• November 3, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Tackling Sudden Support Surges

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Charter Communications faced a potential customer service nightmare. In November 2001 Excite@Home, which provided support to approximately 20 percent of Charter's high-speed Internet customers, filed for bankruptcy. After the court's bankruptcy decision, Charter had just 45 days to transition 140,000 Excite broadband Internet customers to Charter's Pipeline broadband platform. Otherwise, customers would lose their connectivity and email service. To manage the anticipated flood of customer service inquiries, Charter opted to implement SupportSoft's Service Automation Suite, a Web self-help and assisted service application, to provide personalized support for customers' connectivity issues. Prior to implementing SupportSoft, Charter had to switch out software and save each customer's key email and browser settings during the conversion. "It was necessary to protect the software on the customers' PCs should anything fail, while...loading the new software and then protecting it again. SupportSoft enabled us to do that very quickly, and lay down a platform for future self-care by the customer," says Dave Seibold, Charter's director of advanced services. Charter then launched an online customer service portal powered by SupportSoft, called www.support.charter.com, to give customers access to self-service tools. The support portal enables customers to help themselves online and even fix problems with a few clicks. If a customer cannot solve a problem using the SupportSoft Web self-help tools and chooses to speak with one of Charter's 1,000 customer analysts, SupportSoft's SmartIssue technology helps facilitate the call. The application can quickly point out potential problems by automatically gathering permission-based information about the user's system, including the amount of hard-drive space available, memory on the customer's PC, operating system in use, and more. Today, hundreds of thousands of customers visit the support portal, which has deflected a significant portion of calls from Charter's contact center--about 30,000 calls a month, and that number is growing. "If the average call costs a service provider $25--or 80 cents to $1.20 per minute--then support automation can drive that cost down to less than half," Seibold says. The Payoff Charter Communications has seen numerous rewards from its service upgrade:
  • fast implementation time--under 45 days
  • 30,000 calls deflected monthly from its contact center
  • permission-based information facilitates support calls
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