In a day and age where instant gratification has become an expectation, consumers demand responses to their questions and concerns quickly, if not immediately, and businesses know that excellent customer service is vital to their long-term success. Luckily, technology is evolving with the times, and the digital revolution and AI are helping to completely reimagine call centers.
Camping World, the number one retailer of recreational vehicles (RVs) globally, understands that providing exceptional customer service is vital to remaining ahead of its competition. The business relies heavily on its contact centers to deliver unmatched customer service, but following the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in customers revealed some issues in its existing infrastructure. As the volume and traffic increased, gaps within agent management and response times became more prominent.
"We are a unique business where we serve three very distinct sets of customers who are into the RV lifestyle. There's the retail side, financial services like insurance or goods, and the dealership side," said Saurabh Shah, chief digital officer and chief information officer at Camping World.
Shah also explains that pulling agents from one area of the business and placing them in another takes training, and Camping World didn't have the time to conduct such training before the seasonal surge came — especially during the pandemic labor shortage. Not having a 24x7 call center was a longstanding issue even in the off-season. When customers could not reach a human agent, their questions and queries either went unnoticed, were pushed off until the next day when a representative could respond, or were accidentally dropped entirely. That left Camping World's sales team with no visibility into the number of leads accumulated in the off-hours.
"Our response times were concerning. Customers were waiting a long time, which was tied to a couple of things," said Brenda Wintrow, senior vice president of sales and customer experience at Camping World. "It was obviously volume, but not having clear visibility into their performance and response time along with the number of chats they could maximize was an issue."
With its customers unable to reach a live human agent during call center off-hours, the retailer was forced to rethink its infrastructure, its lack of visibility, and its functionality gaps. With customer interactions as the focal point, Camping World looked to IBM® Consulting to modernize its contact centers and invest in a new infrastructure to improve processes and workflow automation.
Camping World needed a human-centered solution to allow its operation to scale and handle the increase in the number of customers seeking rapid assistance.
"We always need to think differently and identify what the next best solution is to service our customers. IBM brought us options that we otherwise didn't have with our previous technology," said Wintrow. "IBM provided us with different scenarios including the roadmap to build out their technology that ultimately allowed us to streamline our processes, create agent efficiency, and most importantly greatly improve the overall customer experience."
The solution, powered by IBM Watson® Assistant, seamlessly integrates LivePerson, a conversational cloud platform, and was deployed across all the web properties, increasing the coverage of questions and telephone capabilities. It connects Camping World customers with a virtual agent, enabling live agents to take over more complex conversations. Named Arvee, the virtual agent ensures faster and more efficient response times with dynamic routing and capacity-management capabilities. Arvee's lead generation, especially after business hours, was a functionality that the team did not have before and allows live agents to easily keep track of and proactively follow up with customer inquiries.
Camping World began with 75-to-100 intents and has since been able to adjust to areas where customers were finding roadblocks and improve multiple iterations. IBM added new features such as SMS capabilities that enabled customers to switch from voice to SMS messaging when they are calling in. The latest enhancement also allows outbound SMS campaigns to reach customers and increase sales.
The two teams went one step further and integrated additional enhancements in the back end that expanded the capabilities of virtual agents handling customer scenarios, improving live agent efficiency and customer satisfaction. In addition to providing more than 30 FAQs, the virtual agent integrates with Oracle and Salesforce platforms to address customers' queries and find customer information quickly and efficiently.
"The agents love the ease with which they can interact with the customers using Watson Assistant. Arvee initiates and transmits a warm handoff to agents," said Shah. "Also, having access to the customer engagement stats and metrics on the dashboard is greatly helping agents stay organized. It's very intuitive."
Though the advancement in AI capabilities can bring about less human-to-human contact than ever before, that doesn't mean the phone call is dead or that individuals will soon be out of a job. Agents are still very much involved in the sales process, and with the allotted time, they can deliver higher quality service to customers. IBM Watson Assistant recognizes customers' intentions and provides callers with the opportunity to be routed to an available live agent for that conversation.
Following the implementation, customer engagement rates have trended upward significantly and the number of dropped conversations has decreased. Customers are experiencing shorter wait times and faster responses, and agent efficiency has dramatically improved. Aided by the agent desktop integration and with Arvee proactively collecting customer data while fielding web and SMS messaging, live agents can handle multiple simultaneous chats, increasing their overall efficiency by 33%. As of March 2022, customer engagement increased by 40% and Camping World saw wait times drop down to 33 seconds.
"When you look at the total number of chat conversations — 13,999 for retail and only 6,000 needed to be then transferred to a live agent — that's incredible," said Wintrow. "That's nearly 8,000 conversations that were either answered with Arvee and through the integration of the enhanced and improved intents. When it gets to the agents, it allows the opportunity for more revenue-generating conversations and upselling opportunities."
This post was created by IBM with Insider Studios.