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The internet and customer support

The internet has just began to finally capture the attention of mainstream businesses other than those from Silicon Valley. Most of these businesses know that in order to service in the 21st century, they need to be online. Most, do not know, however, what they should actually be doing online. Type in the name of a company in your browser, and what you're most likely find is simply a crude (sometimes even poorly designed) web site listing what products the company offer, a few names, and contact info. Will a website like this do the company any real good, besides impress the computer-illiterate boss that his/her company is "online"? Probably not. What a company needs is a functional web site that does more than just look pretty- or pretty stupid. The two big things that comes to my mind right now are-ecommerce, and tech support. I'll discuss the later in this tutorial.

Using the internet to provide tech support to your customers

Now that's a concept worth exploring. The quality of tech support your company provides to it's customers can either make or break your company. Just look at Dell computers. Thanks to great tech support, the company has enjoyed success like no other computer company. So what has this got to do with the internet? Well, the internet is actually a great place to provide your customers with tech support. It's efficient, low-cost, and fast. It has basically all the benefit of the traditional phone support, without the cost required to hire live operators and install additional phone lines.

There are various ways you can go about providing tech support over the internet. You've probably already use e-mail to some extent to interact with your customers, but in order to truly harness the power of the internet for providing technical support, you need something more. What else is there? Plenty. Try adding a live chat software to your site, or less hassling, a message forum. I'll show you some real-life examples of companies utilizing these technologies to vastly improve the value of their products/services.

First up is a web host company called Webhosting.com This Canadian hosting company has grown tremendously over the years, thanks to it's unparalleled tech support. They recently launched a web site called Ineedsupport.com, dedicated to providing it's customers with great tech support over the internet. The site features up-to-the-minute report on the status of their network, a complete downloadable book on configuring the customer's server, and most importantly, a live chat software that allows it's technicians to provide live technical support over the internet, anywhere in the world. I strongly suggest you visit their site, and see for yourself just how they've successfully used the internet as a means to provide great technical support to it's clients.

Using the internet to provide tech support to your customers

Another great example of customer support over the internet is a web developer site Website Abstraction. Most people who have visited their Help Forum, including myself, should agree that it's one of the best places on the net to get live help on JavaScript programming. Post a question on web building, should it be JavaScript or HTML, and you'll most likely receive several helpful replies before the day is over. Talk to most successful webmasters, and they'll tell you the key to bringing people back to a site is to build a community around it. I believe Website Abstraction has successfully done that, thanks to a great forum, and the people in it.

Finally, let me show you one last- and great- example of a company that has successfully harnessed the power of the internet to provide tech support and added value at the same time to their products. The company is FutureQuest, and like the above example, they use a message forum to accomplish the task. FutureQuest is a relatively small web hosting company that is, literally, thanks to it's unbelievable tech support through their message forum, growing in client-orders like no other company of it's kind. You can talk to any one of their customers, and you'll hear nothing but praises, especially of their message forum. FutureQuest have successfully built up a "technical service center" using their forum, where not only it's tech support people can help out it's customers, but where other customers can also interact with one other to create a virtual community. Because of this, it's customers are more likely to recommend their services to others, and obviously, this has positively impacted their business in a very significant way.

After reading through these examples, it should be clear to you that, in order to make the internet work for your business, you need to do a lot more than merely put up your company's web site on the internet. Take advantage of what made the net successful in the first place- the ability to communicate and reach people from all over the world painlessly and instantly. Only then will you feel the power of the internet working for your company.

This article was written and contributed by Adam Brown, a professional web designer. When Adam's not creating web sites for his clients, he likes to walk his dog or surf (not the net!).

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