• July 1, 2004
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Customers Serve Each Other in Online Communities

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Mercury Interactive knows how to measure success. The company provides such application delivery and management products as LoadRunner, which ensures that an organization's infrastructure is able to continuously execute critical business processes. The company relies on its Web site to provide customers and partners with information on Mercury's products. Because its products are technical, many of Mercury's customers and partners are IT professionals with a high degree of technical knowledge. So when contacting Mercury, whether through its call center or Web site, many already have a strong understanding of what it offers. Mercury wanted to tap into this valuable group of professionals to create a forum in which partners and customers could share technical information. According to Gartner, high-tech companies like Cisco Systems, BEA Systems, and Microsoft can resolve cases for a maximum cost of $4 to $7 per issue, using a community Web site--a cost significantly lower than the estimated $7.50 to $50 per interaction for highly technical telephone-support calls. This was enough to convince Mercury to invest in a Web community and content searching capabilities for technical support questions. Mercury selected Participate Systems to implement tools to work in conjunction with Mercury's Web technology solution from BroadVision. The solution was implemented in eight weeks, and provides Mercury customers and partners with a discussion forum, message board, and content ratings; a member-rated knowledge base (information is removed from the site if it gets poor ratings), member-supplied downloads that enable users to share tips, and expert seminars; and polls, surveys, and event and product notifications. Mercury selected Participate because the company "demonstrated expertise in online community development; demonstrated value in making recommended site changes and process changes; and demonstrated the capability, interest, and value in reviewing and reporting on community activity and key customer concerns," says Patrick Saeger, vice president of customer support at Mercury. The results are impressive. Mercury is able to be more responsive to customer needs, as software upgrades are based on customer feedback from the site. Customers have more alternatives for service, higher quality content, and better access to other customers with similar challenges, all of which results in improved customer success, Saeger says. "We estimate 20 percent to 25 percent of our customers' questions are solved online through our knowledge base or with help from other customers, instead of contacting Mercury support directly." The Payoff Using an online community for service, Mercury Interactive was able to:
  • deflect 20 to 25 percent of support questions to the Web;
  • make use of its highly technical customer base;
  • be more responsive to customers' product needs;
  • achieve 100 percent ROI in less than one year.
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