Guide to Customer Support

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This guide describes methods and practices for communicating with and supporting your customers.

Contact Us Information

Depending on the type of business you're starting, you may want to provide your customers with one or more ways to contact you. Each method has its own merits and should be selected based on your customer needs, as well as an honest self-assessment about what you're really able/willing to support. Here's a list of some of basic contact methods you can provide to your customers, as well as some technical considerations for each method.

  • Email, Mailto Link - PRO: simple to setup, keeps page size small, cross-platform compatibility; CON: requires end users with mail client OR customized browser, may increase SPAM to posted email address, lack of email subject and body structure may hinder support
  • Email, Webform - PRO: no end user configuration required*, cross-platform compatibility, structured fields can enhance support for customer and startup, use of CAPTCHA and other techniques can minimize SPAM; CON: more configuration required
  • Live Chat - PRO: customers get instant access to online help, customer support personnel can handle multiple support requests simultaneously (versus 1 at a time with telephone), provides customers with written transcript; CON: may require additional site configuration (vs webforms), may introduce cross-platform compatibility issues or 3rd party dependencies
  • Telephone, local number - PRO: cheap, easy CON: long distance fees may deter customer interaction, each support rep is limited to one call at a time
  • Telephone, 800 - PRO: same as above + more professional appearance; CON: costs, configuration effort
  • Mailing Address <add more here>
  • Others? Know of other methods? Add them here!

A survey of the top 25 companies (as of August 2010) on the Seattle Startup Index shows the distribution of Contact Us methods used by local startups. Contact Method Survey Aug 2010 (Google Docs) NOTE: please feel free to update the spreadsheet at any time.

* Assumes appropriate configuration of webform

Upset Customers

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Dedicated Customer Support Team vs Distributed Support

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