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Posted on July 31st, 2012, by

This paper studies development and significance of online customer service. During the comparatively short time Internet became an important sphere of our life. After short time during which it served as a mere entertaining mean it became a field of commerce. Great amounts of money are transferred through Internet every day and millions of things are sold via web sites. All these changes conditioned the appearance and development of online customer service. With the flow of time this kind of service gains more and more popularity.

In the first part of my paper this papers gives basic information and history of development about this kind of service. In the second part information about present state of events in the field of online customer service is provided. The third part describes future perspective of this type of service.

Online customer service gains popularity very quickly and information about it will be useful for each person who wants to be aware of newest tendencies in the Internet marketing.





Internet is a mighty weapon of our epoch. It is hard to imagine a person who does not use Internet. Web sites are created in order to fulfill different purposes. They can be used as a mean to create online resources for different organizations. They are also widely used in entertainment industry. At the present moment Internet becomes a kind of mass media service and this fact attracts additional audience to the internet. At the present moment e-commerce becomes especially popular.  People are ready to sell and buy products via Internet. The trust to online shops, auctions and other online services growth very quickly. Several years ago it was hard to imagine such great number of deal done through the Internet. In the conditions of growing competitions the owners of sites which sell goods or propose services have to use different means which would add credibility to their services and online customer service is definitely one of such strategies. Statistics states that the market for outsourced, web-based customer support service is currently estimated at $18.4 million, out of a total teleservices market of $101 million, and is expected to grow to $1 billion in 3 years (Chaffey, 102).  Facts show that people are more likely to buy good and order services if they can address customer support service. Online buyers overwhelmingly rely on e-mail for customer service support: Forrester Research reports that 71 percent turn to e-mail to resolve their issues, and 51 percent use the telephone (Day 118). These facts prove growing popularity of online support service.

Website is a face of any commercial project displayed in the Internet and online customer service is additional factors which attracts people to good or service proposed. It can make site popular, attract customers or target audience and thus customer support has primary meaning for people, who would like to make their websites popular. Even the most expensive and talented advertising will be useless if people do not believe the contents of the site and can not ask their questions. Good opportunities for e-business presented in the Internet now have changed the face of market forever. Internet lacks personal communication and that is why website owners need additional sources which would help to establish close contacts with their customers. Online customer support is definitely one of such means. With switching costs for online customers nearly negligiblethe competitor’s site is just one click awaycustomer service is becoming the key to developing and maintaining online customer loyalty and to managing online customer repurchase, recommendation, and retention (Chaffey  102).




History of Online Customer Support

The Internet is a widespread phenomenon and most scientists agree nowadays that it is a very important mass medium, nevertheless it is a rather new and uninvestigated mass medium form. Some scientists argue that Internet can be considered as a mass medium. Mass communications have overlooked not only the Internet but the entire field of computer-mediated communication (Morris 46). The Internet will change communication and it has even already done it but some traditional communication theorists cannot admit this fact and that is why they deny it.

Communication has come through a number of stages in the process of its development: newspapers, radio, television and Internet. So, Internet is nothing but a new stage in the development of communication and web pages are probably the most popular sources of Internet communication. Under such condition appearance, or design of this pages and their inner content become extremely important. Under web design we usually assume a process of creating, planning and organizing of the media content in the Internet. Different means can be used for this purpose.  With the help of web sites users can read content put their by site creators. This way web site becomes a bridge, which unites users and the owners of the website. It depends on web design and site usability if the audience will be able to perceive the message the creators of the site wanted to pass to the audience. In the past Internet was mainly regarded as an entertaining technology.

Online customer support, same as web design  have a comparatively short history. Web pages appeared only in the beginning of 1990s (Winston, 1998). Prior to this Internet served only as a mean of communication through email, which sometimes contained hypertext.  At first, the main function of the Internet was to provide interpersonal and secret communication, so it was mainly used in such fields, as education, intelligence service, library science and some others, which are closely connected with the mass media. Internet has become electronic version of communication and scientists and researchers must admit this phenomenon. One of the controversial points about internet as a mass medium is the theoretical foundation of this theory. Challenges were brought to communication theory, with things like group software systems, where, both interpersonal interaction and mass media coexist (Rheingold 141). Communication theorists and scientists present their arguments both for and against such a theory.

People could exchange information and communicate with each other with the help of Internet. The situation has rapidly changed with the development of web pages. First web pages were written on the HTML language. They were very simple if to compare with the pages we have now. First web pages contained headings, paragraphs and had an ability to link to other pages with the help of hypertext links. This new form of Internet communication had a great meaning. From that time people could browser from one page to another using links on the pages. These changes became a principle feature, which distinguishes moderns Internet we use nowadays. At the present money Internet became a mighty commercial mean and its functions have significantly changed. Now people use it to earn money and this process grows in a progression which was hard to imagine only several years ago. With the growth of e-commerce the meaning of online customer support grew as well. From the communicative mean Internet turned to commercial structure where people have to trust each other in order to make deals and this way online support became extremely important.

With the growing popularity of Internet the owners of the websites entered a competition where sites which deserve more respect and provide better customer support have more chances for commercial success.

Online Support Service- Present Situation

New technologies have great impact on contemporary customer support. This industry develops very quickly because of great competition among different technologies. Great competition, which exists in this sphere now, is explained by the change of the functions of web sites. Web sites, which served only as source of definite specific information, have nowadays become a mighty advertising tool, which allows earning much money. This switch in the function of websites has naturally resulted in quicker development of support centers. At the present moment Internet became a sphere of financial transactions, where everything can be found, bought and sold. This is the reason web designers try to do their best in order to win the competition for the customer.

At the present moment there are a lot of strategies, which combine usability and other techniques aiming to make web sites attractive for users and online support is one of such strategies.

New tendencies in the sphere of Internet determine the structure and appearance of web sites. This affects the type of online support as well. Web pages now tend to be the part of great Internet projects. Integration of web pages, which became a tendency of our time, certainly determines the role and function of these pages. They are designed in order to be easy to integrate and in order to fit one big project. Very often such big project united but common theme may have big support centers, which may propose several types of customer support service for their clients. These partially explains why  web sites, which do not make the part of big projects, have fewer chances to be successful.

Special design considerations are necessary for use within these larger projects. These design considerations are often overlooked, especially in cases where there is a lack of leadership, lack of understanding of why and technical knowledge of how to integrate, or lack of concern for the larger project in order to facilitate collaboration (Winston, 1998, 113). Sites which do not belong to larger projects are less likely to stand the competition with big groups of sites, which act as one unite. Few opportunities for professional customer support is one of such reasons.

Customer-oriented approach became a distinguishing feature of modern business and Internet business is not an exception. In such approach personal attitude to each client is very important. Taking into account the peculiarities of target group is one of the strategies of custom-oriented approach. Under target group we assume the group of people who will become the potential visitors of web site and audience we want to visit it. It is necessary to consider age, sex, interests, occupations of potential visitors. All these criteria must influence not only the content but also the way it looks. High-quality customer support is another important factor of customer-oriented approach. User-centered websites is important characteristics of contemporary Internet business. In contrast to first web pages which were constructed in order to correspond to the needs of their creators contemporary web pages should be oriented for customers. As state Lynch and Horton in their Website Guide This is where your research on the needs and demographics of the target audience is crucial. It’s impossible to design for an unknown person whose needs you don’t understand (Lynch, Horton, 2002). Accent on the customer is a distinguishing feature of all commercial projects and organization and finally this tendency became widespread for the web design as well. Support centers – is a sign of trustworthy and reliable online business.  The content of the sites should be designed in such a way which will help to correspond the needs of the customers and potential visitors.  Sites should be easy to use, comfortable and predictable for their users. Online customer support should be present on commercial web pages because it is used to satisfy basic needs of the customers. People who browser web sites should feel comfortable while browsing the web and especially making purchases.

The speed is another important parameter of the good work of online customer support. According to statistics users usually do not wait longer than several minutes in order to get a response for their question and if response does not come they leave a site.

There are different forms of online customer support. Websites may provide e-mail customer support, phone support and live chat support. Big organizations usually provide several kinds of support. As states statistics: Although e-businesses are becoming aware of this critical need, few have developed a plan, much less an infrastructure, to respond adequately to the volume or the specificity of customer service requests. Online requests for customer service come, overwhelmingly, via e-mail (Catledge & Pitkow).  This way communication gains more popularity recently.

E-mail is one of the greatest advantages of Internet and the most popular one. Email makes a great percentage of the total traffic in Internet. E-mail can also be exchanged between online service provider users and in networks other than the Internet, both public and private (Ziv, 1996). It is widely used in many fields and at the present moment e-mail communication becomes more and more used for the online support service.

There are several reasons which explain such popularity. Among the advantages of email communication are the following: people who use email save time and money; via email they can  send not only a text message, but also graphic images and sound files, as attachments. Delivery notification helps to make sure that letter was delivered to the support center and vice verse, members of the support team can be sure that their response was delivered to client when they get notification. This option is very useful and even necessary in the work of support center. For both, support team and customers it is very important to exchange information quickly, to get necessary information in time and to have a possibility to contact the client any time it is required. Only email meets all these requirements.

There additional factors, which make email communication so convenient for online support centers. Email is easy-to-use and convenient mean of communication. It can be sent to a list of people or to a single person. An email reflect allows to manage a shared distribution list. Some mailing lists allow you to subscribe by sending a request to the mailing list administrator (Weisband, 1995). In addition mail agents are comparatively easy to operate. This means that even clients who do not have much knowledge about the Internet and online services can contact online support center and get all necessary information and instructions.

Switch to e-mail communication of forum became very profitable for site owners. Via emails clients get timely responses to their questions an the cost of communication is significantly reduced. Email is an efficient and cost-effective medium for the online support service.

At the present moment email has replaced much telephone conversations and face-to-face interaction in the work of online customer service. Email has become an important medium of online communication and even now its influence is broadening. This is quite understandable because email is characterized by the following features: speed, multiple addressability, processing, routing, which make it the best way of workplace communication.

Future Perspective

Growing popularity of online customer support proves that this technology will grow in develop in the future.  In contrast to many ordinary customer support centers online centers have one definite advantage. They provide twenty-four-hour support for all the clients. This means that in contrast to ordinary shops and trading centers people from all over the world can make their purchases any time they want. They may also get online help any time they want. This definitely becomes a big advantage for the owners of online business. This gives much hope for the further growing and development of online customer service.

Speed presupposed the distribution of the messages in a relatively short period. This means that customers get answers to their questions in shot time.  Email communication guarantees more privacy than written letters.

Multiple addressability means that the person can contact groups of people within one organization or firm or outside it. Just in a few minutes your message is delivered and the information is distributed not to one individual but to a group of individuals. Processing is the ability that a receiver has to store and manipulate a message before sending it on (Brigham, 1997). It is possible to add or delete some comments making a neutral letter or, on the contrary, making a politically explosive one. Such combinations depend on your aim and definitely perfectly reflect the needs of online customer service centres. Routing gives the sender a possibility to control the destination of the message. This feature enables senders to send slightly, but significantly, modified messages to different groups of email users (Gattiker, 1992). This option is very important in the work of online customer support.

In the modern world the popularity of the Internet grows with every day.  Internet  became a profitable business and its profitability depend on the number of visitors of the site. There are several factors which have a direct impact on the number of visitors and online customer service is definitely one of such factors. More and more people believe that Internet is a communication mean of the future.   Rapid development of technology and growing popularity of Internet will most probably result in rapid development of all online service.  Immense amount of money invested in web sites and big competition will guarantee quick development in this sphere. These means that online service will not loose its popularity in the future.


Online customer support centers became a mighty weapon in Internet business. E-commerce companies occupy their special niche on the modern market and their popularity growth with the flow of time. Internet becomes more and more widespread all over the world and strategies of online commerce become more complicated. That is the reason people prefer to use the service of professionals who can guarantee high quality of goods and services. For many people online support centers become additional proofs of such qualities.  At the present moment many people realize that  web site is a face of their company, their business. From web site and service it provides people make th first impression about the projects and its owner.  Even the most interesting and necessary content of web site will not target potential clients if it does not meet their basic demands.  A lot sites get lost in the endless Internet sea of information because they do not meet these demands. Online customer service is a necessary attribute of professional and trustworthy site.  Web site owners become more and more aware about the important meaning of customer service. They pay much money in order  to make their sites attractive and convenient for their customers and this tendency most probably will grow in the future. People are ready to invest impressive amount of money in the websites because it becomes a profitable and rewarding business. Website is a not a constant structure. It rapidly changes in order to correspond to the needs of the website owners and their visitors. Sites change both their appearance and their inner content and type of services they provide. Online customer service appeared in response to the demands of the clients and most probably it will grow and develop in order to give a better response to these needs.

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