There is a big push for big companies to offer more customer support options like Twitter, Facebook and chat. But what about us small businesses? Is email still good enough for us or should we be reaching out to our customers in more ways?

For many years, we used the little HTML section on the header of our eBay store to put the java chats for AOL IM (AIM, to the hip kids), Skype and Yahoo chat. The icons would change based on whether a chat operator was active, idle or offline but you could send a questions along instantly at any time and we usually answered in less than an hour, usually in seconds. Someone from Priced Nostalgia was online just about every hour of the day on Trillian which let them be logged into all of those services at once ready to answer questions the second anyone asked them. (On a side note, if anyone would like to know how to do this with their eBay store, let me know and I will write a tutorial post).

Bonanzle has a chat feature built into the basic store that serves a similar purpose since you can set this to forward to the IM client of your choice.

We recently took that section down from our eBay store. The reasons were mostly because we were short staffed and 99% of the questions we got over there were general eBay support questions from people who found it easier to find our support than eBay’s. Also, as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail chat overtook traditional IM clients, we were going to have to start including chat support for every single client which was a daunting process. But as a customer, I love being able to connect with a company instantly and I prefer chatting with a CS operator to even phone because it allows me to do other things while I’m waiting and is usually far faster. In fact, the main reason our company offered this service for so many years was that I know that, as a customer, I would have appreciated it.

Which brings us to today’s topic. Let’s talk about moving beyond email in connecting with our customers.

Priced Nostalgia has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a phone number and we still get the overwhelming bulk of our questions via email. This was true even when we maintained an account on every major chat client nearly 24/7.

But is this indicative of the fact that people would prefer to use email or simply the way we present our support options. Is it enough to simply make these other support options available or is there something more we need to do?

I have always seen these Web 2.0 methods of communication as a way to acquire new customers while thinking of connecting with existing customers as secondary. Perhaps its time for smaller sellers like us to broaden that perspective. But where to begin?

What percentage of your customer support queries do you get via email versus less traditional means?

What have you done that worked for you and what hasn’t?