Sento Corp. Cuts Costs, Improves Customer Service for Xactware through eService Center

 — October 31, 2003 — 

It's storm season. Insurance claims specialists, property adjusters, and building contractors are actively taking assignment after assignment. Estimates are needed for damage repair to homes and other property-and they are needed yesterday. Time and versatility are of the essence. This is the nature of the high expectations that customers have for insurance companies when a claim is submitted, especially when customers feel that the service has been pre-paid and they are missing some of the essential comforts of life.

Policyholders are dependent upon claims professionals, contractors, and property adjusters to evaluate and process their estimates with the highest levels of efficiency and quality, sometimes even in the middle of the night. This valued dependency can't be more evident than in the all-to-common scenario of getting an estimate completed and processed "after hours" for emergency repairs to a home or business.

Enter Xactware, an industry-leading company specializing in providing and supporting estimation technology that large insurance carriers, property adjusters, cleaning specialists, restoration contractors and remodelers need to serve their customers. Xactware's customers know the value of high-quality, affordable and flexible customer support and for the past two years have been able to rely on Xactware's eService Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for their technical support needs.

In April 2001, Xactware, who has a 17-year, recognized record of providing technology that's "so sophisticated, it's simple," realized the need to provide customer support that was as advanced and customer friendly as their estimation software and Internet technology.

"The number of customers we had was growing. In fact, about 80 percent of insurance repair contractors have our software," said David Nelson, Marketing Analyst for Xactware. "Our phone system and people were overtaxed, so the wait time was getting longer and longer."

Nelson recalls that a large percentage of these calls were about issues their customer support representatives didn't need to touch. These were queries that could be answered simply through a "FAQ" page on Xactware's Website or from an online renewal form.

"We saw a huge margin in efficiency and ultimately in customer satisfaction that we could gain," said Nelson. "Our customers were waiting far too long on the phone for a help session that would last two-minutes or less. Back then we weren't really teaching our customers how to fish, just asking them to call us so we could help."

Nelson said they were committed to have the same success through their customer support, as they have through their customers' use of their estimating software, Xactimate®. The company has saved businesses a vast amount of money by converting what was once an error-prone and labor-intensive estimating process into an accurate, fast and far more efficient one. They needed a creditable support system to complement their reputable technology products.

From behind the scenes, Sento, a leading provider of integrated, multi-channel customer support solutions, began working with Xactware's in-house customer support team to create a customized customer relationship management (CRM) support solution that would meet and even exceed Xactware's customer service goals. Xactware didn't just want to provide what may be considered a standard in the support industry-better customer service with less wait time and for less money-but according to Kevin Crandall, Manager of Support and Customer Care, the goals were to provide their customers with a "good experience" and to give Xactware a "harvest of improvements" for their product and customer support.

Sento proposed that this "good experience" for Xactware customers come in the form of Sento's Customer Choice Platform. The basis of this model is to guide the customer through a series of support solutions, and at every juncture offer them the option of live support, if they want it. It turned out to be just what Xactware was looking for. In conjunction with Xactware's internal customer support team, Sento's Customer Choice Platform was applied to Xactware's eService Center. Sento maintains that if the customer can get a good solution, they'll choose the self-service alternative and will feel good about having done so.

Upon entering their ID and password, Xactware customers have access to support options tailored to their specific products and needs. By selecting the "24/7 Online Support" option they can get quick answers to commonly asked technical support questions in the "Answer Center," a searchable database with hundreds of "how to" and solution documents, complete with step-by-step instructions and even screenshots.

Customers can also access the "24/7 Free Live Chat" and Text Talk to a technician any time, day or night. This real-time support has become the most popular option of Xactware customers, utilized 52 percent of the time. Its real value comes when a technician's reply "pops up" immediately in the text box, eliminating misunderstanding and delays that often take place when trying to jot down instructions over the phone. Customers can also pause during the session to answer a door or respond to a client's call-things that otherwise might be a distraction on a phone call.

For the customer, the chat or Text Talk option provides an accurate record of communications for future reference. For Xactware, it's also a way of getting customer feedback after the session through survey data. So far this year, Sento's support has been able to maintain an average of a 91 percent customer satisfaction rating for Xactware. This is an increase from 85 percent in 2002. Impressive, considering a 70 percent customer satisfaction rating is considered "excellent" according to industry data.

Although the Online Chat and the Answer Center are the most utilized features of the eService Center, other options provide helpful avenues for nearly any customer request. Almost as immediate as chat is email support, which allows anyone with an email address to ask a quick question and receive a quick, yet comprehensive response from an Xactware technician.

By visiting the "XactForum," an online user forum, customers can post and review questions, answers, opinions, and tips with other Xactware customers. Power users of Xactware's eService Center can reference the "Tip of the Week" to improve their estimating skills, "Important News" written exclusively for Xactware customers, and a "Helpful Downloads" section to receive the latest tick sheets and keyboard shortcuts.

Pay-per-issue phone support is available throughout this customer "self-assisted" experience, but according to Xactware this option is now utilized only 38 percent of the time. By directing customer support through Sento's Call Deflection Model to the more popular self-service options Sento provides through Xactware's eService Center, phone support wait times have been reduced by 75 percent.

Sento's technology allows Xactware support to track the customer's use of each eService Center option. Sento's unique CRM Event Record puts every bit of background on a customer's support issue into the agent's hands from within a single record. Every contact-email and chat transcripts, phone contacts and even Web pages the customer has touched in an effort to solve their own problem-is available to the agent in a single, concise file that will help the agent solve the customer's issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Jim Evans, Vice President of Operations at Xactware, said the Customer Choice Platform proposal from Sento initially made sense on paper, but many at Xactware were cautious to go from a "phone support" model to primarily Web support. Evans and others found that the main concerns centered on their customers' preferences and Xactware's culture and history of providing in-house phone support.

According to Evans, the general feeling internally was one of control. Xactware's in-house customer support team had control over their support offering, as well as a commitment to their support team that many were hesitant to change. "We had to convince everyone in our organization," Evans said. "It's like handing someone the keys to your car while you're still in it. When it comes down to it, support people have frequent contact with our existing customers and have a direct impact on customer opinion of the company. We were reluctant to give them up."

This feeling of losing management control over their customer support was solved largely through the flexible nature of Sento's solution for Xactware. "Sento has worked hard to offer us flexibility," Evans said. "Many of our own customer support agents were able to join their team. This was immediately advantageous to both of our companies. Sento is always working to improve and they include us directly in the management and operations of the support offering they provide our customers."

Evans reports that Sento has continued to come to Xactware with adjustments and solutions as customers have made requests and survey data has been analyzed. "They provide us with so many reports. Sento is very big on process metrics. And, since our business increases when the storms hit, outsourcing is a better option than trying to staff up internally like we've done in the past. Sento can take the ups and downs much more easily than we can."

According to Crandall, Sento's operations are also transparent. "Sento really runs their operation pretty much under glass. They let us monitor quite a bit. You get to see what's going on. And if it's going rough, you get to see it or hear it. They're right there to help you work out the issues, but you don't have to worry that something is being hidden in the corner."

In fact, Crandall and other members of his internal team get to personally listen-in and even prompt the front-line agents frequently on phone calls or chat sessions. This option is in addition to the support they receive from a Quality Analysis team that Sento provides.

"Sento is so open and available to us, said Crandall "They help us stay committed to our goal of continually improving our customer support and technology. With Sento's help, we can ensure that everyone is learning. We want to learn from our customers. They're our eyes and ears. Our service gets better every day."

Nelson adds that Sento's advancements for Xactware customer support have provided the impetus for improvements in Xactware software and Internet technology products.

"Sento has given us the ability to harvest and apply the product feedback received from their customers in more efficient and effective ways than any previous data collection and reporting process we've used," said Nelson. "A strong indication of this reward is presented in the continual decrease in the number of customers that contact us for support of any kind."

Ultimately, Evans admits the real value of Sento's solution for Xactware is not the cost savings and wealth of customer feedback that the eService Center provides, nor the significantly shortened wait times for phone support.

"We can definitely say it has represented an increase in service while providing a significant savings in overall cost," said Evans. "We've realized a 30 percent savings at the cost per issue level. This allows us to offer a broader range of support options, and increase our support hours from 12 hours per day, 5 days a week to 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, all without increasing the price of our software. But the real accomplishment is knowing that our customers' entire support experience is one that they can own and enjoy, according to their preferences."

About Xactware Inc.

Founded in 1986, Xactware, Inc., is a privately held technology services company (www.Xactware.com), specializing in the property insurance, remodeling, and restoration industries. Xactware's technology tools include software estimating programs for PCs and tablet PCs as well as powerful online systems for replacement cost calculations, estimate tracking, and data trending in real time.

For more information about Xactware's products and services, contact Xactware at 1-800-424-9228 or contact us online.