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Monday, November 3, 2008

iRobot Cleans Up on Customer Service

1to1 Weekly

Date: 11/03/2008

Issue: November 3 2008

People: Mila D'Antonio

Whether their mission is to clean gutters or to neutralize land mines, customers of iRobot— which range from senior consumers to government agencies—all require various levels of technical support. ... Until a few years ago determining those individual customers' needs proved to be challenging for iRobot, maker of the popular Roomba vacuuming products. ...

Maryellen Abreu, director of iRobot's global technical support, wanted to get at that data and to make it actionable. ... "When iRobot launched, everything was outsourced. We wanted to centralize the information and allow management to see what customers were saying."

With the help of RightNow Technologies, iRobot introduced Web self-service to the customer service mix and can now manage its phone, email, and Web interactions to have a complete view of all past service calls. ... "People buy these robots to save time so it's important that we save time too," Abreu says.

... And in addition to having the transactional and interaction data, iRobot collects demographic customer information when they register their products and sends out a customer satisfaction survey every two weeks to 4,000 different customers to track the impact of the company's improvements and to gauge any emerging problems. Not only does having this integrated view of the customer help save customers' time and iRobot costs, but it ensures that the company's business decisions are customer driven.

Customers contribute to product development According to Abreu, the company often develops new offerings based on customer feedback. In weekly cross-functional voice of the customer meetings, Abreu collects the data, presents it, and assigns action items. ...

In addition to improving its offerings, iRobot monitors negative incidents, which are automatically pushed to a centralized queue for customer service reps to monitor and reach out to those people quickly. And when reps open a customer's history on their screens, all previous surveys pop up. If a customer has had a negative survey in the past, the rep is empowered to offer discounts to ensure he wows the customer.

iRobot is also currently developing some interesting voice recognition strategies to enhance the customer experience. Robots will soon be able to "speak" error codes and serial numbers into the phone to dispatch correct replacement parts. A dedicated registration line where the robots can give some of the information and the customers can easily get their free software updates is also in the works. ... The system routes the calls based on product and issue, and each contact center's agents get training on a specific product.

... Even more crucial is that iRobot knows how, when, and what to respond to customers. "Especially these days, customer retention is important," Abreu says. "We can build more robots, but we can't manufacture more customers. Customer retention is absolutely critical."