Saturn Escapes E-mail Black Hole, Ups Response Time

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Saturn is taking control of the Web call center integration process at a time when companies are criticized for creating an e-mail black hole, where e-mail responses sit unanswered indefinitely. The company is catching the attention of its customers, with an increase in calls and a 48 percent jump in e-mail requests this year over results from the same period last year.


According to Bryen Joyce, manager of Saturn's customer service center, customer service representatives at Saturn respond to e-mails within 24 hours and they get very creative with the responses.


"We are really wowing them," he said. "In addition, we will ask an owner or prospective client how they would like to be contacted in the future. Often, people who work during the day and don't have access to e-mail will prefer to get called so they don't lose time in getting us information."


The Spring Hill, TN-based division of General Motors expects to receive 30,000 e-mail requests by the end of 1998, compared to 1997's total of 14,500. By the end of 1998 the call center expects to receive 197,000 calls, up 4,000 from 1997.


"The call volume to our service centers has remained steady for the last two or three years," Joyce said. "The reason is because of our user-friendly Web site. It says how easy it is to contact us."


But when current or prospective car owners call Saturn they are not asked to prompt initial information. Instead, they are immediately connected to a representative.


"This is something we are toying with," Joyce said. "Frequently, we get calls notifying us of a change of address or what colors a model is available in, and this is something that can be done through an interactive voice response system. But we really want to have personal contact with our customers. So we intentionally don't have a lot of prompts."


Even without an IVR, Saturn was able to have a 26-second response to callers. In addition, they have implemented the Viewstar scanner system this year so letters sent either through the postal service or via e-mail can be scanned into the system and displayed immediately on a representative's screen.


"This system adds to our rapid turnaround time," Joyce said.
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