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Facilitate easy communication via your website

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 by Servage

communicationEvery website owner faces decisions about how to engage users and their communication needs. Obviously the users’ desire to ask questions or otherwise get in touch with the website owner vary a great deal depending on the type of website. Simply put, a hobby page for a specific topic may not trigger too much communication, where a busy online store may get overloaded with support requests.

There is no generally right or wrong way of communicating with users, it all really depends a lot on your type of project. However, it is important to identify your users’ needs and your capabilities as a provider to facilitate a satisfactory and efficient communication. Especially professionals such as service providers or stores must offer good communication, otherwise it will have a negative impact on customer satisfaction at some point.

Legal requirements & contact information

This is just a friendly reminder that there actually are legal requirements when it comes to providing contact information on a website. Depending on your country, it is not just okay to be anonymous online, and it is shocking how many companies fail to adhere to the most simple rules. Most european countries want you to identify your company with full name, organization/VAT number and basic contact information. It is, however, okay to somewhat hide this away to an extent that customers seeking support don’t end up on this contact page, which is for legal purposes. Customers should likely follow a more structured support funnel.

Communication channels

There are plenty of available communication channels, and the most common ones are described below, and how you can make use of them in a good and efficient way. Generally speaking it is good to funnel users through a series of steps where they have a chance to solve their problem before engaging in direct conversation. Usually the speed at which users can solve their issue is the most important factor, followed by the quality of the communication.

Self-service

Many websites provide a self-service communication portal like a FAQ, discussion forum or similar. Those ways of finding information yourself with or without the help of other engaged users is great for the provider, because it is a very cheap method. However, the biggest issue with this solution is that you have no control over the assistance provided by other users, and your customers may spend a long time dissatisfied before they get the right help. Therefore discussion forums are a good addition, but should not be the only place for your users to get assistance if you are a commercial provider. However, for non-profit providers such self-service solutions may be the only feasible solution in regard to costs.

Email

Text-based communication via email is convenient because users feel they have a direct line to you, and you can structure your responses in your own pace and time. Remember to use a proper email/ticket handling system, so inquiries do not get lost, and are prioritized in a logical order, so customers feel they get their responses in an acceptable time. The downside with email is that textual explanations are often getting a bit long and hard to understand. Therefore the phone is sometimes faster.

Chat

Instant chats are a good service to users and carry¬†an important advantage over email: The help feels instantaneous. The downside is that you need staff almost 24/7 because an unmanned chat is a worthless chat – and you also don’t want to keep users waiting too long in a chat queue.

Phone

Phone service can be the most efficient way of solving questions because speaking is easier and faster than writing. Many companies rely heavily on phone support for those reasons. However, the problem with phone support is similar to the chat system which is that you need live staff. This may not be a problem for larger organizations, where it often becomes an issue of having enough staff at support peak periods to avoid long waiting times.

You probably see from above that there are many options on how you can support your users. Remember the advantages and disadvantages and try to find the best compromise for you.

 

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