Customer Interaction White Paper by lonyoo


          WHITE PAPER

Overview                                                                    $25,000

The “anytime, anywhere” dynamic that the                                    $20,000

                                                         ($ in millions)
Internet has brought to commerce has
changed the traditional rules of both
commercial and consumer businesses.                                             $-
Companies can no longer compete based                                                 1996        1997           1998        1999      2000         2001
only on price, geography or a special                                      Travel            On-line brokerage     Computer Hardware   Computer Software
distribution arrangement. With competitors                                 Books             Gifts/Flowers         Apparel             Food/Drink
                                                                           Music             Automobile
only a click away, e-commerce sites need to
provide customers with a quality site                  Figure 1: The tremendous e-tailing growth rate will
experience that reinforces the sales cycle             demand new standards in online customer
and keeps customers coming back.                       relationships. (Source: Industry reports and BancBoston
                                                       Robertson Stephens)
A primary factor in both the qualitative and
quantitative success of an online business is          Each e-commerce site has its own interface, its
the capability to manage the complete                  own shopping model, a unique way of presenting
spectrum of customer interactions that form            product information and often its own payment
the customer relationship – from online                process. Many e-commerce sites also interact with
product assistance and customer queries to             customers that have a wide range of expertise and
real-time chat and cross-selling, and to have          comfort with the Internet.
a complete view of the customer’s
interaction history that spans all of these            For many customers, the unique nature of each
media.                                                 site can generate confusion or the need to get
                                                       more information to complete a transaction.
This document examines the customer                    Successfully interacting with these online
interaction issues that e-commerce sites               customers is fundamental to sustaining a
face, the methods that companies currently             profitable online business.
use to interact with customers and finally,
Continuity’s PinPoint suite of software               On the Internet, customers expect rapid response
applications for building loyal customers              to their needs. Unfortunately, the responsiveness
through effective customer interaction.                of most e-commerce companies to their customers
                                                       is mediocre to poor. A 1999 survey by Jupiter
Customer Interaction & E-Commerce                      Communications found that 42 percent of the top
                                                       web sites do not respond to Internet customer
The rapid pace of e-commerce has motivated             queries within five days.
businesses to quickly convert their first-generation
Web storefronts into comprehensive commerce            The cost of not responding to customer inquiries is
sites that allow customers to make purchase            substantial. According to Forrester Research, 66
decisions and perform transactions with a few          percent of Web shopping carts are abandoned
simple mouse clicks. This headlong rush toward         before purchases are completed. The number of
expanded functionality causes today’s dot.coms         abandoned carts is rising steadily as more web
many customer interaction challenges.                  users take the e-commerce plunge.           As a
                                                       comparison, few people abandon a shopping cart in
For companies to forge strong customer bonds, a        the aisle of a traditional brick-and-mortar
complete e-commerce presence is no longer an           storefront.
option but a necessity. Growing numbers of
consumers are turning to their computers for
purchasing and financial transactions. According
to analyst estimates, e-tailing revenues will
continue to expand exponentially through 2001 to
more than $20 billion (see Figure 1).
Continuity White Paper                          -2-                                                      
What are the reasons behind such high                 must differentiate themselves in order to remain
abandonment rates? Among other things it is the       competitive.
inability of customers to ask simple questions such
as “Is my item in stock?” or “Can I return this?”     Sites with the strongest, most personalized
without leaving the transaction page to view FAQ’s    customer interactions are gaining the highest
or send an email. Without a simple, instant way to    customer retention. It’s basic human nature.
contact the company or ask a quick question of a      People value a positive purchasing experience and
sales agent, many e-customers simply choose to        they will remain loyal to a business, virtual or
click away to a site that does answer your            otherwise, that takes the time to “know” them. In
questions.                                            fact, customers will often pay a premium for a
                                                      purchasing experience that leaves them satisfied.
Businesses should be able to leverage the
Internet’s power to enhance and expand customer       Quality of service can make or break an online
relationships. E-commerce sites should also be        company. Consumers have long memories, and
able to turn a profit on customers who because of     with a single posting, irate Web customers can tell
costly “hand-holding” support were once               their tales of woe to an audience of thousands or
unprofitable. Techniques such as personalization      millions. Further, legions of new, inexperienced
and one-to-one marketing are powerful                 users are logging on, bringing with them more
methodologies for accomplishing these goals.          questions - and higher expectations of timely and
Customer information stored in datamarts              relevant customer service.
provides a rich, detailed history of customer
interests, preferences and purchasing history.        This makes superior service a competitive weapon
                                                      in today’s Web environment. In a 1999 survey of
Savvy companies understand that increasing the        online merchants conducted by Forrester
level of customer intimacy sets new customer          Research, merchants cited “great customer
expectations about their ongoing relationship and     service”      and      “personalized       content
interaction with a site. The question for e-          communications” as the two leading factors in
commerce sites is how to better match their sales     creating customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
and service resources with the technology that is
available to them.                                    Online businesses interacting directly with
                                                      customers now fall back on traditional methods of
Customers relying on e-commerce for flexibility       communications, such as phone, fax and email.
and convenience expect seamless service               Even with the first generation of web-based self-
throughout the process - from filling their online    service systems, customers would find themselves
shopping cart to post-purchase customer               buried under pages of FAQs, or end up navigating
interactions.                                         a maze of “self-help” decision trees. At best, these
                                                      methods require customers to leave the web page
E-commerce sites also must provide a level of         where they are shopping or in the midst of a
responsiveness and interaction that meets or          transaction. More commonly, customers simply
exceeds customer expectations. They need to           abandon their visit and click to another web site.
engender customer loyalty and do so without           Ultimately, the only real customer is a satisfied
sacrificing profitability.                            customer - the rest are going to take their business
Web users now face a broad choice of competitive
e-commerce sites, many jostling for primacy in
identical product spaces. Faced with multiple
purchasing options, customers are becoming
choosy about which websites they will patronize.
Companies can no longer afford to assume that
their product will sell on price alone since
competitors are just a click away. Companies
Continuity White Paper                        -3-                        
Attrition is also a threat for any company,
especially an online one. Discussing online             Scrolling through reams of email inquiries to
brokerages, John Robb writes in GomezWire that          prioritize requests is also inefficient, and will only
“an inability to scale systems and customer             grow more so given that an estimated 35 percent
service is the industry’s number one problem.” He       of customer contact will come through
cites record trading volume (more virtual               nontraditional, i.e. electronic, means by the year
customers posting more transactions), less-             2000, according to Meta Group. Add up these
experienced users (whose inexperience has led to        calls and emails as more people log on and
a “huge surge in customer service calls”), and          interact with the site, and an online company is
increasingly complex site technology that makes         facing a huge expenditure just to keep up with its
navigation more difficult (again, generating more       growing user population.
inquiries to customer service agents).
                                                        Email Customer Interaction
Amidst the current chaos of customer assistance
                                                        Much of today’s online customer interaction is
and online e-commerce support is a tremendous
                                                        performed through email. Although email is
opportunity to reduce costs, improve customer
                                                        ubiquitous, it has four notable limitations when it
service and gain a competitive advantage.
                                                        comes to service.
According to Forrester Research, shifting services
to the Web allows companies to handle up to one-
                                                        First, email is not immediate, which leaves the
third more customer queries at less than 50
                                                        customer to fend for himself while waiting for
percent of the cost of traditional service processes.
                                                        assistance, never knowing when, if ever to expect
                                                        a response. Secondly, email queries arrive at the
Online businesses need a comprehensive solution
                                                        service agent’s inbox without the context of the
that keeps customers engaged on the web page
                                                        web experience associated with the customer’s
while providing the right information at the right
                                                        inquiry. A customer may check his grocery order
time with the most appropriate method of
                                                        and discover that none of the beverages he
customer interaction – from real time chat and
                                                        ordered are included on his shipping list. Sending
screen-sharing to other interaction options such as
                                                        an email that says, “Are my beverages coming in
self-service, automatic response and email.
                                                        the same delivery?” provides no context for the
                                                        service agent to efficiently resolve the inquiry.
Service Burden of E-Commerce
The promise of a “friction-free” online economy         Without the proper context, a customer service
has been slowed by the service burden that has          agent receiving this message is left to solve a
accompanied e-commerce. Flooded with customer           mystery: what’s the customer account name?
emails and phone calls, service agents find they        Which order is he referring to? What are the
have no way to prioritize, route, and answer            contents of the beverage order? When did he look
questions in a timely fashion. Swamped by               at the page?
inquires, agents are simply treading water to keep
up with demand; there’s hardly time or                  This lack of context is an obstacle to effective and
opportunity to thoroughly understand and work to        timely customer service Agents must spend
improve customer satisfaction when the phone is         valuable time trying to investigate the particulars
ringing and the email box is overflowing.               of an email inquiry. Then, when a customer
                                                        receives an email response, the answer itself may
Agents also spend valuable time answering               be confusing since it too is out-of-context.
routine queries that could ideally be answered by
customers themselves if there was better self-          Third, email is not secure. According to computer
service immediately on the web page where the           security expert Peter Shipley, “email sent over the
query occurs. An estimated 50 to 75 percent of          Internet should be treated as if it were a postcard”
calls to service centers regard problems that have      - potentially available to third-party eyes. Clearly,
been handled before.

Continuity White Paper                           -4-                        
this is not the ideal format for transmitting         PinPoint is an automated system that provides
information about e-commerce transactions.            personalized customer service and targeted
                                                      information on the web at the point of inquiry. It
Since email is insecure, many websites simply ask     is the only comprehensive solution for providing
customers to call the company when secure             excellent customer assistance because it includes
information needs to be discussed. This forces        the full spectrum of service options, from real-
customers to leave the website in order to make       time chat and screen sharing to other customer
the phone call. The shift to a phone-based            interaction methods such as self-service, auto
resolution undermines a potential sale and greatly    response or email queries. (see Figure 2)
diminishes the convenience of web information
and communication.

Fourth and finally, email is inefficient to handle
all levels of inquiries given the sheer volume of                                               Chat
customer inquiries. Email’s best role is for that      C
portion of total inquiries that are not time-          O                             Web     Telephony
                                                       S                            Agent
sensitive or do not require contextual information.    T
Most e-commerce service agents face an                          Self
overflowing in-box that forces them to scroll                  Service

through the queries simply to organize them.                 CUSTOMER INTERACTION COMPLEXITY
Questions from preferred customers require
immediate attention, but how does the agent know      Figure 2: PinPoint uses a smoothly escalating
if any given customer is a preferred customer or      service ladder to apply the most efficient customer
not? Which questions need to be re-routed to a        interaction methodology to each customer inquiry.
more qualified agent? Multiply the time an agent
spends prioritizing each email by the growing         PinPoint’s patent-pending system also tracks
volume of online customer inquiries and very          every aspect of each customer contact, from a
quickly one can see a company’s support costs         customer’s first interaction with the web site all
beginning to undermine profit.                        the way to a telephone call. In addition to
                                                      streamlining the actual chain of customer contact,
If e-commerce sites are going to be successful at     PinPoint also captures the knowledge gleaned
grabbing market share and moving the balance          from each interaction and funnels it back to the
sheet from red to black, they will need to turn the   company, enabling managers to produce
service burden into a sales advantage. What’s         customized, targeted reports for continuous
needed is a comprehensive system that efficiently     improvement of the site. The PinPoint system
manages customer interaction and assistance on        works in a user-friendly, intuitive way that
the web page where the customer needs it.             guarantees a mutually beneficial customer-to-
                                                      company relationship long after the transaction
Revolutionizing Customer Interaction                  has taken place.
Given the growing e-customer base, how can
companies anticipate customer needs, respond to
inquiries thoroughly, and learn from each
customer interaction? Thus far, the gap between
superior customer relationships and higher service
costs has not been bridged. Continuity’s PinPoint
customer interaction solution addresses these

Continuity White Paper                         -5-                        
Beyond Email: Seamless Web-based Self-Service
                                                          Automatic Online Assistance
PinPoint solves today’s customer service dilemma
by delivering a new means of information                  Beyond the first level of personalized self-service
delivery and interaction on company websites.             balloon help, customers needing further assistance
When a customer seeks assistance, s/he is offered         can also type a question into an “electronic sticky
intuitive, interactive assistance in the form of          note.” This sticky note is placed directly onto the
patent-pending “balloons” that pop up right on the        Web page. Both a copy of the visited page and the
web page (Figure 3).                                      question are then forwarded to the service center.
                                                          The customer remains on the original web page.

                                                          Before an agent is ever engaged, the PinPoint
                                                          system logs and stores the query in a database,
                                                          acknowledges to the customer that the query was
                                                          received, and informs the customer as to when an
                                                          answer will arrive.

                                                          Through the response handling process, the query
                                                          is fed to an automated assistance engine, which
                                                          searches for relevant help information and
                                                          delivers them to the customer immediately, along
                                                          with confirmation that the query has been
                                                          received. If the customer finds the information
                                                          they were seeking, the query is automatically
                                                          deleted from the agent’s queue, thus saving
                                                          support costs.
Figure 3: PinPoint “balloons” pop up from objects
right on the web page, and are personalized,
                                                          PinPoint allows e-commerce sites to customize
targeted, and contextual.
                                                          their response times according to specific
                                                          priorities. For example, a preferred customer may
These balloons are linked to individual web-page
                                                          be given a 5-minute response time with an
items such as a table cell containing the number of
                                                          occasional visitor getting a 40-minute service
shares of stock, a transaction that affected an
individual’s balance, or a picture from a product
catalog page. Balloons may contain personalized
                                                          E-commerce sites can also dictate response times
help information, including product specific
                                                          by question or customer type, enabling the
information and one-to-one marketing offers.
                                                          company to manage customer expectations. For
                                                          example, a company might route sales inquiries to
Because PinPoint uses information on a
                                                          the sales group, to be answered within 30 minutes,
customer’s identity (name, account number, etc.),
                                                          whereas credit card rejections might flow to the
context (where are they on the web page?), and
                                                          customer service group, to be answered within
history (what did they ask us before? what did
                                                          two hours.
they buy?), companies can create personalized
assistance for each customer.
                                                          Agent-based Assistance
For example, a customer may ask about car loan            Because PinPoint is a comprehensive customer
rates during his first three visits to the site; on his   interaction solution, e-commerce sites can
fourth visit, a balloon might pop up with an offer        implement a variety of agent-based assistance
for information on auto insurance. A customer             options, including “sticky notes,” real-time chat
inquiring about a credit card account balance             and live screen sharing.
might see information on a special rewards
program for travel-related purchases.
Continuity White Paper                             -6-                      
When a customer requires live agent contact, the      through self-help “balloons” and an additional 35
“sticky-note,” in combination with a snapshot of      percent by web-based inquiries.
the Web page, is forwarded to an agent. Because
PinPoint keeps track of all customer contacts, the    Continuous Improvement Loop
agent has immediate access to a comprehensive
                                                      Ultimately, however, delivering highly responsive
record of past interactions with the company.
                                                      customer care is only half the circle. Customers
                                                      may enjoy their online experience, but site service
Unlike undifferentiated emails, each “sticky-note”
                                                      will ultimately be hit or miss unless companies
is prioritized based on customer profile, web
                                                      collect and make use of customer feedback - not
interaction, or type of question. It is then routed
                                                      only opinions (“I liked the site”), but hard
to a qualified agent, who responds by typing a
                                                      numbers that lay out exactly what worked for
responding “sticky-note” also attached to the web
                                                      customers and what did not. Companies using
page. PinPoint sends the note to the customer’s
                                                      PinPoint have a competitive edge because they
personalized response center where a customer
                                                      receive ongoing qualitative and quantitative
can view all of their interactions with the
                                                      feedback on every aspect of their customer
Customers can also be notified of the response via
                                                      Targeted Reports: Resolving Customer Issues
multiple communication channels. The agent can
send the customer an email containing a text-only     One of the biggest challenges facing customer
summary of the question and answer; an email          service managers is not only how to improve their
providing a URL hyperlink to the secured answer,      service levels, but also how to offer more
conduct a phone call or initiate a screen-sharing     effective support at lower costs. PinPoint offers a
session synchronized with a chat session or           complete set of reporting tools to quickly identify
telephone conversation.                               problematic sections of a website and operational
                                                      inefficiencies, and guide managers towards taking
Browser-Sharing with Phone Assistance                 corrective action.
If an agent or customer wishes to escalate the
                                                      A unique feature of PinPoint is its ability to
inquiry, PinPoint provides a mechanism to solve
                                                      highlight the root cause of site problems quickly,
customer inquiries via the telephone. Since all
                                                      enabling managers to update online customer
interaction is recorded in the PinPoint system, the
                                                      service and marketing content on a daily basis.
agent has the full context of the inquiry through
the customer's marked-up web page. During the
                                                      For customer service managers, PinPoint provides
call, an agent can point the customer to the
                                                      a complete set of agent and queue statistics. Just
answer, walk him through the problem verbally,
                                                      as call center managers receive performance
or set up a real-time screen-sharing session.
                                                      metrics, PinPoint furnishes data including average
                                                      agent response times, queue hold times, longest
From self-service, auto response and email to real-
                                                      wait times and other pertinent data.
time chat and screen sharing, PinPoint provides
the only comprehensive customer interaction
                                                      Real-time tools built into PinPoint allow the
solution. More important to the customer, it
                                                      customer service manager to see how their entire
provides an easy, natural system for getting
                                                      web-interaction center is performing. When a
assistance and providing that assistance with
                                                      manager sees wait times increasing, individual
contextual information.
                                                      inquiries can be reassigned to queues with shorter
                                                      wait times by simply clicking on the inquiry and
Continuity estimates that implementing PinPoint
                                                      dragging it to another queue.
will reduce the number of telephone inquiries
generated by Internet visitors by as much as 60-80
                                                      Central to PinPoint’s reporting innovations is its
percent. Approximately 35 percent of inquiries
                                                      ability to produce finely detailed reports for every
can be answered by online customer assistance
                                                      web page item and article read by online
Continuity White Paper                         -7-                       
customers. Since PinPoint records every object          Competitive Advantage for E-Commerce Sites
that is clicked -- such as the cell of a table
                                                        Any e-commerce company that wants to establish
showing      clothing    sizes  and    customer
                                                        a sustainable competitive advantage will benefit
measurements -- managers can identify which
                                                        from      PinPoint’s   revolutionary     customer
objects on the web site cause customer inquiries,
                                                        interaction solution. Traditional service models
and further, which customers are satisfied with
                                                        are breaking down in the face of a growing online
self-service versus customers who require agent-
                                                        customer base with increasingly discriminating
based service.
The value of this for web sites is the ability for a
                                                        PinPoint has the ability to record and develop a
company to “pinpoint” exactly where their
                                                        complete view of the customer, then tailor an
customer assistance options are breaking down -
                                                        entire customer contact solution around them
and allocate time to improving that part of the
                                                        laying the groundwork for personalized, context-
web site, instead of casting about for generalized
                                                        rich interactions.
solutions to ill-defined customer service problems.
                                                        PinPoint is the first comprehensive customer
For marketing managers, PinPoint also examines
                                                        interaction solution that builds an efficient
the effectiveness of targeted marketing incentives
                                                        continuous feedback loop between customer and
as well as customer satisfaction. PinPoint presents
                                                        company, offering superior service, lower support
personalized marketing messages to targeted
                                                        costs, and higher sales. By increasing valuable
customer segments, then tracks acceptance rates.
                                                        online content, online customers will gain
A daily or weekly report will quickly illustrate the
                                                        confidence that their needs will be met in a timely
campaign’s effectiveness, then allow the manager
                                                        and accurate manner. This is the foundation for
to further refine the message or re-target particular
                                                        the e-commerce experience of the future.
customer categories.

A Comprehensive Suite Solution
Just as companies using PinPoint can tailor their
customer service, they can also choose the
particular PinPoint applications that meet their
immediate needs. By implementing just one of the
PinPoint applications, companies can solve the
customer service paint they are now facing – such
                                                                      524 Second Street, Second Floor
as an overflowing email inbox – and later be able
                                                                         San Francisco, CA 94107
to add a companion application like PinPoint Live                          Main 415 547 7720
to boost on line sales. All applications share the                          Fax 415 546 1035
same server framework and back end data.
Companies with established systems can likewise
integrate the appropriate PinPoint application with             Continuity, the Continuity logo, PinPoint
customer- and employee-facing applications                      and the PinPoint logo are trademarks of
already in use.                                                 Continuity Solutions, Inc.

Continuity White Paper                           -8-                        

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