September 23, 2003, 12:00 AM

Water Pik’s automated online agent cuts customer e-mail queries by 55%

LiveWire Logic’s agent “Ann” is a knowledgebase that’s equipped to handle nearly 400 questions online. Water Pik now handles its reduced customer e-mail faster.

Water Pik Technologies Inc. reduced e-mail volume to its personal health care products web site by 55% in three months using an automated online agent, dubbed Ann, developed by technology provider LiveWire Logic Inc. with its RealDialog software. Water Pik customer service supervisor Gwen Krause estimates that because Water Pik would otherwise have had to hire extra staff to respond to the site’s increasing volume of consumer e-mail, Water Pik will see a tenfold return on its investment in the agent within the first year of use.

The online agent was tested in a limited application on Water Pik’s web site during the spring and its role expanded to respond to a broader set of questions when Water Pik rolled out an enhanced version of its personal health care web site in June. The agent, programmed with a knowledgebase developed with information from the site’s FAQ page as well as data from Water Pik’s product instruction manuals and responses to questions that come into its phone contact center, is currently equipped with automated responses to 388 questions.

The agent is programmed to push a “contact us” e-mail form to online users when it`s unable to respond to or understand a consumer`s question. But that happens infrequently, Krause says. On a recent month, for example, the agent successfully answered 93% of online customer queries. Krause works to keep reducing the 7% that required e-mail responses, spending about 20 minutes per day maintaining the knowledgebase by reviewing the questions for which the agent was not able to provide matching content and adding to the knowledgebase as needed. The knowledgebase is updated every night.

Water Pik`s personal health care web site was receiving as may as 150 customer e-mails per day, which required two full-time and one part-time employees to keep up with the individual responses needed. Even so, says Krause, responses generally took two to three business days. Since boosting self-service customer support online with the automated agent, Water Pik is back down to one full-time e-mail agent, who`s able to respond to the decreased volume of customer e-mails within one business day. The additional staff was reassigned to the phone contact center, where volume and demand are greater. “We’ve been able to allocate our resources back to the proper channel,” says Krause.

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