Modernizing their CX tech stack
Reimagining the agent training and feedback philosophy
Turning customers into partners
Office supplies, and so much more!
2018 was quite the year for Staples. The company was bought by Sycamore Partners, then split into separate American and Canadian entities. For the team at Staples Canada, that was the start of a great opportunity to modernize their Customer Experience. Now a much smaller business entity, Staples Canada was able to act more like a startup – nimble and willing to take risks – as they took a hard look at their CX.
A main part of the company’s new CX philosophy was to turn customers into partners. For their SMB clients, Staples was hoping to be less like the place on the corner to pick up more copy paper and, well, staples, and more like an integrated part of their business strategy.
This philosophy manifests itself best in the team’s CX – agents were now being empowered to ask better questions to dig into the customer’s actual needs, instead of just solving the issue at face value.
For example, when a customer entered a chat looking for printer toner – agents would now be trained to ask questions like “what are you trying to print?” and from there, suggest ways that the customer could best achieve their end goal of printing a brochure.
This might take the form of Staples’s print services or through buying a printer that would better be able to achieve the print quality that the customer is aiming for.
This was a huge step up from Staples’ old Customer Experience, which would dictate that the agent simply direct the customer to the right toner for the ancient and under-qualified printer in the office, inadvertently leaving the customer disappointed at the end of the day.
The CX team made made it work through a combination of technology, and new agent training philosophies. Here's how 👉
A star team of ex-Walmart CX, Training, and Quality managers were brought in to overhaul the Agent Experience.
Bonni Poch, Customer Experience and Training Manager, summed up their goal:
“We were brought in to implement Staples’ new customer philosophy through CX and training, and Quality was a non-negotiable part of that effort.
“The most important change was to implement 2-way communication even during coaching and training sessions. This was not possible given our current tech stack. Our QA tool, NICE Engage, belonged to a generation of QAtools with a goal to catch, rather than to coach.”
Punitive QA programs alienated the agents and resulted in avery high turnover rate at Staples.
Without the opportunity to explain their behavior on tickets with low QA scores, agents were also less involved in the QA process, and took feedback less positively.
“First change we made was around the mindset – you worked with me, not for me. Two-way communication was essential – it changed our QA process from one that was punitive, to one that had coaching in mind. Your QA process comes to life – you’re able to learn from the feedback agents were giving you about the feedback you just gave them, and keep improving. Our old tools didn’t allow us to do this.”
Enabling their CX agents to cross-sell and upsell to customers meant a massive training effort had to be executed by the team, one which the current tech stack was not able to support.
Staples was using a combination of AVAYA (telephony system)and NICE Engage (Quality Assurance software), that was built more for the era of phone calls and did not fit into their wider ambitions for an omnichannel,customer-driven Customer Experience.
For one, the ecosystem that had been built around the telephone system was not nearly as agile as any of the newer, cloud-based solutions. Staples could not simply plug and play a new tool as and when they needed it,and that slowed down their pace of change.
The older quality assurance tool also did not jive well with the training team’s philosophy – such tools were built for a more compliance-focused environment, where the mantra was more “catching” rather than “coaching”. There were no opportunities in those tools for the 2-way communication that Bonni believed was essential in the coaching process.
Deciding to rip out the entire system (think telephony, workforce management, quality assurance, and learning), and to replace them with a new set of agile, constantly updated set of apps was no small investment, but it was a necessary move.
Through a new approach to the agent experience and with the support of a new CX tech stack, Staples Canada has reinvigorated their CX team, and empowered customers to act more independently than ever before.