The 2009 CRM Service Awards: Service Elite -- Bath & Body Works: Spiffing Up the Center

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The holidays can cause customer service headaches in the best of times, but caller spikes make the reliability of a quality experience a critical concern. At Reynoldsburg, Ohio–based Bath & Body Works (B&BW), a division of Limited Brands, the 2007 holiday season meant revamping a knowledge management system (KMS), using Astute Solutions’ Real Dialog offerings. The results were stunning—CRM profiled B&BW in October 2008—and while resting on its laurels would have been easy, the company kept innovating, expanded benefits, and now has a 2009 Service Elite award.

B&BW has more than 1,600 retail stores and 10,000 products—even Stephen Hawking couldn’t keep all its various product specifications straight. Pati Crowley, B&BW’s senior director of customer experience, says the KMS in place couldn’t handle the expected barrage of holiday calls. “We couldn’t get to the correct information at the right point of interaction with our customers,” she recalls.

B&BW turned to Astute for a new KMS largely because it was already using Astute’s ePowerCenter customer interaction and relationship management solution. B&BW incorporated RealDialog and RealDialog Agent Assist to enable agents to access necessary information and provide the right answer quickly.

The implementation took just 90 hours, according to Liz Shaver, Astute’s RealDialog product manager—faster than the already-ambitious original estimate, 200 hours. (A previous CRM implementation at B&BW took more than 1,400 hours, Crowley says.)

Fast implementation allowed B&BW to train seasonal hires on the new software, and the integration allows agents to access data fast through a single user interface. Natural-language processing and advanced linguistics capabilities open the door for RealDialog to understand real-world input. Agents can submit a customer’s question verbatim and receive a response while building the system in real time.

This boosted agents’ confidence and translated into a fantastic customer experience. The benefits included a 68 percent reduction in hold time, 49 percent fewer escalations—and a return on investment (ROI) within six months, instead of the 24-to-36-month expectation.

Instead of coasting this past holiday season, B&BW worked with Astute’s offerings to also streamline information for its district managers. “You look for the low-hanging fruit—additional ROI opportunities,” Crowley says. “We found other groups within our organization that could benefit from our KMS.”

Crowley explains they wanted to establish a solution for managers called ASK BBW in order to remove redundancies and instantly access procedures that had been in clunky binders—essentially, create a virtual world for all necessary knowledge so managers could spend more time in stores with workers. According to Shaver, the initial implementation was able to support this new iteration. “B&BW [could] use the same knowledge base and just add another configured touch point,” she says.

As a result, Crowley says, district managers saved 24 hours, the equivalent of three working days. “It stripped away a lot of the noise we pile into their roles,” she says. “We’d rather them be spending time coaching employees in the stores than trying to look things up or submit a piece of paper to the home office.”

Crowley’s expectations having already been exceeded, contact center agents continued to realize even better ROI with the RealDialog and Agent Assist products—a pleasant surprise. Average hold time dropped 18 percent more, and escalations plummeted another 13 percent. “We feel that we had even better customer satisfaction and loyalty this year, based on our interactions, than last year,” she says. “Let’s be real: Customers’ expectations are shifting now. This puts us in an even better place to meet those new demands.”  —Christopher Musico

KEY RESULTS: Bath & Body Works
• Cut seasonal-associate training time in half
• Slashed hold time by 86 percent
• Decreased average handling time by 37 percent
• Reduced supervisory-assistance calls by 51 percent
• Earned 36 compliments for every complaint
• Cut escalations by 62 percent
• Saved each field manager roughly 24 hours—approximately three working days

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

For the rest of the April 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

The other three recipients of the 2009 CRM Service Elite Award are:

  • CBS Interactive, for its slam-dunk handling of the NCAA basketball tournament, among other events, with the help of RightNow Technologies;
  • the Municipality of Coamo, Puerto Rico, for a Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment with Rock Solid Technologies; and
  • identity-theft watchdog LifeLock, for an initiative with on-demand contact center provider LiveOps.

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