Illustration by Nicolas Vicent

Vivint Smart Home is a company that knows about change. The business that started as a dealer for home security companies has evolved into a vertically integrated company that develops, designs, manufactures, sells, installs and services its own products. Founder and CEO Todd Pedersen’s vision to provide a better service experience by eliminating hand-off points along the customer journey served as the catalyst for the company’s transformation.

Today, Vivint is a leading smart home technology provider with a reputation for developing groundbreaking home automation products. It is also a company that is well known for its strong commitment to customer service, demonstrated by consistently high Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and numerous prestigious awards. In fact, earlier this year, the company was recognized with four Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, including the Gold Award for Contact Center of the Year (Over 100 Seats)—Technology Industries.

How does Vivint balance innovation and fast growth with its customer-centric vision? Ask Senior Director of Customer Experience Norm Nelson and he’ll point to a data-driven, people-focused culture that is not only highly adaptable but which embraces change. “We launch new products at a rapid pace because we believe that innovation is our lifeblood,” Nelson says. For the contact center, the challenge has been twofold: How to support a large influx of new customers every year, and how to anticipate customers’ questions and expectations for products that are new to the marketplace.

Aligning Metrics for a Better Experience

Two years ago, Vivint’s leadership recognized the need to develop a more disciplined approach to process improvement—one that allowed the company to leverage the valuable data collected in the contact center and other key touchpoints along the customer journey. The company reorganized its management team and brought in leaders like Nelson, with a strong background in data analytics, to oversee the strategic direction of the customer service operation.

“We started making decisions based on data rather than gut feelings,” Nelson recalls. “There is still some intuition involved, but the data helps us to analyze each opportunity and decide which way we need to go next.”

The management team recently applied its data-driven approach to fine-tuning the contact center’s key performance indicators (KPIs). Like many contact centers, Vivint’s Customer Care operation relied on average handle (AHT) time to track agent performance. Agents’ pay was partly tied to AHT to incentivize them to keep the calls short “not simply because it’s more efficient and budget-friendly for the company, but also because no customer wants to be on a 45-minute call,” Nelson says.

Call analysis and modeling revealed a better measure. AHT was replaced with “Availability To Customer,” or ATC for short, which measures the agent’s engagement with the customer. “It emphasizes how much time agents actually spend talking to customers. Focusing on ATC instead of handle time has reduced the stress on the agents,” Nelson says, adding that “a surprising side effect was that, by not focusing on handle time, we saw our handle time improve significantly.”

The center also tracks Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to measure performance from the customers’ point of view. NPS is monitored at the agent level (ANPS), as well as by team and for the overall operation. A dedicated “follow-up” team is tasked with reaching out to any detractors (customers who rate their experience below 6 on a 10-point scale)—whether the interaction took place within the contact center or elsewhere.

“If a customer touches base with anyone, even if they’re not within customer care, and they submit a detractor score, the team will contact them within 24 hours,” Nelson says. The follow-up team will attempt to reach the customer by phone two times. If they’re not able to connect, they will then send an email with the direct contact information of a follow-up team member. Nelson says that the team has a 86% success rate of improving customer satisfaction among detractors. “We’ve experienced a considerable uplift because customers feel like we actually do listen and reply,” he says.

Developing Leaders: Investing in Long-Term Careers

Vivint’s commitment to delivering a superior end-to-end customer experience accounts for only half of the success equation. The company also has put its internal customers at the heart of its long-term growth plans. It recently launched an initiative to improve the agent experience by improving the quality of their frontline leadership. As Nelson points out: “Everybody has a supervisor, but do they have a great supervisor?”

In the past, new supervisor training primarily consisted of job-shadowing a tenured supervisor. “We very purposely invested heavily in our supervisors over the last two years to train them on what it means to be a leader,” he says. New supervisors now undergo a 90-day training program. On an annual basis, all supervisors attend an offsite leadership boot camp for two days of intensive training and goal setting, to which they are held accountable the rest of the year.

The increased focus on leadership development has had positive results within the frontline teams, as well as the supervisor ranks. Since launching the program, turnover among frontline supervisors has dropped to almost zero. “They know that we’re invested in their personal development,” Nelson says. “They’re learning skills that don’t just apply to their current role at Vivint but also in their personal lives and long-term careers. As a result, our leaders are more engaged, and they, in turn, create more engaged teams.”

Frontline agents also have an available career path. Ongoing training opportunities allow agents to steadily expand their skill sets, product knowledge and pay by advancing through the center’s multi-tiered system. (New agents begin in Tier 1 taking billing and account maintenance calls.) Agents who reach the top tier—Tier 5—are part of an elite team called the Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The QRF’s primary role is to support the frontline agents by acting as an internal help desk—they’re always on hand to answer agents’ questions about products or processes. They also handle escalations—if a customer asks to speak to a supervisor, the QRF team is empowered to step in immediately and assist the customer.

Previously, supervisors served as the sole escalation point for agents, among their other roles, which meant that an agent might be waiting on hold with a customer while his or her supervisor was busy coaching another agent. “It was not an optimal experience for the agent or the customer,” Nelson says. Removing escalations from the supervisors’ responsibilities has ensured that the calls are handle more quickly. It has also freed supervisors to focus on their main role—coaching and growing their teams.

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