In late 2001, following explosive growth in the online genealogy industry, MyFamily.com Inc. found itself answering huge numbers of customer e-mails. Without a conventional telephone call center to handle questions, the company's subscription Web site was receiving 2,000 to 5,000 e-mails a day, according to company officials.
Enter a beefed-up call center strategy and new software to back up a renewed focus on customer service. Telephone representatives were added to help with outbound calls, while online FAQs were added to cut down on e-mail queries. What resulted was a 67% reduction in e-mail volume within 30 days, an ROI of about 260% in the first nine months and a save rate for cancellations of 35%, well above the industry average.
For these reasons, MyFamily has been presented with a Customer Touch Award from SearchCRM.com.
MyFamily, based in Provo, Utah, exploded into the world of online genealogy, going from 100,000 paid subscribers in September 1999 to more than 800,000 within three years. It is now the fifth-largest paid subscription site, with more than 1 million subscriptions. MyFamily is focused on connecting families with their histories and one another through a network of Web sites, which includes Ancestry.com and RootsWeb.com, as well as MyFamily.com.
All that growth posed some customer service challenges.
At the end of 2001, most customer feedback and service originated on the company's Web sites, where customers would use an online form to submit questions to support staff. With 15 full-time employees answering all the correspondence, response times lagged.
"Of course it was frantic; there were too many e-mails and not enough people," said Jared Richards, call center director. "We suffered on the quality side because people were focused on getting e-mails out. It became a critical issue for us."
MyFamily decided to stick with an in-house call center rather than outsource, and it selected hosted Web self-service software from RightNow Technologies Inc., in Bozeman, Mont. Using the software, many simple questions that previously were fielded via e-mail are now answered online.
The decision to keep an in-house call center meant more control over representatives and savings from cutting out outsourcing fees, Richards said. Implementing hosted software cut down on integration hassles, plus the company's legacy CRM application, from Kana Software Inc., meshed easily with the RightNow tools, he added.
MyFamily implemented LivePerson in less than 48 hours, allowing reps to host live chats with customers. The addition of an auto-dialer improved subscriber retention rates by 15%, he said. Instituting welcome calls to new members to walk them through the site and answer questions led to more sales, once customers began referring family and friends to MyFamily.
"Who knew that, by calling people and welcoming them, it would increase sales by 50%?" Richards said. "After a while, you realize that of course it would."
The initiative resulted in other significant improvements in customer service and savings. In September 2001, the representative per-hour cost at the call center was $27; it is now down to $21. RightNow allowed MyFamily to reduce its e-mail team from 15 full-time employees to five. Conversely, the call center telephone representatives have increased from 125 last year to more than 200 today, while increasing productivity. With the auto-dialer, outbound calls were increased, which in turn increased sales by $200,000 per month.
"It's been hugely successful," Richards said. "Now, whenever a department develops leads, we're able to generate immediate sales."
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