When you step outside your house and hear the sounds of power mowers, tractors, tillers, and other gardening and cultivating tools chances are quite good that the equipment has been built by Stanley Black & Decker Outdoor (SBDO) under one of its popular brands. Like Craftsman, Cub Cadet, DeWalt, Hustler, and Troy-Bilt. In fact, you may have one of them in your garage or storage shed or barn.
SBDO is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of such equipment with global revenues of $3.7 billion in 2022. While the demand has been soft recently as a result of a weaker housing market and high inflation, translating into spending pullbacks, as the economy begins to bounce back so will sales.
SBDO’s products can be found online and across the globe in all channels of distribution, including home improvement stores, hardware stores, mass retailers, independent dealers, and farm supply stores.
Naturally when you or your neighbors start up and begin to operate the equipment you and they expect to hear a smooth roar. That is also the sound of a superb customer experience (CX).
But when these tools do not run as well as they should—or when you and your neighbors have questions—that’s when SBDO’s customer service team is there to help you get your jobs done. The agents support customers directly and also indirectly through their dealers and retailers.
To find out more about the people and processes that support SBDO’s products, and its CX, we had a discussion with Samantha Thompson, who is the Quality and WFM Supervisor.
Q. Tell me the SBDO Outdoor story. Who are your customers?
Our customers are homeowners, farmers, and gardeners working in rural areas, metropolitan environments, and everything in between. Many are generational small businesses; these customers are very proud of their efforts to reveal curb appeal, and they rely on our equipment to do the job.
Q. Let’s discuss your culture and workforce
Our contact center is always a diverse and inclusive group and SBDO as a whole has a focus on diversity and inclusivity. The SBDO culture is all about inclusivity and empowerment. In the contact center, we also have a very multigenerational workforce.
Q. Set the stage. Outline the challenges – but also the opportunities – facing SBDO. When did you come to the realization that you needed to take action?
An evaluation of our business needs in 2016-2017 showed we needed a CRM that was inclusive to all areas of the business. I was at MTD Products at the time, which Stanley Black & Decker acquired in 2021, bringing over the Cub Cadet and Troy-Bilt brands, among others.
We selected Salesforce to bring together Service, Marketing, and Sales into one solution. The goal was to have everyone in the business using the same tools. We also opted to deploy Vonage telephony and Verint Workforce Management Professional at the same time; Vonage and Verint have a tight partnership.
We sought greater flexibility, notably the ability to blend our seasonal workforce into full-time employees…We also sought greater solution stability…
Q. Why did the existing solutions (WFO, CRM, telephony) need changing?
This was needed to improve scalability and stability. Additionally, previously there was a lack of true WFM (all managed via spreadsheets prior). Vonage advocated the Verint Workforce Management Professional solution. We also migrated to the cloud so we can easily integrate with solutions from Salesforce and Verint, allowing us to scale as our company grows and workloads change, and decrease downtime and improve application performance.
Q. Why Salesforce, Vonage, and Verint?
Vonage and Verint Workforce Management Professional fit the needs of our small size contact center operation that had not had a WFO tool previously.
We deployed Verint Workforce Management Professional to optimize our workforce resources through modern automated forecasting, scheduling, agent communication, and adherence. At the same time, we upgraded our telephony to Vonage and introduced Salesforce as our new CRM system. Salesforce was an option that made sense to go across the board.
With the move to Verint and Vonage, we gained a single, pre-integrated platform to seamlessly connect our telephony and WFM solutions. As a result, we can more effectively forecast contact center staffing requirements to meet service levels and reduce overtime. Verint’s integration directly into the Salesforce User Interface creates a seamless working experience for our advocates.
Q. What were the goals for your technology changes?
We sought greater flexibility, notably the ability to blend our seasonal workforce into full-time employees. March through October is our peak season (July the peak month) with spikes during the winter months due to snow volume. We also sought greater solution stability including timely updates via the cloud, and to make the transition to WFM from spreadsheets easier.
Q. Outline the implementations
All went live in July 2017; all on the same day. This was preceded by months of testing. We worked closely with the IT department and the Salesforce department as well as our third-party implementer.
We have increased reporting capabilities, visibility, more accurate workforce planning, and now have the ability to make real-time changes and recommendations, with improved scalability and flexibility.
Q. What, if any, obstacles were encountered and how were they overcome?
The biggest obstacle was going live during our peak season. Planning, testing, and using advocates (which we call our contact center agents) during this time was our strategy to lessen the impact on our customers. We had the team come in on a Saturday, which was an unplanned day of work for many, to test and go live.
Q. What were the results?
We have increased reporting capabilities, visibility, more accurate workforce planning, and now have the ability to make real-time changes and recommendations, with improved scalability and flexibility. We also have increased the ability to schedule training, projects, and other events.
Q. Did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your contact center operations and if so, how?
We shifted to all work-from-home (WFH) and have remained that way; we were 95% in-office prior to COVID. We bring seasonal hires in house for training and for a few weeks before they go home. Peer training and coaching are done sporadically on-site, and senior management comes in every few weeks to review our operations.
Q. What roles did your Verint, Vonage, and Salesforce investments play in your strategy?
The cloud solutions helped with the transition to WFH. We were able to update schedules and business hours within a 24-hour timeframe. We were also able to reach out to Verint for assistance. There’s no way we could have done it with static spreadsheets. The Salesforce tools were in place: all centralized.
Q. With the pandemic and people WFH did you experience an uptick in calls from homeowners now having time to work on household projects? Did you see any changes in volume from your contractor customers?
Yes. There were a lot of expectations for answers “right here, right now.” With people at home so much, they had more time to spend on their lawn and gardens. We also had more volume on social media. Since contractors were working outside, and their businesses were mostly unimpeded during the pandemic, we definitely saw an increase in business.
Q. What awards and recognition has your customer service/support team won?
We have won several awards from our vendors. These include the Contact Center Empowerment Award (Oracle) and the Verint WFM Pro Power User and Verint Excellence in Workforce Engagement, Highly Commendable.
We have also won several internal awards, recognizing our business impact and contributions to the company’s success. We were bestowed with the SBDO Grow Award (Jeff Marvin) demonstrating excellence in respect and care and one of our supervisors won an SBDO WIN Award for employee engagement and management of the contact center.
Q. What are the next steps for your customer service/support?
We are becoming more AI (artificial intelligence)-centric to assist customers with more complex tasks (over the phone or digitally).
We now have a higher focus on both internal advocate-enabling and external customer-facing CX. We migrated to Salesforce Lightning, updated the survey tool from ClickTools to Medallia, and increased our self-help tools to deflect calls.
We also implemented queue callback: all day when the wait time was over a certain threshold, and then changing the times when this is offered to improve advocate internal experience.