Web-based Support – The Way of the Future

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the evolution of support and customer service platforms, and it struck me that we’ve come a long way in such a short time. It seems like only yesterday that I spent close to an hour listening to cheesy hold music while desperately trying to get my apartment’s heat turned on. No matter how many times the automated recording thanked me for my patience, 5 minutes into holding, I was already¬†frustrated at the wait. If it was the utility company’s goal to annoy me before I could even use their service, they were definitely succeeding.

In many instances, phone-based support is a necessary option – if immediate help is needed in the case of an emergency, for example. However, companies are slowly beginning to realize that web-based support offers a solution that is cheaper, more concise, and best of all for the customer – more convenient. These benefits are precisely why I believe we will see more companies put an emphasis on web support and more customers begin to lean towards the web as their preferred method of getting help.

While there are typically some upfront expenses and time investments needed to implement web support, it pays for itself in the long run. The more instances where the customer is helped without the need to speak with a representative of the company, the more man-hours are saved. This can eliminate the need to hire extra employees for the sole reason of handling simple, everyday issues.

Clarity can often be lacking with phone support, especially after the call is over. Unless I’ve scribbled down every word the support representative said to me during our conversation, I’m left with only my memory afterwards. Chances are, I’m not going to remember everything and, in the event I need to review something I forgot from the conversation, I’m simply out of luck. Web-based ticket systems allow me to access all the information related to my issue at anytime and from anywhere, ensuring that if I happen to miss an important piece of information or directive, everything I need is still at my fingertips.

We live in a world where breaking sports updates are automatically sent to our phones and Chinese food can be delivered to your door in 20 minutes – convenience has become a necessity in our every day lives. It’s expected. So, why do we put up with being placed on-hold when there are better solutions out there? Nobody enjoys hearing the static-laden music or the canned “your call is very important to us” message. If it’s so important, why am I sitting here waiting and becoming increasingly frustrated?

I recently had an experience with a computer peripherals manufacturer that helped solidify my position on the subject. I had an issue with the company’s product, so naturally I visited their web site, but not to find assistance online – I was looking for a phone number, as I had been taught to do time and time again. I wasn’t able to find a phone number to call, but I did locate a “Support” button. Clicking the button led to a ticket system that prompted me to type up a quick description of my problem and submit it for review. I did so, and then went back to my routine. A short while later the representative assigned to the ticket responded and he was able to resolve my issue without me ever feeling inconvenienced or frustrated in the slightest.

I truly believe that, in nearly every way imaginable, web-based support is king, and this trend will only increase as time goes on and more ideas and technologies are put into practice. It might take a bit of convincing on the part of consumers, but I feel as the shift towards web-based support systems is an inevitability with all things considered. In what ways do support options influence your decision to use one company over another?  Do you have any feedback on web-based or phone-based support?