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It’s a multichannel, mobile world!

This article appears in the issue May 2014, [Volume 23, Issue 5]
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To serve customers effectively, companies must now use and manage input from a wide range of channels. Because the channels evolved at different times, the information contained in each new one has not always been easy to integrate, but especially for the mobile channel, companies ignore them at their peril.

Emesa is an online travel and leisure company based in The Netherlands. As a startup formed almost a decade ago, the company first offered travel bargains via its newsletter. “Our business grew rapidly as we gained more subscribers,” says Maarten de Lange, head of mobile marketing at Emesa. “We began offering a daily special called ‘Action of the Day,’ in which we offered a special leisure product from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. It sold out within minutes, and we realized that we had a very attentive and dedicated group of customers.”

When Emesa reached 1 million newsletter subscribers, the company wanted to offer a special event to its subscribers, and booked a resort consisting of bungalows where it could host a party. Because the resort had only a few hundred bungalows, it could not accommodate everyone, and the event was sold via auction. It was extremely successful, and led to the development of Emesa’s largest and most successful site among the five it now offers. “We have a broad set of leisure products, including hotels, restaurants and concerts, among other offerings,” de Lange says, “all sold via the auction model.”

Initially, customer service was provided via phone and e-mail responses from a staff member. However, because of Emesa’s explosive growth and the resulting volume of interactions, the company set up a customer care department. “We were responding to calls and e-mails but we wanted to deploy a system that could manage customer inquiries no matter what channel was used, including chat and social media,” says Marga Roos Lindgreen, customer service manager for Emesa. “We had developed a mobile app in 2010 and needed to be able to log all the inquiries and to be sure that all our responses were consistent.”

With its existing methods, Emesa could not draw value from its customer interactions. “We could not get data from our phone conversations, and our e-mail was in Outlook, which did not allow us to analyze our e-mail traffic,” Lindgreen says. “In addition, our FAQ page was not extensive enough to cover all the questions our customers had, so our call volume and e-mail volume were very high."

Consistency, responsiveness

Emesa selected KANA Express from KANA, a Verint company, which offers a line of customer service software products, and deployed it in 2013. In addition to tracking incoming and outgoing customer communications in all channels, KANA Express has a knowledgebase that allows customers to type in natural language questions and receive an answer. “We now have consistent answers in one place,” explains Lindgreen. “Our contact center agents use the same knowledgebase as the customers.” As a result of having information available online, e-mail inquiries dropped by 25 percent, reducing the time that agents had to spend responding to questions.

KANA Express allows Emesa to understand, document and analyze customer interactions. “Our service improvement manager reviews the data, interacts with customer service agents and makes sure she understands issues that develop so they can be resolved,” Lindgreen explains. “We don’t let the knowledge sit there and hope for the best—it needs to be managed and interpreted so the input becomes useful.” In one case, the manager noticed that questions about the login had jumped as a result of a change in the user interface, which allowed a subsequent modification that solved the problem.

With the advent of social media, Emesa expanded its channels, and now uses social media channels in a variety of ways. “Facebook is the primary login method, and Twitter is used as a communication channel,” says Lindgreen. In addition, KANA Express is integrated with TraceBuzz, a social media monitoring solution that is local to Emesa’s service area. Input from those channels is therefore also captured by KANA Express.

In the future, Emesa might draw upon the geo-location data offered by mobile devices, for example, to see if a significant number of individuals at a concert are having issues with an event. “We are confident that KANA will grow to accommodate our future needs,” says de Lange, “and we are optimistic about our own growth because our business model works well for all concerned. Our partners earn money on capacity that might have been hard to sell, and our customers get a better price than they would have on the regular market.”

No easy goal

KANA’s software products originated as a solution to handle large volumes of e-mail, then expanded to live chat, and subsequently to other channels. “As new channels have emerged, consumers have come to expect that they can choose their channel based on what is most convenient and efficient for them,” says Scott Hays, senior director of product marketing at KANA.

The goal of having customer information that is complete, consistent and contextual is not easily achieved. “A customer who calls in about his or her mobile phone wants the agent to be aware of the model, when the phone was purchased and whether problems have arisen with it before,” Hays explains. “This requires integration of numerous information sources and instantaneous presentation of that data to the agent.”

One particular challenge in the industry was the addition of social media, which in general was being monitored by marketing departments rather than by customer service. “Customer service should be aware, however, if the individual has complained in a social media environment, so that their concerns can be addressed either in a public or private context,” Hays says.

The biggest hazards in customer service are having separate systems that are too channel-centric, and lacking a knowledgebase that can be a single source of information, according to Hays. “KANA’s unified desktop for agents addresses both of these issues,” he adds.

Multichannel engagement

Multichannel capability is allowing integration of different modes of communication and is also facilitating better synchronization across functions. “Sometimes a customer has a question that involves both sales and service,” says Anand Subramaniam, VP of global marketing at eGain. “Customers can use our platform for multiple purposes.” eGain’s solutions include software to support e-mail, chat, social and other channels; knowledgebases used by customers and agents; and analytical tools. From eGain Mobile, customers can move across channels from their smart phones to a contact center, the Web and social media.

“Today’s users are born multichannel,” Subramaniam says, “and they demand a smooth, positive experience.” eGain’s co-browsing tool allows customers to be on the phone with an agent who assists them in filling out a form. “When consumers are assisted in filling out online forms by an agent who is co-browsing, the completion rate goes from 25 percent to 75 percent,” he says. Complex healthcare forms can be designed so that only the customer can complete certain fields, or so that confidential information can only be seen by the customer and not the agent.

One of the products in eGain’s line is eGain Offers. “The offer might be a discount, some information or a chat with an agent,” explains Subramaniam. “It is triggered by rules that could relate to the customer’s time on a Web page, the value of merchandise in the shopping cart, or some other measure or action.” Considerable thought is required to devise the right incentive for those proactive steps. “The customer might not want to chat as soon as he or she gets to a Web page, for example,” Subramaniam points out.

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