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3 Ways ABB Improved Its Customer Experience (And How It Measures the Results)

Shawn Siegel

Since 2000, Bill McGovern has been on the Service side of ABB, helping build their North American contact center operations. At Call Centre Week Canada, he will be joined by ABB Canada’s Russ Slywka in presenting a case study focused on data analytics.

Call Center IQ’s Shawn Siegel speaks to McGovern and Slywka about their strategies for improving the customer experience, the unification of that experience across the business and the quantification of their results.


Call Center IQ: Can you discuss a particular program or strategy that you’ve implemented in the last few years that you felt improved customer experience?

Bill McGovern: Yes, there are two programs in particular that I feel have improved the ABB customer experience. First, our workforce management program is "strength in diversity." We hire and develop a contact center team that is diverse in gender, experience, and culture.

Another customer-focused program is to reduce customer effort. Combined, these two aspects of our contact center drive employee AND customer satisfaction, which yields higher loyalty. Our focus is to listen to the customer and meet them on their terms, whether its telephone, email, web or in-person.

Russ Slywka: It would be hard to pick out one particular program or strategy, as there have been many, and all were designed to improve the customer experience: from training our own ABB staff for Stellar Service, to questionnaires and team reviews. However one of the best strategic programs would be ABB’s NPS scores, that allowed customers to rate ABB on its performance through many different criteria. This goes back to the philosophy of how you see yourself, and the fact that other people may view you differently. One rule I try to follow is: As-Expected Service does not guarantee customer loyalty. We strive to Exceed expectation and to Knock their Socks off.

Call Center IQ: Contact centers tend to have a lot of different data at their disposal. What are some of the challenges of actually putting the data to good use?

Bill McGovern: Wading through the data swamp is a challenge. The real challenge is to avoid the "Ready, Fire, Aim" mentality. You need to decide what data supports your business strategy KPIs and analyze the root causes that prevent achieving targets. Then, you must take calculated actions and develop them into sustainable best practices. Then you need to test them with customers and employee feedback. We use the 4Quadrant quality approach to isolate the top three root causes and work to minimize them quickly.

Russ Slywka: You are correct, it sometimes looks like too much data or unnecessary data, or probably the most common issue: data stored in different databases or data not being shared across divisions (due to the size and complexity of a company). The first step is review the data to analysis and make sure it is up to date and correct and to clear duplicated data. A rule some follow is KIS (keep it simple.) The reason I mention this is that we want to make the task of the CSA (the person answering and documenting the call) as easy as possible. Due to the number of calls that are being handled, there is nothing worse than having to spend unexpected long lengths of time with a customer due to the fact the CSA cannot find information they are looking for. This is an ongoing project within ABB to review all sources of data and to keep the data organized and up to date, and does require team work across multiple divisions and countries.

Call Center IQ: How do you go about quantifying the effects that customer loyalty and experience efforts have on ABB’s bottom line?

Bill McGovern: Quantifying the effects of customer loyalty to the bottom line requires balancing contact volume with workforce quality responsiveness. We measure customer contact points and effort, then pinpoint customer feedback related to the root cause issues; and proactively inquire with the customer if they experienced positive change. In this way we have improved our responsiveness, resolution times, and ease of doing business for our customers over last two years.

Russ Slywka: This goes back to the earlier question and my answer: As-Expected Service does not guarantee customer loyalty. We strive to Exceed expectation and to Knock their Socks off. Think of it as if you enjoyed a certain fast food Sub shop, where you always find the sandwich as expected; if someone came along and offers you a coupon for a sub at half the price at a different company’s franchise, chances are you are going to try it. However, if your experience is Knock your Socks off, chances are you won’t want to change

Call Center IQ: ABB has offices around the globe and a multitude of product offerings. How important is it for the company to have a unified customer service strategy?

Bill McGovern: It is critical. While a unified customer service strategy sounds desirable, in fact, most if not all customers desire personalized service. So, while ABB is serving some of the world’s largest industrial customers (and understanding how they serve their customers), we have to be uniform without being robotic. We have to be sensitive to local specific nuances and conditions… such as language, lifestyle and environmental business conditions. And we have to do this in

realtime. We have prepared a uniform intake process for any contact path the customer chooses to get support.

Russ Slywka: This is very important. Due to the multiple product offerings and divisions globally, a customer does not want to be responsible for trying to contact the correct business unit, product group, etc., to answer their inquires or support issues. ABB internals should be invisible to the customer, and the customer should only need to know a single number, email, etc. This has been an ABB mandate for all countries, and this can be summarized with the following statement: "The cross-divisional customer contact management aims to improve ABB’s set-up and performance with respect to inquiry handling, contributing to improved customer experience and satisfaction and seeking to attract and catch more inquiries that can turn into business opportunities."

Call Center IQ: Lastly, looking to the future, what new technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on contact center operations?

Bill McGovern: For ABB, I think the most impactful technologies will be cloud-based solutions, mobility, decentralized workforce (home-based vs traditional), business continuity preparedness, and web access to customer and product records. By leveraging our CRM and KnowledgeBank solutions, we are developing web-self-service for the new generation of customers. Due to this, we are witnessing higher value through non-human interactions.

These technologies allow our representatives and specialists to be more available and better able to capture, record, and escalate cases. Most importantly, this allows follow-up without customer prompting, thus driving down the customer’s effort and leading to increased customer loyalty.