Ask.com Revamps its Self-Service System

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Customer Service
Customer Service
The portal is providing customers with a better way to serve themselves, leading to a drop in support tickets and greater focus on the knowledgebase.

Self-service is a growing global trend. Busy customers want to serve themselves without having to ask the brands they are doing business with for help. This trend means that companies are under increased pressure to provide tools and processes to meet these demands.

While most organizations want to tap into customers' desires to help themselves, this isn't an easy process and many businesses are failing to provide an easy-to-use self-service solution. Such a failure doesn't only impact customers negatively, but can lead to unnecessary expenses for organizations since they will have to provide other means to help customers, for example provide additional contact center help.

Ask.com, the online portal for questions and answers, recognizes the importance of making it easier for its customers to serve themselves. With more than 100 million global visitors every month, the company needs a robust solution for customers to find the necessary help without having to call the contact center. However, until recently the situation was "chaotic," notes Eric McKirdy, Ask.com's global customer care manager. "An ageing support portal powered by an unbending CMR platform contained hundreds of disorganized articles that nobody was navigating through," he explains. When he joined Ask.com in 2010, McKirdy recognized that the company was missing a huge opportunity by not allowing customers to find answers to very basic support questions. "Many of the user tickets asked the same questions, day in and day out."

Further, it was not possible to refer customers to the help center since there was no categorization or organization. Customers would encounter a page of links, each of which represented an article. "It was flaky at best and usually returned irrelevant or unhelpful articles for the query," McKirdy says. "Nobody has the time to sift through 36 pages of results, especially when you may not even be sure what you're trying to ask." Therefore, Ask.com was being inundated with innumerable support tickets that could have been easily answered through self-service had the knowledgebase been properly structured and organized. The majority of the weekly 2,000 questions were being received through the support portal, but customers were also calling Ask.com and sending questions over Twitter. Questions covered different areas, including queries about changing a username or profile picture, why a question was removed, or how to add their business to Ask.com's local directory. "With a constant backlog of tickets to respond to, the biggest cost was in slower response times," McKirdy explains. A tardy response is "only pouring salt into the wound" on already irate customers. "It's a lot harder to salvage the relationship after two strikes and you're responding from a position of weakness," he notes.

Aware of the need to bring about an important change, last year Ask.com turned to Parature to help it revamp its customer service approach and replace its current CRM system.

Results

When the new system launched last November, the difference was evident. First, Ask.com was able to customize every aspect of its platform, from organizing content within the knowledgebase to personalizing the emails sent to each customer. "We felt the difference and so did our users," McKirdy says.

Within two weeks Ask.com saw a dramatic decline in tickets, with the number more than halving to about 800 per week. This 60 percent reduction means that it takes less time to respond to tickets, and allowing for more focus on customers who really need help and provide proactive support by monitoring social media, forums, and blogs where the brand and its products are being mentioned. Response time shrunk from eight hours to just 90 minutes, leaving customers much more satisfied.

At the same time, page views within the knowledgebase increased as users found the system easier to to search for the information they were looking for. McKirdy notes that before implementing Parature the knowledgebase would see up to 600 daily views, but this has skyrocketed to more than 2,500 daily.

Further, because they were able to access more information, users who still needed to contact Ask.com were able to better verbalize their questions. For example, previously a customer who wanted help changing his username would file a ticket saying, "I want to change my username" and not giving any other details. This would lead to a lot of back and forth to verify whether the person was really part of the community, has a valid account, and then determine the desired username. However, typing the same query into Parature will bring up a relevant article that outlines the need to tell Ask.com the current username and email address of record and include three suggestions for a valid new username. "Armed with that information, users come to us with all of that data so we can get their username changed in one transaction and move on," McKirdy says. This is leading to huge time savings for both Ask.com and customers.

Lessons learned

Provide efficient self-service: Customers want to serve themselves without the need to contact a company with every query.

Populate your knowledgebase: Unless they find answers to their questions, customers will have no option but to contact a company for help.

Recognize areas of improvement: The first step towards success is for business leaders to understand that certain systems need tweaking or a complete overhaul.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION