Mr. Watson! I want to see you: Can you afford to make your customer wait until Monday morning?

What if, when his immediate presence was requested by his inventor boss, Thomas Watson had told Alexander Graham Bell that he was only available during normal business hours, Central Daylight Time, Monday through Friday, but no holidays and no weekends?

I think Mr. Watson would have been out of a job. Yet this is what some companies still think of as adequate customer support. Adequate? Maybe. Outstanding? Definitely not.

Does this type of customer support sound like your company? Maybe you can’t justify staffing the phone around the clock. Maybe you think your product is not a critical element of any system therefore support can wait until Monday morning at 9 AM. Maybe once the product is sold, you don’t care. But a delayed response to a customer could spell the end of the road with him and anyone he talks to about his lousy support experience. And new customers are more expensive to acquire than a support system that would have kept this now former customer from leaving you.

But does timely customer support have to be a person 24/7? No. There are several avenues that you can leverage besides a telephone support agent to answer your customer’s questions during those off hours.

One of the most useful applications in terms of a timely response is a Self Service Center web portal that your customer can use at his convenience. The Self Service Center can be accessed anytime, regardless of the calendar or clock. Here is where a customer can search for a solution to a problem; update the company profile; even log and track a trouble ticket if need be. If all he needed was to reset his password, wouldn’t it be better to handle it now rather than later? Like after the customer has left a flaming e-mail telling you what to do with your product?

Next to self service, e-mail is somewhat useful as a standalone service. But what if customer e-mails could be automatically turned into trouble tickets without human intervention? These value added support applications will lead to a very happy and loyal customer without staffing the graveyard shift.

One company that offers such tools is PhaseWare, Inc. The latest version of the Self Service Center has just launched. PhaseWare Tracker 3.0 Self Service Center allows customers to find the information they need to continue working. Additionally, the Event Engine can monitor and escalate e-mail issues without assigning someone to monitor e-mail traffic in real time.

Mr. Bell can now confer with Mr. Watson anytime. And Mr. Watson doesn’t even need to be there.

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