Agilent Technologies, a global leader in instruments, software, services, solutions for life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets, recently received the Big Kahuna Award for Excellence in Social Media Customer Service (The Selfie Award) at the 15th Anniversary Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange. The award was presented as part of Frost & Sullivan’s CC Awards Program, which honors companies and individual leaders shaping the future of customer service. The awards are designed to reward excellence and outstanding achievement among practitioners and service providers across a broad range of categories.

The Agilent entry focused on Social Media Customer Support, specifically the development and implementation of an online customer community that allows users to ask questions, find answers, and access self-help options, as well as connect with other Agilent product users and members. The web resource can be found at community.agilent.com. The site regularly receives traffic from all across the world.

Challenge

Like so many other organizations today, Agilent was challenged with finding a way to develop a successful social media strategy; specifically, one that allowed the organization to service their customers online, and provide fast yet accurate answers to sometimes complex questions from product users. Other challenges included improving the customer experience, reducing costs, ensuring quality content and oversight, efficiently leveraging customer feedback, and deflecting calls when appropriate.

Customer Contact Awards!

Strategy

Agilent’s strategy was to build and implement a strong online customer community for social support. The four tenets of the online community and their associated customer calls to action are:

  • Collaborate – Ask and answer questions
  • Connect – Interact with other Agilent users
  • Discover – Find relevant discussions, documents, and videos
  • Share – Contribute insights

The site tagline, Get Answers. Share Insights. Build Connections. was designed to showcase the social media mission. Agilent’s strategy was backed by executive sponsorship, an annual budget, and critical internal business partnerships with Marketing, Support, and Agilent product lines.

To ensure quality, a well-defined standard operating procedure has been put in place for the creation, review, and publication of all content. Agilent support teams provide committed resources to help answer incoming questions, mark answers, and add proper tags and metadata to make the site’s content more searchable. Community questions are reviewed on an on-going basis to ensure answers were correct and posted in a timely manner. In addition, a clear process for follow up with customers is in place.

Training and ongoing support is offered to the community support teams by a full time Community Manager.  The Community Manager also develops the community strategy, oversees operations, leads expansion and integration efforts, promotes the community internally and externally, and reports key performance metrics. No doubt this structure and approach has contributed to the site’s efficiency and ongoing community satisfaction.

Web Design and Resources

As stated by Matt Nevill, Customer Community Manager, “Agilent customers have an always-available online repository of knowledge and a place where they can ask questions and get help from a world-wide audience. This is an offering our customers greatly appreciate…as they have expressed through many different channels, including direct emails, conversations with field and sales staff, feedback at industry conferences, comments in community posts, and Agilent surveys.”

The Agilent website has a very clean design and is easy to navigate. The homepage highlights available options and includes a feed of the latest activity. The site is structured by product technology to make navigation easy and to provide access to relevant content in as few clicks as possible.  Agilent receives regular feedback from users who comment that they find the site easy to browse and the structure intuitive. The content in the Agilent Community is optimized for search engine optimization (SEO) to assist with remote indexing. This gives an increased online footprint and removes barriers for users to self-help by allowing content to show up often at the top of search results.

The main website area features curated links to the most helpful resources including user manuals, application notes, FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and quick reference guides maintained by the community for each product technology. This provides customers with a quick and easy way to find materials they often need when using or researching Agilent products or services.  A machine translation tool is integrated into the site supporting 39 languages for a global audience.  Customers are encouraged to participate and help answer questions too so they can contribute their expertise and knowledge. Gamification through various quests for badges, points, and leaderboards are utilized across the site to promote stickiness and foster engagement.

Key site features include:

  • Facilitating connections: users can follow, message, and interact with each other within the platform; this fosters the development of peer relationships and promotes networking
  • Self-help related documents and videos that are regularly created and loaded directly in the community
  • A streamlined, user-friendly design that is mobile-friendly and adapts to whatever device a user is on

Results

The Agilent Community had an overwhelmingly positive impact on several key aspects of the company’s business performance, including time savings to resolve support issues, cost savings in headcount avoidance, and significant cost savings in call deflection.

The robust and responsive online community has enhanced the Agilent customer experience greatly. Even when accounting for the cost to run the site, including the platform and headcount, the organization is observing a very significant ROI from the program. The community and its Q&A resources and content have also helped to lessen costly on-site troubleshooting dispatches across product lines.

Other positive indicators:

  • 2019 community surveys show that the majority of users reported an Excellent or Very Good experience on the site and were able to accomplish the task of their intended visit to the community
  • Site registrations (not required) continue to increase substantially year over year
  • Membership is growing, indicating that the community is a valuable asset to customers
  • Most of the questions asked in the community have been marked as answered in the last year; an external benchmark revealed the Agilent Community was top in class for the percent of answered questions
  • A significant portion of the traffic comes from repeat visitors, a clear sign that the community is helping to serve customers and enhance their experience

Conclusion

By creating a successful online community where users and members can regularly find answers to key questions as well as connect with others and share knowledge, Agilent crafted a winning social media support strategy, one that truly enhanced the customer experience and significantly reduced customer service costs too.

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