Zendesk omnichannel support brings major efficiency gains for Micro Center
Micro Center's legacy system wasn't equipped to handle customer demand when support volume grew by double digits and chat volume tripled. Introducing Zendesk automation, data reporting, and self-service empowered the team to cut average handle time by 30% and enable a reduction in headcount.
“In addition to being better for customers and better from a leadership perspective, in terms of getting better reporting and better data, Zendesk has also been a morale boost for agents.”
- Beth Held
Reduction in avg. handle time
In-Store Pick-up SLA Adherence
Many people buy ready-made computer equipment, but Micro Center customers are different: many prefer to purchase components and then build their own computer, or have Micro Center custom-build one for them.
That’s just one reason why Micro Center makes the Forbes list of America’s largest private companies. Founded in 1979, the company has served more than 22 million customers. Its 25 retail locations in 15 states are a destination for shoppers who willingly travel up to two hours to visit a store. Micro Center stocks over 30,000 unique items—more than any other retailer of computers and electronic devices.
“We were started by a couple of guys who used to work at Radio Shack and wanted to create a company for computer enthusiasts and build it from day one around the customer,” said Beth Held, Micro Center’s director of call center operations.
Keeping up with customer expectations requires omnipresent support throughout the sales cycle and beyond. One of Micro Center’s service hallmarks is a guarantee that anything ordered online will be ready for in-store pick-up within 18 minutes. The company also offers free technical support for 90 days and paid subscriptions extend support for another one, two or three years. Customers can call, email, text or chat in English with Micro Center’s 80 support agents located in a centralized call center at the company’s Ohio headquarters.
Phone contacts alone are thousands per day during non-peak periods and climb to more than triple that on days like Cyber Monday, Micro Center’s busiest day of the year. But until the company implemented Zendesk in 2017, the call center technology used to support its stores and online business fell short of the company’s commitment to its customers.
“What we had previously was built in a programming language that nobody knew anymore, and there was almost no information gathered. Because the system couldn’t be updated, I needed to find something else,” explained Held, whose 25 years of enterprise business experience includes nearly a decade of running call centers. “Our customers are really technically savvy, and most of my agents are as well. Using outdated tools wasn’t a good experience for them.”
After contacting her professional network for recommendations and seeing Zendesk in action at another company, Held knew she had found the right platform for Micro Center. She was able to make a business case for Zendesk, showing that efficiency gains would justify the expense.
Micro Center rolled out Zendesk Support, Chat, and Guide all at once, the latter of which the company uses internally. Held’s team also integrated their Techst text tool and Cisco phone system with Zendesk.
“Zendesk is user-friendly, especially Chat, and my people are pretty technical, so implementation wasn’t difficult,” said Held, noting that they were ready after minimal one-on-one and classroom training. Agents, all of whom are also tech enthusiasts, were especially excited about Zendesk. “Our older system was very dated so there’s been some quality of life improvements. Zendesk is nice and polished, and it’s very modular so we can integrate and tweak workflows as needed,” explained Nick Wiegand, Micro Center’s technical support supervisor.
Since then, Micro Center has realized the efficiency gains Held anticipated. While support volume across channels grew by double digits and chats alone tripled, Held didn’t need to add any agents. Instead, agent headcount was reduced by three FTEs, offsetting the investment in Zendesk. The team’s average handling time and after call time also dropped by 30 percent.
“In the year that we’ve used Zendesk, we were able to reduce our average after call time of one minute to about 47 seconds. Fifteen seconds doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s huge when it comes down to the cost of that time,” Wiegand said. “Tech support average handling time was about 10 minutes a year ago, and we’re looking at seven minutes or so currently.”
Technical support lead Alex Shoup believes Zendesk’s integration with Micro Center’s phone system and ability to automatically create tickets contributed to these reductions. Many of Micro Center’s manual workflows were automated, with Zendesk helping to streamline everything from sending a TV technician to a customer’s home to verifying credit card information.
Micro Center also uses Zendesk to deliver proactive support to deflect tickets. Wiegand provided an example: “We sell anti-virus software, and we’ve been doing more of that over the phone. We use Zendesk to create email templates that we fill out and send to the requester, almost like a post-call survey, but instead of asking for feedback, we give them information based on the contact.”
Micro Center’s experiment with driving revenue via the support team also relies on Zendesk. By creating drop-downs and new user fields, then using APIs to feed the information into Google Forms and Google Sheets, they are making individual sales more visible and motivating everyone else to achieve similar success.
“It’s a way for us to consistently notify the team of sales,” said Wiegand.
He points to reporting as another area where Zendesk has made a positive impact, explaining, “We can get much more detail and much better information more quickly. We have a lot more information about our customers than we did in the past.”
Having great data helps Micro Center improve the customer experience. Held explained, “With all the data we can get out of Zendesk, we’re able to look at the analytics and say: Why are we getting all these calls about this? What can we do to deflect some of those calls and help customers get answers more quickly, either through self-service or by finding things more easily?”
One solution was to implement SMS text messaging as a support channel. “Many people were calling for updates on a repair. Now our service teams can text those customers, which deflects those calls. Our customers don’t want to pick up the phone to get a question answered. They want to get a quick answer easily,” Held said. She sees this as part of an evolution in customer expectations. She explained, “Customers want immediate gratification, whereas they used to be more willing to wait. I would mail something, and they might not hear anything back for a couple weeks. That’s not going to fly anymore.”
At Micro Center, everything goes back to doing what’s best for customers. If a pricing error leads to a customer ordering an item at a lower price, then the company will honor that price. Micro Center matches any competitor’s price and customer returns are accepted long after most would consider a reasonable period.
“We have a set of values we operate under,” said Held. “We will do whatever we need to make a situation right for the customer. It’s in every transaction, in every interaction that we have with customers.”