Name: Mike Murphy
Title: Senior Manager Online Support
Company: EarthLink, Inc.
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Challenge: We used to do a lot of in-house development for projects among our more than 2,000 employees. Organizationally we had so many different groups with stakes in different tools that needed to be developed that lead times were excessively long. That process also required a lot of infrastructure, or capital expenditure, and the layers of complexity were exhaustive. Wed try to develop home-grown versions of tools that other companies had as their core competency. For instance, we were going to try to build a chat program for the support and sales teams to interact with their clients.
Solution: Because chat is such an important piece of our business, we signed on with LivePerson, Inc.s software as a service. Were handling a quarter of our contacts more than 2 million transactions a year through this channel and we need to deliver a polished product. Our sales team uses it to close sales with customers browsing the Web and our support team uses it to help customers solve problems.
Impact on IT: Software as a service tends to live more in the business unit than IT. Its attractive to me as a business owner to go with an outside vendor who is beholden to me. Theres more incentive there than going with an internal group that may not have the same priorities. However, I do work closely with IT because they have direct access to Web properties where we need to deploy code.
SLA advice: Be very specific about information access on both sides. We continue to add layers of stipulations to improve security, such as when a session ends, all information is scrubbed of sensitive information.
Contingency plans: The best way to plan for contingencies is to keep an open mind and not get locked into one vendor. Our providers know that we are constantly re-evaluating our relationships and we make sure to take a look at new services on the market. That way, if our provider shuttered its doors, wed know who to call to get back up and running within weeks.
Final thought: Im a huge advocate of reaching out to industry organizations and going to conferences to find peers that have already reviewed potential service providers. That way you can learn what they did right and wrong. So far it has saved us a lot of time and gotten us the right vendors and the right deployment.