Case Study: Customer Service Call Processing System – Lowell
The Lowell Shoe Company has crafted women’s comfort shoes for nearly 70 years. Started as a family-owned operation in Lowell, Massachusetts, the company built a solid foundation with steady growth and, in 1992, the operation was acquired by H.H. Brown. As Lowell Shoe continued to grow, its distribution center expanded, and inventory capacity doubled to more than one million pair of shoes. The resulting increases in customer contact and associated transactions created a backlog in the Customer Service Department and was prevented the company from meeting its service objectives.
H.H. Brown Objectives:
- Improve productivity of call center personnel.Lowell service representatives are responsible for answering and responding to all service related calls from the retail customer base. Lowell was not satisfied with the current service levels, time in queue, and number of abandoned calls. They wanted to improve performance in these areas without adding new personnel.
- Streamline processes and eliminate paperwork.Customer service functions at Lowell were not automated and tracking tools were primarily a set of hand written logs. A main objective of the project was to create a shared database of all transactions and to provide associated management tools for department supervisors.
- Integrate call processing with Microsoft desktop software.Call center processing required agents to lookup orders and shipments on a legacy computer. This function was accomplished through the use of a terminal emulator on the agents PC. Although these PCs were equipped with the latest Microsoft Office tools, there was no efficient way to link the capabilities of the two platforms. Lowell Shoe wanted to create an environment that would enable agents to directly access legacy data from the desktop.
A detailed review of existing procedures revealed a direct correlation between abandoned/calls in queue, and the amount of time customer service agents spent locating call-related information. Manual procedures often required agents to leave their stations in an attempt to retrieve information from hand written logs or to search for paperwork on a coworker’s desk. Information related to previous calls from the customer was largely non-existent.
ISG proposed the design and development of a work management system that would leverage Lowell Shoe’s existing applications and infrastructure and create a service platform that would manage and track all customer contact activity. Developed in Microsoft Outlook, Exchange, Access, Word, and VBA, this software would also use ODBC drivers to seamlessly integrate Lowell’s legacy DEC VAX data. The resulting Customer Service System (CSS) contains the following components:
- Customer contact database.All calls to Lowell’s service center are recorded in the customer contact database, thereby enabling any agent to retrieve all pertinent information during subsequent follow-up calls.
- Work flow management.All calls requiring action are assigned to individual work management queues. Agents review these queues on a periodic basis and complete the necessary tasks. Multi-step requests are then electronically transferred to the next applicable queue. All activity is recorded to transaction logs and supervisors receive parameter driven warnings when processing does not meet performance standards.
- Integration of departmental data.Through the use of ODBC drivers, CSS enables agents to directly access order and shipping related data, thereby allowing for immediate answers to order status and shipping information. Customer return requests are recorded and evaluated by the returns supervisor. Qualifying returns are issued a Return Goods Authorization and faxed or emailed to the customer. All RGA information is electronically forwarded to the receiving department in preparation for receipt of goods. New customer and sales lead information is automatically emailed to sales representatives.
- Automated ProcessingAdditional features include desktop fax and email capabilities, agent call processing statistics and other performance measurement tools.