My regular readers will know that one of the things I strongly recommend doing with any online business automates as many of your daily tasks as possible.
From a personal point of view, one of the tasks takes a lot of time to respond to emails. Its not just answering emails that eat the hours - sorting and deleting spam and junk spam also takes a lot of time too. During good days, I used to get a couple of spam emails per day. Now its closer to 1000 per day.
In fact, email is not always the best form of online communication when you look at it. Its not just the problem of spam to claim but also the fact that email is not 100 percent reliable. E-mails are missing far more regularly than you would expect. Often this only depends on the recipients e-mail program that a certain e-mail message is debris and has transferred it directly to the Delete folder. Other times, it may be because the recipients ISP has determined that the e-mail is rubbish and deleted before it has even been perceived by the recipient. (Yes, this really happens - imagine your mail carrier sorted by your mail and made the decision about which letters you want and who should he throw away?)
One way to help avoid the spam issue when managing customer support is to use a contact form on your site instead of sending an email address. It will certainly help to reduce spam, but it still means youre having trouble getting emails not coming to their destination (and when you have a frustrated customer waiting for help, thats not ideal).
Therefore, probably the best option on the market is currently a fully blown helpdesk system. Creating a dedicated helpdesk is a great way to automate your customer support and speed up the process of managing requests and supporting email. Not only that, but if you use a system that allows customers to create tickets, you do not need to trust email because your customers can log in to a particular webpage and view both their tickets and your online answers.
Another feature in many helpdesk scripts is a FAQ or Knowledge Base section. This is simply a collection of the most frequently asked questions / questions / problems along with answers and solutions. This means that customers can search the knowledge base and hopefully find the answer to their question without having to contact Support at all.
Some of the more advanced scripts will also scan the customers support ticket before submitting it and then list some possible answers to their questions only if they did not read the knowledge base before you printed the ticket - very nice things.
These scripts are also very powerful when it comes to how they can benefit you. Just imagine how much time you can save if 40 percent of your customer support emails stopped due to the fact that your customers could now find answers to their questions automatically.
Having an online helpdesk is also useful if you travel a lot or if you are away from the office on vacation etc. Instead of having a laptop loaded with earlier emails from customers, you can simply log in to your helpdesk admin page and all your previous correspondence will be online and at hand. It also means that you do not have to spend hours in an internet cafe that removes a day that spills spam at one time to get to the important emails, as only the important emails have made it to the help desk in the first place.
As with most things, its one of the tasks that is always better done when you start your online business. That said, its quite easy to integrate such a feature into your existing setting and thats exactly what Ive done for all my websites.