Sizzling Service at Coldwater Creek
As Coldwater Creek has expanded over the years, the number of calls received by its technical support desk—the first point of contact for IT or facilities problems—has risen substanitally. In any given month, the desk received 6,000 to 10,000 calls, rising to 12,000 in peak season. E-mail requests for help were nearly as prevalent.
The technical support group evaluated all requests and routed them to the appropriate fulfillment team. Things got done, but it was a labor- and time-intensive process. Store reps and IT help-desk staffers were spending valuable time fielding calls on a variety of topics, from technical issues to questions about heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and electrical.
All that changed—and for the better—following the implementation of a Web-based service-request management solution. In early 2009, Coldwater Creek automated all requests for facilities service using a self-service Web portal enabled by software from BMC Software, Houston. Because those calls represented at least 10% to 15% of the total volume, the retailer initially focused on facilities-based requests that were not urgent, meaning they could be resolved in hours or days.
“We were able to drive a significant number of e-mail and phone requests out of our technical support desk,” reported Rich Stuber, director of technology operations, Coldwater Creek, Sandpoint, Idaho, which operates 406 locations with 20 to 25 new stores planned for 2010. “From March of 2009 to the present, there has been a 60% reduction in the number of e-mail requests going into our technical support e-mail box, and we reduced the call volume by 10% to 15%. That was a big payback, and our ROI was measured in months not years.”
Additionally, Coldwater Creek improved service-delivery levels—reducing errors such as mistaken assignments, virtually eliminating rerouted services and minimizing the need for follow-up contacts to clarify a customer’s needs.
“In March of 2009, the service desk was able to resolve less than 70% of all requests,” Stuber added. “Since that time, the resolution rate has climbed steadily, and in March of this year, we exceeded an 80% resolution rate.”
The timeliest resolution occurs at the point of contact, he explained, and Coldwater Creek’s service desk can typically resolve requests in four minutes or less.
Every aspect of the transition to automated service-request management has gone smoothly and exceeded Stuber’s expectations. Migrating to a self-help service module required a paradigm shift within the corporate culture, but Stuber said he had anticipated a much slower adoption rate than actually occurred.
The retailer spent three to five weeks building its service catalog, defining expected delivery capabilities and standardizing questions so that information captured upfront enabled the system to automatically route the request to the proper fulfillment team.
“The service direct portal is an ideal fit with our needs, and users prefer this method over taking time to make phone calls or send e-mails,” Stuber explained. “Associates simply open a Web browser and click on Service Direct. It was such a huge success for facilities-based requests that we quickly realized we could use it for service requests on non-urgent Level 2 IT needs as well—like questions pertaining to new BlackBerries, keyboards and computer accessories.”
Service Direct is used across Coldwater Creek’s corporate enterprise, including its stores, headquarters, distribution center in West Virginia, and offices in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho; New York City; New Delhi, India; and Hong Kong.
Although the initial focus was on facilities service at the store level, the system now supports a range of service requests, including all levels of IT services.
“Since going live with Service Direct, we’ve probably doubled the amount of services covered and, at last count, there were well over 230 service items in the catalog,” Stuber said. “It’s a constantly maturing process, and the next evolution will be to push more knowledge and information to our associates so they can resolve their own issues. That will require another culture shift, but our company is willing to adopt that philosophy.”
One contributor to the success of the self-help culture is that the automated process was never presented as a mandatory requirement—rather it was introduced as an alternative tool with a clear explanation of the value proposition it offered, as well as the payback to associates.