Oftentimes customer service is looked at as a reactive function: A consumer has an issue, reaches out to a contact center, and hopes to get an answer or some form of resolution. In a perfect world, of course, customers wouldn't have the issue in the first place -- but how can the customer-support side of your company proactively help customers before the problem flares up? Enter Bellevue, Wash.-based customer interaction management provider Talisma, an nGenera company, and version 8.1 of its multichannel solutions. In addition to advanced capabilities in email, reporting, the new release includes a chat feature that Talisma claims may help nip customer problems in the bud.
The revamped chat offering includes:
- support of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard, with chat-transcript masking;
- agent notification when a chat invitation is triggered by a proactive rule;
- ability to automatically assign status (such as hot, warm, or cold) to customers; and
- reports of "missed opportunties" for proactive chat, showing the number of customers that would have received an invitation to chat if agents had been available.
Dan Vetras, chief executive officer of Talisma, says the strong proactive theme emphasized in this release has always been a part of Talisma’s product roadmap. “One of the hidden gems in our chat offering over the years has been the ability to reach out -- much like a concierge service -- and ask somebody if they want help,” he explains. “We’ve had the functionality in our product for a number of years.”
Vetras admits, however, that Talisma is placing more emphasis on proactivity these days. "We [had] emphasized a lot of the reactive [capabilities] and pushed it ahead from a development standpoint,” he says. “We fell behind a little bit with proactive chat [features compared to] some of our competitors, but we feel like we’ve leapt ahead with this release.”
John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA), partially agrees with Vetras’ assessment. While he declined to rank top chat competitors, Ragsdale feels Talisma is definitely one to look at because of its scalability and reliability. “If you’re just looking at standalone chat, three companies I usually point people to are LivePerson, Kana, and Talisma,” he says. “In this release, [contact centers] can now generate reports capturing [and analyzing] why sessions were disconnected. Reliability is something I hear as a concern among SSPA members.”
Another hot-button topic addressed by this release is providing customized answers to frequent inquiries, according to Rob Booher, Talisma's product manager for email and chat. Talisma Email 8.1's splitting feature provides an easier method to segment emails that have multiple questions or topics into separate threads, so the proper people -- whether it’s sales, support, or elsewhere -- can answer the questions.
Ragsdale says that email-splitting is critical in providing a quality experience for customers, but that Talisma has taken the process one step further. Many contact centers, he says, have prewritten templates to answer email inquiries, but Talisma adds another layer of customization with its email placeholders feature. Not only does the agent receive suggested passages of text to choose from, but the application also "has required fields to fill in and forces them to customize [the message] so consumers don't feel like they’re talking to a machine," he says.
Looking ahead, both Booher and Vetras say they want to see Talisma make the most of the Web 2.0 paradigm espoused by parent company nGenera, an on-demand platform developer that acquired Talisma earlier this year. (The Austin, Texas-based nGenera was also recently named one of CRM magazine's 2008 Rising Stars.) At the same time, Vetras says the advances are only possible thanks to Talisma's long history in the contact center. “A lot more collaboration will exist in our technology going forward, from a platform standpoint,” he says.
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