How to Design Effective After-Sales and Technical Support Services

*Please stay on hold while we transfer you for the seventeenth time.*

Marketing often stops after the purchase is made. This is a mistake. Bad after-sales service and technical support is the cause of a majority of negative word of mouth.

If a product is bad, it will cause complaints and there will be a minority of customers who are disgruntled enough to want to return the product. In this situation, having a line for them to complain to not only enables the company to receive much needed feedback, but reduces complaint behaviour elsewhere. A customer who does not have a representative they can complain to and seek resolution naturally does so with friends, family, and acquaintances.

Even if the product or service is not bad, it is incredibly annoying to deal with multiple operators with foreign accents which are not easy to understand when you have a question or query. Having good after-sales and tech support is thus essential to both reducing returns as well as increase customer sentiment. Bad service creates anger, frustration, and rants.

Almost everyone will have a story or two to share about after sales and tech support services. This is a very specific type of customer service which occurs after the purchase. After-sales is more about after you get home, then decide that you are not completely satisfied or understanding. Traditional customer service, which is covered in a different section, deals with the time immediately preceding and after a purchase.

So why exactly is after-sales and tech support services important? As mentioned, it directly contributes to word of mouth, customer sentiment, and customer experience. Not only that, after-sales services allows the opportunity to seek feedback from customers, engage with them, and offer additional purchases. Technical support is similar- allowing for feedback on product use as well as the education of customers to your product.

In the television show House, M.D., there is a scene where a patient complains about her medicine not working, and requests a change. After a sarcastic remark from Dr.House, he requests that she demonstrate how she uses it. The patient takes out the oral medicine, and instead of spraying it into her mouth, proceeds to lift her arms and spray the solution into her armpits. Dr. House is then able to identify the problem.

In the example above, a refund could have been avoided by providing expert after-sales support services which can identify and rectify the problem. The bonus is that the company has an opportunity to learn about how their customers are using their products. For example, if many customers are spraying oral medicine into their armpits then better instruction manuals, packaging instructions, and even product design (make sure it does not look like deodorant) could be considered.

Four key factors govern how well after-sales service performs. To ensure that after-sales are technical support services are good, ensure that the operators and employees hired are knowledgeable, courteous, empowered, and motivated.

Having adequate knowledge of the product is essential to being able to offer quality advice and guidance. This prevents frustration from having to wait, and makes the company seem professional. If an operator has to ask around for even the most simple enquiries, it shows lack of experience and product knowledge. Worst still, if the operator gives wrong or misleading information, this can lead to even more stress and dissatisfaction.

Being courteous even when dealing with angry and disgruntled customers is a must to making sure that your brand is viewed as professional and friendly. A customer representative which seems uninterested makes the direct impression that the brand he or she represents does not care about them as a customer. An operator which is rude or offensive may not only lose the customer, but may create a brand critic. In the information age of social media and accessibility, this can quickly go viral and attract ill-wanted attention.

One point which many services often neglect is to empower their employees. Most times, frustration is not because employees are ignorant or rude, but that they are unable to help due to system, procedural, or other restraints. Empowering employees to help and seek help to solve customer problems is essential to ensuring customers remain happy. Having to escalate the situation multiple times just to hear that it is not possible is disheartening. Having an operator outright refuse is enraging.

Finally, ensuring that operators are motivated to solve problems is another big point. Having bonuses tied to the amount of refunds they do not offer, for example, is a terrible business practice. You will end up with not only angry customers, but enraged boycotters. To improve after-sales and tech support services, give your operators ample motivation to ensure that customers are happy. In fact, naturally most operators would be more than willing to make someone else happy- as long as they fulfill the three criteria above. The dangerous risk here is instilling a policy which motivates them otherwise. By rewarding staff to delight customers and not punishing them for trying to be helpful, you will ensure that they would be motivated to help.

I am a big fan of Cooler Master, and I love their products. I regularly recommend them to friends whenever they ask me for computer equipment recommendations (being an avid gamer and ex-tech support means I have many ask). When I found out that one of my mice from CM broke, I was devastated. Without a mouse, not only could I not game, but my work productivity would decrease tremendously (if I used my touchpad). As such, I immediately called their support line. The technical support staff were knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to help me solve my problems. After some explaining, they concluded that the problem likely lies in broken hardware, and that a replacement was necessary. I had bought my mouse when I was in the United States, however- and I was living in Australia at the time. A problem quickly arose that the local Australian branch could not process a US product. They patched me to the US team, however, who not only allowed me to return my product for a replacement, but also extended my warranty so I could do so when I visited the United States again. I was very happy with the level of customer service provided, and would continue to use and recommend them to those who ask.

In the example above, it can be seen that staff embody all four requirements of superior service. They were knowledgeable, courteous, empowered, and motivated to help. If even one of those traits were missing, my pleasant experience with a favourite brand would have been tarnished, and I would be a bitter opponent.

To increase positive word of mouth and decrease negative ones, ensure that adequate after-sales and tech support services exist. Ensure that staff are knowledgeable, courteous, empowered, and motivated. Ensure that they are actually solving problems, and use this to gather feedback from customers. Do this, and not only will positive messages spread from influencers and users, but you will also gain valuable information in how to improve and maintain your marketing efforts elsewhere.

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