Call it a way to outsource to cyberspace. Last August, Cox Communications Inc.’s Phoenix system introduced an Online Live Response feature using an instant messaging (IM) application to quickly respond to subscriber billing queries and high-speed data technical support questions.
Users can use the feature, which is powered by e-care and IM software provider Kana Software Inc., to instantly connect to a customer service representative “live.”
Significantly, as any IM user can testify, an IM conversation can create a long virtual “paper” trail, with several exchanges. To help customers remember what has transpired, Cox sends a copy of the entire transcript of the “conversation” to customers’ e-mail boxes for reference — handy in case technical set-up questions were addressed.
Cox director of media relations Bobby Amirshahi said the Phoenix division conducted research at the beginning to this year to gauge the popularity of the feature and found broad approval of the system. Of those who used it, 91% said they were likely to use it again. “It’s an overwhelming endorsement for us to continue to use instant messaging for customer service,” said Amirshahi.
It’s not clear if and when Cox will institute IM for customer service in its other markets. But Amirshahi notes that “customers are telling us they want fast, real-time attention to their questions. IM is a fantastic tool for that.”
The IM initiative is part of a larger move by Cox to route customer queries to electronic channels. To that end, Amirishahi noted, Cox hit a significant milestone in May 2003 when it drove more traffic and more customer queries to cox.com than to all its call centers. “For us, that’s a great cost savings.”