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Creating a cohesive customer experience

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The customer experience encompasses a wide range of activities, from the moment of an initial search for a product or service to marketing, sales and follow-up care. A diverse range of technologies supports customer experience management for each of those phases.

“The most common categories of technology that can help improve the customer experience tend to be in analytics, content management, voice of the customer, cross-channel, user experience, loyalty, self-service, social and personalization,” says Ed Thompson, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Many vendors in those categories now claim to be customer experience vendors.”

Some vendors do so without a specific statement of what part of the customer experience they support, which causes confusion among would-be buyers. Companies that want to manage the customer experience end to end must stitch together multiple solutions, although some software products cover more than one aspect, such as collecting and analyzing customer feedback and then automating the delivery of marketing content. Other products focus on a single aspect of the customer experience, such as customer support.

Multi-Systems Inc. (MSI) provides property management systems for the hospitality industry, which include front desk support, accounting, maintenance, and inventory, among other functions. The company was one of the first to provide a Windows product for hotel property management and now offers the cloud-based property management product CloudPM. MSI had outgrown the legacy ticketing system it was using for customer support, and needed a product that would offer more features.

MSI narrowed its options to a leading candidate but then realized that vendor lacked a critical element, which was the ability to associate a ticketing issue with a particular hotel. Some last-minute research by Scott Little, VP of operations at MSI, led to the selection of TeamSupport, which provides software B2B customer support. A SaaS product, TeamSupport was easy to implement. “We converted 2,000 of our customers to TeamSupport in three weeks,” says Little, “and are continuing the process with the remaining customers.”

MSI’s customers now have multiple avenues to reach customer support in addition to calling MSI’s customer support center. The help button in the property management system leads to an MSI webpage that has TeamSupport integrated into it. From there, customers can initiate a live, online chat with a technician; send an e-mail to the support department, which automatically creates a ticket; or access the knowledgebase in TeamSupport. In addition, they can go onto the TeamSupport portal and create their own ticket with a description of the issue.

“A typical issue might be that a guest was charged the wrong rate,” explains Little, “and the employee tried to make an adjustment for the guest but it still is not correct.” A support technician from MSI can provide a link to an article in the online knowledgebase article explaining how to correct room rates, eliminating a possible lengthy conversation.

If the employee needs additional support, the technician can access the property management system directly and correct the issue. “We want to evolve to the point of providing 90 percent of our customer support via chat and e-mail,” says Little. The TeamSupport system now has numerous videos created to help users of MSI’s CloudPM access the information they need to solve the problem on their own.

Indexing distress

An interesting feature of TeamSupport’s software is a Customer Distress Index that shows a composite score for potential customer distress based on five factors, including the number of tickets created and the average time a ticket is open. That score, displayed in a pie chart, provides an early warning of customers who are likely experiencing a high rate of frustration. MSI plans to expand the use of that feature so it is a part of the daily routine for monitoring customer issues. In addition, it plans to expand its use of analytics to be able to do such things as better identify the top producing support people or those customers who might benefit from additional training.

“We are very pleased with TeamSupport,” says Little, “and we plan to continue our integration with the product to include survey, reporting and other features as well as automation capabilities for functions that are currently performed manually. We think we have only scratched the surface of what the product can do for us.”

TeamSupport focuses on B2B support. “This market is fundamentally different from the B2C customer support market,” says Robert Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport. “The volume is lower but the complexity is higher for B2B products.” The features in TeamSupport allow a high level of service. “A customer can record a problem on their screen and show it to their customer support agent, clicking on the screen to show them where the problem is, and can record their narration,” Johnson adds.

Although the software is designed for post-sales support, more companies are offering free trials so in some cases customer support might include pre-sales. “We have to integrate with both sales and marketing software,” Johnson says. “We integrate with Salesforce and HubSpot, for example.”

The software also provides numerous methods for obtaining customer feedback, “Metrics are a huge part of TeamSupport,” Johnson explains. “We have reporting modules with text, summary and graphics, as well as integrated customer feedback through transactional surveys.” Comments from customers can be put in a virtual “water cooler” area that serves as part of the collaboration environment to keep people throughout the company up to speed on customer satisfaction.

Interpreting customer behavior

The behavior of customers is easy to measure: How long were they on a page? How frequently did they jump from page to page? But the behavior can be difficult to interpret. Were they on the page a long time because they were interested or because they could not find what they needed? ClickTale offers a set of applications designed to optimize online customer experience and has set up a service that goes beyond the analytics offered by its core product to understand behavior at a deeper level.

ClickTale’s core product, which is also called ClickTale, provides analytics such as session playbacks, heat maps, conversion funnels and form analytics. Companies that use ClickTale can identify which parts of a form might be causing their visitors problems or what pages are causing users to abandon the site, which is helpful feedback.

The additional service provides a Web psychologist team, beyond the customer experience consultants, to conduct further analysis. “Using information from the analytics, we try to understand a visitor’s motivations and decision-making process,” says Liraz Margalit, Web psychologist at ClickTale. “We can then develop a profile for this visitor, from which we can predict behavior and optimize the response.” The profile is developed from patterns of behavior within and among Web pages.

The analysis of the behavior pattern could indicate that a visitor might be brand-oriented, in which case price is not the main concern; for that visitor, products should be sorted by brand rather than by price. Some are goal-oriented and have already made up their minds about what to buy. “This group does not need suggestions,” says Margalit. “They want to be left alone to make their purchase.” Some are browsers. “This group likes to sit back, take off their shoes and say to the computer, ‘Please entertain me,’ and they go from Amazon to an article to ratings,” she explains.

The value in making accurate categorizations is that the merchant can then know the best approach for each customer, once the profile is identified. “For example, for the ‘wish-lister’ who puts everything in the cart but does not buy, the best approach is to offer a discount to catalyze a response,” Margalit says.

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