Today at the SSPA Best Practices 2008 conference, Microsoft Corp. announced that it has further enhanced its online self-service and internal support tool, Microsoft Automated Service Agent (ASA), with a variety of new features. Powered by Microsoft’s natural language technology, ASA is a hosted solution that allows customers to interact in a chat-style session and ask questions in their own words, and helps them get concise, accurate answers. The solution helps to deflect support calls, guide users to the right answers, and serve as a valuable knowledge resource inside the enterprise. A winner of the Spring 2008 SSPA Recognized Innovator Award for Innovation in Usability, Microsoft ASA currently has customers across multiple industries, including the financial, high-tech and telecommunications industries.

“As consumers are becoming accustomed to the immediate resources of the Internet, they expect the same level of satisfaction in their customer service interactions,” said David Sliter, group general manager of the Industry Solutions Group at Microsoft. “We developed the Automated Service Agent to empower customers to resolve their own issues and to alleviate the burden of assisted service calls. As an effective online support solution, ASA helps enterprises enhance the customer service experience by helping provide fast, accurate answers that enable immediate customer action.”

New Features and Functionality

The latest version of ASA offers a number of key features that help improve the customer experience. The features include new feedback functions, troubleshooting and search capabilities, and the ability to guide customers through rich content and highly secure tools already on the site, which include the following:

In-Agent Feedback allows enterprises to dynamically capture ASA success rate and fine-tune content.

Decision Trees allow enterprises to quickly create troubleshooting trees that can help guide customers to the right answers.

ASA in SharePoint Query allows users access to internal networks of information through a SharePoint search.

Side-by-Side ASA positions the ASA window to the side of the primary Web browser so users can view both ASA responses and Internet content simultaneously.

Internal IT Support

Microsoft ASA also can be used as an internal IT support solution and serve as a knowledge tool for help desk agents within an enterprise. Because ASA can handle a wide array of topics, programs, features, troubleshooting and valuable how-to information, the solution can help reduce service-desk call volumes, improve help desk operations, and improve end-user productivity.

“With Web 2.0 changing the way we interact with the Internet, enterprises need to incorporate strategies that enable them to respond to the unique requests of their customers,” said Mary Wardley, vice president, enterprise applications and customer relationship management (CRM) software at IDC. “Providing a self-service channel on the Web has become a necessity for companies that wish to enhance their customer service interactions. Microsoft Automated Service Agent can help improve the customer experience and complement existing CRM solutions.”

“We needed to find a solution that would reduce contact volume caused by tax filing deadlines,” said Kris Nagoda, project manager for TurboTax Interactive Agent at Intuit Inc. “By implementing Microsoft Automated Service Agent, we saw virtually immediate benefits with a significant reduction in customer contacts. In addition, the solution is easy to deploy and maintain, so we are able to constantly improve the ASA and provide a better experience for our customers.”

About Microsoft Automated Service Agent

Microsoft Automated Service Agent (ASA) is a hosted solution that provides customer service and internal support to enterprises. By leveraging its natural language technology, ASA has the ability to communicate conversationally with customers and deliver concise, accurate answers. The ASA platform currently handles millions of chat sessions, which help reduce support costs and provide a better overall experience for customers. More information on Microsoft Automated Service Agent can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/asa.

(Source - http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/may08/05-05ImprovedASAPR.mspx?rss_fdn=Press%20Releases)