The 2011 Service Elite

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Culled from an industry that abounds with outstanding service deployments, the following stories represent our fab four. In winnowing our nominations, we necessarily omitted noteworthy deployments, and readily acknowledge that. But we stand by the service achievements of the four winners. Each is striking for different reasons, and the quartet cuts across the corporate spectrum—from IT management and telecom, to vision care, and energy.

One of our winners exploited the cloud computing rage to drive up customer uptake by 50 percent and get through an earthquake that caused an evacuation of the contact center.

An IT management company turned to a full CRM life cycle management system to overhaul the way it collected customer data, as well as manage relationships every step of the way. In addition, first call resolution was improved while the company’s computing needs were reduced.

A third winner used a workforce optimization system to save $3 million from enhanced contact enter call handling and, at the same time, better leverage analytics.

Our fourth winner implemented a VOC program to empower contact center employees and boost staff morale and commitment.

Meeting Its Team's Needs

When Nicor National moved to a beautiful new facility in May 2010, Barbara Porter, vice president of customer service and business development, expected her contact center workers to be thrilled. The building, described by Porter as “brand new” and “corporate,” had a lot more to offer than Nicor’s older facility. But after implementing Allegiance’s VOC program, Porter and her colleagues learned of employee discontent over the move that was affecting engagement.

Porter says Nicor has long been committed to hearing the voice of its employees, juggling weekly and daily meetings to discuss contact center operations, resource planning, and training needs with supervisors and managers.

Before implementing Allegiance VOC in August 2009, Nicor received employee feedback through an online suggestion box. But Allegiance VOC gave the company an automated feedback process with two-way communication. All suggestions, complaints, and compliments are sent directly to Porter and to the director of the contact center, Norm Lippelt. Depending on the issue, Porter and Lippelt respond directly or delegate to someone responsible for that particular process.

Nicor has retained its traditional feedback channels: monthly roundtable meetings, weekly tailgating meetings, and the simple method of walking around to speak to employees. Yet concerns lingered about how this new tool might change employee dynamics. Some of Porter’s colleagues worried that using Allegiance VOC would compromise direct relationships with supervisors.

“The biggest [concern] on the employee side was the question, ‘Would this tool circumvent chain of command?’ ” says Porter. “So now if employees had a tool and if they weren’t happy about something, instead of going to their supervisor or manager, they would just go right to this tool.”

She adds, “We work really hard at not having an us versus them environment.”

After testing Allegiance VOC within the contact center, Porter and her colleagues expanded its use to the entire company.
It was through Allegiance VOC that Porter became aware of growing employee dissatisfaction with the company’s move; many found the environment “sterile” and “cold.”

Porter eventually pulled Marketing into the mix to consider what adjustments could be made to brighten the building. With a mere $12,000 and the time frame of six weeks, the company transformed the environment, adding a TV, computer workstations, warmer colors, and art panels to the break room.

“It still looks professional, but we have added the things that were important to our employees to make it feel like a family and a team again,” Porter says.

Also uncovered through Allegiance was employees’ distaste for the building’s many exit doors. Although there were now many exits to the break room, Porter discovered that the accessibility limited how often employees from different departments saw one another, which affected employee mood and, therefore, engagement.

“We are going to have a company lunch this month so that everybody can get together and see each other again,” Porter says.
Using Allegiance to identify those nuanced, yet substantial, problems has allowed Nicor’s employees’ concerns to be heard and addressed. The result is a stronger work ethic, a more committed staff, and a happier corporate atmosphere.

Delivering IT Faster

The world is a dangerous place, but Shavlik Technologies tries to make it safer, at least for the 10 million computer endpoints it services through IT management contracts with more than 10,000 customers worldwide.

While the IT management industry has exploded, Shavlik has streamlined operations, thanks to CRM solutions from Salesforce.com. “The manner of delivering services to our customers has changed,” says Rob Juncker, vice president of technology at Shavlik. “In 2009 and 2010, the number of vectors for support changed. Our customers started turning to online sources like Twitter. We also started getting more international demand, and our customers started looking more for technical support than sales support.”

To help with these changing market dynamics, Shavlik in March 2010 started to convert an earlier Salesforce.com implementation into Salesforce’s full CRM life cycle management system, complete with the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Customer Portal, Force.com, and Chatter solutions. Shavlik implemented communication templates in Salesforce.com to keep a living history of all customers. All communications with a customer are tied directly into Salesforce.com so that Shavlik can manage the customer relationship from end to end. The Salesforce.com applications are also tied directly into Shavlik’s Epicor financials program to expedite sales, billing, and order processing.

“We’re using Salesforce.com for all aspects of our customer life cycle, and it feeds information into all of our other systems,” Juncker says. “The solution we ended up with not only leverages our customers but also every bit of information we have from our customers.”
Headquartered in New Brighton, Minn., Shavlik maintains remote and international sales and support operations. The company has seen its customer base grow by 22 percent since it rolled out the solutions, but it has not had to expand its staff to handle the extra demand.
Since the Salesforce.com implementation, fewer workers are processing orders and taking calls. Shavlik also reduced nearly 60 percent of its computing needs by integrating CRM applications into Salesforce.com and cut IT spending on CRM systems by 14 percent because of lower maintenance and licensing costs. The bottom line saving is $250,000.

Using the Customer Portal tied to Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, Shavlik has deflected 44 percent of incoming calls to its support center to a new online community of experts that is nearly 150,000 members strong. The volume in 2009 was 392.6 calls per week; now it’s 221.2. Meanwhile, Shavlik increased its first-call resolution rate by about 15 percent and is meeting its service-level agreements for customer support 31 percent more efficiently.

“We’ve cut out over 360 hours necessary to support our customers’ SLA requirements. And when you pile in infrastructure and systems, it is a net savings of over $300,000 annually,” Juncker says.

In addition, the company has cut order processing time by 60 percent, reduced the average sales cycle by more than two weeks, increased the accuracy of sales forecasts, and boosted its renewal rate by 7 percent. “Now customers are automatically notified when their [contracts] with us are up, and we’re generating a new quote for them automatically,” Juncker says.

Chatting In The Cloud

Telecom New Zealand knew from the start that it wanted to transform its call-focused center into a contact center but needed the right vendor to chaperone the transition. In designing a “customer ecosystem,” Telecom New Zealand essentially had to present some new channels, specifically call-assisted service.

“We wanted to move to a complete tool set to help us participate in all of those ecosystem conversations, so we needed to get into the chat space,” remembers Russell Stevens, head of channel planning and operations at Telecom New Zealand.

For six years, the company had been using RightNow Technologies for email and knowledgebase. Although other vendors were considered, RightNow was an easy choice for Stevens.

“I came into the organization two and a half years ago, and I used RightNow in three other organizations. So, for me it was a bit of a no-brainer,” he says. “[RightNow] very, very, very rarely fails. In the seven years I have been dealing with RightNow, I have probably had to make one call to some partners in New Zealand to say, ‘Hey, the platform has gone down and it’s not working.’ For us it was really important that we had a platform that wasn’t going to die in the middle of conversation, and the cloud platform that RightNow has gave us that continuity of services.”

Telecom New Zealand implemented RightNow CX in August 2010 intending to reduce customers’ effort. Soon after implementation, the priority became learning how to increase the uptake of customers using the chat tile.

Marketing researched the design of the speech bubble, eventually considering comic books as a resource. “They’re the leaders in speech bubbles,” says Stevens. “[We] found out that if you look in a comic book, a normal kind of elliptical bubble is someone speaking. A kind of jagged-edge one is really a canon system or a computer-generated voice. Based on that...we actually redesigned our speech tile.”
The redesign produced a 50 percent better uptake.

Telecom New Zealand also had a hurdle to clear regarding the level of service it should offer customers. The answer to that question crystallized after Stevens had experienced a not-so-pleasant chat exchange on an airline’s Web site. “I went onto a European airline to book a ticket awhile back, and they offered me a chat tile,” Stevens recalls. “They came back to me and said, ‘We can have someone available in seven minutes,’ and I replied back, ‘Well that’s email, not chat.’ ”

For Stevens, the experience solidified Telecom New Zealand’s decision against delivering a mass service if the company could not maintain the quality.

Since implementing RightNow CX, Telecom New Zealand has received praise from the local deaf community for the tool’s communication capabilities. In addition, the company endured the Christchurch New Zealand earthquake in 2010, which caused Telecom New Zealand to evacuate its facilities and send all contact center employees home. RightNow’s solutions worked just as seamlessly at home as they did in the office; all employees were logged on and ready to engage with customers.

“For us, this is a really important part of our standards for our customers,” says Stevens.

Clarifying Its Vision

VSP Vision Care is the nation’s largest nonprofit vision benefits and services provider, with more than 55 million members and 27,000 doctors. Based in Rancho Cordova, Calif., VSP receives 450,000 to 500,000 calls a month. So when the company needed to replace its outdated phone systems, it was imperative to maintain a high level of customer care during and after the transition.

In mid-2008, VSP started to install a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system from Cisco while also launching a comprehensive plan called One Voice. The goal was to use a single VoIP telephony system to deliver calls, voicemail, interactive voice response, and call routing functionality to every employee. Concurrent with that initiative was a “Be the Best” program, a full review of VSP’s customer care processes, procedures, staffing management, and technology, with the mission of improving systems, service, people, and value.

VSP opted for a workforce optimization (WFO) solution. Ultimately the company selected the Impact 360 solution suite—composed of WFO, quality monitoring, speech and data analytics, scorecards, and eLearning—from Verint Witness Actionable Solutions.

Since the deployment, which VSP began in May 2008 and followed with an upgrade to include speech and data analytics in August 2009, Impact 360 has helped VSP improve knowledge across the enterprise. Real-time data delivery has become more accessible, making the contact center easier to manage and empowering contact center employees.

The results have been impressive: a $3.1 million savings from enhancing contact center call handling times (which dropped, on average, from 300 seconds to 267 seconds), agent availability, and shift scheduling.

“We started 2010 with 10 percent less staff than we had at the start of 2009,” says Dan Salter, director of customer care operations at VSP. “Our call volume remained stable while our CSR numbers shrank.”

Currently VSP employs about 400 agents at call centers in Rancho Cordova and a satellite operation in Columbus, Ohio. Enhanced first-call resolutions have generated a cost-avoidance savings of about $900,000.

VSP has found Impact 360’s advanced scorecard capabilities beneficial, letting CSRs monitor their own performance in a real-time environment. For example, VSP could give agents details of their average call handling time, but it was not trended and was only a snapshot of what had happened the day before.

Now VSP can support agents with immediate feedback on performance, and agents can score and evaluate their own performance or that of their peers. That has been instrumental in boosting agent efficiency and productivity while keeping employee satisfaction high. Those numbers have held steady, at 93 percent.

Customer service is also benefiting from the solution because agents have a unified view of customer histories across channels and sources. Impact 360 captures and allows agents to share detailed insight from data and calls regarding marketing initiatives, product design, and client opportunities.

Still, the analytics portion of Impact 360 is handling only those calls that go through the agents; 30 percent of calls go through the IVR from end to end. “It would pay off in the IVR, but we just haven’t gotten there yet,” Salter says.

VSP plans to introduce many aspects of Impact 360 to its back offices, where Salter expects the solution to generate another 10 percent savings—or between $350,000 and $400,000—in staffing.

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