• July 1, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Easy-on-the-Pocket QA for Seasonality

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Norm Thompson Outfitters tells its customers to "Escape from the ordinary." The online and catalog retailer sells men's and women's clothing, shoes, and accessories, as well as more unique items like handmade soapstone hearts by Kenyan craftsmen and handmade glass ruby birds designed by Finnish artist Oiva Toikka. While these products may inspire thoughts of tranquility, the retailer, during its peak three-month holiday season, is anything but tranquil, struggling to cost-effectively monitor its reps. To handle its call spike during October, November, and December, Norm Thompson ramps up its associates pool from about 80 seats year round to about 430 seats. With such a sizeable amount of new associates added during the most important part of virtually any retailer's fiscal year, a dependable quality monitoring (QM) system for call retrieval, playback, and scoring becomes essential. The company had relied on an older version of an on-premise QM system, but it would often go down. "Especially during our peak season, when we bring in all those temporary associates, we would not be able to coach to proper policies and procedures to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction," says Shawna Hardy, training and quality assurance supervisor at Norm Thompson Customer Center. Management was forced, when the system was inaccessible, to use manual, time-intensive methods of conducting live quality assurance (QA) audits--actually sitting next to the associate. "You had to wait for a new call to start, then you sit there through the call, and then you wait for it to end," Hardy says. This rough-edged approach put Norm Thompson in one-shot deal scenarios--without the ability to rewind the audio if something wasn't clear. What's more, the system's inability to cost-effectively scale with demand created some sticker shock. For the additional QM services needed during the holiday rush, the retailer had to pay its QM vendor for a full year's worth of services for all 430 seats, according to Hardy. The firm found a hosted solution in VoiceLog's VirtualLogger, which provides call recording and QM functionality. Following a roughly one-week implementation, Norm Thompson's VirtualLogger deployment went live in October 2004. By listening to and monitoring calls Norm Thompson can identify areas that associates need to improve and can then train its associates accordingly. In fact, the company developed its own training modules and reference guides. Capturing recorded calls also allows the company to provide its associates with examples of subpar interactions and then use these calls to show how to more aptly handle such situations. The firm has avoided paying 50 percent of a full-time equivalent (FTE) technical person to maintain the system on site. The capper? Replacing its on-premise system with VirtualLogger has enabled Norm Thompson to avoid $600,000 in capital outlay up front, the amount the retailer would have spent on another on-premise call recording and monitoring tool. And, with a reliable QM system in place, perhaps Norm Thompson employees can enjoy a little tranquility of their own. The Payoff Implementing VoiceLog's VirtualLogger solution let Norm Thompson:
  • save $600,000 in up front capital expenditure;
  • avoid 50 percent of an FTE technical person to maintain the system on site; and
  • monitor and train associates for less.
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