2009 Gartner & 1to1 Customer Award Winners: Enterprise CRM

Customer Service
Customer Service
Gold: iRobot | Silver: Distance Minnesota | Bronze: National Cable Network

iRobot Sweeps Customers Off Their Feet

Don't let iRobot's technical bent fool you. The company's main purpose is all about people. "Our goal is to globally deliver world-class service with a local touch," says Maryellen Abreu, iRobot's director of global technical support.

Doing so required insight into the needs and expectations of the customers who use its self-directed consumer robots, like the Roomba and Scooba vacuums. So, the company launched an enterprise-wide CRM initiative. "Understanding all of our touchpoints in one place was critical to our success," Abreu says. "It provides a better customer experience, and gives us concrete measurable criteria to measure the impact of changes we implement."

Today iRobot uses CRM tools from RightNow Technologies to track customer behavior through four phases of the customer lifecycle-research, purchase, registration, and support-and across channels. Over the past year iRobot has started using other functions of the CRM system, like supporting the new customer welcome process, reaching out to customers who have posted questions on social networking sites, intelligent contact center routing, and proactive case management for high-value customers.

"We created small deliverables, so as the system was launched there were measurements along the way to show our financial people that the investment was a success based on customer satisfaction and ROI," Abreu says. Among the metrics that quickly showed improvement were customer satisfaction (25 percent increase), Net Promoter Score (19 percent increase), and "win backs" of dissenters through social media (90 percent increase).

iRobot surveys customers after every service interaction to determine an NPS score. Additionally, its sends a subset of customers a more extensive survey each month to pinpoint why scores went up or down. In May iRobot's NPS score went down for email responsiveness, so the company adjusted how it monitors emails and was able to increase the score in June. "When you ask the right questions, and you're responsive to changes in customer behavior, the turnaround time to correct problems can be quick," Abreu says.

That quick turnaround time exists in product development at iRobot, as well. When one customer had trouble with his robot clogging because of his Golden Retriever's thick hair, the engineering team reached out to him and changed the brush design as a result. They sent the customer the new design and asked for feedback, trying again and again until they got it right. "Each environment is different, so we try to understand each customer's issue," Abreu says. "In this case, we were able to improve the quality of the product for that customer and any future customers who would have experienced the same problem."

Currently iRobot is working on an even more individual approach to service. Abreu says the company is working on robots that can communicate directly with the CRM system, eliminating the need for customers to interpret problems. The goal is more accurate troubleshooting, but the technology will allow robots to "phone home" and complete the registration process themselves.

"We're aiming for the tightest integration between the product and the CRM system that we can," Abreu says. "As a robot company we're all about innovation and customer success, so we want to be at the cutting edge."

7 Steps to CRM Transformation

I. Build a scalable and flexible infrastructure

2. Create a unified view of the customer

3. Offer universal service from any location

4. Develop relationship marketing, including a loyalty program

5. Deliver consistent experiences across channels and throughout the customer lifecycle

6. Incorporate voice of the customer into decisions

7. Measure and improve continuously

Distance Minnesota Fosters Close Relationships in Distance Learning

There was a time when online education was only for highly motivated adults looking to enter or advance in the workplace. Today, everyone from high school students to retirees uses distance learning to get ahead. To keep pace with the growth Distance Minnesota, which handles registration for online courses at Minnesota's state colleges, has replaced its previous pencil-and-paper approach with CRM technology.

"We used to do everything manually, so if a student called more than once and reached a different staffer, we'd create a new record for them," says Linda Thompson, director of services and technology. "We did no marketing to recruit students either; we just waited for them to come to us."

Distance Minnesota now tracks students throughout the learning process, from recruitment to admissions to registration to graduation, using CRM applications from RightNow Technologies. By using Web self-service and chat, in addition to email and phone, Distance Minnesota is able to handle more students than before, with increased efficiency. Last year the organization's goal was 10 percent growth over the prior year; the number of students increased nearly 30 percent. "Previously each advisor could handle approximately 40 students," Thompson says. "Today that number is close to 200."

Without adding any staff, Distance Minnesota is able to serve the additional students while maintaining its 5.42 out of 7 student satisfaction score. In addition to the more streamlined service process, students can also use the CRM system to order books, appeal admission decisions, and view their status in the registration process.

"The biggest goal for us was being able to help students who contact us within 24 hours, and that number is currently at 16 hours," Thompson says. "We're able to recognize our students when they get in touch, we're able to share data so they can be helped quicker, and we're really developing a relationship with them."

National Cable Networks Wins Customers with Triple Play and CRM

When six local Russian cable operators became one, there were six legacy systems to contend with, six cities with local support staff, and not a single method of sharing data. The combined entity, Moscow-based National Cable Networks, wanted to bring triple play cable/phone/Internet packages to Russia, but didn't have a holistic view of its customers or the capabilities to service them.

Executives resolved this issue by creating a single contact center and supporting it with CRM technology. Working with Masterdata, National Cable Networks implemented an SAP CRM solution designed to help increase conversions and customer satisfaction while decreasing churn.

"Acquiring local operators in six cities meant we had to replace systems that were homegrown and inconsistent," says Mikhail Berman, National Cable Networks' CIO. "Today our call center agents, located in St. Petersburg, can see all the relevant information about a customer on one screen. Their financial information, order status, and technical information is right at their fingertips."

The company gained buy-in from its 240 contact center agents, who handle sales, support, and service, through extensive training. Additionally, they received support from three cross-functional teams representing all aspects of the business, from engineering to finance to marketing, whose customer data is integrated into the system. According to Berman, by understanding each agent's needs, the teams knew which data to input, how to put it into context, and how their work impacted other departments.

The new system has helped service agents and salespeople deliver a consistent customer experience. As a result, conversions have gone up 12 percent, customer satisfaction has increased 27 percent, and churn is down 11 percent. "Thanks to the success, we'll be expanding functionally and geographically," Berman says. "We're very pleased with the metrics we've improved, especially with customer satisfaction."