Helping customers help themselves.
Although the Web has many positive attributes, often customer service isn’t one of them. Information on company contacts can be difficult to find, FAQ sections are buried under other content, and telephone numbers can be non-existent. Satsop-based SafeHarbor Technology hopes to kickstart online consumer confidence by rebuilding Web customer service. Bo Wandell, co-founder and president, chats about outsourcing, self-service, and community spirit.
In general, customer service on the Web has been slammed in the past; do you think it’s been unfairly judged?
No, quite frankly, I think it’s been fairly judged. The problem is that most of the time, when customers use Web self-service, they must navigate a wealth of hard-to-understand answers that are often out of date. Many corporations believe the more information you make available to end users in Web self-service the better, but in truth, quality is more important than quantity. What customers want are accessible answers to their most commonly asked questions.
How does your company go against the usual model?
SafeHarbor’s Web self-service support is delivered in a completely different way. We don’t sell software, but rather, we deliver Web self-service support as an ongoing, outsourced service. And we focus not just on building the support environment initially, but on continually optimizing it over time to drive up user adoption of self-service. For example, by anticipating a new issue resulting from a product change for one financial services company, we created solutions that deflected many thousands of phone calls in the subsequent three months, saving them almost $1 million.
How did SafeHarbor get started?
SafeHarbor was designed to solve a problem that my co-founders and I had all experienced in the marketplace. When I was an executive at CompuServe, one of our biggest challenges was dealing with the rising support costs and dwindling customer satisfaction. This was back in 1995, and in those days most, if not all, customer technical support was conducted via the telephone. My fellow co-founders had the same problem at Microsoft and other software companies. Providing effective customer support is expensive and, for many companies, a low priority.
Why did you choose that name?
The name SafeHarbor came from the fact that we launched our business in the community where we grew up, an oceanfront town in Grays Harbor County in western Washington. We wanted to have an association between our company and our roots in the local community. The name also reflects the mission of the company, which is to provide a high level of support to our clients’ end users, a “safe harbor” of customer service.
Why did you decide to locate in an economically depressed region?
I admit that starting here presented challenges we would not have had in a major urban market, but as natives of that community, we had a strong suspicion that the advantages would far outweigh the challenges. Locating here gave us the opportunity to bring technology jobs to this rural community, and we knew our employees would be a hard-working, dedicated group of people. We figured we could attract the best and the brightest from the area, invest in training and build a company with employees that have long-term loyalty to SafeHarbor. This has turned out to be true, and we are often referred to as the employer of choice in Grays Harbor County.
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