New Tech Trends in Manufacturing Customer Service

New technologies and data-driven focus are enabling more agile, responsive customer-service departments, both inside and outside the enterprise.

In the old days before digital tuners, radios had two tuning knobs -- one for general tuning (to get you in the ballpark) and one for fine tuning (to hone in on a specific frequency). Laura Wood, senior manager for Research and Markets, uses this two-stage metaphor to describe how new technologies like instant messaging (IM) are filtering into customer service environments, particularly where internal IT is concerned.

"After all, phone, e-mail and the Internet are all other ways of connecting to IT and getting an issue resolved," asserts Wood. "However, just like trying to pick up a weak signal on the radio, you could spend a lot of time fiddling with that general tuning knob to connect. Using chat to connect and resolve an issue is like using the fine-tuning knob on the radio. Chat can significantly reduce the time to connect and the time to resolve."

Wood points out that internal departments like IT already allow their "customers" to connect for assistance via telephone, e-mail, contact forms on a Web page, self-help FAQs, in-house software and the like. According to Wood, chat is just the latest addition to this list, and is poised to prove its utility as a fine-tuning tool for both internal and external customer service operations.

Not only are new tools being used to interface with customers, but technology is driving a quantitative focus on exactly how much satisfaction these customers are experiencing in the process.

For instance, diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corp. is using online voice-of-customer data to capture feedback and measure customer satisfaction with its Web site. Through a partnership with ForeSee Results, the company is leveraging academic methodology (plucked from the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index) to identify which improvements and enhancements to its online marketing initiatives will have the greatest ROI.

Importantly, quantifying the effectiveness of its online initiatives is helping Eaton track customer satisfaction as it moves its business segment websites under the corporate site, and the near real-time data they have received over the past year "has helped us monitor the effect of this change on customer satisfaction," says Matt Greene, director of marketing communications at Eaton.

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