Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Keep your Customers Close - Online Support

"In an era in which the competition is one mouse click away, the need to solidify and deepen relationships with valuable customers has never been more important. This need is creating enormous opportunities in the market for customer relationship management applications."
Mary Wardley, director of IDC's Customer Relationship Management Applications research. "

Online Customer Support software is quickly becoming an even player with sales automation and marketing automation in the triad of offerings making up a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. Both sales automation and marketing automation are critical to modern business management but now Customer Support is coming to center stage. Customers are taking advantage of and expect all available technologies to be made available to them for problem resolution and self service.

In addition everyones customer base will be changing drastically in the next 10 years with Baby Boomers retiring and the technology astute Millenial generation replacing them. This new generation is comfortable with new mobile and internet technologies and expects to interact with companies in a much different way than past generations.

Here is a case for implementating Online Support and Training (which I argue in my next entry must be an integral part of support) if you haven't done so already.

Business Drivers:

1. Online support lowers average cost of support resolution.

The cost per transaction is this:
  • email $28.57
  • phone $27.68
  • web $3.75.

*The Economics of Online Support published by The Association of Support Professional

2. Online support optimizes resource usage.

This optimization occurs because online support drives problem resolution and other tasks from telelphone channels to self-service channels. Enabling self service and providing answers to common questions result in customers binding their own answers and avoids the calls to support they would have otherwise made.

With a reduction in calls, customer service representatives are freed up to:
  • concentrate on higher-value tasks and issues
  • contribute to revenue generating product features
  • keep up with application domain changes and stay current with customers and how they use the applications in their business

3. Online support increases customer satisfaction

  • Increasingly more and more customers want online support as an option. ­Demographics show the Baby Boomers retiring and the Millenial generation taking over who are comfortable with new technology and expect different online support technology.
  • Customers value an option off hours and online support eEnables real 24/7 support operations. Customers can self service 24/7 by using Knowledge Base, FAQ’s, Open a Ticket item to get into queue.
  • As online support use increases, phone support is decreases and phone lines become available for those customers requiring phone support

4. Online support improves the Top and Bottom Line.

The Bottom Line - Cost reductions:
  • With each phone transaction avoided cost reductions are realized.
  • Online support enables other cost savings support options – chat and instant messaging Chat and IM offer a less-expensive solid alternative to the phone. Many customers prefer it as their next line of support after online self-service support. A Customer Support Representative can handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously, speeding time to resolution for a larger number of customers.
The Top Line - Revenue increases:
  • The top line improves through increasing revenue by redirecting support agents to revenue producing work. Increase in customer satisfaction positively impacts customer retention and additional sales. Online support can be used for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and enables targeted marketing campaigns.
5. Online support increases Customer Intimacy

Online support enables options that provide an opportunity to make customers part of the BNA Software community – Forums, Surveys, Feedback etc.

Customers can make contributions:
  • ­Improve support processes
  • ­Improve the content
  • ­Develop better products and services
  • ­Find opportunities for new products and services.

Collaboration with customers creates truly customer driven products and services increasing sales and customer loyalty.

Reduce Risk – Online support enables the understanding and anticipating of the customer’s interests providing insight into where markets are headed. Efforts to enter new markets are based on clear insights, drastically reducing the risks of entering and competing in those markets.

In a Web 2.0 world, you should be leveraging the Web to not only reduce your support costs by giving customers other options besides placing a call, but also to learn what your customers are saying.

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