OneCare plans to take the wraps off of its SmartManual customer service solution on Nov. 1. This product will allow manufacturers and resellers to create customizable, interactive owner's manuals that can be posted on the Web.
“We're a product support company. What we've created is a graphical, interactive and fully integrated owner's manual,” said Ross Glatzer, CEO of OneCare, Pleasantville, NY.
Among the manual's features will be its natural language search query. If a consumer is having trouble programming his VCR, he can type in, “How do I set my clock?” Responses can come in the form of a community answer, such as, “Here are the last 100 people who had the same problem, and this is what they've found.”
Another feature will be a 360-degree simulated view. If a consumer is trying to fix his lawnmower, for example, he can see the underside of his mower on screen, choose the part he may need and order it by clicking on it. Additionally, he can receive step-by-step instructions on how to install the new blade. Users can choose novice or expert advice according to their skill levels and familiarity with the product.
“Product support is different from customer service,” Glatzer said. “Customer service is more the administrative side of a sale: [whether] the product [is] in stock and shipment and delivery needs. Product support is, 'I bought your product and I have a problem assembling, installing, operating or repairing it, and I need help.' “
The SmartManual also allows for automatic tracking of product recalls, updates and new accessories. If a consumer has problems with any of these functions or cannot find the answer to a question, he can use the Closed Loop Product Support System. This presents the consumer with live chat and links to third-party service providers that can make offline appointments to help the customer.
This product was a natural step in the evolution of customer service, Glatzer said.
“In the beginning, the only way a manufacturer could relate with a consumer was through a paper manual, but there was no way of telling a customer about a product recall or ways to troubleshoot,” he said. “Paper went to [toll-free] numbers, and over time companies found that it's a real expensive way to do business at 5 [cents] to 50 cents per phone call. Then they introduced the automated protocol to cut down on the cost per consumer transaction, but all that did was drive everyone crazy.”
Glatzer asserted that this solution will increase sales of parts and accessories and will reduce parts returns because of the self-enabling environment it creates. It also will create loyal customers, he said.
“Companies are losing business because customers aren't telling them about the problems they have with the product,” he said. “Brand identity and brand loyalty are at risk. The battleground for brand and customer loyalty is going to be fought around customer support.”
OneCare is targeting manufacturers and resellers of major appliances, such as lawn and garden, automotive and heavy industrial product companies, with its SmartManual offering.