HOT PROJECTS: Automotive, Travel, & Transit

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A healthy dose of self-service automation with no lines--that was the goal of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV). Even with answers to important, common questions available online, the staff was still getting hundreds of emails per day that could have been handled on the Web. So George Filieau, Internet customer relations manager at the NYS DMV, implemented an enhanced knowledge base from RightNow to help guide customers to the right answer without resorting to the phone or email. "I predicted a thirty percent reduction in online inquiries as our goal, but we realized more than that right away," Filieau says. By designing the system so customers are presented with at least one knowledge base response to a search before offering other contact methods, the department cut email inquiries to just a couple dozen per day. "We have more than paid the cost of the product in support savings, because if we were still using email we would be up to 400 to 500 per day and would need several people to handle it." Even with 20 million customer calls per year, Amtrak wants a friendly and speedy voice response to an inquiry. The company moved from a tangled touch-tone system to a voice-response environment from SpeechWorks, dubbed Julie, which has taken on the responsibility of resolving more than one quarter of all customer questions. Rather than simply offering departure and arrival data, Julie now handles schedules, fares, and reservations. "We had those on the touch-tone system, but it was awkward and slow," says Matt Hardison, chief of sales, distribution, and customer service. Amtrak deliberately did not mold the Julie system directly after its call center agents. "It's a little counterintuitive to say that you want the system being informal with the customers, but we found customer were more comfortable talking to a system if it's less formal," Hardison says. He credits the rapid customer acceptance as playing a big part in recouping the $4 million investment Amtrak made in the SpeechWorks system--an investment Hardison says was paid off within a year thanks to an automated call-handling rate 50 percent better than the legacy touch-tone approach.
Priceline.com has been phasing out its homegrown contact center and customer service software with solutions built in part by Kana, culminating with the recent rollout of Kana IQ for better Web self-service. IQ allows Priceline to integrate context-sensitive answers to customer questions into the research and purchase experience, and has made it much easier for customer service staff to create and update the FAQs clients read. Priceline can roll out new content in a day rather than a week, without getting the IT staff involved. And usage of IQ-delivered FAQs is steadily on the rise, without an appreciable increase in contact center queries. "Cost-per-customer-transaction is a fraction of what it was before," says CIO Ron Rose, and positive payback is on track to appear before the one-year anniversary of IQ's Q4 2002 implementation. "There are potential incremental sales from people being able to get an answer who aren't going to get it waiting on the phone. Velocity is its own reward." Reeves Buick-Pontiac wants to hand every driver two things--a car key and a card key. The dealership, in Greenwood, IN, worked with Reynolds & Reynolds to implement its LoyaltyLink smart card system which, for a $200 up-front fee, provides drivers with free and discounted service offerings over the life of their new or used car, all managed through a card-reader kiosk. Reeves piloted the system starting in February 2002, because it already had a similar, checkbook-managed service plan. General Manager Miles Robinson says the cachet of the card has made the LoyaltyLink program a much greater success than the paper approach. "Penetration on the checkbooks wasn't close to what it is on the card, probably sixty-five percent penetration of new car buyers," he says. The loyalty program generated more than $200,000 in revenue in the first 15 months, and Robinson says the staggered windows on the service promotions makes the program an ROI win-win for both customer and dealership.
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