• August 1, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Blooming Customer Service

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Properly handling incoming customer inquiries--even for the smallest organization--is no easy task. When additional brands and channels are incorporated, effectively managing incoming contacts, especially during call spikes, becomes even more essential for customer service to blossom. That was the issue at hand for flower and gift retailer 1-800-FLOWERS.COM (FLOWERS). The company has added to its first incarnation as a flower shop in New York City in 1976 an 800 number, multiple Web sites, and email and chat functionality. It has also extended its product offerings to include Plow & Hearth, its home decor and garden brand; The Popcorn Factory, which specializes in popcorn and other gifts; GreatFood.com, which focuses on gourmet foods; and HearthSong and Magic Cabin Dolls, both focusing on children's gifts. To handle the call volume during the holiday seasons spanning November through June, when volumes can exceed 10 times the average daily volume, the company's CSR pool can include as many as 3,000 agents. "We needed to look at technology across many channels and applications to support a complex contact center environment," says Rosemary Eady, vice president of planning and call management at FLOWERS. The company implemented technology from Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, including Genesys Customer Interaction Management Platform, Genesys Network Routing, and Genesys Voice Platform: Network Edition. "We sought a vendor that would provide us the ability to configure their application in order to meet our business needs," says Tim Szymanski, manager of bridge operations at FLOWERS. Armed with the ability to route each call to the proper CSR and to make real-time routing changes, the company deployed Genesys' routing functionality as part of a virtual contact center environment in 2000. "During our peak volume times [our shared workforce partners] take call volume for us, and at their peak volume times where we're at a low, we're actually able to take call volumes for them--all of that inbound voice traffic is routed via the Genesys environment," Szymanski says. Genesys routes calls to NetByTel at the network level, however, it was that company that designed, wrote, deployed, and hosts the customer order status solution for FLOWERS. NetByTel also supports FLOWERS' call spike during peak periods. "It would be cost ineffective for FLOWERS to buy all the speech infrastructure to support what typically is only for major flowers days," says Ken Jackowitz, executive vice president at NetByTel. Customers may check order status without the assistance of an agent, allowing CSRs to focus more on other tasks like helping customers during their gift-selection process. For instance, the company has seen more than 40 percent of IVR calls handled without needing transfers to agents. Szymanski says the Genesys solutions have enabled FLOWERS to increase its service level year over year. "The CTI functionality has allowed us to...provide a special level of service to certain customers," he says. All the while service levels were increasing. A good example: When the company compared its February peak volume periods from 2003 to 2005, it saw its peak-period average service level increase from 75 percent to 80 percent prior to the Genesys implementation, to 85 percent to 90 percent after the implementation. Overall, "it's the convenience that we provide with multiple access channels," Eady says. "We recognize that we have evolved from an inbound call center to more of a multimedia contact center. [Customers don't only] have an inbound solution." The Payoff By deploying Genesys and NetByTel voice solutions, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM:
  • has seen more than 40 percent of calls that went to the IVR handled without needing transfers to agents;
  • can more effectively handle call spikes;
  • allows agents to focus more on revenue-generating calls.
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