Letting your customers serve themselves

In these tough economic times, is there a way to better serve your customers and reduce customer service costs? Web self-service may be the answer to holding on to your important customers while continuing to add value.

Web self-service is an approach to customer relationship management (CRM) that allows customers to access information and perform routine tasks over the Internet, without requiring any interaction with a representative of the business.

For customers, self-service offers 24 hour-a-day support, and immediate access to information without having to wait for an email response or a returned telephone call. Ultimately, the success of Web self-service depends upon the quality and quantity of information available and the ease with which it can be accessed.

Deploying Web self-service applications benefits a company in a variety of ways. The most prominent motivation is the lower cost, as compared with telephone or email service by a company representative. According to Forrester Research, the cost of the average Web self-service session is £1, compared to £10 for an email response and £33 for a telephone call. Another, more controversial, business benefit of self-service is the ability it affords the company to gather personal information about the people who use it.

US-based software developer, c360, offers a Web self-service add-on to Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Microsoft’s customer relationship management software. The c360 Customer Portal allows organisations using Microsoft CRM to extend their customer service and support functions to the web to achieve more efficient support and service as well as higher customer satisfaction and self sufficiency. The c360 Customer Portal allows organisations to quickly and easily create a web self-service presence that is fully integrated into their Microsoft CRM solution.

A common complaint aimed at customer service teams is that they don’t keep the customer updated with the progress of their issue. Often, this is because the issue is ‘in progress’ and the systems aren’t in place to prompt the service person to call on a regular basis to update the customer. With c360 Customer Portal an organisation’s customer can raise customer service cases, view and update service cases and view case history – enabling the customer to stay ‘in the loop’.

Microsoft CRM enables users to build a library of answers to common problems. Originally this tool was designed to help service personnel answer customer queries more quickly, but with c360 the ‘knowledge base’ is opened up so that customers themselves can search this information and solve the problem.

While personal human contact is the best way to build strong customer relations, Web self-service provides another tool in the armoury for SMEs wishing to offer world-class customer service at an affordable price. With other portal technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint, the possibilities of sharing information in new and dynamic ways is limitless.

You can learn more about software tools for SMEs at Technology Expo 2008 on Wednesday 24 September in Wolverhampton.

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