10 Strategies for Customer Service Success

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide: Make Monitoring Integral to Training

The Challenge: The first contact most guests have with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is with one of its 900 call center agents, who work from one of four contact centers in the United States or one in Ireland. These agents handle 14 million calls annually for hotel and resort reservations. Starwood sought to create a consistent method of service delivery to improve sales and service levels.

The Success Strategy: Large call volume and varied call types across multiple sites in different cultures led Starwood to the decision that an automated customer interaction recording and performance evaluation solution from Witness Systems would provide just what it needed. Using eQuality Balance to record customer interactions, and eQuality Evaluation to measure associate performance online, Starwood could calibrate performance scoring among agents, evaluate customer service skills, and maintain important facets of customer connection--from problem-solving to politeness.

Capturing both the voice and data aspects of customer interaction, Starwood now has clearer visibility into how associates use the reservation system--from navigation to how they use information. The company shares the recorded interactions monthly across the call centers for evaluation purposes. 

"We've been able to strengthen our customer relationships and improve performance across the enterprise," says Maria Rocco, vice president of customer contact center associate training and development at Starwood. "The software has become an integral part of our business, because it enables us to understand the essence of our interactions and drive a consistent customer experience."

Starwood has used the solution to create call-handling guidelines that assist associates with time optimization. Supervisors have also reaped the benefits of using Witness: New hires experience a smoother transition to the live floor after observing real customer interactions and expected performance. 

The Results:

  • Created a consistent customer experience
  • 10 percent increase in reservation sales
  • Improved supervisor productivity
  • Increased service quality scores

American National Insurance Company: Improve Data Access

The Challenge: At American National Insurance Company (ANICO) information overload was interfering with customer service reps' ability to deliver the level of service required to help customers understand how ANICO's products differ from those offered by its competitors' systems. Reps were deluged with more back-end systems than they could handle, so training and performance effectiveness were suffering. 

The Success Strategy: ANICO has four call centers that support two large marketing groups, a credit insurance group, and a healthcare group. ANICO uses the centers to service, recruit, and retain customers, employees, and independent broker insurance agents. To help reps gain easier access to the information they needed to service these constituents, ANICO turned to Pegasystems for both call center management and Web self-service systems.
Now when reps receive a call, instead of searching myriad systems they can access detailed, up-to-date information about the caller through the Pegasystems application. 

The solution has proved effective not only because business intelligence is built into the system, but also because when constructing the system Pegasystems urged ANICO to use the businesspeople who know the company, agents, and customers to help create that intelligence. "We started with a business process designed by the people who know the process and knew what the rules would be," says Gary Kirkham, vice president and director of planning and support at ANICO. "We have captured so much intellectual capital in this system."

To maintain the quality of the information and processes, ANICO began holding weekly meetings to discuss best practices and best-in-class examples on various levels, to provide standards, and to address common needs. This led to the formation of the Customer Service Action Team (CSAT). "This group has generated so much quality material," Kirkham says, noting that the call centers participating in the CSAT have successfully launched activities that include the identification and recommendation of customer service goals and performance metrics; integration of additional call center disciplines and internal best practices; recommendations to measure connected back-office processes; creation of a consistent call center staffing model; and development of methods to share training and quality assurance resources.

The Results:

  • $70 million in new business within the first six months of deployment
  • Collected premiums jumped from $160 million in 1999 to $2.4 billion in 2003
  • 71 percent reduction in call-abandonment rates
  • 61 percent improvement in average speed-to-answer

Hewlett-Packard: Support Internal Customers

The Challenge: With nearly 10 to 12 different methodologies in practice for every common service process, Hewlett-Packard (HP) employees were often left frustrated, with inconsistent answers and confusion as to who they needed to contact for internal support. In turn, human resources (HR) professionals were frequently distracted from their primary responsibilities, instead answering employees' questions.

"We had fragmented, inconsistent support. Most important, we could not measure it," says Annette Leazer, director of global HR processes and information management at HP. "You have no chance of improving where you are when you cannot measure [the support available]." 

The Success Strategy: Turning to PeopleSoft, HP implemented a single, global HelpDesk solution to refine service delivery. Integrating PeopleSoft CRM and PeopleSoft Human Capital Management, the HelpDesk now offers a self-service solution for HP employees.

Employees now have instant access to assistance via a "Contact HR" button located on the self-service portal, as well as on every HR transaction and information page. This has eliminated the need for managers to spend time researching employee concerns, and has also provided managers with the assurance that employees are receiving consistent, accurate answers.

"There is a whole lot of ability to make changes to the infrastructure based on the information we are receiving," Leazer says. The solution represents a single repository, allowing HP to track trends, gather statistics, and categorize cases. As a result, management has a higher likelihood of determining just what kind of questions people are asking, and how long it will take to answer them. 

HP also standardized regularly used processes. "It was important that we had good support across all the time zones," Leazer says. 

The Results:

  • Significant reduction of overall cost-per-employee
  • 80 percent of the total cases received monthly are now received via the Contact HR portal
  • HR can use one system for global case tracking, reporting, and trend analysis
  • 141,000 employees and contingent workers can access self-service support

Arctic Cat: Consolidate Disjointed Departments

The Challenge: Arctic Cat customers were increasingly dissatisfied with the impersonal, untimely service they were receiving. The root of the problem was several disconnected departmental call centers, causing replication of effort both internally and within the company's dealer network. 

The Success Strategy: Arctic Cat needed to target two main areas: CRM and communication management. So it developed a business plan to integrate technology into these areas. To simplify integration it was essential to Arctic Cat that the new technology be compatible with the company's existing telephony switch and mySAP ERP. So, the company chose mySAP CRM. 

To coordinate the company's new Genesys communication management solution with its mySAP CRM, Arctic Cat implemented the Genesys GPlus Adapter. Now agents have a desktop solution for customer service and support, complaint management, and follow-up activities. When a customer or dealer calls in, for example, customer service reps are visibly notified of an incoming call, supplemented by a screen pop with the caller's information. Agents can access internal product and process information, which has dramatically increased customer and dealer satisfaction levels. "Our CRM investment was a total package approach that will see us through the next 10 or 15 years as the company grows," says Ron Moses, CRM project manager for Arctic Cat. "The payback for us will be how it allows us to improve the company as we go forward."

Arctic Cat also consolidated its call centers into a single location. The newly constructed call center facility has provided the opportunity for cross-functional training to its agents and supervisors. Consequently, each employee has the ability to respond to queries previously handled by specialists. This has helped to increase work variety, boost job satisfaction, and heighten morale. 

The Results:

  • First-call resolution rate of more than 95 percent
  • Call abandonment rates of less than 1 percent

Eastman Kodak: Integrate Self-Service

The Challenge: With the digital imaging boom speeding the pace at Eastman Kodak, the company needed a scalable method to provide customer service and support that would efficiently handle these growing numbers.
Conducting customer surveys to find out how consumers preferred to find answers to their questions, Kodak discovered that a high percentage of customers often visited its Web site first. The company then did additional surveys--this time in the call center--asking its customers if they had viewed the Web site prior to placing their telephone inquiry. The response for many was yes, but in doing so, they had not found their answers.

The Success Strategy: Kodak implemented the Primus Broad Daylight self-service solution to help solve the problem by offering 24/7 Web support for its customers. "We had to move to a Web mentality," says John Bustard, worldwide director of technical knowledge management at Kodak. "Before that we had a call center and an email mentality." 

Initially, Kodak's Web site featured a relatively short list of FAQs. According to Bustard, "What we found was that we need a lot more [FAQs], and that changed our whole mentality about how we have to work to be able to put content out on the Web." 

The company's engineers, call center staff, and writers got together and decided to place more critical FAQs in the hands of writers, rather than engineers, to ensure clarity for Kodak's wide spectrum of customers. 
The new solution provides downloads and drivers, FAQs, an interactive troubleshooting guide, technical information bulletins, interactive tutorials, and an online user guide, all available in several languages. "We've evolved to where if the problem comes in today and it's answered by the call center today, it's being considered [for] the Web tomorrow," Bustard says. 

The Results:

  • Improved ratio of FAQ to telephone or email support by a factor of 8 over 19 months
  • All email responses to consumers are considered for inclusion in the Web knowledge base
  • Reduced the need for live contacts for troubleshooting camera repairs

South African Revenue Service: Create a Single Source of Customer Information

The Challenge: The South African Revenue Service (SARS) had faced the daunting task of having to work with fragmented taxpayer information held in eight disparate systems. Officials were required to pull an individual's information from 10 to 30 different IT systems (based on taxpayer subcategories) and to manually reenter each piece of information to obtain a complete view. Managing approximately nine million taxpayers, business duties like accurate debt equalization became increasingly challenging, resulting in a loss of tax revenues and customs dues--and frequent taxpayer frustration. "It could take up to three weeks to get all the information about a taxpayer," says Andre van der Post, manager of innovation at SARS. "Now, the automated environment allows this to be done in about 50 seconds."

The Success Strategy: To create the integrated multiple-taxpayer system it realized was crucial to efficient business, SARS selected the Siebel Public Sector Single View of the Taxpayer solution. The application would help streamline citizen service processes and provide staff with a single, comprehensive view of the taxpayer.

A team comprising Accenture, IBM, and Siebel Systems assisted SARS's IT organization to deploy the Siebel application running on the IBM WebSphere Business Integration Platform and integrated via Siebel's Universal Application Network to its disparate taxpayer systems. 

With its new ability to use comprehensive, real-time taxpayer information, SARS has lowered operational costs and improved citizen service by reducing response times for tax interactions. The agency has also experienced increased revenue as a result of improved tax liability assessments. Taxpayer service agents can now ensure, for example, that refunds are accurately offset against other taxes prior to payment. 

Although the project paid for itself within two months, the benefits are not expected to stop there. SARS plans to continue to deploy Siebel Business Integration Applications throughout its organization to extend the scope of the legacy applications connected, delivering more end-to-end business processes. SARS plans a "big rollout [in functionality] within the next two to three months that we expect will drive ROI even further," Van der Post says.

The Results:

  • Savings of $12 million per week
  • Integrated eight disparate systems to develop a single view of the taxpayer, providing more accurate tax assessment, fewer data entry errors, and more timely response to tax inquiries and correspondence
  • Reduced the time it takes to collect taxpayer information, from up to three weeks to 50 seconds

Openwave Systems: Support Channel Partners

The Challenge: Openwave, a provider of mobile Internet software, needed to support an increasing number of external developers who were building applications and offering services based on Openwave's technology. Its developer base had climbed to more than 100,000, and support volumes were increasing by as much as 50 percent each month, with support requests often highly complex and mission critical. 

The Success Strategy: Openwave chose ePeople Teamwork to track, monitor, and resolve the influx of developer requests that were bombarding its support team. Since the corporation had previously relied on an email system to handle the inquiries, it had never been able to track the status of incoming requests, assign responsibility to a support provider, or allow multiple employees inside the company to collaborate on a given request. 

ePeople has enabled Openwave's support providers to work together to resolve complex issues. This team-based productivity has helped contribute to faster resolution, as well as improve the sharing of knowledge among the developer support group. Additionally, Openwave more efficiently measures the performance of its developer support group, from individual analyst productivity to root-cause information. 

"ePeople Teamwork provides a significant advance in support technology that will improve Openwave's service offering and responsiveness to our developer community," says Ron Mandel, global manager of developer services for Openwave. "ePeople's enhanced collaboration capabilities allow us to assemble the optimal 
team for any support situation--even when team members are distributed worldwide." 

Metrics provided by ePeople have assisted managers to assess activity within the developer community and to gauge the appropriate training and materials necessary to supplement it. The solution also collects customer satisfaction information on every support issue, which helps Openwave identify areas for further improvement. 

The Results:

  • Reduced issue-resolution times by more than 70 percent
  • Manage higher volume of calls without increasing the number of support personnel
  • Average response time dropped from two days to 6 hours
  • Enabled support personnel, located in Northern Ireland and California, to efficiently execute requests across time zones

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Division: Provide Multichannel Access

The Challenge: In 2000 the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare Division came to the realization that it needed to upgrade its customer contact technology to keep pace with its competitors. The company's existing system didn't allow for easily routed information, and this was hindering its ability to automate processes.

"We knew call volumes would increase through acquisitions and product introductions," says Laurie Garvey, manager of customer relations at GSK, "and [we] weren't confident our current technology could meet the increased demand."

The Success Strategy: GSK deployed Astute Solutions PowerCenter to more than 80 employees at 18 sites in its corporate and outsource contact centers, and in the medical affairs and quality management departments. PowerCenter integrates with four other GSK systems to provide streamlined information and improve efficiency. 

One interface links the PowerCenter system with an online medical dictionary, while another automatically creates cases for emails that stem from any of the company's 40 product Web sites. The solution handles incoming inquiries from every channel, and communicates with knowledge bases to help customer service reps answer questions faster and categorize issues with accuracy. Cases can also be directed to one of 15 remote quality managers who use PowerCenter to track FDA regulation-compliance issues; consumer questions that cannot be resolved using available reference information are also directed to a quality manager.

Where the company's prior system had not been validated to current compliance standards, GSK has also benefited from a minimized risk of noncompliance. "PowerCenter's reporting tools help us understand consumer needs to better align ourselves with company objectives," says Barbara Singer, supervisor of consumer relations at GSK. 

"Our efficiency is better, our reps and customers are happier," Garvey says, "and customer relations has more credibility and visibility throughout the organization."

The Results:

  • 19 percent decrease in case processing times
  • added support for 20 new brands without increasing resources
  • 15 percent decrease in fulfillment printing times
  • 60 percent decrease in email processing times

Overland Storage: Make Service Delivery Uniform Across All Operations

The Challenge: As a supplier of hardware and software solutions for midrange computer networks, Overland serves more than 75,000 customer sites around the world. In light of its continuing and rapid expansion, superior customer service and support became more crucial to the company than ever before. 

The problem was, Overland Storage had no single repository for call and support information integration; none of the company databases was linked. In addition, multiple global locations were operating on separate systems, leaving field agents without the ability to access data.

Overland had three main goals: to allow customers to control the level of support they received, to streamline support activities and automate internal processes, and to unite support across the entire company and throughout its global operations.

The Success Strategy: To meet these goals Overland selected Epicor Software's Clientele Customer Support--an implementation that would impact its customer care, support sales, technical support, internal repair, software QA, hardware QA, IT, applications, and field engineering departments. Clientele has provided Overland with the ability to enhance logistics and stocking planning, improving the analysis capabilities of field service, and has improved field first-trip fix rates by 16 percent. 

"Our field engineers have benefited greatly," says Mark Bath, manager of service programs and systems at Overland. "Information is available to them that never was before.... Often, they had to talk to two or three people to get information on a certain issue, and now they can just log in from their hotel rooms."

The solution has already shown a very real ROI due to the growth of support sales, but Overland's most significant return has shone through in the form of customer satisfaction results and repeat purchases. "Our sales partners are happier, our field support is better, and the improved relations with all levels of our customer base are helping to drive our product sales to new records," Bath says.

The Results:

  • Contract renewal improvements have led to a year-one ROI of 278 percent
  • 16 percent improvement in field first-trip fix rate
  • 28 percent reduction in outstanding inventory
  • 5 to 15 percent customer satisfaction improvement 
  • 9 percent contract renewal percentage 
  • Significant improvement in the morale of field sales staff, leading to improved customer relations 

Reader's Digest: Dam the Flood of Emails

The Challenge: The Reader's Digest customer service Web site was basically a list of static FAQs. Email inquiry forms were embedded in the FAQs, so an increasing number of customers were submitting Web-inquiry forms to different customer service email boxes that were part of the corporate email client. But it was virtually impossible to determine if customers had submitted multiple FAQs. Additionally, categorizing and subcategorizing emails, calculating workload, and tracking staff performance comprehensively grew to be frustrating processes, especially with emails being handled by an outside vendor.

The Success Strategy: Reader's Digest turned to RightNow, which presented the company with an integrated self-service knowledge base giving customers 24/7 access to their answers online. The system features a capability called SmartAssistant, which scans the content of incoming email inquiries and automatically suggests answers. 

Although the company had initially focused on the issue of enhancing email processing, rather than the deployment of a knowledge base, the customer experience reaped significant benefits from the move. "Customer care is the big winner," says John Delgado, customer care manager at Reader's Digest. 

Because customer emails are largely account- or topic-specific, they are not often handled ideally by a general online knowledge base. The email processing component of RightNow's hosted application has, however, helped track customer email inquiries across different service transaction topics and subsequently categorize them within the Web interface. Reader's Digest embeds appropriate online knowledge base content within each service transaction category--orders and renewals, and technical questions, for example--and enables customers to submit email inquiries for those questions that can't be answered by the knowledge base. 

Now each customer's history, including the number of emails they have submitted and how these emails were handled and resolved, is easily accessible by the third-party vendor. Where 20 disparate databases had once served to track customer inquiries, a source for centralized information came as a much-needed fix. 

Delgado remembers the struggle to meet the 24-hour deadline for processing service requests. "But now with the reporting function staff performance measures can really home in on that processing time," he says, noting an improvement of approximately 35 percent in agent productivity.

The Results:

  • Improved processing time by approximately 35 percent
  • Consolidation of 20 different databases into one centralized knowledge base
  • 360-degree view of the customer and customer history

    Contact the editor at editor@destinationCRM.com

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