October 26 2011

Leveraging Technology to Improve Customer Delight

Tom Feeney, Safelite® President and CEO

Guest writer: Craig Douglas, Safelite AutoGlass®, Vice President, Chief Information Officer

Cutting the time customers have to wait for your services can greatly improve your business opportunities, as shared earlier on our blog. Luckily, technology is making it easier than ever to more quickly reach your customers. Following is our case study in creating innovative customer-focused technology.

When Americans have vehicle glass damage, Safelite AutoGlass® is the vendor of choice for more than 4 million customers. Eighty percent of our customers rely on our convenient mobile technicians who come to their residence or place of business to complete the service.

The sales process is two steps: First, customers schedule a service appointment. Second, Safelite AutoGlass® technicians arrive to the appointment to complete the service. This gives the company two points of contact to delight the customer.

While the people of Safelite® are the true heroes in customer service, the company has invested in an array of innovative technologies to improve customer contact.

Point of Contact #1: Scheduling the Appointment

There are three ways a customer may find his way to Safelite AutoGlass®: the 800 number, the website, or through their auto insurance provider. The IT team has focused its energy on each of these options to ensure a streamlined process.

The first step is making sure our contact centers are appropriately staffed to handle incoming calls. Safelite® uses employee-scheduling software that applies unique algorithms, considering historical trends in demand, real-time events and weather patterns, and minute-by-minute CSR utilization, to produce optimized staffing forecasts in 30-minute intervals. All in all, our contact centers are flexibly and intelligently prepared to ramp up or down based on seasonal and weather-related needs, centered on the premise of quickly answering and responding to every customer’s need.

Second, Safelite’s contact centers use our proprietary order and claims management computer system, called SV2, to interact with insurance companies and the company’s approximately 400 stores and nearly 4,000 technicians. SV2 is a sophisticated program that links to the customer’s insurance company to confirm coverage details. Once the CSR has communicated what damage the insurance company will cover and confirms the customer requests Safelite® as the service provider, SV2 helps schedule an appointment in the customer’s market and confirms the proper vehicle glass and parts are in stock in that market.

For customers who prefer the Internet, Safelite® was the first in the industry to launch an online scheduling option that did not require a call back.

Once an appointment is scheduled, customers who provide an email address receive an email compiling all the necessary data: appointment time, claim number, vehicle information and insurance claim data.

The customer email confirmation also includes a photograph and background information of the mobile technician assigned to the job – this is a unique approach to customer safety and security.

Point of Contact #2: Completing the Service

When completing a mobile repair or replacement, appointments are made within a four-hour timeframe. Because we know the value of the customers’ time, Safelite® technicians call each customer on the morning of the appointment to provide a more accurate estimated time of arrival based on their day’s schedule.

This is made possible through a proprietary mobile service solution Safelite’s IT team developed to streamline processes and enhance the customer experience.

It begins in the dispatch center where the day’s appointments are assigned to technicians. Safelite® custom developed its Dispatch Software, which is integrated with various geo services. It plots technician start locations, part inventory depots, and customer locations, and provides all time-related information, such as customer need-by times, part delivery schedules, and estimated traffic times. What the dispatcher is left to do is to marry customer work orders to technicians. The application assists in applying rules and constraints to ensure that efficient technician routes that meet customer expectations are established.

The software is updated in real-time with technician job statuses and GPS locations sent by his mobile application and with any changes initiated by customers. Any appointments in any form of jeopardy are highlighted for immediate response and corrected with customers.

The Dispatch Software renders all this information on a rich, map-based interface that includes specifics on weather, traffic, and construction so that dispatchers have the necessary tools to ensure that customer expectations are met or exceeded.

In addition, Safelite® equips technicians with commercially available handheld devices with custom mobile applications to improve the order fulfillment process. It includes guided workflow, real-time work order notification and status updates, directions, credit card and pre-inspection automation.

These components are integrated with technicians’ mobile applications:
- When arriving to the customer’s location, the technician prints an approval document (to initiate the work) using a thermal printer and thermal paper with digital pattern.
- The authorization form is completed with a BlueTooth® digital pen that captures the handwriting and the strokes, which are routed to the handheld device where they are processed and routed to Safelite’s headquarters.
- Once the glass is replaced, the customer’s credit card information is captured and the invoice document is generated on-demand, on digital paper, handwriting is captured on the invoice using the digital pen and the strokes sent to the handheld and then on to Safelite’s image server.
- The technicians receive acknowledgement that all digital paperwork is received before they leave the site. As a result, all paper work is left with the customer. There is no need to drive back to the central location to drop off the paperwork.

This seamless process allows technicians to perform their job better, creating a better customer experience from beginning to end.

Making It Work For You

Delivering on the expectations set by your brand and the commitment made by your operation is essential to achieving customer delight. Look at every macro customer point of contact across your business process and consider what technology enhancements can improve each function. Enabling your associates to better service your customers is fundamental.

Transparency, moreover, is a key differentiator that can result in more customer promoters, transcending customer delight. Transparency is particularly powerful for service organizations, as it proactively removes uncertainty or anxiety, emotionally calming customers and heightening their positive response to your delivering on your promise.

Certainly, not every aspect of your operation should be part of your customer transparency strategy, such as exposing competitive advantage processes or margins. We continue to evolve our customer transparency and share three key technology-oriented ingredients:

Make previously tendered information openly available, but only push or publicize new and accurate information to customers. Inundating customers at different touch points with the same information via different channels not only may irritate your customers, but also could leave your organization susceptible to negative reactions, such as placement on spam lists, which could limit to your company’s sustained effectiveness.

Think of your customer transparency strategy as a funnel. At points in your operation when new and accurate information that may improve the customer experience comes to light, not only make it available, but also publicize or push it to your customers.

For instance, in our operational model, on the same day of a mobile customer’s service appointment, our estimated time to arrive at the customer’s site narrows as the day progresses… as variables related to logistics taper and previous appointments get completed. In the spirit of transparency, we will be extending narrower ETA windows to mobile customers when the information is statistically sound to help our customers better manage their day.

Deliver information in your customers' preferred method of receipt, whether it be email, text, phone call, self-service Web portal, IM chat, or even FAX… offer flexibly in combinations depending on time of day to best align with your customers’ needs.

We have learned that when possible, delivering refined information in a direct and personal manner, as opposed to via automated messages, is a valuable practice. Not only do customers appreciate the personal touch, but the direct method also empowers more associates across your enterprise, developing individual accountability for customer delight and teamwork. The direct method of transparency works to reinforce your brand’s commitment to customer delight since more of your people are "living it.”

There may certainly be cost implications to the personal touch. However, having personnel engaging customers directly will likely improve retaining their business, especially in being able to react in real-time if customers change or waver in their intentions.

To this end, work to get your associates out from behind the phone or work station and in front of the customer. Technological trends are enabling in this regard. As cellular 4g networks and Internet TVs emerge and flourish, video chats or conferences will be standard and commonplace before you know it. So, get out in front of the curve, embrace it, and use it to your advantage in the spirit of transparency and delighting your customers. Seeing is believing…

Lastly, never believe you have “made it,” no matter what your customer delight metrics may report. Customer behavior and expectations change over time and vary by geographical market. So, survey your customers and set yourself up to “listen” to what they’re saying, as opposed to peppering for answers on specific practices you presume are causing their delight. Insights from verbatim responses to well-framed questions are gold. Technology that logically parses, groups, and weighs concepts from bulk verbatim responses exists. Employ this technology in the spirit of “listening” and apply learnings at the market-level toward continuously improving and evolving your customer delight and transparency practices.

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