In today's rapidly changing consumer environment, one of the most important attributes visionary companies have is the ability to adapt to change. The leaders at Newell Rubbermaid are such agents of change. The company recently invested in a global process and business structure alignment to support its new strategic approach to servicing consumers.
The $5.6 billion company markets a range of well-known brands including Graco, Sharpie, Rubbermaid, and Calphalon for consumers in 90 countries. Last year Robert Oh, director of IT and CRM for the company's Home & Family Group, led a change management initiative to unify its frontline approach to collecting and acting on consumer feedback.
Oh, who has the unique distinction of heading both IT and CRM processes says his approach was part of an overall company strategy focused on better understanding and meeting consumers' needs. "The intent was to give the consumer base more proactive and efficient service," he says.
That vision, which consists of seven drivers, launched two years ago with the goal of improving overall consumer experience, as well as to better leverage consumer feedback and insights. The drivers include:
- Strive to understand the needs and desires of consumers globally
- More effectively leverage consumer understanding and provide efficient consumer service
- Develop products that better meet consumers' needs and exceed expectations based on our consumer understanding
- Leverage best practice-based processes across multiple functions and regions
- Implement a common consumer experience management system
- Provide a common view of the consumer
- Establish key performance indicators to measure ongoing success
Mapping a global blueprint
To enable the drivers, Newell Rubbermaid deployed elements of RightNow's CX platform, including RightNow Web Experience (Web self-service, e-mail) andRightNow Contact Center Experience (phone) in March 2009. The solution provides self-service options on the Internet and gives customers the ability to choose to communicate with agents via their channel of choice.
Oh knew that for the system to work in accordance with the seven drivers, the company needed a business process alignment. Before deploying the solution throughout Newell Rubbermaid's four contact center locations in Japan, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Oh set out on a month-long change management initiative that first examined the global needs of the company. Oh calls it a blueprint.
He started by convening a two-week onsite meeting at the company's headquarters in Atlanta. Representatives from the North American and Asia Pacific regions representing quality assurance, consumer service, product development, RightNow's professional services team, and IT, met to discuss business process structure. They deliberated topics such as the definition of the consumer (the profile differs from region to region), as well as the commonalities and differences in escalation rules.
Oh says the group developed creative ideas through open discussion. "We took them out of their environment and put them in a conference room," he says. "We talked about our differences and made sure we had alignment."
After two weeks of meetings and process alignment, Oh began indoctrinating agents into the system that they would soon be using. He kicked off the educational period with a rotating lunch celebration for different sections of each contact center to avoiding closing the entire centers. During these celebrations the project team discussed the need for change and showed agents screenshots of the solution. "They were being educated before even seeing the solution," Oh says.
In the second stage of the training, each center sequentially went live with the system and Oh and his team members were on hand to answer questions. In stage three, Oh and his team identified business process champions in each center responsible for ongoing training to peers. "Change is hard, but if you get people involved up front, they get ownership in the project," he says.
Oh admits that initially the agents didn't like using the system, but now that they realize the efficiencies it creates, they are supportive. "Initially, most everyone is resistant to change," he says.
A worthwhile investment
With the change management underway, the rollout of the system began in March 2009; Newell Rubbermaid just finished deploying it in the fourth location-Atlanta-last week. Oh says one asset is the ability to easily capture customer feedback and automatically send it to the appropriate product development team. Additionally, Newell Rubbermaid reports a 20 percent reduction in incoming emails and reduced response times to customer queries since deploying the system.
In the past, agents captured consumer inquiries, but there were multiple processes used for compiling data for further analysis. They would send consumer comments, often via email, to product managers; someone on the development team would analyze the feedback reports and deliver weekly or monthly sub-reports. The process lacked any sophisticated workflow. "Before, the feedback process was more reactive and the reporting capabilities weren't as seamless," Oh says.
Now, through a structured workflow, agents capture data from calls and input them into forms. The system automatically flags keywords like "recommendation" or "product insight" and sends trigger alerts to the appropriate brand team. "It gives us more flexibility and an efficient way to handle our feedback," he says. Although Oh declines to name specific examples of how the new feedback process has affected product design, he acknowledges that the brand teams have used certain feedback when bringing products to market.
Going forward, Oh plans to continue to evolve the consumer strategy by providing more touchpoints where consumers can interact with who they want, when they want. This includes discussions to integrate the company's Tools, Hardware & Commercial Products Group and Office Products Group onto the system. He's also actively encouraging marketing to adopt RightNow's CX platform to enable targeted marketing. Additionally, the e-Business team is mapping out an enterprise-wide social media strategy.
Oh believes these efforts have helped the company successfully execute on the seven drivers, as well as implement an efficient executive feedback loop. He credits Newell Rubbermaid leadership's vision and investment in both IT as well as process improvement to the success of the initiative. "We have great visionaries in this company. I see that as an enabler of the strategy. I'm just enabling their vision," Oh says. "[The change management initiative] was a huge investment, but it was worth it. It's an investment that I would make again."