The web is a great place to do customer service. It is where people go to find answers fast. It provides a way for customers to navigate their way through lots of content to find the particular piece of information they need. It is open seven days a weeks, 24 hours a day. In fact, according to industry observers, web-based customer service (also known as "eService") is one of the biggest business opportunities on the web.
Unfortunately, most companies fail to effectively exploit the web's full potential as a customer service vehicle. Some fail because they do not recognize just how powerful of a business tool web-based customer service can be. Some fail because they never develop a practical process for capturing the information their customers want and quickly getting it onto their site - or they fail to keep such information properly updated. Others fail to adequately integrate web self-service with their email and call center channels. Others leave out some of the key functions that make web customer service really "click" - such as store locators or remote web session control.
There is a cost for such failure. Companies that do not develop effective Internet customer service wind up spending far more on customer support than their competitors - as much as 20 times more per incident. That is because, without effective customer service, companies must rely on their over-burdened, high-cost call centers to answer even the most routine and repetitive customer inquiries. Companies with poor service also lose customers, since web users get frustrated quickly and head elsewhere.
Web-based customer service is a great way to habituate customers to using your web site, thereby creating other opportunities to lower transaction costs, execute cross- and up-selling strategies, and otherwise leverage the Internet as a business tool. And, because it is so scalable, web-based customer service offers an extremely cost-effective solution for dealing with the inevitable peaks and valleys in your service incident volume. That is why web-based service has become such a hot topic for business and technology managers alike.
This white paper distills the experience and best practices of successful web-based service implementers from a wide range of industries. It also provides a simple test for determining your company's Service Quotient, or "SQ". With this insider information, you will be able to plan and implement your own customer service strategy - and join the ranks of successful Internet service pioneers who have significantly lowered their per-incident customer support costs while consistently delighting their customers and strengthening their Internet presence.
As it becomes increasingly popular and well traveled, the web is rapidly changing. Just a few short years ago, it was enough for a business to put up a site that had a modest amount of information on its products or services, with a phone number to contact if the visitor wanted to order something or ask questions. This static "brochureware" content treated the web as an online Yellow Pages, where the main idea was to make sure you were properly listed.
Things have really changed. Now, the web is an intensively interactive medium and an online extension of the business itself. Companies use the web to buy, sell, recruit staff, solicit bids and make referrals. It is also a great place to support customers and forge closer relationships with them.
That means it is also a great place to lose customers, too.
How do you lose customers on the web? The same way you lose them in the "real" world: you do not respond to their needs. Unfortunately, many executives who would have a heart attack if their sales and service staffs were unresponsive or ignorant about the company's products do not show the same concern about having an unresponsive or ignorant web site. Their web sites cannot answer customers' questions. They take too long to reply to customer emails - or they fail to reply at all.
Keep in mind that a fundamental aspect of the web's appeal is the immediate gratification it offers. When someone comes to your web site, they want to quickly find the information they need to make a buying decision or solve a problem. So web visitors are very sensitive to delays. It may be only a matter of seconds before a visitor gives up his or her search, and tries looking elsewhere.
This puts tremendous pressure on the two groups who develop web content: marketing and customer service. They must somehow anticipate the possible needs of all types of visitors, from clueless newcomers to long-time customers. This is clearly a tough job, and in today's resource-constrained business environment, it is not a job that anyone wants to spend a lot of time doing.
Fortunately, you do not have to. Internet customer service innovators have proven that you can answer a tremendous percentage of customers' questions online without spending money and time you do not have.
But before we look at how they accomplished this, let us look at who they are and what they have been able to do.
As these companies and others prove, effective customer service is actually a very achievable goal - even for companies with relatively limited resources. It simply requires the right principles, practices and tools.
These ten simple principles can make the difference between successful, high-ROI customer service and a failure to take full advantage of the Internet as a medium for superior customer service. In a market climate where every competitive advantage counts, few companies can afford to miss out on the outstanding bottom line benefits that effective web-based customer service offers.
Companies that implement effective web-based customer service solutions find they benefit in numerous ways - many of them totally unexpected. The bottom line rewards they have experienced include:
The bottom line? Responsive, automated, service delivers concrete business advantages, day in and day out. Online customer service is also rapidly becoming a competitive necessity, as more and more companies make their web sites a primary channel for low-cost, customer-pleasing service and support.
Because web-based service effectiveness has become an important factor in every company's overall business strategy, now is a good time to assess the quality of your own company's Service Quotient, or SQ. This simple test will help you determine just how healthy your company's service strategy really is, and allow you to pinpoint where it could use improvement.
|SQ Evaluation Questions||Yes||No||Don't Know|
|Can your customers quickly find answers to their most frequently asked questions on your web site?|
|Can they easily check on the status of the response they previously requested?|
|Do you respond to all customer emails within one business day?|
|Does the content on your site change automatically based on customer input?|
|Are the most useful and/or commonly requested knowledge items presented first?|
|Do customers have an easy way to get to a human support staffer?|
|Do your customers consistently return to your site to get information?|
|Do you have any way of determining whether or not they do?|
|Are you tracking the activity that has taken place on your site on a week-by-week basis?|
|Do those reports help you determine the ROI of the site?|
|Do you give visitors the option to have updates sent to them automatically by email?|
|Are you consistently using your web site to capture and publish useful information that is currently only in the heads of your best staff?|
|Have you off-loaded telephone calls to your call center that could be handled without human intervention on your web site?|
|Do customers ever praise your company because they found your site especially helpful?|
|Can customers find local retailers or distributors on your site - complete with maps and/or directions?|
|Can you view both the email and call history of any given incident from a single interface?|
|Are the answers you give your customers on the phone the same as the ones you give them on your web site?|
If you were able to answer "Yes" to ten or more of the questions above, congratulations. You are well on your way to becoming another success story. If not, then it is probably time to re-evaluate how you are using the web to support and service your customers - before your competition gets too far ahead of you!