Ruby on Rails is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality, highly popular back-end web development framework. By now, the RoR framework has developed into a powerful technology with a number of benefits, including its speed of deployment, pre-built modules and plugins, and user-friendly community.
If you want to build an enterprise-strength, outward-facing website with RoR, however, you need a way to provide support to your customers. By making the right choices in terms of customer service, you’ll both keep your existing users happier and turn more people from prospects into loyal converts.
From live chat to help desk systems, there are a number of ways that companies can organize support for their Ruby on Rails web applications. Here’s a look at six of your most popular options.
Live chat is an essential part of any business website that serves clients in many different locations. According to Ubisend’s 2016 Mobile Messaging Report, 51 percent of customers want businesses to be able to respond to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What’s more, Zendesk’s 2015 Benchmark report found that live chat results in the most satisfied customers (92 percent of them), beating other channels such as email, phone, and social media.
Thanks to Ruby on Rails’ strong user community, there are several accessible online tutorials for building RoR live chat applications. Three of them, from SitePoint, Nexmo, and Heroku, make use of the new Action Cable feature in Rails 5, which allows you to communicate in real time over WebSockets. Another tutorial from The Great Code Adventure development blog uses Faye, an RoR server for asynchronous publishing and subscription that routes messages between clients.
If you aren’t able to provide 24/7 live chat support, chatbots are often the next best thing. Chatbots can address simple user questions outside of normal business hours, and can also help direct users to the right customer service department before passing the conversation to a human agent. By automating the handling of routine queries, chatbots can save businesses up to 30 percent in customer service costs.
Chatbots are a hot topic right now, which means that there’s no shortage of tutorials and resources available for them in Ruby on Rails. Since many businesses interact with their customers via their Facebook accounts, it makes sense to implement your chatbot over Facebook Messenger. The “botstack” project on GitHub is a base for building Messenger bots with Ruby on Rails. You can also follow along with Octane AI’s excellent two-part tutorial about RoR Messenger bots (part one and part two).
When your customers have questions or problems that you can’t immediately address, you need to create a support ticket and add it to your IT help desk so that it can be resolved as soon as possible. By collecting information about your interactions with customers, you can more easily understand whether you’re properly handling issues in a timely manner.
Perhaps the most full-fledged help desk implementation in Ruby on Rails is Brimir, an open source support ticket manager that allows you to send and receive emails within a user-friendly web interface. Incoming emails are converted into tickets to be assigned to support agents, and you can add automation rules for assigning tickets, adding labels, or sending notifications. Another open source ticket manager written in RoR is the “BIG Help” project on GitHub.
What’s even better than help desks and live chat, of course, is if customers are able to resolve their problems themselves by easily finding the answers they need. This is the point of self-service knowledge bases and FAQs, which allow users to browse issues by category and search for their specific problem.
If you’ve already started using the Brimir help desk system mentioned above, you’re in luck: the project also comes with its own simple knowledge base functionality. There are also several options for using open source Ruby gems within your existing RoR application, such as how_to and Knowledge Base. how_to, for example, makes it easy to manage your website’s FAQs or manuals, including providing multilingual support.
Running analytics on your help desk metrics can definitely help you gain some insights. In order to know that your customer support workflow is truly providing delightful experiences, however, you need to ask the people whose opinions matter most: your customers.
The surveyor Ruby gem was originally designed for sending clinical research surveys, but can be adapted to work with a wide variety of surveys and questionnaires. Another open source Ruby gem for surveys is the appropriately-named Survey, which includes functionality for quizzes and contests. Finally, you can also work with Twilio to do automated surveys with Ruby on Rails that can be answered via phone or SMS.
If your customers interact frequently with your website, or you provide an important service, it’s an excellent idea to provide a customer portal that they can access at any time. This portal should contain valuable information such as order history and status and interactions with customer support personnel.
Fortunately, there are a number of content management systems built using Ruby on Rails that can be adapted to work as a customer portal for your website. Radiant is one of the most popular RoR CMS options, with an attractive user interface and a number of useful features such as templates and plugins. There’s also a healthy variety of alternatives, such as Adva CMS and Browser CMS, if you’re looking for specific features or functionality.
Providing excellent support to your website’s users is crucial in order to build a base of happy customers who will keep returning to your business again and again. With a wealth of options when it comes to open source user-built gems, it’s hardly surprising that Ruby on Rails is such a popular choice for web developers. From chatbots to help desks and ticket support systems, finding the support tools you need for your Ruby on Rails web application has never been easier.
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