The other day I called up my bank for some business and was rerouted to a call center. After endless options, I was put on hold with classical music in the background. Initially, it was nice; after fifteen minutes of repetition, however, it became irritating.
Exasperated, I tweeted about it. The experience increased my Twitter following by one: the next morning, I was being followed by my bank’s customer support.
Surely, these are interesting times we live in when service is delivered through multiple channels and media. Managing support in such times can be quite a task because conversations about your company go viral much faster on the Internet. So, how do you listen in on these conversations?
This week, I will review Assistly (with their new name Desk.com) : a browser-based customer support software that helps you manage support activities by responding to customer requests across multiple media platforms. We will look at its interface, functionalities, and how it can be of use to you.
Is support on the internet any different?
Not really. This is because, in its essence, the principles of customer support remain pretty much the same: you seek to resolve customer problems. However, on the Internet, the channels for support are much more dynamic.
According to its website, Assistly enables you to become a customer-facing organization by integrating your support activities across multiple platforms. This means you can respond to customer requests across social media such as Facebook, Twitter or blogs as well as through your traditional channels such as phone. Once the request is in the system, it is prioritized. “We have a 1-10 scale of case priority,” says Matt Trifiro, SVP of marketing at Assistly. “By default, chat cases have the highest priority, while other channels are given a 5.” However, you can also configure priority using business rules. This means you can prioritize support requests in a way that best fits your organization’s workflow. For example, you can prioritize by channel, email address, customer type, and other types of customer information, including social influence scores or the customer’s value to your organization. For example, an email from a VIP customer could be automatically given a priority of 10.
The basics: what does it look like?
Assistly has three main areas of functionality — Agent Desktop, Admin, and Reporting — and each is optimized for different type of user. The Agent desktop is where you serve your customers, tracking and responding to support requests. The Admin interface is where you tailor Assistly to your organization, including administrative tasks such as styling the Help Center, adding or removing users, and setting business rule. The Reporting interface is where you perform your business analytics, measuring the volume and effectiveness of your support efforts.
You can configure, assign, track and measure your support operations using a plethora of options available under the three main areas of functionality. The availability of three main options makes navigation easier. In addition, the two-panel format of subsequent options enables quick case-processing. However, the best part about Assistly’s interface is that it is a graphical user interface in the best sense of the word. What this means is that you do have text-intensive and heavy screens even when you are setting business rules. Instead, you have clean, graphics-based interface makes setting business rules and permissions easy and, might I even say, a pleasure?
Processing help desk cases
Case processing follows a fairly standard routine in most organizations. And, so it is with Assistly. You can configure processing based on individual business rules. This means you can set priorities, decide flows, and also configure macros for automatic processing in some cases. Although macros sound technical, they are not. At least, not with Assistly because, as I mentioned earlier, it is all GUI-based.
Reporting allows an organization to measure their progress and understand the effectiveness of their support staff efforts. In this case, Assistly’s reporting system offers graphical views of multiple options such as active cases, case priority, time to first resolution, number of resolved cases, etc. These options are categorized according to agent, channel group or total number of cases. In addition, the reports can also be exported to .csv files.
Assistly does not yet offer an option to customize reports. However, Trifiro says that the reporting system is undergoing an upgrade that should be available later this summer. “We are improving our reporting system and custom reports is likely to be one of the new features,” he says.
Getting Started With Assistly
Trifiro says that customers, who begin with an evaluation model of Assistly, can be up and running in a matter of few hours. While this may be true for organizations that are new or developing a new support system, it may not hold true for organizations that transition to Assistly with an established support staff.
But, what about large organizations that have different support needs? “Organizations with large support staff often start by using Assistly to process support in a single channel and then transition the company over a period of couple of weeks,” he says.
A significant portion of the transition period might be spent transferring data from old systems to new, depending on the organization’s requirements. Trifiro says the time period in such cases depends on system requirements and who is importing the data. “You can import data from other systems using our free API,” he says. Right now, the company has third-party tie-ups with Google Apps and GetSatisfaction.com. According to Trifiro, the company is working on building integration with Salesforce.com.
Recently, Assistly overhauled it’s pricing structure. The company followed regular SaaS pricing convention offering three versions – standard, professional, and enterprise – for it’s customer. Based on customer feedback and market surveys, however, the company has added a new twist to the freemium model: the first agent on Assistly is free of charge. Thereafter, you can choose to pay $1 per seat for part-time use or $49 for a full-time seat. In addition, “a la carte” or pay-as-you-go upgrades are also available for customers. Thus, you would need to pay $29 per month for extra monitoring of social media or Inboxes. What’s more, customers can also earn bonus flex hours reward based on usage of their service. So, the more you integrate Assistly with your help desk operations, the cheaper it becomes for you.
Trifiro adds that product pricing is a function of their founder’s experience. “The team that built Assistly has built and deployed some of the largest customer service software systems ever sold,” he says. “Assistly’s elastic pricing adapts to enterprises of any size – from small and medium-sized companies, where everybody plays a role in support, to larger enterprises that might have thousands of full-time agents.”
Supporting your systems
For a company that is focused on support systems, one expects the world. And, Assistly does not disappoint. It offers a variety of different support options, including help documentation, video tutorials and community forums. The forums are lively and the videos well-researched. In addition, the company also offers context-sensitive search. And, according to Trifiro, the company also has a VP for customer “wow.” Apparently, it is a real title!
Is it for you?
Because they are manually intensive and depend to a large extent on human intervention, help desk systems can be large and unwieldy. However, I think Assistly streamlines help desk to a great degree. In addition, it has a great GUI-based interface that makes it easy for almost anyone to come in and start working.
From the organizational perspective, it is great because it is scalable. This ensures that you can decrease or increase your costs based on your budget. Since there are several cloud-based help desk applications in the market, I asked Trifiro about Assistly’s specific advantages over other similar software. He listed three: seamless multichannel experience (which means Facebook, Twitter, email, and chat are part of a unified experience for the agent), streamlined user experience (this means regardless of the service request channel, the agent would follow the same process for cases), and an “awesomely responsive customer service.”
That may be, perhaps, the clincher!