Simplifying your online Customer Service

Autoresponders can help you instantly react to your site visitors' needs by automatically and immediately e-mailing the information they're seeking.

There are no two ways about it. E-mail is still the primary way business owners communicate with their customers and subscribers. It's used to answer questions, follow up with potential customers, confirm purchases, provide information of interest and maintain relationships. It's a vital source of income for any successful Internet business.

Now I'm sure you already understand this, but let me ask you a serious question: Are you managing your e-mail as efficiently as you could be? Statistics from a recent Jupiter Media Metrix report say not. Only 38 percent of online businesses are reported to be living up to customer's expectations, responding to their inquiries within 6 hours or less. Other results show:

  • 62 percent are taking longer than 6 hours to respond...
  • 33 percent are taking 3 days (or longer!) to respond...
  • And a shocking 24 percent of businesses have thrown up their hands and given up responding to customer inquiries entirely!

All these disturbing statistics point to the simple fact that, despite all the technology available, nearly three quarters of Web site owners have no idea how to manage their e-mail. After all, why else would you so severely neglect the critical and extremely valuable relationships with your customers and subscribers?

I've seen it happen to some really intelligent business owners: You start out with the best of intentions. You grow your Web site traffic, you run a few successful promotions, and suddenly you go from personally answering a handful of e-mails each day to drowning under hundreds of customer inquiries, questions and requests. Managing your e-mail suddenly becomes a full-time job!

If you plan to grow your business, you can't afford to be spending your days chained to your computer, individually replying to e-mail after e-mail, especially if you want to grow quickly. Even if you're using canned messages--pre-written e-mails that can just be cut & pasted--responding to your e-mails one by one can fast become overwhelming.

And this is where a lot of new e-business owners find themselves stuck. You may be there yourself right now. You're tired of wasting your days replying to the same e-mails over and over again, but automation is even more intimidating. Replying to hundreds of e-mails each day probably seems a lot less daunting than finally buckling down and getting automated.

I know where you're coming from: The mysterious scripts and software that seem to magically automate the average e-commerce site can be a bit intimidating for a new e-business owner. You know that, somehow, automation should give you the power to:

  • Anticipate and instantly respond to the needs of your customers by answering common questions on the spot
  • Give potential customers the exact information they need, exactly when they need it--when they're still a hot prospect--so they can make that important buying decision
  • Capture the e-mail addresses of visitors to your site so that you can market to them again and again--for free!
  • Increase the perceived value of your site by offering free reports or articles that can be e-mailed to prospects the minute they request them
  • Dramatically reduce the time you waste on daily chores so you can start growing your business instead of getting trapped running it
  • Start capitalizing on the lifetime value of your existing customers--automatically increasing your sales without increasing your workload
  • And much more

You see other e-businesses doing it--taking advantage of this mysterious "automation," freeing up their time to increase their profits even more. But how the heck is everyone doing it? Is it "I Dream of Jeannie" wizardry? Cross your arms, wiggle your nose and voila - instant automation? Almost...

Like anything, you can make the automation of your site as simple or as complicated as you want. Large e-commerce sites hire programmers with education and experience to put together intuitive automation systems that make learning to translate Greek to Latin seem easy. Fortunately, the average web site owner just starting out doesn't need anything nearly this complicated (or confusing!).

Did you know that all of the automation I've mentioned so far in this article can be accomplished with one simple tool called "autoresponders"? Now don't panic! Autoresponders aren't difficult to use: They're basically an e-mail tool designed to automatically respond to any incoming messages to a particular e-mail address that you set up. Confused? Let me give you an example that will illustrate exactly how this works.

Example #1:

A visitor arrives at your site and reads your sales copy. They're interested in one of your products, but they have a question that needs to be answered before they'll consider making a purchase. So they e-mail you at (an e-mail address you've set up for just this purpose).

Your experience answering customer questions has shown you that there are 10 or 12 questions people ask over and over again. So rather than answering each person individually, you put together a "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) e-mail. You spend an hour or so writing it, making sure it's thorough and that it ultimately directs the reader back to your site to close the sale.

You then set up this FAQ e-mail in an autoresponder, so when visitor e-mail their questions to, they're automatically sent your FAQ e-mail. It's neat, clean, and simple. The e-mail your visitor receives might read something like this:

Subject: Answer to your question


Thank you for your inquiry. Our experience has shown us that most people ask one of the following 10 questions, so we've sent you this informative e-mail because we know your time is valuable and we want to make sure your question is answered as quickly as possible.

If you find that your question isn't answered below, please don't hesitate to e-mail us at We'll be happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Yours truly,

Your name here.

*** And answers to your 10 most frequently asked questions start here ***

Within 5 minutes of sending their e-mail to, the visitor receives your e-mail via your autoresponder. They read through your it and find the answer to their question. The visitor is impressed because...

  • You anticipated their needs
  • You replied instantly
  • You answered their questions
  • You made it easy for them to e-mail you any further questions

... and this means that you look extremely professional. This instant reply also lends your business a measure of credibility because you've made it clear that your customers are your first priority and that you take your business very seriously.

Do you think this visitor will go back to your web site to make their purchase? Chances are very good they will. In fact, the probability that you'll close this sale is much higher than if you'd forced this person to wait a week for a reply--or hadn't answered at all.

How much time did this take you? Not much at all. You wrote the e-mail and then used the autoresponder to automate your customer service. You can now provide fast, high-quality customer service, decrease your workload, and only respond to customers who have unique questions or situations that need your personal touch. It'll take you just minutes each day to respond to customer inquiries instead of the hours it did before you got automated!

Let me give you another example...

Example #2:

You probably already know that a critical step in closing sales involves establishing your credibility. And establishing your credibility, in many cases, requires repeated contact with potential customers. A good way to initiate a "second contact" with a potential customer is by using autoresponders.

A visitor arrives at your site and starts looking around. They notice that you offer a free article titled "The Best Ways To Save Time And Money." They click on and are prompted to send a blank e-mail to that e-mail address. The visitor is quite content to take 30 seconds to do this because they want this valuable information.

So they send a blank e-mail to to request the article from your autoresponder, they spend a few more minutes looking around your site, and then they leave. They have a clear interest in your product or service (they requested your article on the subject, right?), but they're just not ready to buy yet.

Now this is the really powerful part. The visitor checks their e-mail half an hour after they've left your site--perhaps even the next day--and discovers your free article waiting in their inbox. They read it because they requested it and therefore already know it contains information that's of interest to them.

So this is your second chance to:

  • Prove your expertise,
  • Establish your credibility,
  • Develop a relationship with them by providing valuable information they can use, and
  • Direct them back to your web site to close the sale.

Pretty powerful, right? Now imagine how you could increase your sales even more by sending this potential customer a follow-up e-mail--using the e-mail address they gave you when they requested the article--and asking them if there's anything else you could help them with? Or even by sending them a special offer as a "thank you" for reading your article?

The possibilities are endless really. You could offer autoresponders like...

  • For people who'd prefer to receive your sales information in an easy-to-print e-mail they can read offline. (Not everyone has free Internet access, so this saves them money!)
  • To send interested potential customers copies of articles that initiate that important "second contact" and remind them about your business, your products and your web site. Once you have their e-mail address (which they obviously have to give you in order to receive the article via e-mail), you can contact them again to follow up very easily!
  • To answer potential customers' questions on the spot, while they're still hot prospects, and dramatically increase the sales you're closing.
  • For customers who've purchased your product, service, software, etc. but need a bit of extra help using it. This simple e-mail could answer commonly asked technical questions automatically.
  • To give visitors to your site valuable information about your particular industry and increase the chances that they'll return to your site again and again as a valuable resource.
  • If you don't have time to reply to a customer's inquiry for a day or two, you can at least send them an e-mail via autoresponder to let them know you've received their message and will be getting back to them within 48 hours. An instant, professional reply like this ensures your customer isn't sitting at their computer for hours, impatiently waiting for your answer.
  • To confirm you've received a customer's order or subscription to your newsletter

By sending each new customer a confirmation of their order, you'll put their minds at ease. They'll know you're a legitimate business owner who's going to follow through on your promises, not some scam artist who's just stolen their credit card information. This is also a good way to remind your customers when they can expect their purchase to be delivered, what the charge to their credit card was, and provide them with any product tracking information they might need.

But How The Heck Do You Make This Automation Happen?

We're back at square one, aren't we? You want the autoresponders and the powerful automation they can bring your e-business, you have a general understanding of how they work, but how the heck do you add them to your web site?

Good question. There are a number of ways to approach setting up your own autoresponders, but you essentially have 4 choices:

  • 1. Your Web Host -- Some Web hosts will offer a few autoresponders as part of your hosting package. This can be a good option if you require only one or two responders.
  • 2. Autoresponders With Rotating Ads -- You can get free autoresponders if you're willing to let other companies advertise in your message, so each of your responders includes third-party advertising.
  • 3. Paid Autoresponder Services -- You could also use a paid autoresponder service. This can give you flexibility in deciding exactly what autoresponder plan is right for you without being forced to include advertisements in your message. You'll also have greater flexibility to customize your autoresponders than if you were to use a free autoresponder service.
  • 4. E-Mail Management Solutions -- A good e-mail management solution will include sophisticated autoresponder technology. If you're going to be doing any e-mail marketing, you can simply use the same tool to set up your responders.

Whatever you decide, look for a solution that meets your needs. Do you simply need to test a few free responders, or do you want to get serious about automating your customer service and spending your time growing your business?

Don't be intimidated by this simple technology. You'll do your business a great disservice if you ignore it. As I said, if you can install and use software (it's as easy as clicking a few buttons and following a few instructions), then you can easily use autoresponders to automate.

Ideally, your goal should be to get automated and then grow, but some of you may already be drowning in e-mail. If that's you, don't keep putting this off! E-mail automation is going to be critical to the success of your e-business. If you're automated and using autoresponders to manage daily chores, then you're going to have time to focus on promotions and growing. If you're drowning in e-mail, you're going to severely handicap your sales and income because you'll be too focused on just trying to stay afloat.

Autoresponders are easy to set up and they offer a wide variety of opportunities to automate different aspects of your business. From customer service and order confirmations to following up with potential customers, it's an easy way to give customers the instant service they're demanding, while increasing your sales and actually freeing yourself from tedious routine chores.


Source: September 15, 2003 by Corey Rudl URL:,4621,310803,00.html

Internet marketing expert Corey Rudl has gained popularity because what he teaches is not theoretical approaches to online marketing but real examples of what works when it comes to having a successful business on the Internet. He's also the author of the bestselling how-to guide, Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. For free tips and resources, please contact Click here to find out more!

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