Creators of machines that go to war, explore wreckage, and investigate dangerous territories, iRobot has taken on a different challenge -- dirty homes. With consumer sales far exceeding expectations in 2007, reaching 2.5 million worldwide, iRobot was faced with more than twice as many incoming service and technical support calls, says Maryellen Abreu, iRobot's director of global technical support. So in order to keep the company's service as flawless as its customers' floors, iRobot turned to RightNow Technologies, and ended up one of this year's Service Elite.
Ironically, iRobot, a notable technology leader, lacked the technological infrastructure to manage its customer service channels. Winnowing a list of 15 vendors, iRobot selected RightNow's on-demand delivery model. "No one else offered a Web-hosted solution with that many interfaces," Abreu says. The system requires little input on iRobot's part, taking care of everything: administration, upgrades, and customizations to integrate iRobot's solution with its partners.
Aside from ease of use, iRobot was impressed that RightNow could present the most complete customer view. The system collects and incorporates data from multiple customer touch points -- phone calls, emails, user forums -- and integrates all the information into a single marketing module. IRobot increased its marketing database from 300,000 contacts to 750,000 and increased year-over-year sales by approximately 33 percent between 2005 and 2007.
"This unified view allows us to gather valuable customer feedback and to deliver better service from any location," Abreu says. Now iRobot is also able to systematically administer, track, and analyze 4,000 satisfaction surveys monthly, the results of which contribute to the company's commitment to better understand and respond to customer demands.
By gleaning customer insight and installing the appropriate improvements to iRobot's Web site, such as pictures and instructional videos, RightNow's tracking technology reveals that out of every 100 answers viewed online, only three required follow-up via phone or email. "By not seeing our call volume increase proportionally to the sales, I know I was deflecting a lot more calls," Abreu says. RightNow also has a tool that helps iRobot learn from failed searches -- items customers looked for that the company could not provide.
Another interesting feature iRobot utilizes is a voice recognition technology that detects whether a customer is calling about an existing problem; if so, the system expedites the call and bypasses the automated inquiries, transferring the call directly to a live agent. The customer's information -- and her reason for calling -- is automatically displayed in front of the agent, who can then promptly service the needs of the customer without skipping a beat.
Perhaps most impressive was establishing an offshore contact center just eight weeks after implementing RightNow. "Having multiple call centers assisting our customers has always been our goal," Abreu says. The effort not only produced a center with multilingual capabilities to support iRobot's reach into Europe, but cut costs in half, explains William Bobrowski, iRobot's manager of North America support.
The company did hit some rough waters as abandonment rates climbed. "We had a brand-new call center and they swapped out the management," Abreu says. But RightNow gave iRobot the flexibility to bounce right back. "It's an easy tool to learn and it can be serviced from anywhere," she says. Within days, an agent is fully trained and able to access the 360-degree view of the customer, regardless of location.
IRobot hopes to save even more. "We struggle daily to avoid service costs and provide customers with the information that will allow them to service themselves," Abreu says. "This, obviously, allows us to keep product costs down and customers happy."
Key Results: iRobotAn offshore contact center launched within eight weeks for half the cost
The company is now capable of administering 4,000 customer surveys monthly to garner customer insight
The self-service rate improved to 97 percent
Marketing contacts increased from 300,000 to 750,000
[Please Note: To see the 2008 Service Awards Issue's full table of contents, please click here.]