An international specialty retailer had never expected ecommerce to become large and successful. With stores in Canada, the United States and around the world, this retailer had enjoyed great success in the ‘bricks and mortar’ environment. What started out just a few short years ago as a couple of people answering phones in support of the website grew to more than 50 people serving customers. The call center was increasingly viewed as a cost center. Management was reluctant to keep adding staff to what was seen as adding little value to the company. It was essential that the center moves from being a cost center to a profit center.
A Strategic Assessment end-to-end review of each of the ‘moving-parts’ within the call center infrastructure was conducted by our consultants to establish a baseline and identify priorities. The engagement assessed the people in the call centers, their skills and competencies, the processes, procedures, operational methodologies, technologies, quality and service practices and business objectives. We also examined the calls received call type and call segments. The results were compared to proven operational ‘Best Practices’. The comparison gap and the business objectives were analyzed to find the high-value high return projects and tasks that could be completed by the management themselves. The assessment results were set out in an 86-page report that identified more than 90 specific recommendations. Working in concert with senior management at the specialty retailer identified more than 30 specific recommendations to be initiated. These recommendations included both ‘low hanging fruit’ that could be captured without assistance from the consultants and complex projects that required skill sets and experience that the client did not possess internally.
We recommended and implemented a number of initiatives including standardizing call handling, increased pro-active selling, redesigning the operational model, demand management, improved forecasting, empowering agents, introducing multiple channels (email, web chat, and IVR) and shifted from a call center to a contact center. Specifically,
We researched technology solution providers to deliver ‘cloud’ based technologies that could support the call center.
Vendors were vetted and selected to offer email management, hosted IVR and web chat capabilities. While previously an auto attendant had processed and streamed calls into the call center there was no ability to conduct data dips to assist customers. By adding a robust solution customers gained the ability to track their orders through the IVR in addition to on the website.
Email had long been a communication channel for the call center, however, there was not a formal or integrated system in place, the center had simply employed Outlook. While a great tool this email system made managing email assignments, allocation, escalation, and reporting a difficult, impossible or manual process. The new email management system provided end to end tracking and reporting and included a ‘suggestion engine’ that suggested responses to the agent based upon keywords and responses previously sent. The improvement in response time and quality was significant. Chat was a completely new channel that allowed customers to interact with the center while on the website and could be delivered on a lower cost basis. The customer feedback and satisfaction levels with chat have been very positive.
The center went from a cost center to achieving more than million dollars profit the following year. Productivity improved by 54%, while the cost per contact declined by 47%. At the same time reduced call handle time improved first call resolution, increased answer rate by 33%. The Service Level attainment improved by over 50% in the year!