Supporting Messaging Clients

Public News Site: Customer Support Newsgroups

The quality and availability of customer support can make the difference between satisfied customers who will buy your products or services again and unsatisfied customers who will return your products and take their business to a competitor. Public news sites are an inexpensive way of providing a forum for customer feedback and relaying information to customers.

The following scenario describes how you can create a public news site to meet specific goals. A public news site is a collection of newsgroups that can be accessed by users inside and outside your company.

Goal: To reduce support costs and improve customer service by giving customers quick and easy access to technical support information.

Software components: Microsoft Windows 2000 Server; IIS; any NNTP client software for anonymous access or Outlook Express for advanced security.

Environment: The Internet.

Setup considerations: Enable anonymous access; use the Domain Name System (DNS) or Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS) for name resolution; provide access through the firewall if one is present.

Other: Consider using moderated newsgroups to prevent customers from posting unwanted or technically incorrect articles. Be aware that using a moderator can limit customers' ability to help each other if your moderator is not immediately available to review articles before they are posted.

Basic Process

If you are already using IIS to provide public Web pages to customers, you can add customer support newsgroups to the computer running IIS; however, if newsgroup activity increases, you can move NNTP Service to its own computer.

You can create a single newsgroup for each product you are supporting, or you can create several newsgroups for each product, one for each support topic. For example, if your product is a mousetrap, you can create the newsgroup support.mousetrap. If you expect a high volume of articles, you can create several newsgroups called support.mousetrap.installation, support.mousetrap.operation, support.mousetrap.maintenance, and so on.

The URLs for your newsgroups have the following formats:



Server is the name or IP address of NNTP Service, newsgroup is the name of the newsgroup, and article is an optional identifier of a specific article.

To promote customer use of newsgroups, your customer support personnel should read the newsgroup articles frequently and respond to questions promptly. It is also a good idea to post frequently asked questions addressing the most common support questions and to update them regularly.


Customers appreciate immediate access to the latest questions and answers about your product. They can post their own questions and check back later for a response from your support personnel or from another customer.

Support personnel are more productive because they do not have to answer the same questions repeatedly. Your product teams can improve quality by monitoring the newsgroups to get customer feedback. By analyzing the access logs, you can track how support activity changes over time.