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September 22, 1999


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Service customers online. Don't link them to a FAQ!

Email this story to a friend. Priya Ganapati at Pragati Maidan

Back to IIW '99 index The first presentation on the seminar track 'Internet, the new medium', is given by M D Ramaswami, vice-president, support services, Aditi Technologies.

To the over 300 delegates, he explains how a successful call centre can be run.

Ramaswami's focussed presentation has the audience glued to the huge screen where his slides detail why it is necessary for companies to focus on having call centres.

Ramaswami says, "At the very basic level it is any place which interacts with customers. It can be a helpdesk or Web based support."

A recent survey of Fortune 500 companies on the Internet reveals that only 51 per cent of the companies actually answered the questions posed by the customer. Nine per cent of the companies asked customers querying over the Internet to call up one of their helpdesks and 5 per cent asked them to go back to the Web site!

Over 1.2 trillion email messages are sent each year out of which 500 million are service requests that come over the Internet. These are usually questions that ask for more details on the product or the service.

With its software product called 'Talisma' Aditi has sought to capture this market where customers to company email has gone up by nearly 150 per cent in the last four years.

Ramaswami's presentation was a reflection of Aditi's strategies and the thought process that has gone towards developing Talisma.

"Over 67 per cent of Web site visitors abandon their purchases because they do not have adequate support. This is one of the reasons why you need call centres to deliver services to e-customers. But there also needs to be an integration of multiple channels of support like voice and email," Ramaswami explains.

He points out that earlier, most of the services on the Internet were unattended service. Companies only put up their documentation on the Net with a link to 'email Web master' and another to a page on 'frequently asked questions'.

Ramaswami elaborates: "It used to be an only data, no service on the site kind of scenario. But today more sophisticated technologies like search, chat, automated email response and people dedicated to interacting with customers over the Web are seen. It has become necessary to cut across unattended service. Now it will become interaction based service."

Here's Ramaswami's eight-point strategy towards running a successful call centre.

1. Track every customer interaction.

Ramaswami elaborates, "The key thing here is to manage a case and not treat an email as just a message. When a customer sends an email and you respond, it becomes a case. Do not consider the case closed till the customer is satisfied and his questions are answered."

He also points out that tracking numbers and dividing Internet call centres into groups based on skill and efficiency would help effectively route queries and reduce response time.

Ramaswami suggests, "Use queues with efficient routing. You can also have notifications that indicate how long the unresponded messages have been waiting for. These notifications can be sent to anyone from the general manager to the CEO depending on how important customer interaction is to you."

2. Respond quickly to all inquiries.

Armed with a bulleted slide, Ramaswami makes a case for a quick response is the key to a successful call centre.

His tips for the delegates are:

 In presales make response to all queries in real time.
 Else respond within 24 hours.
 Use canned responses whenever possible.
 Identify and exploit patterns and have routing rules.
 Use auto-text and auto-suggest features to speed up response.

3. Pay attention to details.

Ramaswami elaborates, "It is essential to run a spell check on your emails. Emails with spelling errors create a terrible impression. Also provide as much information as possible like your email address etc so that the customer can follow up."

4. Be consistent on quality.

Ramaswami warns delegates that it is important to answer the question as asked by the customer and not as perceived by the customer service representative.

"Consult specialists if required. If you cannot answer the question it means that you do not have enough data so ask for more information from the customer. And try and use templates across CSRs to standardise your responses," he suggests.

5. Focus on e-customers.

Profile their history and mine the customer data to drive your campaigns.

6. Measure everything from how quickly you respond, how accurate is your response and how effective your self-help service is.

7. Motivate your team enough so that your attrition rate remains low.

8. Pick the right service tool that offers scalability, support and access to a global marketplace.

At this juncture unable to resist the lure of a sales pitch for Aditi's Taslima, Ramaswami launches into a demonstration on how Taslima has all the features that he has just listed.

One of the most frequent problems faced by call centres is fatigue on part of the CSRs. This leads to loss of interest and a high attrition rate.

Back to IIW '99 index Ramaswami says, "At Aditi, we keep rotating our CSRs and also reward them in terms of cash. It is necessary to move experienced CSRs to higher positions so we have a very low attrition rate."

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