iS3's Rick Trefzger on How Live Chat Reduces Customer Support Costs
Well, live chat windows aren't technically pop-up advertisements. But it's a bit of irony that the firm that created a well-known pop-up blocker—the forerunner of its current anti-spyware and anti-malware software—found customer relations and cost-savings salvation through live chat.
Boynton Beach, Fla.-based Internet security software provider iS3 began using live chat as a way, first of all, to make its "near Miami … but 60 miles north, along the coast" headquarters more visible to consumers. That's one of the main reasons customer service and customer relationship management remained a priority for the nearly 20-year-old software firm—from its 2001 introduction of popup blocker STOPzilla until now.
Rick Trefzger, iS3's chief operating officer, says the company's CRM improved along with its software—starting with phone and e-mail support and evolving six years ago to add a third option, live chat. So when, in June 2008, iS3 decided to optimize its live chat option by implementing Wichita, Kan.-based Bold Software's BoldChat tool, the 50 percent customer support cost reduction could not come at the price of customer service.
Target Marketing: How does the agent training for live chat differ from regular customer relationship management training?
Rick Trefzger: … We have a pretty advanced library of canned responses, or pre-set responses, based on the chats that are coming in … However, the .. rep is trained on being flexible with his or her responses, based on the type of chat inquiry that's come into our support center. … We build on the knowledge base within BoldChat's library of responses so that, with a couple of hot keys and drag-and-drop responses, we're very efficient in our chat correspondence. We currently have only four [live chat] technicians that are handling the amount of chats we get each week.
TM: How does iS3 coordinate and integrate its CRM efforts in live chat—which facilitates 2,000 chat sessions a month, comprising 30 percent of its customer support activity—with all of its other CRM channels?
RT: Live chat does not currently integrate completely with our CRM. However, we do archive every one of the chat sessions and include them in each customer log within our own CRM. That is a protocol by our support technicians that each chat is actually archived, saved and copied into our CRM. So we do not have full integration. The only reason for that is that we have, not only the ability to audit the chats, but also have a history of that chat correspondence in the event that someone calls in or e-mails us …
TM: How was iS3 able to reduce its customer support costs by 50 percent?
RT: ... We saw a significant reduction in the actual fees that we're paying in live chat. But what also that helped us out with is the fact that with chat, as a general support tool, it enabled us to have only ... —on the STOPzilla side—four ... technicians handling all the chat inquiries, because they can handle multiple chats at one time. Whereas, with the same amount of inquiries via phone, for example, I would have to staff quite a bit more, in terms of payroll costs, compensation, and whatnot, and also having those employees on staff. ...