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November 1999

Marc.GIF (9866 bytes) Shore Up Web Self-Service Solutions For Ultimate CRM


Live text chat, Web callback and Web call through are all hot customer relationship management (CRM) technologies right now. Add this functionality to your Web site and your customers can simply click to connect to your call center. You're making it easier than ever for customers to interact with your company, and that's great for customer relations. But before you simplify your customers' ability to make high-cost contact with your agents, shore up your self-service solutions. Web self-service is your frontline for solving customer problems and answering queries before that contact is escalated to a live agent.

Why Self-Service; Why Now?
As more of your customers move online to gather information and shop, you’ll need to provide media-appropriate support.

AMR Research, Inc. released a report entitled Customer Relationship Software Report, 1998-2003. The report notes that “The convergence of two trends, the move to e-commerce and the consolidation of all customer interactions into a contact center, with its self-sales and self-service functionality and advanced call center technology, will quickly become the dominant market segment in the CRM space.” AMR is right on the money — so take advantage of this burgeoning market and put a self-service solution to work for you.

As a starting point, I’ve highlighted three companies that offer Web self-service solutions to give you an idea of what’s available on the market. Of course, many other companies offer products in this market segment and you can find them in the C@LL CENTER Solutions™ online Buyer’s Guide.

IBM’s Turnkey Solution
As you might guess, IBM can offer you a turnkey online CRM solution. The company’s aptly named Web Self-Service solution comprises products from the WebSphere line, among others. To start, IBM suggests the following: The WebSphere Studio lets you develop Web applications quickly and easily, using the systems you already have in place. The WebSphere Application Server is a Java servlet-based Web application server that helps you deploy and manage your Web apps, regardless of their magnitude. IBM’s Domino Application Server facilitates the rapid delivery of collaborative Web apps that integrate your enterprise systems with business processes to improve your CRM. Finally, IBM’s DB2 Universal Database, a Web-enabled, object relational database, will provide a foundation for storing and managing critical information for your Web self-service applications.

WebAdvisor Gets Customers Where They Need To Go
IBM’s Web Self-Service solution is an example of a comprehensive Web self-service solution. If you’re looking for something less intimidating, without sacrificing critical functionality, consider ServiceSoft’s WebAdvisor. WebAdvisor is just one module of the company’s eCenter customer service solution.

WebAdvisor aims to recreate the experience of working with an expert agent. Using a series of context-sensitive questions and clarifications, the software guides customers to information they need to answer their own questions. WebAdvisor also works on the agent side, where it can walk agents through problem resolution for a customer query.

Blaze Takes CRM A Step Further
Blaze Software, formerly Neuron Data, is a company you’ll be hearing more about in the future. Blaze’s flagship product Blaze Advisor is positioned to become an attractive option in e-commerce Web self-service. Blaze looks at e-commerce self-service holistically — its product deals with the entire shopping process, not just the part when a customer seeks support. For example, Blaze Advisor (dubbed a “personalization engine” by the company) will allow you to customize your e-commerce service from step one. When a repeat customer hits your site, for example, Blaze can help you alert that customer that an item they’ve purchased before is now on sale. Blaze is replicating the way a good agent can steer customers to a purchase based on their history with the company.

Preference For Self-Service
Still doubting whether a self-service solution is a good fit for you? Think of all the times you choose self-service options in your daily routine: Pumping your own gas and paying with a charge card at the pump is just one example. We often elect to help ourselves before we ask for assistance, and that’s the ability you give your customers when you implement Web self-service solutions. Once this type of solution is in place, you’ll spend less money on support and your customers will be happier. That’s truly ultimate CRM.

The author may be contacted at dbloom@tmcnet.com.

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