Stories by Kym Gilhooly

Putting the customer first with CRM, the online travel service, has bet its business model on the fact that web-savvy customers like to help themselves — in this case, to deals on air fare, hotels, car rentals and the like. The US-based company has extended that model to its customer service operations, adopting an e-service strategy to complement its telephone-based call centre. If customers run into trouble during a travel search, they’re encouraged to try self-service or email options — more cost-effective ways to handle services issues — before resorting to a phone call.

Making access a figure of speech

FRAMINGHAM (11/10/2003) - With tens of thousands of freight customers throughout the U.S., Union Pacific Railroad Co. moves a lot of material. Because of security requirements, Union Pacific follows strict processes to ensure that the customer releasing a rail car after it's unloaded is authorized to do so. In addition to a secure Web application that handles such releases, the rail carrier has added a voice authentication application for users who don't have access to computers -- people working in a rail yard or at a shipping dock, for example.

First help is best

It's one of the realities of his job, says David Harkett, that almost anyone can recognize the costs of a badly run help desk, but few people understand the value of a help desk that solves problems quickly, consistently and with the fewest possible resources.
"The costs of a help desk is a bottomless black hole -- problems never go away," says Harkett, the help desk practice technical solutions manager at London-based BT Group PLC's BT Global Services unit. "It's not so much the money but how you spend it, how you maximize support while not overstretching your resources."

Certications: Who needs 'em?

Whenever an IT staffer at Carnival Cruise Lines earns an IT certification, Ken Eberhardt recognises him with an additional certificate and other rewards at one of the company's quarterly service awards ceremonies.