Innovation and open communication underpin Whirlpool's customer strategy, but technology also supports it. In fact, in 2008 Whirlpool implemented new technologies that helped to streamline processes, create a virtual call center environment, and improve agent performance. "It was the year of technology," says Sandy Morrison, senior manager, customer relations, for the Cleveland Customer eXperience Center (cXc).
One key area of technology deployments to the cXc is helping to provide a consistent customer experience via agents, the IVR, and Web self-service. A unified e-commerce platform from Frye that integrates with Siebel CRM and SAP's order management facilitates this cross-channel experience, allowing customers to make purchases and get support through their preferred channels.
Investments made to its virtual contact center operation enable Whirlpool to manage 1,900 agents across four locations and 13 million calls per year. The company uses Avaya's predictive call routing algorithms to get the right consumer to the right agent at the right time at any of Whirlpool's four contact centers, and simplifiesscheduling agents during peak periods. This process delivered $2 million in savings in fiscal year 2008 and is expected to deliver additional millions in savings to the organization over time.
Technology has helped to improve agent performance, as well. Using Aspect Empower, agents are able to manage their own schedules and managers can use flex scheduling to cover staffing levels. And to reduce average handle time, agents' desktops are integrated into the company's CRM database, so the agents spend less time toggling between multiple systems to look up customer information, as well as to an external Targus database of consumer household data for verification.
In the future Whirlpool wants to score customers to provide a "gold" status to offer preferred treatment in real time by routing the customer to the call consultant who is trained to handle Gold VIP consumers. Tracie Doll, solutions senior manager at Whirlpool, adds that in 2009, the enterprise will focus on delivering natural speech and making modifications to the IVR system in the cXc. Consumer-facing websites are also getting a face lift. Doll says, "We have major projects we're working on next year that technology.