ABOUT THE VENDOR
KANA provides external-facing eCRM solutions. The company's customer-focused service, marketing, and commerce software applications enable organizations to improve customer and partner relationships by enabling them to productively interact when, where and how they want -- across all touch points, including Web contact, Web collaboration, e-mail, and telephone. KANA's global customer base includes Global 2000 organizations in the financial services, manufacturing, high technology, communications, retail and services markets.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
Drugstore.com, inc. is an online drugstore and information site offering health, beauty, wellness, personal care, and pharmacy products. The Web store offers thousands of brand-name personal health care products at competitive prices; a full-service, licensed retail pharmacy; and a wealth of health-related information, buying guides, and other tools designed to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. Consumers can personalize their shopping experiences with shopping lists, e-mail reminders for replenishing regularly used products, and private e-mail access to pharmacists and beauty experts for questions.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
With KANA iCARE's array of automated productivity tools for managing high volume e-mail, chat, and Web form messages, enterprises can lower response times while increasing the quality
Drugstore.com needed a way to quickly and efficiently route and respond to customer e-mails. They also wanted reports to monitor volume, efficiency, and speed. SearchCRM spoke with director of customer care Ron Kelly about the project.
SearchCRM: How many vendors did you look at?
Kelly: In late 1998, there weren't a whole lot of players. KANA was ahead of the game on this, and there wasn't a ton of competition. We looked at maybe two or three other vendors who were getting going in the field, and KANA was the most credible, had the best client list, and was most easily able to integrate with our systems.
SearchCRM: What else were you looking for in a CRM solution?
Kelly: Primarily integration. Future enhancements were also important -- making sure it's not just the product that they've currently got out, but what's going to come down the road. Will we be able to partner together to enhance the software as e-commerce continues to explode? We were also looking for a stable company with a vision behind it.
SearchCRM: What were the challenges to the technology evaluation process?
Kelly: Because e-commerce was so new, it was hard to know what our customers were going to want. Everyone was treading new water. In the end, it's really about trying to put yourself in the customer's shoes and think like the customer.
SearchCRM: How did the implementation go?
Kelly: The implementation side was pretty smooth. Both parties partnered together and worked well to ensure that it was up and running and met our needs. There are always challenges just making sure the hardware and the software work together. That's just standard.
SearchCRM: What does the KANA solution do for you?
Kelly: Even a year ago 24-hour turnaround would have been acceptable, but today customers are looking for immediate feedback. Folks don't have enough time to call, but they do have time to shoot off an e-mail, and they expect a response within a few hours. What KANA has allowed us to do is filter those e-mails out to experts who work for us to we can give a customized response.
We sell not only toothpaste, toothbrushes, beauty products, and so on, but we also sell over-the-counter and prescription meds. The prescription side is incredibly complex. Not only do our representatives need to understand the drug names and what they do, but you've also got third parties -- insurance companies, doctors, and pharmacists to deal with. It might take a representative six months to get up to speed on pharmacy issues they're going to deal with.
So, for instance, a customer writes in and says he wants to get a price quote on Propecia. We can use KANA and define rules to say that anything related to prescription drugs is routed to a queue that only those folks who understand the pharmacy will work out of.
The reverse side would be someone asking where is his order for toothpaste. Anyone can answer that with a week of training, so why route it to someone who's worked here for a year and who is an expert in the pharmacy? KANA routes that to a queue for basic OTC questions. It makes us much more efficient in getting timely responses to our customers.
There are also reports so we can monitor how old our queues are. Are the majority of my e-mails sitting in a two-to-four hour bucket, or six-to-eight? How old are our e-mails getting, and do I need to schedule more staff?
SearchCRM: What kind of feedback have you gotten?
Kelly: In an article in Computerworld, we were recognized as a 5-star company for our speed and efficiency during the holiday time in 2001. We've also gotten Planet Feedback awards as an A+ rated service company for the timeliness and accuracy of our e-mail.
SearchCRM: What are some other benefits of the solution?
Kelly: We were able to work very closely with KANA and provide a lot of input into future versions of the software, which has been beneficial to us. We've upgraded several times -- in fact, we're going through another upgrade as we speak -- and we were able to tell them what we'd like their tool to do. They were able to incorporate a lot of our suggestions into their newest versions.
SearchCRM: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Kelly: No, it makes the employees' jobs easier as well. I think customer care folks like to have a framework of how we want to respond to out customers, and the software allows us to do that.
It's a pretty simple interface to use. Come holiday time, I might have folks from around the entire company, such as from merchandising and marketing, come and work for us because we're so busy, and they can learn the interface within 15 minutes.
SearchCRM: Have you seen ROI?
Kelly: On the initial implementation we've certainly seen ROI. We probably got a return with a year. In upgrades we see ROI within the year.
SearchCRM: What are your future plans for the system?
Kelly: We'll have the current upgrade in place no later than October 15. With the latest version, we're looking for some real enhancements that I think will make us have an even better holiday than last year. I haven't fully seen them all, but I think there are some better reports out there that will allow us to monitor volume, efficiency, and speed of response much better than we do today. I also think that the business rules we're going to be able to set up will allow us to drill down even further so the e-mail can be routed more efficiently to a representative right away. There are also some opportunities for automated responses to customers, where the system can read the e-mail and respond without us having to look at it.
SearchCRM: What advice do you have for companies starting a similar project?
Kelly: It's important to make sure you go with the right provider and do it right the first time, because today your customers don't have patience -- they expect e-commerce to work, they expect excellent service and quick responses.
Make sure it integrates with what you're trying to do, and make sure you have a vision for what you want your customer service to be.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at email@example.com, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in July 2002