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Serena Software Collaborates with Customers
and Transforms its Service Model with InQuira

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Focus on Inquira [September 2008]

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Since its founding, Serena’s primary customers have been enterprise IT users; this is rapidly changing with the recent introduction of mashup tools targeted at individual business users. The shift put the company into exciting new territory, but has also prompted us to rethink our customer service model. We anticipate exponential growth in our user community, and as the business user has different needs, an increasing reliance on online support.

These new customers are tech-savvy and fully entrenched in the Web 2.0 world. They are accustomed to a certain caliber of online tools and support, expecting to point, click and solve problems in seconds. As part of our transformation, we reached out to our new customers to understand their needs, and then collaborated with them to determine what to adjust in our customer service model. We realized early on that we needed to involve our customers in any redesign of the online support experience. In the past, customers had little recourse for poor service, but with the proliferation of social media, you can no longer assume that unhappy clients will remain silent. In fact, not delivering on the promise of great service can pose significant risks to any enterprise.

We employed several tactics to engage our customers and ensure their needs were addressed in any changes we implemented:

  • We conducted online surveys and specifically targeted those customers who had shouted loudest in the past—they often provided the most detailed responses;
  • We recruited our entire global support team to engage customers on their support experiences—and did so on a regular basis;
  • We greatly expanded the number of in-person meetings with customers, finding that such meetings fostered stronger
    customer relationships and dramatically improved the quality and quantity of feedback we sought on the redesign; and
  • We deployed technical staff to speak with customers, finding they were often the best resources to solicit product feedback. Sending technical staff for "voice of customer" exercises helps overcome customer cynicism, and facilitates better knowledge transfer. There is some information that only a techie can deliver—sending marketing and account management staff would send the wrong signal, and would likely yield far less valuable insights.

Our first round of customer research identified the big themes to tackle with our initiative. We learned that we had some problems with our knowledgebase and online support experience. We also examined the survey responses to prioritize our users’ issues, and tried to align our efforts with those needs. We operated under the assumption that business users will have more basic support needs; if we could make it easy for them to get their answers online, we’ll free up our service reps to handle the more complex issues for which they were trained—and likely increase customer satisfaction as well.

In our case, much attention went into the Web self-service experience—improving not only the documentation available, but also the way in which users access that information. Many companies make the mistake of focusing on one or the other; however, your information is only as good as the tools you have to access it, and vice versa. We have exceptionally well-trained service reps, but we needed a system that made it easier for them to update our knowledgebase, and one that provided a more intuitive search experience that would mimic live interactions. We used an integrated knowledge management and intelligent search platform from InQuira that allowed us to do both.

We also focused on meeting a business user’s needs that could be easily solved online—billing questions, patches, set-up questions, etc. Our efforts didn’t stop at the Web support—if you can’t solve your issues online, individuals want quick and easy access to a real person, just as they would with a consumer product.

We’ve made a lot of changes in our system, and the results to date have been very encouraging. In the three months since we implemented InQuira, the volume of calls has dropped by more than 30%—even though we introduced a new product that was expected to greatly increase call volumes. On the Web, we are seeing a 90%+ success rate in delivering customers the information they need on their first query, with an average response time of just three seconds.

We recognize that customer collaboration doesn’t end with this implementation. We track the success rate of our knowledgebase and constantly elicit user feedback to ensure we evolve with the changing needs of our customers. We view our customer service transformation as a journey, not a destination, and are committed for the entire ride.  

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