Looking to find a new way of communicating led the clothing brand to adopt an interactive contact centre for Lync to drive its wholesale customer service journey
Sports and outdoor clothing manufacturer Helly Hansen was formed in 1877 by Norwegian sea captain, Helly Juell Hansen. To keep his sailors warm, dry and productive, he began using linseed oil on linen to develop waterproof fabric. In the process, he started a tradition of innovation at Helly Hansen, which continues to this day.
Helly Hansen is now a global company with a head office in Oslo, Norway and distribution centres in the Netherlands and the US. The business has around 420 employees and 30 retail stores worldwide. The company’s main focus, however, is on the wholesale market, supplying its products to shops and other outlets, which sell on its behalf. Wholesale is also the key focus of the company’s 60-strong customer service team.
In the past, Helly Hansen has concentrated on product development, establishing a strong reputation for innovative use of materials and for pioneering product design processes. Innovation is also the focus of the company’s seven-strong IT team.
Support for rapidly growing business
The company realised that it needed to make extensive changes to enable its IT systems and architecture to seamlessly support the rapidly growing business. Helly Hansen’s existing infrastructure was old and unreliable. Different types of systems were used in different locations. In some cases, the providers no longer offered support. And the company was typically forced to rely on one person within each office capable of fixing the system when malfunctioning – and there was no fallback solution if this person was not available.
The approach was characterised by a lack of flexibility. Helly Hansen even struggled to update phone queues, change holiday messages or get new starters into the phone system. The company realised the situation needed to change. And this knowledge acted as a catalyst for its ‘contact centre journey’.
Building out the contact centre journey
A corporate agreement with Microsoft offered an opportunity to start addressing the problems, leading to the introduction of Office 365
in conjunction with its unified communications tool, Microsoft Lync
. Lync was implemented step-by-step as a pilot, initially with a handful of employees. During the five-month trial, the company saved $25,000 (£15,292) through reduction in travel costs by swapping face-to-face meetings for Lync’s collaborative video-conferencing capabilities.
The introduction of a contact centre and reception system to support resellers and customers was another important aim of the telephone system migration and this required a robust underlying platform. Even though Lync offers unified communications options, it does not provide sophisticated contact centre functionality. A list of system requirements and respective offerings was compiled and the Enghouse Interactive
Communications Centre (EICC) was chosen primarily because of its favourable price-performance ratio, the supplier said.
The process of migrating to this kind of professional contact centre solution gave Helly Hansen an interesting insight into the way processes had been running previously. A large number of customers were dialling the company’s customer service representative directly, leading to delays in service if the person they were trying to contact was away, for example.
Managing opportunities and challenges
However, it was important that the contact centre was able to manage sales representatives out in the field as well as engagement with customers, so Helly Hansen realised that there would be a continuing requirement for dialing direct.
At the same time, it was vital that the new system enabled Helly Hansen to record calls, find out how many calls operators were dealing with, how much time they were spending on each call and what issues they were dealing with. The company is still assessing the types of reports it can generate using the new approach and what actions it can take as a result of those reports.
The company is also assessing how it can use reporting to ensure that orders are managed as a straight-through process within the organisation, requiring limited or no intervention from customer service representatives. To streamline the process, it would like to look at the time operators are currently spending dealing with these orders rather than engaging with customers on the phone.
“We are looking to the new contact centre solution to give us a greater insight into how we are working today,” said Sandy Abrahams, Helly Hansen IT director, “ultimately enabling us to achieve tighter cost management and make potential cost savings happen.”
Driving the strategy forward
As it rolls out its new contact centre systems, Helly Hansen’s strategy is based around global standardisation. It is making Lync the foundation for its telephony and the EICC the basis of its contact centre management worldwide. It is crucial too that all of its solutions are what it terms ‘super user maintainable’.
“As they will be using it every day, it makes sense for the customer service team to understand how the system works,” explained Abrahams. “We want them to be able to change user details; set up new starters and put them in the relevant queues. This will not only drive their productivity, but also enables the IT team to focus on delivering real value for the business rather than simply fixing computers and making servers run.”
Helly Hansen is pleased with the enhanced control the EICC has enabled it to exert so far. According to Abrahams, “the Enghouse Interactive solution is already enabling us to establish much greater control over the call management and call routing process. It has armed our customer service staff with a much greater understanding of the nature of calls. It’s already beginning to streamline the whole call management process.”
Forward thinking proves worthwhile
The company is currently finalising the roll out of the new telephony and contact centre solutions in the UK and the US. In the longer term, the company’s focus is likely to be on integrating the contact centre solutions with its enterprise resource planning (ERP) and when implemented customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
“We will also look at expanding the communication channels that we run over Zeacom,” added Abrahams. “Currently, we are just using voice but we need to work out how we can add Lync messaging and email into the mix as well as thinking about how we can best add the necessary business processes to support this.
“We also may want to virtualise our contact centres,” she continued. “The good news is that we are halfway there already. Thanks to Lync and EICC, our contact centre staff can even answer calls from home now, which is a major step forward. And Lync’s flexibility makes any upcoming office moves much easier. Wherever you go, the telephone system simply follows.”
Helly Hansen’s plans also include moving more functionality to the cloud. Both Lync and the EICC solution are currently run on premise, although the company’s email capability is cloud-based. Helly Hansen anticipates achieving significant time and cost savings and related gains in operational efficiency as a result of its planned ongoing migration.
According to Abrahams, “Helly Hansen is confident that together these benefits will help us further grow the business, allowing us to build on the great work the team has done over the past few years – and enabling us to establish a reputation for innovation in IT to compare with the one we already have in clothing manufacture and design”.