The 2007 Service Elite
How do you go from facing serious service strains to being nationally recognized as one of the top 10 best support sites on the Web within a year's time? The answer can be found in Juniper Networks's e-support initiative undertaken in 2006. This year's Service Elite winner for Web-support services used a goal-oriented service plan and undertook an implementation of InQuira 7 to overcome the stress of complex acquisitions and to come out with award-worthy ROI.
Juniper Networks is a secure network infrastructure provider that helps companies consolidate network security. The company had been expanding quickly, tripling its revenue in the two years from 2003 through 2005, as well as making significant acquisitions. A greater call volume, along with disparate knowledge bases and support operations, put a strain on customer service. When Juniper made the very large 2004 acquisition of NetScreens, a technical support company, Juniper ran into even greater service difficulties trying to integrate its acquisition's retail-oriented business model. Because customer support serves as a profit center for Juniper, comprising approximately 15 percent of company revenue, the company knew that the issue of service needed to be addressed.
In creating its e-support initiative, Juniper set goals of having more robust search technology and feedback built into search, of having a better understanding of customer metrics, and of reaching customers how and when they want to be reached while making them more self-sufficient. The company looked to meet these objectives by implementing InQuira 7. Juniper began the project after a long evaluation process and went live in January 2006. Allan Grohe, senior knowledge engineer for Juniper, says that the process was not easy. "We had a lot of challenges both from a business and an internal processes point of view." However, after working through road bumps, such as large-scale content migration as well as project management and resource issues, Juniper began to see positive results.
Although Juniper initially ran into some internal resistance, once acclimated to the change, the company's engineers liked the newfound ability to search through multiple repositories as well as to make knowledge bases part of their workflow. "There was an overwhelming sense that the solution improved their experience overall," says Sean Kelly, e-business program manager. Grohe says that externally, the response was notable and positive, and that almost immediately following the go-live date, "our users stopped sending us hate mail."
Grohe explains that Juniper used to receive three to four complaints per week regarding the knowledge base, but these grievances quickly disappeared. In fact, Juniper saw an increase in overall customer satisfaction from an average score of 8.02 in Q4 2005 to 8.46 in Q3 2006.
The implementation of a user interface that integrates dynamic search and navigation allows users to choose the method they want to use to interact with the self-service knowledge base. Because Juniper had introduced the new interface through demos and reviews, customers made the transition easily and quickly felt comfortable with the change, according to the company. The ease of service not only made customers happy, but also improved earnings--the company has seen savings of $5.8 million from case avoidance since the January launch. Juniper has also improved sales, adding 10,000 new users per quarter.
The implementation of InQuira 7, combined with the overall e-support initiative, was enough to move Juniper from a company with customer hate mail in its inbox to being recognized as having one of the 10 best Web-support sites of 2006 by the Association of Support Professionals. Juniper attests that it will not stop there. "Juniper is one of the few customers that uses everything," says Mark Buckallew, director of product management for InQuira. "We like to work with those kinds of companies." Juniper is also planning to complete an upgrade of its Web self-support this year. The company's smart balance of ambition and careful planning that spelled success in 2006 will no doubt do the same in 2007. --Jessica Sebor
Key Resultshas saved $5.8 million in a case avoidance since launch;
increased customer satisfaction from a rating of 8.02 to 8.46; and
was named one of the 10 best Web-support sites of 2006 by the ASP.
Since its inception Taylor Corporation has stood as a support system for semicustom printed materials. The contact center is a central part of its business plan, serving as a place where customers can go with order or delivery issues and product questions. When performance in the contact center was suffering, the company set its sights high. "We wanted to discover what it meant to be world class in the contact center," says Cory Gallagher, Taylor's customer service department manager. To heighten performance, the company implemented Witness Systems's Impact 360 Workforce Optimization in 2006. What Taylor--which is a holding company for IRG--found was prize-winning ROI, but also a complete shift in company culture.
In 2005 Taylor's contact center was far from world class. Its static agent scheduling system and poor recording system created countless problems at the agent, supervisor, and customer level. The company went shopping for a quality monitoring solution to enhance agent performance, and decided to invest in Impact 360 Workforce Optimization, which includes workforce management, performance management, and e-learning, as well as quality monitoring. After a four-month implementation, which according to Gallagher went off "without one little hiccup," Taylor went live in August 2006 and began to see immediate improvement.
The company hoped to record 400 calls a week, but surpassed this goal with an average rate of 480 calls per week. Service levels increased from 73 percent to 80 percent, translating into positive customer experiences. "Call centers are starting to realize it's a profit-and-loss business," says Oscar Alban, principal global market consultant for Witness. Taylor's revamped contact center saw this payoff in the reduction of cost per call from $2.50 to $2.05, equating to an 18 percent drop in total labor costs. The cost per monitored call also decreased significantly--from $7.25 to $3.15. Alban says, "With hundreds of calls monitored over the course of a week, that is a huge savings right on the bottom line."
Although cost decreases and service advancements have benefited Taylor in the short term, it is the contact center culture the company has gained that will ensure continued improvement in the future. The company has shifted from having an administrative policy to one that facilitates coaching and development. Agents now have more flexible schedules, and there are also multiple levels of career advancements and scorecards in place to reward exceptional performance. Additionally, while removing agents from the floor for mandatory learning sessions was an issue in the past, with Witness, Taylor created learning clips, educational snippets sent to agents' on-floor computers, which remedied the problem. "Every day you hear them talking about where they are on the leaderboard and they cheer each other on," Gallagher says. "There's great teamwork and chemistry out on the floor." More efficient performance has also allowed the contact center to reduce its staff through natural attrition. The team has decreased by one full-time manager and 12 agents.
Improved service has spelled not only motivated employees and a satisfied finance department, but happy customers as well. Although contact center service can sometimes take a back seat in the larger scheme of a company's priorities, the quality of service can create a make-or-break impact in a customer's mindset. Taylor found its customers taking notice. "One customer shared a statement saying that two years ago employees were saying our service wasn't as good as their previous vendor," Gallagher says. "Over the last few months comments have shifted, saying we are much better."
Taylor now wishes to expand this world-class level of service farther into its business. According to the company, it will implement Impact 360 in at least three other company contact centers in the upcoming year. Taylor is also considering a newly added customer feedback component to the Witness platform to gain a better feel of what its customers are saying. Gallagher promises, "We're continuing our journey here." --Jessica Sebor
Key Resultsdecreased cost per call from $2.50 to $2.05;
improved service level by 7 percent;
dropped cost per monitored call from $7.25 to $3.15; and
reduced overall costsby 18 percent.
Bright House Networks
In the highly competitive world of cable providers, price is often the only differentiating factor for customers to base decisions on. So when Bright House Networks (BHN), our 2007 Service Elite winner in the speech solutions category, identified a problem in its contact centers, it decided to turn this quandary into a competitive advantage via superior customer service.
BHN is the eighth largest cable company in the United States and provides cable, Internet, and telephone services for over 800,000 customers in its Central Florida division, which it supports via four inbound contact centers and 600 agents. Three years ago, the service provider realized its CSRs were spending too much time handling routine billing inquiries, such as account balance, payments, questions about cable outages, or confirmation and cancellation of service appointments, and not enough time handling more pressing inquiries. It also recognized that agent time was being wasted and customer frustration levels heightened by high transfer rates between agents for sales and billing inquiries. "The percentage of inquiries that was being processed by our IVR was very low," says Bill Sievers, vice president of customer care. "We needed to increase those numbers and take some of the burden off our CSRs."
BHN selected Aspect Software's Customer Self-Service Speech Solution for its pricing and its tight product integration with other existing Aspect solutions. For BHN these include Aspect DataMart and Aspect Enterprise Contact Server, which BHN uses to provide agents with customer information via screen pops, and Aspect eWorkforce Management, which it uses for scheduling. Each solution provides information to Aspect DataMart to give BHN historical and real-time reporting capabilities.
To ensure a successful implementation, the company used "an internal marketing campaign to get people to believe in the new technology," Sievers says. "There was going to be a lot of new data and technology available to the CSRs on their desktop, and we knew the customer experience was going to be different. If the customer talked about the new experience, we wanted our CSRs to be able to speak intelligently about it and explain the changes in our IVR routing." To foster this concept, all BHN contact center employees were required to call through the system to give ideas for enhancements. Each of the approximately 600 ideas was reviewed and some items were chosen for refinement before full implementation and rollout to the customer base.
BHN realized its first ROI in fewer than six months, following installation in April 2005. Since then, self-service calls have increased by 130 percent, enabling Bright House to dramatically increase agent availability. In addition, thanks to improved IVR routing, BHN has reduced transfers between agents by 50 percent.
Customers can now check account balances, make payments, confirm or cancel service appointments, reset their equipment, and find information on payment locations, online bill pay, and service outages. Before the implementation, customers had to either connect to an agent or navigate through a touch-tone system to acquire this sort of feedback.
The company has seen big improvements in customer satisfaction levels. J.D. Power and Associates recognized BHN as the top land line cable provider for the southeastern U.S. for its customer service, and as the top satellite cable provider for the southern U.S. For Internet service, the company finished second in the entire country. "We're very proud of this," Sievers says. "It vindicates our choices and hard work, and showed that our internal customer satisfaction surveys were holding true."
Moving forward, BHN plans to continue hosting focus groups to determine areas where it can increase customer satisfaction and overall usability of the services it provides. "We're not done yet," Sievers says. "We're going to strive with the next generation of speech solutions from Aspect. We're going to be implementing that later this year to try to reduce the number of agent transfers by half again." --Colin Beastyincreased self-service callsby 130 percent;
decreased calls to live agents;
reduced transfers to live agentsby 50 percent;
increased customer satisfaction; and
was nationally ranked forcustomer service by J.D. Power and Associates in three categories.
Hosted Contact Center Services
CRM magazine's editorial staff sifts through every nomination form it receives in search of organizations that have achieved results that are hard to ignore. But sometimes a gem is lying right under our nose. RxAmerica, an independent provider of prescription benefits to more than 6 million individuals through more than 55,000 pharmacies (RxAmerica also has a mail-order pharmacy), is a prime example. We covered the company--a customer of UCN, a provider of on-demand contact handling app services delivered over its VoIP network--in Real ROI in September 2006. And with its overall results, including savings in excess of $1 million, RxAmerica merits our 2007 Service Elite award for the hosted contact center services category.
During 2005's fall season when many seniors were grappling with understanding Medicare's new prescription-drug program, RxAmerica realized that its then only call center wouldn't be enough to handle its expected upsurge in call volume stemming from the program. The company's source of relief was to scale up by using outsource centers in various states. But it still needed a way to "deliver calls to multiple centers across the U.S." cost effectively, says Eli Fillmore, RxAmerica's manager of intelligent call routing.
Fillmore, who has several years of experience working with large premise-based systems, was confident he found the right call-routing solution for RxAmerica's dispersed service centers when a UCN rep demonstrated UCN inContact, an on-demand suite of contact-handling apps hosted within the UCN Intelligent Network. InContact combines the IVR system, the platform, and the call router into one, and allows RxAmerica to distribute calls across various centers, with each using its own independent ACD. The pharmacy benefit manager's inContact deployment went live in October 2005.
"Since inContact is an inNetwork solution, the technical impact on the customer is slight, but the ability to manage the delivery of calls to each outsource center is great," says Jan Johnson, UCN's vice president of marketing. "The business is not held hostage by the outsource provider. Calls can be metered across multiple outsource suppliers." Using inContact's inControl, an app-development tool with a visual drag-and-drop user interface, the company can make speedy modifications. If there are few available agents at a particular location, Fillmore can lower the number of calls routed there and raise the percentage of calls routed to other sites.
The company can also scale up and down as needed. Fillmore recalls RxAmerica's peak period in January 2006 when inContact was handling more than 40,000 dials--calls that came into a toll-free number--per day. When more capacity was needed, he called UCN and extra ports were immediately configured; when the call influx leveled, he called to have capacity level lowered. Fillmore says RxAmerica wasn't able to "physically answer" all 40,000 calls, but was able to "actually address them, give them greetings, and inform them of the environment at the network level," before they even got to Fillmore's switch. And he was able to present an option for callers to leave a phone number and receive a call back.
The suite can also conduct automated surveys triggered by call frequency: Once the agent disconnects, the caller is directed to an automated survey built on the platform, where she is asked 10 questions and can leave recorded comments. Fillmore can get an email in about 10 seconds with the customer's responses. "If it were ratings that were not too attractive for us and would merit some additional attention quickly for a customer retention effort or customer satisfaction effort, I can have a call back to that customer in 15 minutes."
The implementation has also led to dollars-and-cents results: RxAmerica is saving more than $1 million, thanks in large part to not having specialized hardware infrastructure and the personnel to support it. Fillmore says that being able to integrate the IVR with a network carrier has made the solution-development life cycle extremely fast: "From concept to design to implementation is hours and days as opposed to days and months." --Coreen Bailor
Key Resultshas saved in excess of $1 million;
can gauge satisfaction with more accuracy and have control over how to respond;
can make routing changes on the fly; and
can scale up or down to handle calls.
Agent-Facing Universal Desktop
Cars.com, our 2007 Service Elite winner for agent-facing universal desktop, was badly in need of a road map for customer service. The company, a vehicle classified-ad listing service jointly operated as a division of Classified Ventures by a consortium of newspapers, has had no shortage of traffic since its launch in 1998. More than 8 million car buyers and sellers visit the site each month, where they can find vehicle listings from more than 13,000 dealers alongside nationwide classified advertising and private-party listings. Despite this Cars.com was lagging badly in its handling of new and existing business.
"There was a real void in our customer handling capability because we had no case management tools whatsoever," says David Corken, operations manager for Cars.com. "We were using Outlook to manage all of our email contacts--it was very bare-bones." While Microsoft Outlook is a good personal productivity tool, it was never designed to handle case management when there could be hundreds or thousands of emails each month.
Without a proper tool for handling and routing cases, Cars.com suffered from poor performance. The goal of 8-hour turnaround time on new contacts was a distant dream: The typical result was 16 to 18 hours, and sometimes as long as 24, before advertisers got a response. That led to poor customer service and a sense of distrust. "Customers were upset. With no tracking or routing, customers had to constantly reexplain their needs and update their status for the agents. Morale was suffering too."
Cars.com looked for a contact center solution to better employ its resources, improve service quality, and accelerate transactions. "We looked for about three months, and considered Salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, and RightNow. We decided on Salesforce.com," Corken says. Since Cars.com was focused on sales and growth, a fully on-demand provider became more and more attractive. "At the time, Salesforce.com was relatively new, and we saw an opportunity to roll it out both to our sales and service operations."
Salesforce.com went live for Cars.com in July 2005, with the help of implementation partner Model Metrics. "Salesforce.com gave them a much more stable, less volatile environment," says Adam Caplan, president of Model Metrics. The on-demand nature of Salesforce.com made it affordable for a larger chunk of Cars.com than another CRM product might have been. The larger effort came from integrating the back-end systems and their rich history into Salesforce.com, so that support could create and apply filters to the data and give more accurate feedback about leads to dealers. Change management was minimal though, and the old way was quickly streamlined into a unified contact center.
It's been a success, both for sales and service. "We've enabled the sales team to do more selling and more pipeline reporting," Corken says. "They've used it quite well--for sales, it was a real bonus. But for service and support, it was the core of the operation." Today, Cars.com is handling 25,000 cases each month, and support agents' productivity has increased 50 percent, from six cases an hour to nine. Case handling time is down 26 percent, saving 4.5 minutes per case. Agent workload is up 33 percent, from 600 dealers per agent to 800. Support response time has decreased 65 percent. "They now have a much happier workforce, since they don't have to come in and work at 100 miles per hour just to keep up," Caplan says.
The benefits didn't stop with the initial implementation, though. In recent months Model Metrics and Cars.com have expanded Salesforce.com to the quality assurance team and the order entry team. Electronic case records are auto-created into the CRM database, and all customer inquiries are documented and tracked. Specialized custom views help Cars.com prioritize any backlog for quicker updates. QA can score and report on cases more thoroughly than ever before. And this year Cars.com will be converting to a Cisco IP phone system and integrating it with Salesforce.com. "The gains may be small on a per case basis," Caplan says. "But over 300,000 cases it adds up." --Marshall Lager
Key Resultsincreased agent productivity 50 percent;
cut support response time 65 percent;
decreased case handling time by 4.5 minutes, a 26 percent savings; and
increased agent case load 33 percent.