E-Service: What’s That?

If you spend enough time in this industry, you realize you’ll always be learning new terms. Mostly due to some marketing person trying to carve out a new niche for his company. If you can create a word, then your company can become the leader in that “new arena.”

The term I just picked up is e-service, and this is used to define the whole space of business related to administering customer support via electronic means, especially through the Internet. The number of companies attempting to service this space have made it a crowded arena, but what’s interesting is that they are all taking a different approach.

Lets cover some of the companies in this space and see how they hope to assist organizations in solving their customer support issues.

The Dynamic FAQ

Every company in the world has utilized the FAQ list (Frequently-Asked-Questions, for those of you who have been under a rock for a decade). This is a little numbered list that displays questions and answers to the most frequent inquiries that an organization receives. The normal list for a corporate web site is just a few questions long and has the answers displayed in a straight down list.

Well, there’s a company out there which has developed a better mouse trap for this. RightNow Technologies, Inc. has developed a wonderful package of software that not only handles this capability, but also automates every aspect of online customer support. It has built in “intelligence” that saves time and money in the whole support process. Its software is so effective that it’s guaranteed to reduce a companys support costs by 25 percent in the first 30 days.

Real Time Response

One of the complaints that people have about electronic support and service is that it’s impersonal. You have no idea who is helping you. E-service also has a big shortfall in the area of instant response. When someone places a call to a toll free number, they expect and usually receive an answer immediately. They also get to hear a friendly voice and get the feeling that they’re important.

This kind of personal feeling has been lost in e-service until recently. There are a growing number of firms that have developed technologies that combine the instant personal response of toll free numbers and the cost effectiveness of email.

Here’s how this technology works: There is a link on a web page, and when that link is activated, it opens up a real-time chat session with a live human being. The support session then takes on the form of an electronic version of a toll free “conversation.” The support person can respond to inquiries instantly, and the customer gets the feeling of being individual and important.

These companies all take a different approach and have a slightly different twist with their software. Some are set up as a service where they provide the “operators.” Some host software for you but redirect the support requests to your support personnel. Others just provide the software and let you handle installation, maintenance, and support personnel. A sampling of the firms in this expanding space are: LivePerson, ServiceSoft Technologies, Inc., and WebSoft Inc..

Online customer support is an expanding space. There are many different firms trying to carve out their niche in this space. Like any other expanding space, different firms are trying different approaches to find the magic elixir. Like the traveling salesman of yesteryear, some of these magic potions are helpful and some are nothing more than colored water.

The key is to keep your eyes and your mind open as you examine these solutions. Some of these evolving technologies will make your customer support greater than anything you could have envisioned. The firms mentioned in this article are building the solutions for the future of e-service, make sure you take the time to learn about them.

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