• January 8, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Web Self-Help Wins

Yesterday, Primus Knowledge Solutions Inc. announced that its customer FrontRange Solutions Inc. has reported a 170 percent increase in Web-based customer questions, and a 400 percent increase in the length of Web-site visits. If organizations are trying to improve customer satisfaction by cutting down call times, why is Primus boasting of longer visits on the Web? Contrary to the speed-to-resolution factor associated with call center agents and their ability to quickly answer customer queries, customers are spending more time on the Web because the tools they are using to find their answers are working, says David Ridout, vice president of marketing and business development at Primus. Ridout says Web sites are encouraging the customer to stay on the site instead of calling the contact center. Customers using well-presented self-service sites are able to easily find desired information and remain online, instead of getting frustrated and leaving after only a few minutes. The Primus Answer Engine is a natural language processing engine used for Web self-service and assisted service environments. The solution can recognize parts of speech and other language characteristics to match the question to available content, and return the correct answer with the relevant text highlighted inside the document. Since the search engine matches the search phrases and not merely bits of text, it can identify the most appropriate answers even if parts of the query are misspelled, the company says. Thanks to the Answer Engine, FrontRange consolidated six different search engines and almost tripled its Web-site queries per month, to more than 17,000 unique queries per month from roughly 20,000 visitors. FrontRange is not the only company benefiting from Primus solutions. Out of its more than 200 customers, including global 2000 organizations such as The Boeing Co., 3Com Corp., and 3M Co., roughly 35 percent of customer calls are deflected to the Web, Ridout says. On the more personable side of Web self-help tools LiveWire Logic Inc. yesterday announced it has signed on four customers since launching its RealDialog virtual assistant last September. Virtual assistants, otherwise known as bots, are Web self-help tools in the form of an animated customer service agent, designed to answer customer queries. The interactive service often comes with a smile from a bot or agent. However, when it comes to bot technology, Gautam Desai, vice president of research at Doculabs Inc, a research and consulting company in Chicago, says you should give some bots the boot. "It's not a necessity to have an image of a person. Microsoft Office had a paper clip with human features. It turned out that it wasn't any more effective than text-based messaging. As a matter of fact people got more annoyed with it. It just got in the way," Desai says. He warns bot technology alone is not enough for a self-help solution. The bots need to intelligently answer questions or if it cannot, refer end-users to live agents. Nonetheless, bot developers, such as eGain Communications Corp., based in Sunnyvale, CA, say customers are very comfortable with bot technology--maybe a little too comfortable. EGain executives report that at least one third of its queries were flirtatious in nature. Such questions ranged from "How's the weather? " to "What are you doing Friday night?"
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