Knights Direct Calls Up Efficiencies

Have you ever purchased a piece of technology but felt you weren’t getting all you could from it? That was the case at Knights Direct. The parent of the Home Decorators Collection catalog and now part of Home Depot Direct, Knights had been using its workforce management system for six years before managers began to take advantage of more of its features.

St. Louis-based Knights installed Pipkins’ Vantage Point workforce management software in 2000, but “we were using only the scheduler functionality until this year,” says operations analyst Lori Kyker. “Instead of using Vantage Point to forecast call volumes, for example, we produced manual forecasts on Excel spreadsheets and then loaded those forecasts into the Pipkins software. This is because we had never done the work necessary to integrate our automatic call distributor [ACD] with Vantage Point, so the system didn’t have the call data history required to generate an automated forecast.”

Seven hours of savings a week

Last year, after attending a Pipkins training session, Kyker had Knights integrate its ACD with the software. “We eliminated about three hours of manual data collection and data entry every week simply by switching from our hand-assembled call volume forecasts to the system’s automated forecasting,” she says. “We saved another three or four hours by preconfiguring and using more Pipkins reports, especially a schedule-hours report that eliminates a lot of manual calculations we used to make when reviewing the schedules generated by the system.”

Knights now uses 15-20 of the more than 100 standard reports built into the system. “Also we can schedule our agents by specialty to ensure that we have the right mix of CSRs on each shift,” Kyker says.

The company can route calls to specific reps as well. For example, incoming calls about blinds are routed to CSRs who specialize in window treatments. “The Pipkins system knows the proportion of calls that come in to each of these queues based on historical data from the ACD, and it takes this into account when it produces a schedule,” Kyker says. “This is key because CSRs with the right knowledge can close more sales.”

The system now automatically adjusts its forecast to accommodate special events such as catalog drops that increase call volume. And several months ago Knights added the Pipkins real-time adherence module, which alerts supervisors when CSRs are “out of compliance,” or not plugged into the queue and ready to take calls. The Web Agent Viewing and Empowerment (WAVE) module also sends CSRs a pop-up message if the ACD indicates they’re not on break when they should be and lets reps view their schedules as well as request changes online.

Knights, which takes roughly 1.3 million calls a year, has about 130 CSRs, 100 of whom perform multiple functions such as taking orders and handling customer service; another 15 reps are specialists who take escalated, returns, and cancel calls, and 15 are dedicated Internet representatives who handle e-mail and other online activities. “Our goal is to answer 80% of calls in 30 seconds or less and to have no more than 1.6% of calls abandoned,” Kyker says.

Knights would not divulge how much it paid for the system. According to Bob Webb, vice president of sales for St. Louis-based Pipkins, costs vary depending on the license and the number of seats, sites, and locations. The full-function workforce management system for larger centers (100 or more seats) is in the $50,000-$75,000 range.

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