IKEA assembles interactive Canadian call centre

A call centre solution deployed by IKEA’s Canadian operation may become the computer-telephony foundation for the Swedish furniture maker’s global customer relationship management strategy.

The company said it has successfully rolled

out software with interactive voice response (IVR) features in its recently opened call centre in Montreal. IKEA, with has retail stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, logs more than 1.6 million calls each year at the centre, which expanded from a 50-seat facility to one with 225 agents last June.

Gerry Wong, who manages the IKEA contact centre, said the productsimplemented by Montreal-based Elix in Ikea’s Canadian contact center is alsobeing used in the company’s U.S. call centres. IKEA executives establishing centres in Europe, meanwhile, have asked Wong and his team about their experience with the Elix system. “”There’s definite possibilities this could be applied in various countries such as Holland and Denmark,”” he said.

The high volume of calls in IKEA’s centres may stem from its various retail, mail order and online sales channels, but also its self-service approach. The company sells furniture in kits that are assembled by the customer at home. The flat packages are designed to be easy to store and transport and assembled by unskilled persons.

Wong said the IVR capabilities of Elix’s Maestro product will allow IKEA to perform skill-based routing. In other words, if a customer calls through the home shopping line and is having trouble putting together a kitchen product, he or she would touch the option for kitchen questions. This would go to an agent with kitchen skills. “”That agent will be the best person to handle that call,”” he said. “”You could have agents with multiple levels of skills.””

Marianne Lecruyer, an executive with Elix’s management consulting group in Montreal, said the IVR needs of retailers like IKEA are slightly different than the financial industry, where phone banking options are more or less standard, or the telco market which segments calls based on the profitability potential of the customer.

“”When we go into retail, we notice that more and more people are using Internet and self-service capabilities on the telephone to create virtual stores,”” she said. “”The same way you have companies like IKEA that are selling items on the telephone or the Internet, most customers in retail are trying to seize this opportunity.””

Wong said the Elix solution brought a big change to the call centre’s agents, who weren’t provided with much customer information on the old system. “”Here you get a pop-up and it could be quite intricate,”” he said.

IVR has been around for several years, but Lecruyer said Elix sees its products as one of the most important elements in customer relationship management,

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