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Exploring the Problem
The Automated Response Solution


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Taking Customer Service to a New Level By using Automated Response Systems

Exploring the Problem

One problem facing organizations today is that customers are using the enabling technology of multimedia customer contact faster than the companies themselves are putting resources behind them. Furthermore, customer expectations in regard to the response time required for contact methods such as e-mail, web and fax have changed. In today's market, customers expect ALL contact methods to have the same level of urgency as a live phone call. And if this expectation is not met, you have an unhappy customer -- just a click away from the competition. Increasingly, customer loyalty will have to be bought with every transaction.

The two areas that seem to need the most improvement are contacts initiated via e-mail and the web. In 1998, the volume of e-mail in the U.S. surpassed the volume of hand-delivered mail and is projected to explode. However, most organizations are ill prepared to handle the onslaught. Studies show that it usually takes days or weeks for customers to get answers to very simple questions. And Gartner Group reports that 90 percent of enterprises are not responding to e-mails on a timely basis or to their customers' satisfaction. Regarding web contacts, a recent Jupiter Communications survey showed that only 41 percent of online buyers were happy with the customer service they received. This is evidenced by the fact that sixty-six percent of e-customers are leaving shopping carts behind on web sites because they cannot get answers to simple questions while online. Organizations never anticipated the resources required to field such a volume of online inquiries.

The Automated Response Solution

One immediate solution to this growing problem is to implement an automated response system, which will ensure that e-mail or web contacts are being received by a centralized system, acknowledged immediately, potentially answered automatically, and routed to the most appropriate person if live intervention is required.

An automated response system is a comprehensive knowledge management system that helps organizations process online information requests. One of their major capabilities is to allow organizations to make use of knowledge in the form of "Frequently Asked Question" (FAQ) lists to automatically service a variety of inquiries. The solution also lets employees add "knowledge" by simply submitting common questions and their answers. As a result, companies increase customer satisfaction, enhance agent productivity, and lower costs.

Just as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology is used in many organizations to handle phone-based automated service, early automated response systems were designed to handle inquiries that are fairly standard and repetitive in nature. Modern automated response systems take this concept a major step forward by using advanced artificial intelligence and linguistic techniques to examine customer inquiries, look for matches in an FAQ database, and automatically respond if an appropriate match is found. These solutions automatically cross-reference similar words so that the best matching response can be sent to the inquirer. This frees up employees to focus on the more complex issues that require personalized responses.

With such a system, the amount of e-mails and web inquiries requiring a live response can be dramatically reduced, customers can service themselves a majority of the time, and organizations can track the questions asked in order to hone in on issues and opportunities that improve business and service. Quality automated response systems provide both e-mail and web self-service components and also offer escalation to live e-mail response and web chat service.


In business, quality of service is as critical as speed - especially on the Internet. With poor service driving customers away, timely responses to customers have become the hallmark of business success. Automated response systems provide the type of web self-service and e-mail options customers and organizational users demand, while cutting the number of inquiries requiring live responses - often by 50 to 60 percent or more. The result? Customers keep coming back to your organization because they know they'll get the answers they need - when they need them.

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