How DSW Reduced Their Average Handle Time By 19%
If you’ve purchased a new pair of shoes in the last few years, chances are, you’ve been in a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse store or purchased from their website.
While DSW has encountered tremendous growth, that has also meant mounting customer service pressure yielding millions of inbound calls per year. DSW turned to SmartAction in 2018 to collaborate on a self-service strategy to augment their NICE inContact platform with conversational AI. Tim Harpe, Director of Customer Operations for DSW, shares their results.
SmartAction (SA): Tell us about DSW’s growth
Tim Harpe (TH): The greatest thing about this whole story is when you think about where DSW was 10 years ago… we were a big box retailer who was discount-focused and just brick-and-mortar. Fast forward to today – we are an absolute leader, not only in the footwear space but from an omnichannel customer experience perspective. We deliver amazing experiences, not only in-store but also through our mobile app and our website. The struggles that we went through from being solely brick-and-mortar to where we are today is amazing. And when you think of it in terms of the sheer amount of customers we touch now compared to then, it’s fascinating.
SA: At what point did you begin looking at automation?
(TH): We realized a couple of years ago that we could no longer grow our contact center at the same rate in which we were growing our sales. When I started here eight years ago, we had 40 people that worked in the contact center. Now, as we sit here today, we are close to 500. So, wow. Every time we grow demand, we can’t grow people. So that’s why we turned to SmartAction – to help us continue to grow our support functions as we grow our business.
SA: What were your major concerns pursuing automation?
(TH): The hesitation that we had years ago when AI-assisted service was a new, hyped technology, was whether we wanted to hand over our customer experience to anyone other than our associates. As we evolved and learned, it became clear that we didn’t need to sacrifice customer experience for cost savings. We realized there were opportunities to introduce automation to work hand-in-hand with our live agents – to help the interaction, rather than completely take it over.
SA: Tell us about IVA
(TH): IVA is our new Virtual Agent powered by SmartAction, who interacts with our customers in a similar manner to a live agent. IVA greets our customers when they call, identifies and authenticates our customers, and handles a wide variety of self-service transactions from simple things like password reset to more complex things that fall under account management and order management.
SA: What results has this driven for DSW?
(TH): Our return on our investment has been delivered in spades. Since going live with SmartAction, roughly 80% of our customers that call in complete identification and authentication through IVA, which means our agents don’t have to even think about who that customer is when a call gets to them because they already know. That’s led to an overall 19% reduction in Agent Handle Time. That’s where you start to realize not only is that better for the customer from an efficiency perspective, but it’s way better on the expense side. That agent time reduced represents a significant amount of savings that we can put back into our bottom line and we’re seeing that absolutely 100%.
SA: What’s next?
(TH): We are analyzing the conversations our customers are having with agents and mapping out the call types that I really want my people to handle. From there it’s identifying the call types that I really want my customer to self-serve efficiently without live assistance. We’re finding that there are several call types where we’re saying, ‘You know what? IVA can totally do that.’ My agents don’t need to take time to handle those call types, and the customer is probably going to be happier with it anyway because it can happen in the moment, right away. We’re also expanding IVA from our voice channel to additional digital channels, such as web chat.
For the full interview, watch the OnDemand Webinar in partnership with NICE inContact.