Customer self-service case studies

These customer self-service case studies examine how other companies have implemented self service and what challenges and benefits they've encountered.

Table of contents:

Introduction to customer self service
Overview of self-service vendors
Self-service vendors in the news
Evaluating and implementing self-service technology
Self service and the customer experience
Self-service case studies
More learning tools

  Customer self-service case studies  

Find out how other businesses have handled their online customer self-service implementations, and learn about the many options that are available in the customer self-service market. These case studies cover several vertical industries and explore the self-service challenges unique to each, as well as the customer self-service experience.

Customer self service in the automotive industry

  • Auburn Hills, Mich.-based DaimlerChrysler Corp. has found a way to help its mechanics help themselves. Its Service Technical Assistance Resource (STAR) Center provides a portal for technicians to answer their own questions via a case-based reasoning (CBR) search tool. Technicians input the vehicle problem in natural language to start a troubleshooting session, which narrows the problem with follow-up questions. The more difficult problems are handled by call center agents, who also use the application. DaimlerChrysler selected a tool based on Kaidara's Advisor. The implementation took one year to complete. DaimlerChrysler was able to transfer 10,000 actual cases, or roughly five years of data, in five months. Predictably, the company had some call center agents who worried the tool might replace them and were reluctant to use it. A little extra attention and a group of early adopters encouraged those fearful users and helped solve the problem. The company also tested the tool with focus groups and regional offices before launching it.

    Read more in this case study: Chrysler gives self service a tune-up

  • Honda Motors USA deployed an online survey system that provides one output for multiple data analysis. The company upgraded to an enterprise feedback management (EFM) tool offered by the Perseus Development Corp. as its primary means of accumulating survey responses from customers, then analyzing the data for its marketing, sales and human resources teams. Multiple users can submit surveys into the centralized system, which are then deployed in a coordinated fashion. Additionally, instead of different departments wading through multiple data streams, there is one centralized data stream that various departments can access to analyze based on their respective needs. The company is able to quickly adjust the way it markets some of its products online based on customer feedback suggesting adjusting features on the Web site, like simplifying navigation. This, in turn, makes for much quicker and more relevant surveys, which helps customers to focus in on the questions that matter for them.

    Learn more in this case study: Honda revs up its survey strategy

    Customer self service in the healthcare industry

  • When Humana Military -- a subsidiary of Louisville, Ky.-based healthcare provider Humana Inc. and provider of healthcare to the military and their families -- embarked on deployment of a self-service search tool, its policy holders were a major consideration. But so too was cutting costs by reducing calls coming into the company's 260-seat call center, according to John Jones, the company's senior systems manager. In July 2004, Humana launched AnswerCenter, a natural language search tool from Minneapolis-based Spanlink Communications Inc. that provides results in a question-and-answer format rather than a list of keywords. Also, agents in the company's call center use the tool as their own knowledge base, providing customers a consistent set of answers. Humana is now using the application to augment its interactive voice response (IVR) system by converting user questions to text, loading them into the search tool, and then testing whether the IVR system has the answer. If it does not, it will forward the results from the query to agents, so they're armed with answers when they take calls from customers.

    Learn more in this case study: Self-service search provides the answers for Humana

  • Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's replaced its unpopular touch-tone response system with a speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) application from Aspect Software at the end of 2003. Customers avoided the IVR and burdened call center representatives with calls that could have otherwise been solved through the touch-tone response system, which meant less time for agents to address more callers who truly needed the agents' help. Today, the speech-enabled IVR system handles about 20% of all calls into the insurer's contact center. That shift has delivered efficiency gains and greatly expanded the customer base's access to service. mproving customers' access to information that results in cost savings to the company is just one benefit of today's speech-enabled IVR systems. Some organizations are using these systems to gather and analyze customer information, giving them insight they may not have otherwise gleaned. Still others use speech-enabled IVRs to evaluate and adjust customer service agent performance to help improve the service experience. Improving employee performance is another relatively new use for data gleaned from speech-enabled IVRs.

    Blue Cross makes healthy call with speech-enabled IVR

    Customer self service in retail

  • Dallas-based CompUSA Inc., with more than 240 retail stores, turned to outside help in getting its online customer review program up and running. CompUSA launched an application from Bazaarvoice, an Austin, Texas-based company formed by Brett Hurt, one-time CEO of Web analytics vendor Coremetrics. Bazaarvoice hosts the application, provides a team of readers to check the reviews to ensure they follow established guidelines and offers actionable analysis on the content. Plus, the online reviews improve search engine performance, Hurt said. CompUSA launched the application fairly quickly and bug-free. Visitors to the site are asked to provide some information about themselves and follow certain guidelines, such as don't make reviews time-sensitive or provide information that won't apply to all online users. For now, it is homegrown applications that are Bazaarvoice's biggest competitor.

    Find out more in the case study: CompUSA turns product reviews into customer insight

    Customer self service in telecommunications and high-tech

  • Creative Labs, the U.S. operations of Singapore-based digital entertainment provider Creative Technology, made a shift in its contact centers to stay ahead of its changing market. Many of its new customers aren't as technically savvy as customers in the past. New to the digital revolution, they need explicit instructions about such information as how to install their newly purchased devices into their computers. Because the three centers' telephone systems operate independently and Creative Labs' customers were comfortable using the Internet, the company decided to use email and its Web site to help provide continuous and responsive support. The company deployed Kana Response and Kana IQ to handle the email and online requests. In addition, through the company's use of two parallel knowledge bases -- one powered by Kana, the other by Lithium Technologies -- customers have two options to find answers to their questions. The Kana solution provides a database of commonly asked questions and their answers.
    By offering two Web-based options for customers to find information, Creative Labs has reduced call volume into the contact centers by two-thirds, and call-abandonment rates have fallen below 6%. Most important, Lamberti said, customer confidence has increased.

    Read more details in this case study: Creative Labs caters to customers

  • In May of 2005, BellSouth's e-Service senior manager Ed Dauginas and his team launched the Atlanta-based company's new natural language search engine for residential customers. It consists of a single search box powered by San Bruno, Calif-based InQuira. BellSouth realized the need for an extreme "search makeover" when it started to receive negative customer feedback about the search tool. As a result, the company noticed an increase in email and call center volume, and a decline in search traffic. Not only was BellSouth concerned about customer dissatisfaction, it worried about losing angry or frustrated customers to competitors with more user-friendly sites. BellSouth worked nine months fine-tuning and implementing its natural language search tool. Dauginas and his team started by researching those customers who had used the search engine and what terms they were looking up. Based on those results, Dauginas and his team decided on what type of search product would best suit BellSouth. Dauginas and his team indexed BellSouth's content, then ran test searches to gauge the accuracy of the tool before and during the official testing phase, which enabled them to make continuous adjustments.

    Learn more in this case study: BellSouth calls up new search tool

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