• 03:08:50 pm on June 10, 2008 | 2
    Tags: , , , , , ,

    I would like to add some wood to the “email use in customer service” fire. If you have been following the blogs last week, we have a little of a controversy going on about whether email should be used for support – or sent to sleep with the fishes. Personally, I believe that email is an essential support tool in certain situations, and when done properly. For medium-complexity scenarios, with lots of data necessary to exchange hands, and where accuracy is paramount (like something you can cut and paste from a screen or log), email cannot be beat. The process of reading an error message via telephone is usually cumbersome at best. I know that organizations that implement email for support situations such as the above, when they answer promptly (read before 2 hours for 80% of emails, 4 hours for 100%) and they get good results.

    Of course, these “good results” don’t usually translate into easily quantifiable cost savings, or return-on-investment models. That would be too easy, now wouldn’t it? I have been working lately with some clients that are trying to come up with Justification models for their ERMS (email response management system) deployments, and we are struggling. I will be very honest, each case is different and we can only use tested-and-proven ROI models as a basis to start the discussion, then we deviate into the different variables that affect each business. At the end, we can always justify implementing an ERMS on financial terms — as long as we are willing to make certain assumptions about growth and support, very often the largest unknown components. Worse, when we create TCO models, over three years, it is hard to find cost savings over using the telephone, and little over a chat implementation. Most of the benefits come from two areas:

    Experience Management and Customer Loyalty

    Reduction in manual process when automation is implemented

    So – what should you use to justify your ERMS implementation? Glad you asked…

    This is where your Customer Experience Management, or a similar initiative, comes into place. Use your customer’s demands to justify your ERMS initiative. Yep, use them to service them… corny, huh? Let me explain.

    1) Prepare a survey for the purpose of understanding your customer’s needs and demands, if you have not already done it (even if you did it already, read on… chances are it was not the best survey you ever done). The survey should have just 3-4 questions related to your planning of customer service for the next 2-3 years, and what customers would like to see in it. Don’t sneak questions on satisfaction, loyalty, or anything like that in there. Simply planning questions.

    2) Ask the following : “We are considering implementing one more technology for service and support. Please rank from 1 through 5 your choice of the following technologies to submit service and support requests”. Then, it would feature three, four, or five technologies like chat, SMS, email, etc. Pick the ones you would seriously consider implementing.

    3) Your customers will then tell you, if they want email, that you should implement email for support. Depending on the ranking and your plans, you can justify your ERMS on Customer Experience Management reasons: customers want it, we will give it to them. You will find that the costs of implementing ERMS, or virtually any other technology you can imagine, will not drastically reduce the existing costs… but, customers want to have it.

    Would you willing to take the chance to have your customers say “no, please don’t implement that”? What would you do then? Let me know…

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Comments

  • Haim Toeg 5:06 am on June 11, 2008 | # | Reply

    Esteban,

    I think this a completely different fire you are starting here.

    I do support asking customers questions about the features they’d like to see offered in their support. However, there are two risks that should be managed:
    1. Don’t become a ‘management by polling’ practitioner, where every decision is presented for customer vote
    2. Ensure that you present the options in terms that the customer can understand and visualize (i.e., don’t ask ‘should we invest in an ERMS?’ but rather ‘should we invest in a system that will process, manage and automatically respond to e-mails, providing whatever benefits’)

    Alternatively to a survey, or in addition to it, I strongly recommend considering a ‘service advisory board’ where companies can have an on-going discussion with a group of trusted customers about the organization’s plans, achievements and challenges and get valuable feedback as a result. In my time running support organizations I had several such boards and always found them to be very valuable. By coincidence, softwareceo.com had an interesting article today about running advisory boards.

  • Esteban Kolsky 7:19 am on June 11, 2008 | # | Reply

    Haim,

    Very good, as usual, comment.

    I have one very emphatic “heck yeah” to add to your CAB comment. When I create an EFM strategy for a software or hi-tech company, this is (together with technical user groups and executive councils) the three-legged approach to direct feedback that affects service and products. I am usually hesitant to use them for more than product management, unless conditions of support are good and they cannot bring shortcomings to the forefront when we are not ready to deal with them.

    As for your first comment, maybe all these years in feedback management got me soft, or too hard. I would NEVER endorse asking all questions from all users… but a well planned and executed planning survey with key stakeholders once a year definitely provides great data to contribute as ONE MORE data source.

    Besides it fits in my three-stage approach to feedback management… layer three – planning surveys.

    Thanks for the great comments and for stopping…


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