SkyDesk: Flying High, Automated and Accurate

Sure, growing your business is a good thing. More customers, more revenue — everybody’s happy.

But you know better than I do that it’s rarely a smooth growth curve. Along with increased numbers of customers comes an increased need for customer-support resources (not to mention a myriad other issues). The old technique of, say, answering email manually just won’t cut it.

SkyDesk found this out first-hand. The data-storage, file-access, and data-migration services company, founded in 1995 and known for its @Backup online backup service, had dabbled in email marketing for several years. It used third-party lists and other methods to acquire new customers. It also used email to communicate with current customers, sending them occasional messages when their accounts warranted it.

But about two years ago, the company changed its focus from acquiring new customers via email to signing deals with PC manufacturers to have the @Backup sign-up software linked to the hardware manufacturer. In some cases, this means the software is placed on the desktop, in others, it means it is integrated into the manufacturer’s Web site, and in still others, it might be a Flash piece.

Suddenly, SkyDesk’s customer base took off. Dramatically. Inbound calls were growing about 10 percent a month, and inbound email was more than doubling. (Yes, I tried to get exact figures on the size of the database, but for competitive reasons SkyDesk wouldn’t allow them to be published. Brent Young, product manager for @Backup, characterized it as a “very large” database.) Continuing to reply to all email messages manually was clearly not going to work.

So last year, SkyDesk purchased a couple of pieces of software. The first was from Brightware (now Firepond) called the eCustomer Assistance suite of applications. It helped automate the process of replying to inbound email.

For instance, when customers realize they’ve lost important data, their first step is often to email @Backup and ask how they can restore them. The Automated Answer application can automatically reply to users, telling them what they should do next. After being in use a month, the application was handling 265 percent more volume (8,000 messages versus 3,000) and responding automatically to 80 percent of the total. The other 20 percent was routed (along with a recommended reply) to a customer-care representative.

The other piece of software was Socketware’s Accucast Enterprise program, which is installed on the SkyDesk side and communicates with the SkyDesk database via a Web browser and software written entirely in Java.

Accucast manages outbound campaigns triggered by a user’s account. One example: When a customer tries to sign up for the service but inputs an expired credit card or invalid number, Accucast automatically notifies the user. Messages are generated at a number of touch points, including when the first backup is completed, when an upgrade is available, and when the membership is up for renewal.

The combined use of the two pieces of software has led to an average problem-resolution time that is eight times faster than it was previously. Plus, SkyDesk uses Accucast to help convert free-trial users into subscribers; Socketware estimates that the typical Accucast campaign for SkyDesk realizes a 10 percent sign-up rate.

“We’re able to manage a larger customer base with fewer resources,” Young says. “That’s valuable to us.”

And if your business is growing, it could be valuable to you to check out similar solutions yourself.

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