• October 1, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Faster Service, Same Staff Size

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The Arthritis Foundation knows that the key to early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis is to get prevention information out to the masses quickly. But that mass communication can come at a high price. The Arthritis Foundation had been receiving roughly 3,400 emails per year, according to Daniel Kendrick, the Foundation's director of interactive communication. The relatively low number of emails enabled the foundation's two support professionals to manually answer queries, giving each the necessary amount of time and consideration. That was, until one of the largest-circulation Sunday magazines spread the word. "We found our email address in a Parade magazine story on the impact of arthritis, and all of a sudden we had several hundred emails a day. That article also generated about 300,000 calls to our toll-free number," Kendrick says. The sudden spike in email volumes overtaxed the support staff, forcing the average email response times to drop to two days. This was unacceptable, so the Foundation implemented Talisma's Web self-help and email management solutions. "Talisma is real easy for an individual to handle. There isn't a lot of training involved, and the ability to implement was significantly shorter than others," Kendrick says. "What really sold us was Talisma told us we could be answering emails within a week, whereas competitors were saying three to six months." Competing solutions, Kendrick adds, would have cost 50 percent more. The Arthritis Foundation automated some of its support tasks by using the Talisma 4.0 application to create a Web form asking individuals for pertinent information like name, address, and type of arthritis they have. This, as well as the information gathered from the automated telephone system, is saved into one central database for a holistic view of an individual. And when people call the toll-free number, the support staff does not have to keep asking them for their personal information, because it is already stored in the system. This shaves seconds, as well as costs, off support calls. The benefits don't stop there. With the Talisma solution, the Arthritis Foundation created 1,100 canned email responses that answer 95 percent of the 40,000 email inquiries it now gets per year. Because of the automated process, the Arthritis Foundation has dropped average email response time from 48 hours to three hours. Thanks to its recent success with the Talisma solution, the Foundation is considering automating various support and marketing initiatives for its 53 chapters located throughout the United States. One consideration, Kendrick says, is to create a centralized database of arthritis patients culled from all the chapters and send postal mailings from one central location to take advantage of bulk mail rates. He also aims to do this with Joints In Motion, the Foundation's athletic training program and fund-raiser, designed to train people to walk or run a marathon in honor of someone with arthritis. Each athlete raises funds to support the Arthritis Foundation's mission to improve lives through leadership in the prevention, control, and cure of arthritis. The Payoff Using Talisma service solutions the Arthritis Foundation has:
  • increased the volume of email it can handle tenfold, without increasing head count
  • reduced email response times from 48 hours to three hours
  • created 1,100 canned email responses that answer 95 percent of inquiries
  • cut support time on the phone
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