No matter how good a job you do in Web site design and navigation, and in trying to anticipate customers’ questions by proactively offering the right Q&A and links in the right places on your Web pages, customers either don’t see those links or they still have questions. Those questions may be specific to that customer’s account (What’s the balance on my credit card? What’s the schedule for my courses for next semester?). The customers’ questions may be semi-generic (How is a credit rating calculated and how can I improve mine?). Or the questions may be very generic. For example, customers ask “What kinds of credit cards do you offer?” over 13,000 different ways in different places on the TD Canada Trust site. TD Canada Trust knows this because they use a SaaS offering from IntelliResponse Systems, a Toronto-based software supplier. IntelliResponse provides tools that let you instrument your Web site to capture all the searches people are doing in context and to help you tailor answers to these questions with a single, comprehensive, and satisfying response, rather than to provide a list of search results or to dump you into an FAQ. I’ve heard FAQs referred to as “Find a Question”—pretty apt! People don’t want to go to a list of questions; they want a single, relevant answer!
The “here’s a list of places you can find answers to your questions” approach annoys customers because it provides possible places they could click to maybe find the answer they want. Instead, for each “informational” question that customers ask, IntelliResponse search returns a single search result. That’s right. A single result. Not a list of hundreds, or thousands, of documents or a Web page worth of FAQs, but a single, one- to five-sentence response that answers the customer’s question 80 percent to 90 percent of the time.
Sometimes, the answer may be self-contained. “Our admissions office is open from 9 to 5 pm Monday through Saturday at this address. The nearest subway stop is X, the nearest bus stop is Y. There is free parking behind the building.” Other times, you provide the answer and a quick link: “Here’s our credit card finder: see a list, compare offerings, select the one that’s right for you, see which ones you qualify for.”
TD Canada Trust and Penn State University are two of the over 90 companies that are currently using IntelliResponse’s software service to provide one-stop answers to customers’ open-ended questions. This week, Mitch Kramer provides a detailed analysis and evaluation of IntelliResponse 5.6. I was pleased to see that, although this software is provided as a service, Mitch included a list of the open source and licensed software modules that the small development team uses in crafting this solution, as well as a list of the dozen Web services APIs that you can use for integration with your other software tools. We believe that this level of architectural disclosure and transparency is important. Even if you’re buying software as a service, you still care about what’s inside the “black box,” and you need to know how easy it is to integrate this hosted service with other hosted services and with your internally-deployed applications.