Saturday, January 26, 2013

Customer Service Woes: There’s an App for That

Customer Service Woes: There’s an App for That is, by its nature, an extremely customer-focused business. When you offer such a highly personalized service there are bound to be plenty of questions. Whether those questions are about spending a day fighting off blood-soaked zombie hordes, or floating peacefully above the countryside in a hot air balloon, is not important. What's important is that each potential customer gets prompt and comprehensive answers and feels they got the attention they deserved.

The challenge, when you're a company that has rapidly grown to a market-leading position, is managing those inquiries properly - particularly when a tweet from someone like Stephen Fry results in well over 140,000 hits in a single day!

The founders, Stephen Pavlovich and Richard Kershaw, soon realized that trying to provide sufficiently individualized customer service using email and canned answers alone, was far from satisfactory. You only get one chance to make a first impression - and in this business getting that first impression right is vital. There are time issues, too. An unmanaged flow of requests can quickly becoming overwhelming and tracking responses becomes almost impossible.

It's not the kind of situation Stephen and Richard would allow to continue. It was both inefficient and unproductive and was eventually going to damage a reputation they had put immense effort into building. Part of what has made so successful so quickly is their solutions-driven mentality. What they needed was a system that allowed them to provide VIP-standard customer service, but could also adequately manage large traffic spikes. It's a tough ask. What they were looking for was an application that resolved the classic "big enough to cope, small enough to care" conundrum.

After some intensive research, they found the answer at - and it has transformed the speed and efficiency of customer interactions. “It took about half a day to setup," said Richard. "We spent that time up front so that now we can scale confidently."

The program is built around a Case Management hub that arranges messages into a coherent ticket system in a single "universal" inbox. It allows to track and manage large numbers of inquiries quickly, while maintaining the flexibility to handle questions on a case-by-case basis when necessary. Priority and status of each ticket is instantly available and easily followed so nothing gets out of hand and nothing is missed.

The desire to deal with each person individually has to be balanced against the need for rapid responses. Where appropriate, this area is effectively controlled by use of business rules that automate some of the workflow and filters that can be set to help prioritization - for example in the case of inquiries pertaining to a fast-approaching event, like a zombie experience, that has multiple participants.

While Stephen and Richard have been impressed by the way has allowed such a small team to handle such large traffic volumes, they also had an eye on the future when selecting the system. As their business grows, the application can keep pace, assigning tickets to individual customer support personnel. Each person can quickly check which tickets a customer has declared completed, so the time available is concentrated on pending cases. It's possible to customize alerts if, for example, a ticket has remained unresolved for a pre-determined period. Management always has the option to overview particular tickets if required.

What's more, the value of the application doesn't end when the customer's question is resolved. Case histories offer invaluable insight and can highlight ways to improve overall service. Over time, the intelligence gathered will provide an accurate picture of how the business is perceived and how well it reacts to particular challenges. That, in turn, will allow to better meet customer demands and expectations and to continue to build on the extraordinary success they have already enjoyed.

Jack Harding is a customer service manager. He fills some of his free time keeping up on the latest innovations in customer service programs and services. To see their customer service operations in action, visit