The 2015 CRM Service Elite: Oracle Service Cloud Catalyzes Multichannel Support Strategy

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At Kohl's, customer service calls come in by the millions—six million per year, to be exact. Customer service has always been a priority for the retail giant, says Vice President of Digital Commerce Customer Care Becky Ploeger, but between the massive volume of calls and the influx of inquiries through newer channels such as email and chat, Kohl's agents were becoming overwhelmed.

When Ploeger came on board in October 2013, Kohl's was preparing for an organizational overhaul of its customer service team. "For some time now, there have been a lot of changes to the ways customers seek out support. They are coming from new channels like chat; they are using a combination of channels; and they are expecting much quicker turnaround," she says. To meet the demands presented by the growing volume and the changing nature of customers' multichannel journeys, Kohl's developed and adopted a new customer care strategy that, with Oracle Service Cloud as a backbone, saved the company money, boosted service levels, and minimized abandonment rates.

One of the key components of the retailer's strategy was employee empowerment. Working closely with consulting firm Core Practices, Kohl's trained its customer service associates to handle any contacts across every channel. According to Ploeger, agents who were once prepared to focus on only one type of interaction are now equipped to tackle them all, and are responsible for offering support on phones, through email, and via chat depending on demand, which is monitored by a real-time queue management (RTQM) tool.

Service levels increased by 18 percent by September 2014—just six months after deployment—and Ploeger attributes this success to a balance of the "right technology" and organizational restructuring. During peak times, the Kohl's Digital Commerce Customer Care team is made up of about 3,500 agents, and with Service Cloud, that manpower is being leveraged more efficiently, according to Ploeger. "We now have these omni-advocates that are cross trained and have visibility into all of the channels, and we have the RTQM piece, where we're scheduling and maneuvering agents in real time into where the need is. The Oracle Service Cloud helps all of that because it is the big funnel that all the contacts are coming into," she says.

And Oracle's technology helps in other areas as well. To provide "differentiated customer service," Kohl's also deployed Oracle Service Cloud for Web customer service, contact center, and knowledge management, Stephen Fioretti, vice president of product management at Oracle Service Cloud, told CRM in an email. "The deployment enables Kohl's to reduce costs while delivering a compelling customer experience through voice, e-mail, chat, and cobrowsing capabilities that support millions of Web interactions per month," he added.

In addition to improved service levels, Kohl's was able to reduce service hours for agents at third-party support organizations and outsourcing partners, despite a significant increase in sales and a subsequent increase in customer support interactions. There were roughly 1.5 million more contacts in 2014 than in 2013, yet because the internal support center was running more efficiently, Kohl's was able to save more than $3 million through third-party contract renegotiations. Customers noticed a service improvement as well, and voice-of-the-customer scores rose by 3 percent following the February deployment.

"Like many retailers, Kohl's was looking to provide a highly differentiated customer experience in a competitive environment. Oracle Service Cloud has been an integral part of their ability to deliver a great experience across all of their support channels, including Web and mobile self-service, to assisted channels, like phone, chat, and cobrowse," Fioretti wrote.

In the coming months, Kohl's plans to continue working with Oracle to leverage the personalization functionality of its Service Cloud to deliver experiences that take prior interactions, such as a complaint call, into account. "The one thing we don't do today that we have our eye on is leveraging our CRM even further to tailor our contacts and [create] a more personalized interaction," Ploeger says. "We're building a road map with Oracle to leverage their technology and all of the data that we have with them both in-store and online," she adds.

Since creating a customer care strategy with Oracle Service Cloud as the foundation, Kohl's has seen:

  • An 18 percent increase in service levels;
  • A 3 percent increase in voice-of-the-customer scores; and
  • Roughly $3 million in cost savings.

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