Most people (or companies) have a few bad relationships before they find their soulmate. The same happened for vehicle information services leader, Fairfax, Virginia-based CARFAX, with its Internet customer service software and support. After changing CRM outsourcers several times over its seven-year history, the company finally found a happy ending with Bozeman, Montana’s RightNow.
“We’d been through several products over the years that we either outgrew or the firms didn’t survive the dotcom bust,” recalls CARFAX’s chief technology officer, David Silversmith. “Only RightNow has delivered.”
CARFAX provides Web-based data on their site about used cars for potential buyers throughout North America. Subscription-based information such as title searches, collision information, mileage data, and chronic repairs alerts visitors to possible problems with their purchases before the fact.
And though most visitors seldom need to contact customer service, over the years CARFAX has learned that when they do, they need service, FAST! So the challenge in keeping its CRM responsive was threefold. CARFAX needed to successfully cope with about 12,000 Web queries each month, have an email management system that’s easy to use, and support and build an effective online knowledge base to provide 24×7 support.
“Early on, we understood why we had outgrown the ability to internally support these responsibilities and saw the need to outsource the software, preferably ASP-related, to a vendor/partner,” says Silversmith, whose last CRM software relationship with another vendor was less than ideal.
It took CARFAX a month to get that earlier vendor up and running. But after six months, the system still wasn’t fully functional due to chronic difficulties with the scale of implementation.
Conversely, Silversmith’s experience with RightNow is completely different.
“We went from contract to full implementation in under two weeks,” he recalls. Instead of bumping support issues all the way up the line (as with previous CRM vendors), Silversmith found RightNow’s front-line technical support to be proactive, responsive, and capable of managing at much lower levels. “One of the great things about having RightNow as our strategic Internet customer service provider is they are great practitioners of the art themselves.”
RightNow’s CEO Greg Gianforte has an explanation for the symbiotic relationship between his company and CARFAX. “We audit and grade customers on how they implemented best practices,” he notes. “There is a direct correlation between following best practices and return on investment (ROI). CARFAX practices such diligence.”
Higher ROI for CRM customers
“RightNow is providing a good return on investment for its customers these days”, says Scott Tiazkun, an analyst for Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. “And it’s really easy for customers to quantify how much money they saved by factoring the number of fewer calls and emails their CRM reps are having to deal with directly.”
But most important are the actual results CARFAX has realized. The most powerful evidence is the 50 percent reduction in service-related emails the company received within three weeks of going live with RightNow–direct evidence that its new CRM initiative works.
As customers began to find their own answers online more frequently, it’s less necessary for them to email the 10 CARFAX customer service representatives (CSRs). This is a significant cost savings and underscores much improved customer satisfaction. “When people easily find answers to their questions without assistance online, their experience is much more appealing,” Silversmith says. “That’s how you gain and retain a loyal customer base.”
Collateral Benefits Suggest A Bright Future for ASP-based CRM
Silversmith also appreciates RightNow’s reporting capabilities, which give him better insights into customer concerns and trends. “If we can get a clear picture of what customers are having difficulty with, we can take action to further improve their experience with our company,” he says. “RightNow gives us the ability to respond quickly to problems when they occur as well as proactively make the changes necessary to avoid them in the first place. And it’s all Web-accessible”
Silversmith points out his CSRs are a lot happier as a result of his RightNow implementation, too. “Our staff doesn’t answer the same old repetitive questions anymore,” he says. “They focus on customer problems that actually warrant personal attention. That’s a major plus for their morale, and it proves we’re getting much more business value out of our payroll dollars.”
CRM outsourcing providers are raising the bar when it comes to client expectations as the methodology for managing customer contact becomes more streamlined, according to IDC’s Tiazkun. And this greater competition is leading to better deals for clients.
“We’re seeing more ‘try it before you buy it’ scenarios,” he observes. “There’s a lot more proactive, ‘on spec’ collaboration that allow clients to really see the difference. And once some real results are known, providers like RightNow fine-tune the process to make it even better. It’s as if the provider and client end up being stakeholders together.”
“We couldn’t do this if we weren’t an ASP. We can install it and you can try it out for free,” adds RightNow’s Gianforte. “Customers are sick and tired of enterprise software vendors. They deserve better.”
Lessons From The Outsourcing Journal
- The majority of customer service questions deal with basic issues. The ability to answer those questions early in the process reduces the workload of customer service personnel.
- Customers like being empowered to answer their own questions because it saves them time.
- The most powerful evidence of the success of RightNow’s outsourced CRM management solution is the dramatic reduction in service-related emails CARFAX is now receiving because the system answers their questions early in the process.