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Santa gets all the Christmas Kudos but leaves it to call centres to clear up delivery, fault and other enquiries. However, systems are available now that handle customer enquiries automatically

Cambridge web self-service and knowledge management company, Transversal (, has warned that many retailers’ call centres will be unable to cope with the increased number of calls and e-mail customer enquiries they will receive over the Christmas period.

The UK is heading for another bumper online Christmas, with retail websites already seeing a 44 per cent increase in overall online market share since the same time last year (Hitwise, 2003). Consequently there will be an increase in online pre- and post-sale customer enquiries, yet alarmingly recent research (British Business Customer Response Healthcheck, 2003) shows that 66 per cent of companies with websites failed to respond to web-based questions and requests! In most cases such levels of inadequate online customer service force customers to either abandon transactions or telephone a call centre.

Call centres already receive increased traffic over Christmas resulting in many companies having to take on additional staff in an effort to reduce call waiting times. However, this too can have a detrimental effect on customer service. Often new staff are not fully trained or up to speed on product information or company policies, meaning that customer queries can often be inefficiently and inconsistently handled.

Transversal has developed Metafaq to ease the burden of call and e-mail enquiries to call centres by answering customer’s questions online. Using Transversal’s unique Memory EngineTM technology, Metafaq is able to understand complex sentence structure and process customer questions in the same way as the human brain does. Customers can simply type a question in their own words, just as they would ask an agent, to receive an immediate and relevant answer from a knowledgebase of information. By using the Metafaq system, it is actually quicker for customers to have their questions answered online than to contact the call centre.

Only questions that cannot be answered online are forwarded to support staff. Their responses are then simultaneously e-mailed back and added to the knowledgebase to be used to answer future queries. The more questions that are asked and answered, the better the system becomes at handling queries. The system ensures a dynamic and up-to-date knowledgebase of the information customers need most.

Metafaq reduces the number of calls made to customer helpdesks as queries are dealt with online. Metafaq can also be deployed within call centres to help reduce call handling times, providing agents with access to a knowledgebase which allows them to deal with enquiries in a much more efficient and consistent manner.

Using Metafaq, customers such as Fujifilm have already reduced e-mail volumes to its call centres by 60 per cent and within one month of integration over 85 per cent of Sony PlayStation’s online queries were being answered automatically.

Andy Barker, director of customer services at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said: “Christmas is undoubtedly our busiest time of the year, with many people buying PlayStation products and making associated enquiries. Metafaq has allowed us to quickly and efficiently deal with repeat queries and allow us to spend more time dealing with more complex ones. We think that will become even more important at Christmas when we are dealing with lots of new users with high expectations of Sony PlayStation; we will maintain those expectations using the best customer service tools available to us.”

Gerard Buckley, CEO of Transversal, said: “The pressures on call centres are great over the Christmas period with many organisations facing call and e-mail overload. By implementing intelligent online customer service organisations can significantly improve the customer experience as customers can now receive online quick and consistent answers to their questions.”


About Transversal

Founded in 1998 by two PhDs from Caltech and Cambridge University, Transversal is based in Cambridge, England. Transversal provides cost efficient, web-based customer support and information management solutions through its Metafaq™ products. Transversal aims to transform the Web from a passive information-sharing channel into an active knowledge-creation environment. To support this goal it has combined the sophisticated concept matching of its Memory Engine™ technology with a modular infrastructure for web-based communications and content management. Current customers include Sony, Direct Line, MFI, Fujifilm, TDK Systems, Hotcourses Systems, DfES, Proctor & Gamble and the British Army.

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Further information

Pirate Communications

Alex Crawshaw / Ged Carroll / David Pincott

Tel. +44 (0)20 7760 7050 / /

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