• December 1, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Service Revs Up Nissan's Turnaround

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Ever since its single-digit low in September 2001, Nissan Motor's stock price has been steadily climbing. The credit for this gain--the stock roughly tripled its value, to just over $24 per share in the fall--goes to Nissan's renewed focus on customer service. "In the automotive industry it's getting very competitive with things like zero/zero financing for customers. So we want to distinguish ourselves with a good product and better service," says Sean Hicks, senior manager of consumer communications at Nissan. To provide faster and better quality service, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. (NMAC), the automotive financial-services arm responsible for servicing auto loans and leases for Nissan North America, needed to gain a better understanding of agent performance levels. Until the second half of 2002 NMAC call center managers were listening to and manually recording agent phone conversations for quality assessment purposes, which proved to be both cumbersome and largely inaccurate. NMAC call center managers and supervisors had to rate each agent on 10 calls per month. With 350 agents at its national operations center in Irving, TX, that translated to 3,500 phone calls each month. There was no way to flag a particular recording, so managers and supervisors would spend half a day per agent listening to a lot of useless calls to get the 10 they wanted, according to Hicks. These 10 calls were then rated on a scale of 1 to 6, but the ratings were highly subjective: There were 25 managers and supervisors evaluating agents, each with his own rating criteria. Additionally, that agents were evaluated for the entire month based on the recordings of one day contributed to inaccurate evaluations. "I don't think it was fair to record an agent on an individual day," Hicks says. "Everyone has a bad day." So in October 2002 Nissan installed Witness's eQuality Balance product in the NMAC call center. The Witness product captures voice and data customer interactions for random quality assessments. The intelligence gathered from eQuality recordings enables NMAC to provide agents with more personalized training, from soft skills to the use of technical resources, to improve customer satisfaction. With help from IBM Global Services and an internal engineer from Witness, the installation took less than one week. Getting a better understanding of agent performance enabled NMAC to address problem areas. The results were significant. Nissan tracked the results in two agent categories: agents with fewer than 120 days experience and agents with more than 120 days experience. From April to July of this year the average handle time for the newer agents fell, from 303.6 seconds to 254.4 seconds, which represents a 16 percent drop. The same category of agents also increased their average calls per day, from 58 to 91.5 per agent over the same time period, which represents a 55 percent increase in calls answered per day. Tenured agents noticed similar results: Average call-handle times dropped from 257.4 seconds to 214.8 seconds, a decrease of 16.6 percent, and the amount of calls per day increased from 82 to 98.5 per agent, an increase of 20.5 percent. With the ability of both new and tenured agents to handle more calls, Hicks estimates a cost avoidance of roughly $1 million per year in new-hire salaries. The Payoff By using workforce management tools Nissan
  • gained better visibility into agent performance;
  • realized a cost avoidance of roughly $1 million per year in salaries;
  • reduced overall, average call-handle time 16 percent;
  • increased junior agent call volumes 55 percent;
  • increased senior agent call volumes 20.5 percent.
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