Today’s Customers are Tomorrow’s Opportunities

By Debra Roper

At the recent Startel National Users Group (SNUG) conference, Hans Dregger of Telag in Zurich, Switzerland, pointed out that, “Technology is moving faster than people’s behavior.” Just like entertainers who find “overnight stardom” after years of preparation, this industry is going to find astounding success after years of being undervalued. We predict your customers will migrate to the net with you if you keep them informed about what you can do for them.

“When the Internet takes over it happens very fast,” Hans explains. “At Telag we have had the automobile industry on our service for ten years; this is a perfect example of how an account can grow as your Startel’s capabilities grow. In Switzerland the auto industry works quite differently than in the states. Rather than having many dealerships which stock cars on their site, we have dealership networks.”

“When a person wants to purchase a car, they call a main number for Chrysler, Switzerland or GM, Switzerland, and the call is answered at Telag. For many years this was done with Startel’s Information Exchange and Order Entry features, and we were able to answer questions and send brochures upon request. Today we do all this, give a lot more information and can discuss every feature with the customer – color, horsepower, even the seat style. It is all done on our Startel using the new Internet features.”

“Ten years ago 60% of all brochures were ordered by telephone, and 40% were ordered by mail,” Hans continued. “Three years ago we began to see email become the choice for information inquiries and for requests to test drive cars or for dealer appointments; now 80% of inquiries are from email. Access to our customer’s website means our operators can “see” the car in detail, inside and out and under the hood and answer questions for the car buyer. We literally help them to “design” their own automobile, and then we place their order for information or an appointment for a test drive directly into the manufacturers database on the net. It takes about five minutes to complete the form.”

Once customers discover the Web, it picks up momentum rapidly. “Hans is right; companies are beginning to move to the net,” agrees Gary Pudles of AnswerNet, headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. “We are getting more and more inquiries about what we can do. Email is the place where people tend to get their feet wet, and it is also a good place for us to excel in giving service. One of our clients, a large woman’s health charity organization, needed a transition between callers and their volunteers. We used Startel’s new VoiceNet and Email to provide the cost effective solution they needed.”

“Our VoiceNet answers the calls, and interactive voice response allows a series of questions to be answered by the caller. Those answers are converted into audio files that we attach to email in exactly the same way you would send any other attachment. Our customer receives the email, downloads the file and the volunteers transcribe the information. Windows allows them to have the voice file and a word processing program on screen at the same time, and they type what they hear. The keyboard functions allow the transcriber to stop, pause, back-up and go forward with ease,” Gary added. “We have a very happy customer! They saved 50% of the cost of this service by doing their own transcription; the volunteers have a roll in the process, and they have achieved their mission. This association has referred others to us, in part, because we were knowledgeable about the Internet.”

“The Web is just another tool we can use to give customized service to our clients,” says Lori Jenkins of Answer-All in Denver Colorado. “Our Startel is the workhorse that allows us to go slowly into the www.decision! And it has helped to provide the funds for this newest adventure.”

“A statewide paving company here in Colorado uses our services to streamline their Human Resources Department, and we deliver their information via the Internet. All their help-wanted advertising uses one number that is answered by our staff,” explains Lori. “This is set up as a Joint User account, and we use Startel’s Order Entry to complete the information. When we receive a call, we first determine the area of the state and the product they are interested in (concrete, aggregate, asphalt, etc.), and we enter the appropriate screen. We are able to give detailed information regarding the openings, rate of pay, vacation and other information. Then we get the required information, such as name, phone numbers, experience, whether union or nonunion, etc.”

“This information is emailed to our client,” Lori adds, “and they determine which applicants to call for interviews. Since they advertise as many as 50 positions at once, this prescreening is a huge help to the HR Department, and using email delivery means they don’t have to retype anything. Hiring was a very frustrating procedure for them, but now it’s not. They pay us nicely to do this work.”

“Turn a frustrated customer into a grateful customer, and you will have them forever,” acknowledges Donna West of Focus Telecommunications in Burtonsville, Maryland. “We’ve used Startel’s Information Exchange to make “keepers” of two very different kinds of clients.” She went on, “We “wowed” a client no one else could please. This property management company has two complexes with very similar names that were located on different streets in the same town. Each routinely got messages meant for the other complex. We set both accounts up with the statement: “If this is for (the street name for the OTHER complex), press the Info Exchange key now.” The proper screen immediately pops up for the operator. We never make mistakes and the customer is ecstatic.”

“In the second example,” Donna continued, “we have a medical account that provides oxygen, pharmaceuticals, respiratory therapy and IV therapy to nursing homes, private homes, hospitals and clinics. They have five locations, each provides every service, and each has separate on-call personnel for every service. It was a nightmare to keep straight. To add to the confusion, their own customers would often call on the wrong account for service. It all became EASY when we directed all the calls from all the locations to one number and allowed our Startel software to point our operators in the right direction. Info Exchange provides a “decision tree”, and with a few simple questions our staff sends the right call to the right office every time. When this customer is ready to move to the Web, you can be sure they will want us to help them.”

I’ve placed my order for the Startel’s Internet Software, and I can’t wait to get it,” says Beth Cooper of ASCO in Louisville, Tennessee. “I see Web service as another way to tie my customers to me by providing a way for their site to be open for business 24/7. I have been visiting my customers’ Web pages to become more familiar with their needs, and I know we’ll make money with this technology.”

She adds, “Many of our service customers have a button on their home page that says, “Click here for quote.” When you click, another screen instructs you to “Download form, complete information and fax back.” What if the customer can’t get it to download? Or they don’t have a fax? What if they have questions? We are in the perfect position to help! With some education we can answer almost every question the potential customer asks. We can take the information and even quote the price. In an era of labor shortages, this will be a terrific boon for our clients.”

“I rely on an Internet guru to keep my website current,” said Beth, “I think that is particularly important. Right now, the biggest use of the Net is to offer “virtual brochures” to people searching for information. This is our opportunity to augment those brochures with our order entry services, customer service help and to become indispensable to our clients.

As Lori and Beth point out, customer knowledge is the place where Internet success will begin. The Startel products and features you provide your clients today will both pay the way and pave the way to tomorrow’s opportunities.

[From Connection Magazine – July 2000]

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