July 15, 2010, 3:06 PM

Hayneedle finds a path to more sales with call-routing technology

Sales from its contact center are up 38%, thanks in part to the new system.

Lead Photo

The new Hayneedle.com contact center

Online retailer Hayneedle.com is turning to technology to boost revenue from its contact center operations. The retailer, which operates 220 specialized e-commerce sites, such as Cribs.com and Hammocks.com, implemented in September a new system that helps it route phones calls to the sales associate best suited to handle each call. As of June, sales through its contact center are up 38% over the same time last year.

The system, from Avaya Inc., enables Hayneedle to route calls to the most knowledgeable and best-performing agent in the office. Because Hayneedle has a different customer service phone number for each of its sites, the Avaya system can see, for example, if a call is coming from a customer visiting DogKennels.com, and route it to the hound lover on staff.  It also can route calls first to the reps that generate the highest sales—in general, or for a particular category—if they are free.

“If someone just sold a $6,000 patio set, we can route the next patio furniture call to her,” says Tammy Van Donk, director of customer care for Hayneedle.

Van Donk says Hayneedle plans to use the system with a new rewards program it is piloting for its sales agents.

“Using this feature, we can route calls to our agents based on their performance of converting calls to orders, increasing the reward level of our top performers,” she says.

Van Donk says it took about 60 days to implement the new phone switch. She says pricing varies based on the number of agents, but she adds it was the most significant infrastructure investment Hayneedle has made for the contact center so far.   

A new phone system is just part of Hayneedle’s plan to focus more on using its contact center staff to cultivate relationships with customers and boost sales. The retailer, whose sales grew 15% from an Internet Retailer-estimated $210 million in 2008 to $241.5 million last year, recently brought all its customer service staff in-house; previously 25% of its agents were located in an outsourced facility in Guatemala. It also moved customer contact employees to their own new 28,000-square-foot facility, twice the size of the old space the retailer had for customer care in Hayneedle’s corporate office and distribution center in Omaha, NB.

The new digs feature dual monitors on each desk so that employees can navigate the site along with shoppers while also looking at information such as a customer’s order history. And Hayneedle is in the process of rolling out a new workforce management tool that will enable it to forecast call volume by looking at historical trends in the number of calls received each month and staff the center accordingly.

The retailer receives about 1.2 million contacts—phone calls and e-mails—annually, about 45% regarding customer service issues and about 55% sales. It plans to increase its number of agents over the holidays from 140 today to between 200 and 250.

“Before, the care center was something we saw as a necessity for servicing our customers’ needs,” says Jon Barker, chief operating officer. “But we realized we could do more. Now it’s a revenue center.”

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