Constructing a Virtual Customer Experience
Some companies are fortunate enough to provide a product or service easily consumable by the masses. Wagner Equipment Co., an Aurora, Colo.–based Caterpillar dealer, doesn't have that luxury.
"Everyone needs a toothbrush, but not everyone needs a tractor," says Bev Wagner, the company's information technology manager. "Our customer base is small, and we want to take advantage of all of the [consumers] we can touch."
With 30 locations throughout Colorado, New Mexico, and West Texas, the balance between phone inquiries and in-person customers became an issue. According to Ken Cobert, parts counter sales supervisor at the company, it was difficult for workers to give either channel undivided attention, considered critical for purchasing decisions of this magnitude.
"We're talking about million-dollar machines," Cobert explains. "It takes a lot of time figuring out the transmission, gears, gaskets, and other necessary enhancements. The phone would be ringing, and the employee would pick it up and ask the caller to hold while working with the customer face-to-face."
According to Wagner, the central concern was the previous system's inadequate call-routing. Due to a heavy call load, callers would often get a busy signal or be placed on hold. Beyond that, the relationship-based nature of Wagner's industry meant that call distribution itself was a concern. A given buyer, Wagner says, "is going to want to talk to [a specific employee] because he talks to [her] all the time when he calls."
The company, Wagner says, needed to make a change—and fast. After looking at building a centralized, brick-and-mortar contact center, Wagner Equipment decided to go the virtual route for three reasons: capital expense, time to staff and train additional agents, and fear of disrupting the current workflow.
Wagner says that Cisco Systems and Siemens Enterprise Communications were both in the running, but the latter vendor won out because of its personal touch. "The fact that Siemens was willing to take the time to go to some of our different facilities, interview the people this would affect most, and come back with a business case with different options—we were impressed with that," Wagner says.
Darlene Robinson, solution marketing manager for customer interaction at Florida-based Siemens, says that, even though Wagner is an equipment dealer, "customer service is still mission-critical." With that in mind, the new interaction workflows necessary for the implementation had to be flawless before disconnecting the old system.
The company deployed a HiPath Internet Protocol–based communications system with an open, virtualized contact center using Siemens' HiPath ProCenter solution. At a branch where all personnel are busy, a call automatically rolls to headquarters in Aurora. There, nine agents are available to take the call and reduce hold times—and if they're busy, the caller will not be bounced to yet another branch. Instead, other departments at Aurora are empowered to handle customer calls, Cobert says. "The buck stops here."
In addition to saving the $500,000 in capital expenses needed to construct or buy a new contact center, the company has seen other fast results: Service levels have risen to more than 90 percent, abandoned-call rates are as low as 10 percent, and average hold time has dropped to 30 seconds from highs of seven minutes.
Just the fact that Cobert was able to measure and disclose these statistics is a benefit. "Before this implementation, we never were able to generate any kind of reports," he recalls. "The only way I'd have a clue how the other branches were doing was through quarterly profit-and-loss statements. Now I truly know how my people are doing."
By going virtual with Siemens, Wagner Equipment Co.:
- saved $500,000 on the new cost of a brick-and-mortar contact center facility;
- achieved service levels greater than 90 percent;
- slashed call-abandonment rates to 10 percent;
- reduced average hold time to 30 seconds; and
- boosted personnel productivity by more evenly distributing calls with call-routing.
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