Your broadband connection is down, and you can’t get online to download the necessary patches to fix it. Frustrated, you turn to the telephone, trying to connect with the right vendor. Who you call depends on what you think the problem is — hardware, software, a virus, connectivity or something else.
Once you find someone who can help, you have to relate the litany about your computer and all of the software you are running. Then, maybe, if you are lucky, you can solve the problem. By this point, you’re likely thinking, “If computers are so smart, why don’t they just fix themselves?”
Computer, Heal Thyself
That’s the question SupportSoft was founded on more than five years ago, according to Bruce Mowery, the company’s vice president of marketing.
“Our technology is built on a patented DNA Probe technology that automatically identifies the characteristics of a user’s software applications and operating system components and tracks them over time,” he said. However, don’t call this company a CRM firm.
“[SupportSoft’s] real value is in problem avoidance and resolution,” Chris Selland, vice president of supply-side research at Aberdeen Group, told CRM Buyer. “It’s a bit of a stretch to lump them in as a CRM vendor, but they are definitely a smart, well-run company in an emerging and potentially huge market.”
SupportSoft’s Mowery agreed. “Customers pull us into the CRM space, but we don’t consider ourselves a CRM company,” he noted. “Instead, we focus on how to ‘heal’ the computer without human intervention. SupportSoft’s expertise is really in two areas: proactive automatic detection and prevention, and responsive automatic diagnosis and resolution. This just happens to complement CRM solutions well.”
Four New Products
In total, the company has announced four new products. One is aimed at the enterprise and is intended to solve IT maintenance problems by enhancing network auto discovery and metering. From a CRM perspective, however, the other three offerings — VoiceAssist, LiveAssist and Knowledge Center Suite — seem more interesting.
According to SupportSoft, VoiceAssist delivers faster, more cost-effective and better service by allowing technical-support representatives to provide diagnoses and resolve users’ computing problems over the telephone, even when they are offline. It does this using SupportSoft’s patented SmartIssue technology, which is also used in some of the company’s other products.
SmartIssue runs in the background and collects precise, detailed information about a user’s computer problems, then displays a code on the screen. The user then can phone the technical service center. Rather than requiring the user to spend precious time laboriously working his or her way through the system, the code helps the service representative quickly determine whether he can help the user or whether he should pass the user to another representative who is better equipped to handle that particular issue.
Importance of Chat Increasing
Meanwhile, LiveAssist with ActiveTriggers is designed to allow call centers and IT support departments to serve customers and employees online via chat software. Users with problems can simply click a button on a company’s Web site to connect with a support representative in real-time without downloading software.
The ActiveTriggers feature is analogous to what happens when a customer is wandering about in a retail setting and then is approached by a sales clerk asking if he or she needs help. Using configurable rules, online representatives now can approach Web-browsing customers or employees and ask whether they need assistance. The company says this practice not only results in faster resolution of questions or problems but also provides an opportunity to upsell additional products to customers.
The new Knowledge Center Suite facilitates both Web self-service and assisted service. For support representatives, the software is designed to automate creation of service and support knowledge documents, publishing, management and access. For end users, it provides fast, personalized answers to “how to” queries and enables automated “one-click fixes” using another SupportSoft patented technology called SupportAction. The product’s new features include highlighting of search terms in content and the ability to save previous search queries.
The importance of Web-assisted solutions appears to be on the rise. According to a September 2003 survey of broadband customers by independent research firm Zanthus in Portland, Oregon, users have a tendency to go online regardless of the type of problem they arefacing. More than 48 percent of 550 broadband customers surveyed said they prefer to use online chat, other Web-based tools or the provider’s online support portal for customer assistance, Zanthus reported.