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Improving the Online Customer Support Experience

Two new apps are helping improve the online customer experience by tying in advanced communications technologies in interesting ways. The apps, MyCyberTwin and Radish System’s ChoiceView, offer to remove some of the misery and tedium involved in getting help and have wide potential applications in customer support, problem resolution, and other situations. Deplolyed properly, they could increase conversion rates and improve the delivery of online customer service. Let’s take a closer look at both.

ChoiceView consists of both a mobile app and a software development kit with programming interfaces to connect the app to a particular database server. The app allows callers to receive visual information during an ordinary voice call from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. When you call a ChoiceView-enabled business, you simply open the app on your mobile device and simultaneously view material sent to you during the phone call by the person you are talking to.

The automotive parts supplier Scosche Industries of Oxmard Calif. is one of the first ChoiceView customers and they use it to better support their network of aftermarket car audio installers across the world, so that someone can receive the schematic diagrams of a particular car make and model while they are on a voice call with the Scosche support representative. “Experience has been good so far. One of the things about the iPhone is that you can pinch and zoom into the picture. You can get to where you need to be and see a more detailed view. We see this as a way to differentiate ourselves and distinguish us from our competitors. Radish ChoiceView makes it easy for live agents to share information in real time with our customers,” says Jack DeBiasio, a senior product manager with the company. “We wanted to show someone how to take apart a car door and install a speaker there, and give them the information right at the moment they were doing the installation. Cars are so sophisticated and have so many different trim levels, all with different options too. We wanted to give our dealers an easier way to get information from us,”

ChoiceView is designed to deliver very specific information at the time it is needed by the caller, keeping the caller on the line while they browse the documents that they see on their phone. It does require some programming work on the backend to ensure that the right schematics are linked to a particular query, but that effort wasn’t difficult or expensive, according to DeBiasio. They ended up building their own custom iPhone app, which took several months, and the actual integration with their backend data took a day or so. “We are pulling from several databases of all of our vehicle research going back to many years’ worth of model information,” he said. The one issue was in training their call center agents to use the new tools.

A somewhat different approach is being taken by MyCyberTwin, based in both New York and Sydney Australia.

This company is creating avatars with artificial intelligence properties to respond in context, similar to what the pioneering Eliza system did way back in the 1960s. The idea is to have it analyze your query and try to put together the right information, with a similar purpose to ChoiceView: to increase customer satisfaction and conversion rates with callers or inquiries. MyCyberTwin claims to have a 94% first-time resolution rate on its processed queries and I was impressed with the sample chatbots that I used, although I did run into an issue with this query as shown in the screenshot with an Australian bank when I asked the avatar the question “Do I have to reside in Australia to open an account” and got a very ambiguous reply.

Responses come quickly with no discernable delay. And several of our queries were answered correctly and completely.

The avatar pictures are somewhat Second Life-y and a bit creepy. (NASA is using CyberTwin in its Second Life installation for answering questions about its Mars Rover.) Having used a few other normal chat programs that connected me to regular carbon life forms, I can see the advantage if the CyberTwin agents can be trained and learn from their mistakes and experiences, as the company claims. The training effort varies depending on the amount of information that is part of the initial knowledge base, but a large bank took two to three months, according to the company’s Web site documentation. The company offers a free version to try out yourself that isn’t as sophisticated as the full enterprise version.

Both ChoiceView and MyCyberTwin are just the beginning of new and innovative ways to try to improve online customer experience, and feel free to share your own examples of others that you have come across.

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