Understanding a customers context is the key to self-service success – Interview with Bill Colleran


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Today’s interview is with William (Bill) Colleran, President and Chief Executive Officer of AnswerDash, a predictive and artificial intelligence (AI) powered Q&A Saas platform that facilitates customer service for e-commerce businesses thereby reducing support costs and revealing customer needs. Bill joins me today to talk about self-service, context, why static FAQs are not enough and what firms should be doing to improve their customer service using self-service tools.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Big data and technology is undermining our ability to develop our own hunches – Interview with Bernadette Jiwa – and is number 228 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Bill:

  • AnswerDash was founded on the basis of some research that came out of the University of Washington.
  • It is predominately focused on the area of self-service in customer service across websites, mobile apps and chat-bots.
  • The founders, in their research, noticed that if you understand someones context you can do a very good job of predicting the questions, issues and challenges that they are having and, therefore, build systems that would allow them to get what they are looking for and self-serve.
  • Many companies are trying to do self-service but many are not getting it right or achieving the results that they would like.
  • This has a lot to do with the complexity of designing solutions for applications on the internet, particularly when it comes to designing the user experience (UX) across a range of platforms/devices.
  • At the very simplest level, having a good set of FAQs is the ‘price of admission’ when it comes to self-service. But, many companies still haven’t achieved this.
  • However, when products/services get more complicated then FAQs start to perform less well as they themselves become too long or complicated and the customer is less likely to read through them all or be able to find the answer to their particular question.
  • Therefore, the next logical step would be to add a ‘search engine’ to your FAQs type feature to help customers find the information they are looking for.
  • However, AnswerDash takes this one step further and they use the customer’s context, i.e. which page you are on or where you are in a mobile app etc, to predict your most likely question and the answer you need given your context.
  • On AnswerDash’s website it says that taking their approach can “reduce your support tickets by 30% to 50% and increase sales by 10% to 30%”.
  • Given the customer’s context (location on a site or within an app) and based on the experience of previous customers they use their artificial intelligence (AI) driven predictive algorithm to predict what are the most likely questions that the customer will have and the best answers for those questions.
  • Taking this approach can have a profound impact on the volume of support tickets that companies receive and the rate of shopping cart abandonment on ecommerce sites.
  • Their system learns over time and, therefore, the accuracy of it’s responses improves over time. However, it is also dynamic and responds to changing conditions, like new product releases etc.
  • Establishing context when engaging with a chatbot in a messaging application like Facebook Messenger etc is more difficult. Therefore, to help with establishing context the chatbot asks the customer to select from a set of categories regarding the sort of enquiry that a customer might have. They then present to most likely problem areas, based on their historical data, to further refine the customer’s context.
  • Bill gave a couple of examples of how their technology has worked in practice:
    • TireBuyer is an online car tyre company in the United States. They wanted to improve their customers buying experience so only installed AnswerDash on their checkout page. The team at TireBuyer ran an A/B test and found that AnswerDash’s technology allowed them to increase revenue per visitor by 13% within only a few months.
    • Moo.com an online printer, most famously for business cards. They deployed AnswerDash across their website as a way of improving the whole customer experience. As a result they didn’t get one specific benefit but a range of benefits from the implementation. Those included an increase in order conversion, an increase in average order value and a reduction in their live chat support inquiries.
  • Around 60% of all calls into your contact centre or emails into your support desk come about as a result of a customer not being able to find what they are looking for on your website.
  • To get started in improving your service and experience in this area, Bill recommends companies start by asking themselves a question:

    What is your strategy around customer service?

  • What Bill means by that is….are you trying to leverage excellent customer service to drive sales (i.e. high touch and high engagement as a means of differentiation) or do you want to minimise your customer support costs so you can optimise on some other dimension (i.e. to be the low price leader)?
  • Bill often finds when they speak to many people within organisations they deal with that they are not clear where they are on that spectrum.
  • However, organisations need to be clear on that. Only then, should they consider deploying the most appropriate technology in pursuit of that goal.
  • AnswerDash have also developed, as part of their technology, an ability to scan whole knowledge bases and pick out the top 6-10 customer query categories. This is a great way of getting started with deploying their tech or understanding an existing knowledge base.
  • They are also working on an agent facing tool, based on natural language processing (NLP) technology, that is focused on helping them make the job of the agent easier.
  • Wow service/experience for Bill comes about when a company is actively engaged throughout their customer’s lifecycle.
  • Check out www.answerdash.com

About Bill

Bill ColleranWilliam Colleran is President and Chief Executive Officer of AnswerDash.

Dr. Colleran brings over twenty years of experience in business leadership, marketing, finance and technology to AnswerDash. Most recently, he served for 14 years as CEO of Impinj, Inc., joining shortly after its founding and growing the company into the world’s preeminent provider of RFID solutions. Prior to Impinj, Dr. Colleran served as Director of Business Development for Broadcom Corporation. Prior to that, he was CEO of Innovent Systems, Inc., which he led from the company’s inception through its sale to Broadcom. Dr. Colleran previously worked for Merrill Lynch’s Technology Investing Banking Group, focusing on financial transactions and acquisitions in the technology sector. He also has extensive engineering-design experience, both as a consultant for several Fortune 500 companies and as a Senior Staff Engineer for TRW, Inc., where he developed high-performance integrated circuits. Dr. Colleran received his Ph.D. from UCLA, his M.S. from USC, his B.S. from Notre Dame, all in Electrical Engineering, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Check out www.answerdash.com, say Hi to them and Bill on Twitter @answerdash and @BillColleran1 and connect with Bill on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Paul Downey for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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