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noHold, a Milpitas, Calif., online customer self-service company, gets its name by promising not to keep customers on hold. It just got a new contract by saving a computer mouse-maker $290,000 in customer support costs.
Logitech, a Fremont, Calif., seller of computer mice, trackballs, keyboards, and other digital hardware, installed noHold's Instant Support system to handle customer requests at a Web site that sells Logitech's line of digital cameras.
With Instant Support, customers access a help desk through a pop-up window similar to instant messaging. But instead of interacting with a live person, the user receives help from a virtual support agent using artificial intelligence to diagnose problems. The system is designed to deliver solutions within three or four clicks.
noHold says its system is superior to online resources such as FAQ lists and search engines, which cannot diagnose problems and deliver only general responses. And the technology is far cheaper than e-mail and phone support -- and, if it works correctly, faster.
"We saw significant results immediately after implementing Instant Support," says Michael Doyle, Logitech's director of customer support. "In less than four months after launching on our site, Instant Support handled just under 30,000 technical support questions and problems that normally would have gone to our telephone or e-mail support agents."
The result: just under $290,000 saved, mostly in labor costs.
Analysts estimate that an e-mail support session costs nearly $10, and a telephone support session costs $33. Online self-help, meanwhile, costs about $1, assuming that each question is successfully answered without need of further phone or e-mail operators.
Instant Support draws on several databases, including those located in a company's existing systems. (Companies can also integrate it with existing customer relationship management technology.) By adding information to the databases with each question, the system becomes "smarter" the more it's used.
Doyle says Logitech is so impressed with the job that noHold did for its digital cameras that it's extending the relationship to include the manufacturer's entire line, including mice, keyboards, and interactive entertainment products.
"It was an easy decision to expand Instant Support across the enterprise, because it will allow us to deliver improved service to all our customers while helping us control costs," Doyle says.
Michael Singer writes for siliconvalley.internet.com, an internet.com site where this story first appeared.