• December 1, 2011
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

HauteLook Gets Help for Help

Article Featured Image

A number of businesses have sprung up in recent years providing deep discounts for merchandise that isn't moving. Customers get sweet deals on pricey goods while the retailers get to realize some profit on what might have otherwise gone unsold. It's one of the bright sides to having a shaky economy. One highly successful example is HauteLook, part of the Nordstrom family of companies.

HauteLook offers discounts of up to 75 percent on brands for women, men, kids, home, beauty, and travel. "Our site changes constantly, with new members and new types of products," says Chris Purpura, director of member care for HauteLook. "We make brands available to people who haven't had access to them before. And we make those people feel cared for—we call it member care as opposed to customer service, because that's how we want them to feel about us, as a resource for them."

But for a company built on service, HauteLook had lacked a consistent approach to customer care and the necessary analytics built around it. "HauteLook has only been around for a little over three years," Purpura says. "It's a typical startup—there wasn't a real CRM solution. It was more people answering phones than a contact center. Our COO had some contact center experience and knew we'd need something more robust."

The company needed to meet the needs of its shoppers while empowering its growing contact center to quickly and consistently respond to members via the channel of their choice, whether phone, email, or chat. A short and decisive search process led HauteLook to engage RightNow Technologies to implement its contact center–based CRM solution, including RightNow Dynamic Agent Desktop and Smart Assistant.

Approximately 40 agents at HauteLook now use the RightNow Dynamic Agent Desktop to manage its rapidly growing number of member interactions, which are already up 20 percent per month compared to last year's holiday season. RightNow is integrated with HauteLook's e-commerce system to provide associates with a 360-degree view of each member, including order and support history.

RightNow is a cloud-based system with an excellent record for speed and ease of implementation, so HauteLook's new applications were up and running quickly. New capabilities are still being added. It's already a winner in Purpura's book. "I love the amount of information at my fingertips," he says. "It's better than anything I've seen in 15 years of contact center experience. With Smart Assistant, we have a good sense of when and why customers contact us. We are striking a good balance between deflection and good personal contact."

Deflection isn't always the best option, and HauteLook knows this as well as any successful service organization. This is nowhere more true than in the case of discount travel—still a costly item in most cases, where some handholding is necessary. Using RightNow, more than 80 percent of shoppers chat with an agent before booking a Getaways travel package.

Adjusting to the rapid change is always a challenge. "As an organization, we're still figuring out how to best use RightNow's technology to make things better for our customers," Purpura says. "I've never worked anywhere as fast-moving and developing as HauteLook. When I got here, we weren't using the system to capacity; we weren't doing surveys or live chat. We were logging calls at about a 30 percent rate; now it's 99 percent or more."

One example of the rapid implementation is the RightNow cloud monitoring tool for managing social media outreach and creating incidents automatically based on the social stream. "We had our first conversation about this a week or two ago [early September 2011], and we're now a week away from launch," Purpura says. HauteLook is also developing its work-from-home program, tying it into the help desk and using the same customer care philosophy for agents calling in.

For HauteLook, RightNow can deliver everything the company needs. "There isn't anything we'd want to do now or in the foreseeable future that RightNow doesn't provide," Purpura says. "Any of the functions we picture ourselves needing, we know we can go to RightNow for it. We have a great opportunity to distinguish ourselves in the service end of the business."

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues