September 26, 2011, 4:29 PM

Answers without agents

Wix.com's automated customer inquiry system is helping sell higher-priced products and services.

Lead Photo

Wix.com Inc. provides technology that lets its customers build their own web sites, including for e-commerce, music downloads and other business-to-business as well as consumer purposes. With more than 12 million client sites developed, it deals with nearly 200,000 inquiries a month from new and existing customers for help in answering various questions, such as how to integrate a shopping cart and whether it makes sense to upgrade to a premium technology package.

To support its growth—Wix says it’s now taking on 1 million new web site building projects every month—Wix has been steadily expanding its staff in sales, marketing and research and development. But despite all the customer service calls it gets, it has not been hiring to expand its team of 55 customer service agents, says Elad Eran, head of customer support.

Instead of adding to its number of agents, Wix is building an automated self-service customer service system that answers up to 92% of the average 192,000 customer inquiries it gets each month, he says.

Wix early last year deployed “help desk” Internet-hosted software from Israel-based nanoRep. The nanoRep system, which nanoRep hosts on the Internet as a software-as-a-service application, provides Wix customers with instant answers to questions whether the customers are on Wix.com or using its Internet-hosted web-design application. “We’re getting fantastic return on investment through using nanoRep both in reducing customer support costs and improving our service to real time,” Eran says.

To deploy the nanoRep system, in January 2010 Wix first integrated the data from its existing Frequently Asked Questions database into the nanoRep software. Then, over the next several months, as its customer service agents answered questions, the agents uploaded customer question-and-answer sessions into the nanoRep software to build on the FAQ knowledge base.

Although it took only two days to get the nanoRep software up and running, it took another several months to reach its current level of performance, Eran says.

“In the beginning, we had to invest quite a bit of time answering new questions to build up the base,” he says. “The silver lining is that every new answer given to a customer and added to the knowledge base has been useful answering many other customers with the same question, and ultimately saved us considerable time and effort.”

Many of Wix’s customers, for example, ask about how they can build a site with their own domain names on the Wix platform, instead of just using a derivative of the Wix.com domain. By adding the content from these question-and-answer sessions to the nanoRep system, Wix can now answer customers via the self-service application. “They ask about it with various phrasing and wording, and nanoRep helps us to answer this popular question instantly no matter how it is asked,” Eran says.

After deploying nanoRep, it took Wix about six months to build the database to the point where up to 92% of customer questions were answered automatically by the nanoRep system, he says.

As Wix’s customers get their questions answered more quickly, they are more likely to opt for the company’s higher-priced products and services, he adds. “We can see nanoRep's contribution to our conversion rate through users who consult nanoRep while building a web site and then tend to upgrade their services to the premium package and deepen their connections with Wix,” Eran says.

The nanoRep software is designed to interact with site visitors in multiple ways. On a product page, for instance, a site operator can display “Have Questions?” windows that let visitors type in their questions; the same window will instantly show an answer if it’s available in the knowledge base. A customer can click within the window to communicate with an agent if she needs more information. NanoRep also provides similar windows that can appear on a site’s customer service contact page, in live chat sessions, on Facebook pages and in e-mail and Twitter messages.

NanoRep’s monthly fees range from $199 for 1,500 customer service answers per month to $990 for up to 30,000 answers per month. Each level of software comes with translation into 34 languages; also included is built-in analytics software for running reports that show the number of questions answered each month, including the percentages answered by customer service agents and automatically by the nanoRep system.

For larger operations, nanoRep offers an enterprise edition with fees based on individual contracts.

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