Archive for September 2007

Use Web Self-Service or ELSE: Walmart.com Customer Service Line Goes Unlisted

September 30, 2007

When the tech industry took a dive in 2001 and companies began making huge cuts to their service operations, I was quoted in a press interview calling this “the death of the service industry.”  The line was picked up by a wire service, and complaints starting rolling in from companies saying I was far too harsh.  I stand by my assessment, and in retrospect, the amazing advancements we are seeing today in customer support, such as more highly personalized and differentiated service, more intelligent approaches to outsourcing (involving partnering—not cutting a check and forgetting about it), and the birth of the entire ‘customer experience’ concept, are the end result of these dark days of service.  When service organizations lost their clout and their budgets, and service levels began tanking, companies soon found out what a huge impact the service organization had on customer satisfaction and loyalty. I’m sorry it took such dire conditions to bring about this realization—which some of us in the industry have been spouting about for years—but thank God it happened.

The death of service starts inside a company with a shift from viewing customers as the lifeblood of the company to treating them as an inconvenient and expensive interruption.  When a news item crossed my desk this week, I felt I was living 2001 all over again.  Here’s the deal:  According to the New York Times, Walmart.com has decided to stop offering phone support, saying their online self-service tools are so great that phone assistance is no longer necessary.  There are holes in this argument big enough to drive a NAFTA truck full of cheap goods through, including:

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Preview Briefing: Numara FootPrints 8

September 26, 2007

I had an update call with Numara Software today as they gear up for the launch of Numara FootPrints 8, and saw a sneak preview of the new version that’s planned for release at the end of this month.  Numara FootPrints is a 100% Web based solution for IT service desks and customer support, encompassing incident, problem and change management.  It sounds like the marriage of Numara Software and UniPress Software is off to a great start, with dramatic increases to revenue and average selling price, as well as continued traction with new customers, with the total number of live customer sites for the combined company topping 50,000.

The first thing you notice with Numara FootPrints 8 is the completely redesigned user interface (UI).  This project has been in the works for quite a while, and there are some very sophisticated UI elements in 8.0.  Here are some highlights of the release:

Member and Partner FAQs on Web Chat

September 24, 2007

I had a partner inquiry about Web chat today, and thought that my reply may be useful to others interested in the adoption of Web chat by consumers and technology companies.  So here is an edited version for your perusal.

Which industries use chat? 

Based on survey data, Web Chat is not the first channel people of any age group think of when considering support options. That, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t popular. I think chat usage is more situational: when you are already online and struggling to find an answer to a question, or have questions on a product when considering a purchase, the immediacy of chat is very appealing. 

The mass majority of chat usage is in a sales situation, not support. Or, as I pointed out in some research I published at Forrester, the customer lifecycle in the consumer eCommerce world is not “Marketing>Sales>Service,” it is “Marketing>Service>Sales,” with service providing assistance to close the deal. Any industry with large eCommerce implementations were early adopters in chat. The big chat users are: (more…)

Live from Dreamforce 2007

September 18, 2007

I’m in San Francisco for Salesforce.com’s 5th annual user conference, Dreamforce.  This is a huge event:  over 7,000 attendees from 42 countries, and 200+ breakout sessions, held in the behemoth Moscone Center.

Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff opened the event with his usual 2 hour keynote, filled with product announcements and cameos from some big-name customers.  Mark spent time making sure SF.com is no longer dismissed as a mid-market only vendor, highlighting a few big companies with large SF.com implementations:  Cisco (40,000 named users), Dell (40,000 named users), and Japan Post (45,000 named users).

Benioff made 2 big announcements, one a branding change and one a new product.  (more…)

SupportSpace Harnesses Community Experts for 3rd Party Tech Support

September 12, 2007

I had a fun update call with SupportSpace yesterday, and I am more convinced than ever that this is truly the future for consumer support:  neutral third parties.  SupportSpace, which offers tech support services for PCs and peripherals for consumers, just had their soft launch with 40 expert agents, and have logged over 1500 support sessions so far. 

Here’s how it works. The SupportSpace website shows you their list of experts, including pictures, bios, areas of expertise, and member ratings.  You can pick an expert to help with your problem and connect with them immediately using chat, phone and remote control. Alternately, you can select from a list of services, such as PC tuneups, printer connections or a Vista tutorial, then select one of the available experts certified for that service.  The service currently is free, but after the official go live later this year, expect to pay somewhere in the ballpark of $40 for each solved problem. (more…)

Preview: Fall SSPA Recognized Innovator Awards

September 7, 2007

Several SSPA members and partners have emailed asking for updates on the upcoming Recognized Innovator Awards, and asking about the categories.  The Recognized Innovator Awards program is my favorite job function, and with our Fall Leadership Conference just 2 weeks away, I will take this opportunity to give a preview of the awards.

My tagline for the awards program is “Business as usual won’t cut it anymore.”  To provide really exceptional customer service, companies have to constantly evolve, and be early adopters of new technology that can improve the customer experience.  Innovation can be risky:  after the tech crash it became much harder for software vendors to receive funding for doing things differently.  And enterprises lost their appetite for risk as well, with many companies deciding to become more conservative toward adopting new technology.

For the companies that take that risk, and produce innovative products and services that set a new standard for the industry, these awards are for you.  The SSPA presents Recognized Innovator Awards twice a year to technology vendors and service providers.  The categories for the awards change each time, and winners are selected by a panel of judges composed of SSPA members and industry insiders.  (If you are interested in being a judge for a future round, please email me!)

For the Fall 2007 awards, the categories are: (more…)