educational

A Customer Service Plan

Stephen Yagielowicz
Have you ever visited a website and had a problem with it that you couldn't easily find an answer for? Perhaps you've joined a paysite and then lost your username and password or didn't know the cancellation process. Perhaps you ordered a product and wished to know its current shipping status or had a question about the return policy before placing your order. Maybe the video you just downloaded simply won't play on your computer.

Whatever the issue might be, you as a customer find yourself at a crossroads: If you can quickly and easily solve your problem, then you'll remain a satisfied customer. However, if you can't find that solution, you'll not only be upset, but you may cancel your order or membership subscription or, worse yet, do a chargeback.

While an email link to "customer service" is better than nothing, are you reluctant to go that route, either because your need is timely or you simply don't trust that the mail will actually go through and be responded to. You're not alone.

As the world of e-commerce becomes increasingly competitive, smart operators are seeking every opportunity to acquire an advantage over their competitors, and especially in the adult arena, one easy and often-overlooked way is by focusing on customer service. This focus isn't as hard to implement as you might expect. Here are a few ideas that will make it easy to stand apart from the crowd.

Announcements
Probably the most common support feature found on adult websites, a "What's New" section provides users with the latest information on the services and products you offer. Keeping an archive of these announcements can show the rate and type of your updates, which can work against you if they are not frequent or substantial enough or work well in your favor if they are.

Announcements can be more than "what's new" and include all sorts of things from specials and discounts to events and reviews — whatever you wish to communicate.

Knowledgebase
Some sites have wisely incorporated a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page that provides users with a basic level of help. A knowledgebase is simply a fancier implementation of this process that can provide more detailed information across a wider range of subjects, including those less-frequently asked questions.

Depending upon the size of your knowledgebase, offering a robust search function will make it easier for users to quickly find the information they're looking for, and of course, every possible solution to every support issue that you encounter should be added to the knowledgebase, making it a dynamic, growing repository of helpful information.

Troubleshooting
If you're a Windows user, you've likely seen the troubleshooting wizard that helps users solve common hardware and software support issues, walking users step-by-step through a series of actions that help determine the actual source of the problem, then providing a "best guess" at what needs to be done to solve the issue.

While this is by no means a perfect process, it can help solve most common problems, keeping users from having to seek out further support and the overhead that often entails. An easy example is a new member not being able to log in to your member's area. Maybe the problem is that his "caps lock" is on, preventing his username or password from being correctly entered. A troubleshooting process will easily solve this issue.

Downloads
Offering a variety of useful downloads or links to downloads, is an easy way for paysite operators to increase the quality of their member's user experience. For example, if you offer your members shortform video clips for easy downloading, then also provide them with a utility for "stitching" these short clips into the full-length video, and offer a cross-platform player that can easily playback your videos (perhaps in a branded console, too). Have a lot of members on slower connections? Make a copy of your site and bust it into a few (dozen) zip files.

It's not just paysite operators who can benefit. If you offer product support information such as assembly manuals or usage guides on PDF, a dedicated downloads section is a perfect place to list them. Other great candidates for you downloads section are FHGs and other creatives; reciprocal link buttons for your TGP/MGP or other site; templates for any variety of uses; and other digital media based products or support items.

A Ticket System
Finally, the inclusion of a robust ticket system will not only allow you to accept, process and keep track of support requests, but also adds professionalism to your website and customer service efforts that a simple email link or ICQ number can't compete with.

The hope of course is that none of your members, customers or visitors will ever need to use your ticket system, both because you've built and operate your website so properly that support issues never arise; as well as because you've thoroughly answered all of the possible questions a user might have in the FAQ, troubleshooting, knowledgebase and other areas — but neither of these conditions is likely to be the case. So in the event that further assistance is needed, the ticket system provides a more reassuring user experience than an email will — which can be lost, blocked by spam filters or otherwise undeliverable.

While there are many ways in which you might design, develop and deploy a customer support system that offers some or all of these features, including coding your own from scratch, I found an incredibly easy and affordable commercial script solution in the form of Live Desk Pro (HelpDeskScript.net). It was a quick download with a $24 price tag. Doubtless other solutions exist, but this item was featured on the XBIZ Software Spotlight and has proven to be a workable product at a nearunbeatable price.

And money is what it all comes down to: if the addition of this system to our paysite can result in one more new membership, or in one member finding a solution to his problem and thus remaining a member for one more month, then it has paid for itself. Frankly, I think that it will pay for itself many times over. Why not spend a little time, money and energy on deploying some advanced customer support tools? Your members, customers and prospects will thank you for lending a helping hand.

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