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‘Ask Sarah’ web self-service system cuts email enquiry volume by half

Cambridge, UK, 31 July 2008: As part of its drive to increase self-service, the Royal Mail ( is delivering enhanced online customer service through ‘Ask Sarah’, a new intelligent web self-service system. Powered by Transversal (, Ask Sarah enables the Royal Mail’s 4.5 million monthly web visitors to receive immediate answers to their questions online, reducing the need to email or call Royal Mail. This directly benefits customers by providing faster access to the information they are looking for.

Fully launched at the beginning of June 2008, Ask Sarah has already reduced overall email queries by 50 per cent and by 96 per cent in some areas, improving service to customers. The number of routine calls to the contact centre have also been significantly reduced, freeing up staff to spend time answering more complex queries and increasing job satisfaction.

The Royal Mail has seen a dramatic increase in usage on its web site – rising from 3.5 million to 4.5 million monthly visitors between 2007 and 2008. This has been driven by the increasing number of services, such as online postage, parcel tracking, redirections and redelivery now available via the site, as part of the organisation’s drive to enhance the services it provides.

With such a broad range of customers, spanning the whole population, Royal Mail needed a system that was easy to use, regardless of the visitor’s technical ability. Following extensive research, Royal Mail chose Transversal to help deliver self-service through the approachable and engaging image of ‘Sarah’, providing an immediately recognisable and reassuring figure for customers on both the business and consumer parts of the site.

Ask Sarah is integrated closely with Royal Mail’s services available via its web site. For example, daily analysis found that customers were asking Sarah questions about the delivery status of parcels. Ask Sarah now recognises parcel tracking reference numbers and links automatically to Royal Mail’s parcel tracking system, showing customers current delivery status.

“As more and more of our customers interact with us online, we needed a self-service system that provided the levels of support they needed in a professional yet friendly form that avoided the hard sell,” said Stephen Mitchell, digital operations manager, Royal Mail. “By working with Transversal we’ve been able to introduce Ask Sarah, providing an easy to use, approachable way for getting immediate answers to questions whatever your technical ability. The benefits for our customers have been impressive. We’ve seen customer satisfaction rise and inbound enquiries drop dramatically since introducing Sarah and believe this trend will only continue moving forward.”

Following the decision to introduce self-service, Royal Mail carried out extensive research in the market. It chose Transversal as it provided advanced technology that met Royal Mail’s needs combined with the experience and business understanding to help the organisation achieve its goals.

“Royal Mail is an organisation that touches the lives of everybody in the UK,” commented Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “This means it needs to provide support and customer service answers to a wide range of users including businesses and consumers of all ages and technical abilities. The success of the user-friendly Ask Sarah solution shows how self-service can deliver real benefits when integrated into an organisation, improving customer service and enabling customers to transact more easily online.”

The project began in early 2008, with design, development and testing culminating in the official launch in June 2008. Given the differences in answers between business and consumer questions Ask Sarah has two separate knowledgebases for each part of the Royal Mail site. Content for Sarah was built and developed by using Royal Mail’s own contact centre advisors who speak to customers everyday as getting the language and context of questions customers were asking was key to the success of Ask Sarah.

Using Transversal's flexible technology platform, Royal Mail analyses customer searches on a daily basis, using the insight to add new content in response to questions that don’t have an answer, and align the service to customer requirements. They can easily upload new content, for example to provide answers on Christmas posting dates, ensuring that information is always accurate and up to date.

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Rainier PR
Chris Measures/Sam Grace
+44 (0)20 7494 6570

About Transversal

Transversal is a Cambridge-based developer of multi-channel eService solutions for customer-facing websites and contact centres that achieve high-impact wins on improved service, reduced costs and increased sales. Transversal's flagship Web Self-service Sales EngineTM solution uses the online customer service interaction to deliver targeted offers and advertising based on what customers ask about - a customer service strategy proven to produce high response rates and sales, while simultaneously improving customer service quality and efficiency. MetafaqTM reduces the volume of call and email queries to contact centres by automatically answering customers' questions online. Transversal customers will typically see immediate and dramatic email reductions, by around 60%, and improvements in email response times, from days to minutes. Intrafaq, Transversal's knowledge management solution for contact centres, delivers information to agents in a unique way from a dynamic natural language knowledgebase. Simply by typing a question, in their own words, agents can access answers to customer questions; providing fast, accurate and consistent responses. Organisations benefit from increased first call resolution and efficiency by improving the knowledge and quality of service provided by customer service and help-desk agents. Transversal's Memory Engine™ is the result of research and development by top researchers in Information Theory and Machine Learning from Caltech and Cambridge universities. Transversal co-founder, Prof. David MacKay, is a world renowned expert in Artificial Intelligence. He pioneered Bayesian Neural Networks in the late 1980s and remains at the forefront of the field.

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