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Using Technology to Improve Customer Service

By Anthony Alexander

These days, everything we do involves technology, and sometimes it seems to complicate rather than simplify our lives. Something as basic as setting up a sales meeting often requires not only a phone to make the call, but also an e-mail to follow-up, Microsoft Outlook to pick a convenient time, and a PowerPoint-equipped laptop to make the presentation.

But have you ever thought about how long it would take to write 30 copies of your next business plan by hand? What about balancing your annual budget using a pencil, notebook and lots of scratch paper? Although it can get complicated, technology is a great way to minimize your workload and reduce human error.

However, something technology can't replace is the power of simple, one-on-one human interaction. Talented customer service people in our industry are in no danger of being replaced by machines. But did you know that technology can dramatically improve person-to-person customer service?

You can use it to develop a "ticketing system," a software program that tracks customer interactions from the first call to the final resolution. A ticketing system allows everyone access to information about a particular problem. It eliminates duplicate efforts by making sure that only one person works on one problem at a time.

Best of all, clients call in only once and are confident that no matter who takes their call, the problem will be resolved quickly. They won't be transferred from extension to extension or have to wait on hold for 20 minutes. The ticketing software assigns each problem to a specific staff member who's qualified and available to handle it; the system also automatically attaches a deadline for resolution.

Ticketing systems keep a history of requests from a particular merchant or sales office on one convenient screen. For example, when an ISO or merchant level salesperson (MLS) calls in, the rep who answers the phone can tell at a glance how many times the person has called; what he's called about; which of his merchants are currently experiencing problems; and what's being done to resolve them.

The best ticketing systems provide and track information that is visible and accessible to all. No matter whom ISOs/MLSs call for a status update, the person on the other end of the phone can give them real-time updates on all of their merchants with a few mouse clicks.

A side benefit is the system's ability to track employee performance, which makes it easy to reward those who perform and to remedy problems (and problem performers) before they get too serious.

The systems also track: frequently occurring problems; who handles the most incoming problems; who knows how to resolve the most issues; and how effectively the staff addresses customer complaints.

With all of this information at your fingertips, it's easy to determine changes to make internally in order to improve customer service.

Many ticketing systems are currently on the market, and I've looked at most of them. Ultimately, my company made a decision to create its own tracking system, called Vimas TrackIt.

A great tracking system integrates with your current databases, so you don't have to enter data more than once. For instance, our system, which is tied into Vimas, our virtual back-office software, automatically pulls information from the Vimas database into TrackIt and eliminates the need for our employees to re-enter merchant or ISO/MLS information at point-of-call. Following is an example of how the system works:

Let's say a merchant calls our tech support department with a big problem: A terminal has malfunctioned, and it's an unusual model that takes a specialist to repair.

The tech support rep opens up a ticket, records some information about the merchant's situation, gives the merchant a resolution time (later that afternoon), and lets him get back to his business.

When ISOs/MLSs want a status update on their merchants, they only need to make one call. Anyone on the system can see right away the status of their merchants and tell them, for instance, that one in particular is having a terminal download problem, but it will be fixed in the next four hours.

At this point, the system automatically assigns the ticket to a person who can handle the problem. This is one of the most important steps in developing your own ticketing system.

If there's no system in place, merchants calling in will expect the person who answers the phone to solve their problems right away; they don't want to keep repeating themselves as they get transferred around to a bunch of extensions.

The system automatically checks who in the company has the skills and time available to fix each merchant's problem and then assigns the ticket to that person.

That's how our ticketing system works, and it might seem a little complicated, but consider it from the merchants' point of view: One three-minute phone call, and the problem is fixed.

There's no calling around to find someone trained to fix problems with a particular terminal; no being transferred from extension to extension; no need to provide explanations over and over; no doubt that the person to whom they're talking is one who can get their problem solved; and no worries over when it will be resolved.

Thank you, technology!

A system such as Vimas TrackIt can be invaluable for your business because it lets your clients know that you're paying serious attention to their problems, and it keeps them updated every step of the way until the problems are resolved.

No one wants to feel like their requests are unimportant to a company. A ticketing system assures your clients that each request they make is unique and important. Clients know that their problems are being addressed and that they haven't been dropped on a three-inch stack of paper in someone's outbox.

The bottom line: There's no substitute for great, personal customer service. Any technology that's supposed to improve the way customer requests are handled is only as good as the people using the system.

Once you have a top-notch team in place, use technology to take your company to the next level of excellence.

Anthony Alexander manages software development for Cynergy Data, a merchant acquirer that provides a wide array of electronic payment processing services while continually striving to develop new solutions that meet the needs of its agents and merchants. In addition to offering credit, debit, EBT and gift card processing, along with check conversion and guarantee programs, the company offers its ISOs the ability to borrow money against its residuals, to have Web sites designed and developed, to provide merchants with free terminals and to benefit from state-of-the-art marketing, technology and business support. Founded in 1995 by Marcelo Paladini and John Martillo, Cynergy Data strives to be a new kind of acquirer with a unique mission: to constantly explore, understand and develop the products that ISOs and merchants need to be successful and to back it up with honest, reliable and supportive service.

For more information on Cynergy Data contact Nancy Drexler, Marketing Director, at .

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