why companies, if they want to stay in and grow their business, need to provide help to customers when things go wrong. And while no two products or problems are exactly alike, the best tech support departments share the following eight traits.

[ Related: 11 tips for improving your company's customer support ]

1. Offer multi-channel tech support, including live chat.

“The ubiquity of instant communication channels has meant that people want to get the support they want, whenever they want and through whatever method is most convenient,” says Amir Farhi, vice president, strategic alliances & business development, WalkMe. “Rather than relying [just] on email and phone communications, businesses should provide [tech support via] social media channels, [live chat] and messaging apps such as WhatsApp.” They should also “make sure [tech support representatives] are readily available and trained to use all channels.”

[ Related: 10 ways multichannel companies can build trust with customers ]

2. Don’t keep customers waiting.

No one likes to be kept waiting, or feel ignored, especially when they have a critical (or minor) problem that needs fixing. And when you have an issue, even an hour can seem like an eternity.

So to keep customers from becoming upset (or more upset) and potentially taking out their anger online, make sure your tech support channels are properly staffed. If you don’t have someone available to “speak” to a customer right away, give them the option of leaving a message or having someone call or email them back when someone is free, within 24 hours or a business day.

Similarly, if a rep can’t provide a customer with an immediate answer or help to a question or problem, make sure they get back to or follow up with the customer the next business day.

3. Provide FAQs and troubleshooting help online (self service).

“It may sound counterintuitive, but the best tech support is when the end user is not asking for help [or can help himself],” says Farhi. “If you give people the tools… to be self sufficient, then you've been effective in supporting their tech needs.” And “there are lots of self-service options.”

“Build a knowledgebase and utilize videos to show customers how to resolve the most common issues,” suggests Ali Din, general manager & CMO, dinCloud. You can also create an online forum, or forums.

“Allowing customers to perform self-service reduces their frustration of calling in or submitting an online ticket,” says Din. “It also improves turnaround time and serves them in the channel that is most often preferred.”

4. Hire well and train representatives properly.

“The value of putting [the] best people into support roles can’t be understated,” says Brent Sleeper, customer experience champion, SparkPost. “Nothing is more frustrating as a customer than feeling like you know more about a product and problem than the company’s own support [staff].”

His advice? “Hire experienced people, train them really well and reward them appropriately. Whether you’re talking about front-line reps or more senior account managers, they’re the face of the company to a customer.” And as a business, you always want to put your best face forward.

As for training tech support reps, “whatever you think is the minimum effort and time to onboard new agents, double it,” says Terry Clearkin, head of support, Twilio. “Assign a senior member of the support staff to help your new hire, and give them sample problems to resolve internally, with the rest of the team evaluating their progress. There’s no reason to risk the consistency [or quality] of your support by throwing in new agents too quickly.”

5. Use software to keep track of customers and take care of routine tasks.

“Thanks to customer support software, [customer] data is easy to collect and store, providing a comprehensive profile at your agents’ fingertips,” says Robert C. Johnson, CEO, TeamSupport. Just “make [sure] customer data [is stored in a] central system where your support team can access it.” This way, agents can “save time and provide a better customer experience.”

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