The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the St. Tammany Parish, La., government received a...
Good News: This year, more than 95% of businesses in the U.S.will have Internet access. Globally, more than 65% of businesses in industrial countries will have Internet access. An estimated 60% of homes in the U.S. will have Internet access.
Bad News: This year, more than 95% of businesses in the U.S. will have Internet access. Globally, more than 65% of businesses in industrial countries will have Internet access. An estimated 60% of homes in the U.S. will have Internet access.
Whether your company’s target customers are businesses, homes or a combination, the forecasts for your future are a mixture of good news and bad news. As your business grows, so will your support requirements. It’s unavoidable.
If you are like most companies in the industry, 70% of your customer service budget is staffing. Every day, your support knowledge walks out the front door and goes home. As support staff members move on to other jobs, you have to replace that knowledge.
The biggest problem companies face today is not competition from the infrastructure players who threaten to undercut pricing, the breakneck speed of keeping up with technology or the struggle to balance income with outgo. The biggest problem is creating and maintaining relationships. While people are pivotal in the relationship picture, it is even more important to use technology to cement and enhance that relationship.
While some industry experts will tell you that automating these processes and activities will be expensive and painful, we disagree. You don’t have to jump into customer relations management (CRM) with both feet. Following the recommendations of CRM suite producers who suggest you implement a solution that will manage all of your channels at the outset will yield nothing but chaos. These people recommend you integrate your Web channel with your call center with the field force with service with outside partners.
Instead, focus on customer retention, then customer acquisition. Implement technology where you can produce immediate returns—at the help desk. Then, you can add other capabilities and solutions.
For years, the primary tool used by help desk personnel to address and track problems was a binder of problems/solutions. Next, the system evolved to a rudimentary cross-referenced database. Using these systems, customer support has historically been labor intensive and stressful. Talented and patient people had to help the caller identify his or her concern and level of sophistication, develop the right query, sift through the available options, and find a solution to the problem. It was a time-consuming, expensive and frustrating process for everyone concerned.
Fortunately, the Internet is enabling us to shift from a labor-based to knowledge-based support. An automated help desk solution that is available 24/7 to both customers and support staff can help increase response rate and efficiency.
According to Forrester Research, the average live agent customer support transaction costs $10, but the average Internet support transaction costs only $0.03. With a robust Web-based support system, companies have found they can not only reduce call center costs by at least 53%, but they can also handle one-third more inquires at only 43% of the cost. When properly selected and used, the new applications enable firms to handle more calls effectively. In addition, they can provide management with better data about customers and enable them to improve the complete customer acquisition and management/support process.
The help desk or support solutions usually fall into two categories—automated self-service products and integrated knowledge management solutions.
The self-service products tend to solve the very specific and basic set of queries. The knowledge base can automatically provide solutions to common problems. This will take care of the majority of queries so that help desk staff can focus on the situations that require in-depth diagnostics.
If the customer can’t solve his or her own problem, support staff can access the user’s records, skim the procedures that have been tried, and solve the problem without asking the customer to repeat initial information and troubleshooting attempts.
Some of the newer help desk packages include artificial intelligence technology that was developed in the 1980s, which is called case-based reasoning. By using natural language searches, potential solutions can be presented in a hierarchy of most probable solutions. Some products will even guide you through the complete problem-resolution process.
Regardless of the type, all help desk solutions should incorporate a robust database that can be searched by an unlimited number of random word approaches. This is important because the words a seasoned Internet customer uses to resolve his or her problems will be completely different from the words a novice or casual online user will use. The support area should be easy to navigate and include enough information to guide the customer through his or her problem/solution.
The problem/solution database can be rolled out with rudimentary information and then expanded by customer support personnel and users. The majority of the problems and questions are common in nature, so in a short time, they all have been answered. Adding these queries and solutions into the help desk relational database means that in short order, the customer can access the customer support area, input the request, symptom or problem and immediately get an answer, without having to place a phone call.
This feature allows customers to feel in control of the situation. At the same time, it enables customer support personnel to focus on the unique or more challenging problems. These solutions can be added to the database as well, enriching your customer support area and the value of your service to customers. Most support companies find that at the end of three months, 98% of the solutions can be found in the help desk database by customers or by newly hired support personnel.
A well-founded and well-executed help desk/customer support program will enable customers to solve more of their problems themselves, thus putting them in control of their own environments. Those users who can’t resolve their problems can receive fast assistance from customer support personnel. At the same time, your company saves time and money. The organization develops a proven database of workarounds and fixes that can improve the quality, speed and value of service the company provides to customers.
On a daily basis, you are also capturing the customer, support and service information you need to improve your business. The help desk database enables you to accumulate, process and disseminate information to remain competitive.
It is true that every firm in one way or another is arming itself to win over your current customers. But implementing a workable help desk and customer relations solutions doesn’t have to cost a lot, and it doesn’t have to be painful. All it really requires is for you to be creative, innovative and constantly focused on retaining your best customers.
The good news?
There is no bad news!