Providing online support can boost customer satisfaction while cutting costs, but companies must offer the right services to maximize deployments.
Posted Feb 13, 2006
The appeal of cost savings resulting from e-service initiatives can be hard to resist for many companies. Although lowering costs continues to be an integral motivation, improving customer satisfaction is the most important driver behind launching such technologies, according to a joint study by ServiceXRG and Service Strategies. The findings of "The State of eService: Accomplishments, Milestones and Next Steps," are based on a survey of 91 IT providers.
Increasing customer satisfaction tops the list of primary drivers for deploying interactive e-services such as chat, email, and support forms, at 90.4 percent. That is followed by improving service-level performance (83.8 percent) and reducing costs (74.3 percent). Only 11.3 percent of respondents classify competitive pressure as a primary driver (representing the lowest tally in the category), but 88.7 percent designate it a secondary driver. "E-services (and services overall) are often not perceived as a competitive differentiator, but a means to sustain competitive parity," says Tom Sweeny, a principal at ServiceXRG.
The top motivators behind deploying self-services like FAQs and knowledge bases paint a similar picture. Increasing customer satisfaction shows the highest percentage (94.4 percent), followed by improving service-level performance and reducing costs (both at 77 percent). Competitive pressure is a primary driver for 22.6 percent of respondents, but a secondary motivator for 77.4 percent.
Once technology companies have decided to deliver e-service functionality, however, submitting new electronic cases (90.9 percent) and managing cases electronically (80.7 percent) lead the pack in interactive e-services offered. "We will see more focus and consolidation on electronic services that foster closer working relationships [with] the service provider," Sweeney says. "Submitting and managing cases as well as personalization are high growth areas."
Results also indicate that while only about 19.3 percent of companies offer live interactive support channels, 55.7 percent offer remote diagnostic services. "Remote diagnostics offer a great deal of bang for the buck in terms of highly efficient and cost-effective service delivery," Sweeney says. "Live interactive chat/IM has had a slow start, partly because it is labor-intensive, requires support staff to be available, etcetera. The cost efficiencies are realized based on a single support engineer being able to respond concurrently to multiple customer requests." Another reason for its slow adoption, he says, is fear of the unknown: "While we have found that customers find this kind of service to be effective once they try it, there is a reluctance to actually try it for the first time." Knowledge bases (93.2 percent) and product documentation (89.8 percent) are the top two self-help services offered, according to the report.
Additional findings include:
62.6 percent of live interactions are still handled by phone.
31.3 percent of respondents do not measure call deflection.
100 percent of respondents offer interactive e-services in English, while other languages include French (28.4 percent), German and Spanish (both with 22.7 percent), and Japanese (13.6 percent)
98.9 percent of respondents offer self-help in English, while other languages include French (15.9 percent), German (13.6 percent), Spanish (12.5 percent), and Japanese (10.2 percent)
The bottom line, though, according to Sweeny, is that the industry is entering a maturity in e-service offerings that demands established standards for measuring success, defining best practices, and monitoring the performance of these initiatives. "Based on the formalization of standards, benchmarks, and best practices...we will see further consolidation in the number of e-services we offer and a greater focus on a few e-services that are embraced by customers and deliver tangible business benefits."
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