Case Study: Node4 Rings in the Changes at Stephensons With New Webex Omnichannel Contact Centre Solution

The Customer: Based in Stockport, Greater Manchester, and operating since 1868, Stephensons is a fifth-generation, family-run supplier to the catering and hospitality sectors — including restaurants, pubs and hotels. It also supplies public sector organisations and a selection of schools, colleges and campuses.

Stephensons boasts the North of England’s largest cash and carry showroom and has a growing online presence. All local, regional, national and international orders are managed by a dedicated customer service team that operates out of the company’s Greater Manchester hub.

The Challenge

Stephensons relied on an on-premises ISDN/PSTN telephony and call centre system. Nearing end-of-life, it impacted contact centre performance, led to frustrated customers and contributed to a stressful working environment. An alternative solution was needed, one that could boost agent responsiveness, enable agents to deal with more customers, reduce dropped call numbers and allow more orders to be taken — all while improving customer service levels.

Chris North, Customer Service and Cash and Carry Manager at Stephensons, remembers what it was like in those days: “Calls would ring on every free agent’s phone. But if the whole team were already talking to customers, the phones would ring throughout the building. With 300-400 calls each day, it felt like there was constant ringing everywhere, which was really stressful. It meant long waiting times for customers. It was also more likely that the person who finally answered could only take a message and offer a callback. Unfortunately, these callbacks rarely happened as the agents were so busy. It was frustrating for customers — and we suffered a lot of negative online reviews as a result.”

The Solution

Stephensons’ owners knew the contact centre needed a complete overhaul, and Chris was tasked with finding a new solution. “We wanted an omnichannel contact centre that would open up new ways for customers to connect with us, and we wanted visibility on vital call and performance metrics. But beyond that, we had no preconceived ideas about which vendor or solution we should choose,” he recalls.

Chris ultimately selected Cisco’s Webex Calling phone system and Webex Contact Center offerings. He also chose Webex Video Conferencing for internal use between teams and office locations. This meant Stephensons would be moving a from difficult-to-manage on-premises infrastructure to a simplified, agile and scalable cloud-based solution — one that would be far more responsive to changing business needs.

He explains: “Cisco’s representatives connected me with Node4 because of the company’s status as a Webex Calling Service Provider and Premier Certified Cisco Partner. This would prove invaluable as the project gathered pace — fast-tracking many stages and making my life far more simple. It also helped greatly when we wanted to add functionality that wasn’t available out of the box.”

The Results

Contact centre analytics and KPIs
Stephensons’ new Webex-powered contact centre delivers the detailed performance analytics that Chris and the management were so keen to see. This includes the number of calls dropped each day, average call length, average time taken to answer a call, and agent-by-agent call handling performance. “We can also see how many customers we need to call back and ensure we call them back the same day,” he comments.

Improved efficiency
The insight gained from new analytics makes Stephensons’ contact centre far more efficient. It also allows Chris to see where and when there’s redundancy in the system. These factors mean that if an agent is on holiday, off sick, or has left the business, Chris can assess whether the remainder of the team can cover the calls or need extra help.

“Just before Christmas, a colleague moved to another department,” Chris recounts. “I decided against hiring as it was so close to our peak season, and we wouldn’t have been able to train them in time. But we got through Christmas without noticing any impact. In fact, we broke our sales record in November and December while maintaining customer service standards and hitting call-handling KPIs! What’s more, we may well be able to go forward without making that hire, which will save the business a significant amount of money.”

Omnichannel communications
Following Node4’s upgrade of Stephensons’ contact centre, customers can chat with agents via WhatsApp, Webchat, text message, and Facebook Messenger. “I can’t overstate the importance of this,” explains Chris. “The way our customers want to engage with us is changing. Hospitality managers want to reach us via instant messaging more often these days and place their orders on the go. They don’t always want or need to speak to someone on the phone. I think it suits the fast pace and more relaxed approach many have got used to with services like Uber, Just Eat and Airbnb. If we didn’t have those channels available, I know they would have gone elsewhere by now.”

Improved customer service
Summing up his experience, Chris recalls that the situation today couldn’t be more different from those difficult early days: “When I first started, the call centre was a stressful place. It was hard to be proactive and deliver the kind of customer service we aspired to. With Node4’s help, we’ve created a contact centre environment where agents feel empowered to take more time with customers and make them feel valued. As a result, we’re getting lots of five-star reviews congratulating us on our excellent customer service. Customers still feel like they’re getting that small business care and attention even though we’re taking more orders and calls than ever.”

He concludes: “I’m no longer dealing with negative customer feedback, which gives me the headspace to think longer term about further improvements and enhancements — more ways to make things even better for our business and ensure the contact centre is playing its part in supporting business growth. I’ve no doubt that this turnaround is down to Node4’s strong product and technical knowledge — and their ability to help us get the very best from our Webex solution.”