Web-enabling the world of business

Imagining Out Loud
Relevancy. Our blogging pledge to you.

Let's talk quickly on timely topics to elevate your web strategy. Fellow developers will be addressed as well, but in small doses, and wherever possible, in common-speak.

Archive for September 7th, 2006

Ten Secrets for Successful Web-Based Customer Service

September 7th, 2006
Author: Prashanth

As it is getting proved, effective web-based customer service is a very achievable goal with significant potential rewards. It simply requires the right principles, practices and tools. By surveying today’s most effective practitioners, it can be distilled to ten basic attributes that make web-based customer support work:

  1. Make sure your web site can “listen” to customers
    Every successful salesperson knows the most important part of their job is listening to the customer—for both explicit and implicit messages. Web sites should do the same. Explicit messages are clear requests for specific information. Implicit messages are patterns of queries or usage that provide clues about customer needs and interests. Effective online service requires mechanisms and/or practices that give an attentive ear to both types of messages.
  2. Give customers what they want—quickly
    once you’ve “heard” what kind of information customers want, you have to give it to them—quickly. The web is all about immediacy. So whether it’s getting new information posted onto your site or making the information that’s already on there easier to understand, you must optimize your ability to respond to your customers’ needs with online content. Don’t confuse this with the rapid posting of the information that marketers want to put on your site. Quality customer service requires the rapid posting of content that is completely customer-driven.
  3. Make customer service resources easy to find and easy to use
    Great content isn’t much use if customers can’t find it easily. That’s why it’s essential to provide customers with highly intuitive search tool that let them pinpoint the answers they need with a minimum number of steps. It’s also smart to maintain a “Top 20″ list of current hot topics that customers can view as soon as they come to your main self-service page.
  4. Integrate all your communications channels
    Different customers will use different communications channels at different times. You don’t want them to get different answers depending on which channel they happen to use. So it’s important to leverage your knowledge base across all channels. Ideally, the information you provide on the web should be exactly the same as what you provide via your live operators, voice self-service, email and chat.
  5. The “80/20″ rule
    To be successful at web-based customer service, you don’t have to be able to answer every conceivable customer question online. More than 80% of all customer questions are usually answered by just 20% of a support knowledge base. And many companies achieve 97-plus percent self-service rates with relatively limited—but highly customer-driven—content that they’ve developed over time by learning what customers need. That’s why it’s more important to get started with web-based customer service than it is to first develop the “perfect” knowledge base. Smart companies get the most important information up right away, and then refine their content over time.
  6. Let your customers rate you
    You can’t improve what you don’t measure. So the companies that are most successful with web self-service provide customers with a way to rate the quality of the answers they find online. Using this feedback, content that isn’t useful can be quickly weeded out—thereby improving the overall effectiveness of the site.
  7. Use rich content wherever appropriate
    A picture is often worth a thousand words. Photographs, diagrams, and animations can therefore be very useful in helping customers solve their most common problems. Creating these types of graphics can help further improve the effectiveness of your online customer service system.
  8. Connect the online world to the real world
    For retailers, banks, and many others types of companies, it’s important to link online operations with real-world facilities. After all, many customers come to a web site specifically to find a local store, branch office or service center. One of the best ways to do this is to provide a searchable database of real-world locations on your web site. It’s also a good idea to supplement street addresses with maps and driving directions to ensure that your customers can get where they want to go without getting lost.
  9. Consider a hosted, on demand solution
    Many successful web-based service implementers are taking advantage of hosted on demand solutions in order to eliminate capital costs and ongoing infrastructure management hassles. Hosted systems accelerate time-to-benefit and offload ownership burdens from corporate IT organizations that already have their hands full. Hosted systems also offer advantages when it comes to performance, reliability, scalability and security.
  10. Buy experience along with your technology
    Online customer service technologies can be very powerful. But you have to know what you’re doing to get the most out of them. That’s why the smart buyers look for a source of substantial customer service experience to complement the technologies they acquire. Best practices like those listed here are extraordinarily valuable. So it makes sense to partner with a vendor who can help you apply those best practices to your company’s online customer service initiatives. It’s even better when that vendor can help you optimize the rest of your CRM processes as well.

Does Having Flash In My Website Sell Better?

September 7th, 2006
Author: Kyle

Having Flash movies on your site can create a site of magical proportions. I don’t think many people would agree that having Flash hurts a site’s image. Most often than not, Flash can help create “curb appeal” and impose a lasting impression on your site’s visitors. So should you include Flash with your site?

Companies often ask web design companies to create Flash websites. Many of these firms are capable designing an outstanding website, but how many are able to optimize its pages for the search engines? Flash often throws most programmers for a loop. Search engines certainly can’t spider Flash making any content contained within irrelavent in terms of SEO. What about the other obvious difficulties: long loading time, browser issues, firewalls that block Flash, lack of usability – and the statistics that show more than 80 percents of online users prefer non-flash sites? Considering that search engines cannot read Flash, what are the chances for such a website to be indexed anyway? So what’s the point in having an amazing website if it’s difficult to use and no one can find it?

The truth of the matter is that if you do choose to include flash in your site, do so sparringly. Never try to create an animated beast - one that takes an eternity to download and doesn’t help you out in terms of online marketing at all. CGI Pro can create beautiful, stylish Flash graphics while at the same time creating a site that ranks extremely well. You get the visitors, and you impress them. We do our best to balance both worlds.