Fisher & Paykel looks to AI for customer experience

With data scattered across multiple systems, Fisher & Paykel decided it was time to align its systems and processes to improve customer experience and employee satisfaction.

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Image: Fisher & Paykel

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future for improving customer experience, according to home appliances manufacturer Fisher & Paykel.

As a result, the New Zealand-based company is following up its cloud computing overhaul by looking into implementing both AI and self-learning systems to personalise some of its customer touch points, Rudi Khoury, former GM of customer experience and current GM of global sales at Fisher & Paykel, told ZDNet.

"We're seeing automatic chatbots through Facebook coming up, AI live agents that are able to respond to 80 percent of enquiries without needing a human. I can see that really taking off in the next five years for sure," Khoury said.

Fisher & Paykel has already improved its customer experience by overhauling its IT systems and moving them to the cloud, according to Khoury.

Two years ago, the company was burdened by siloed customer data, which led to the delivery of disjointed and frustrating post-purchase customer experiences.

The company admitted that its customers' information was scattered across 16 legacy systems, which meant that whenever customers contacted the company, its agents lacked the contextual knowledge -- such as who the customer is and their purchase history -- to service them in an efficient manner.

Meanwhile, customers had no visibility over what their interactions with the company would result in.

"We realised that we had to do better at customer experience, because that's where businesses can really win or lose," said Khoury.

In addition, Fisher & Paykel's old field service system, which managed delivery, installation, and repairs, was also disjointed, with field service agents having to enter duplicate information into multiple systems.

"Our own people were struggling with the vast amount of tools and data that they've got in the organisation," Khoury said. "And then, to make it even worse, when we did need to get one of our own employees out to a customer's home, we said to them 'you have to wait at home for half the day'. That's when we realised we really needed to do something and to change."

Reaching an inflection point, the home appliances manufacturer brought in consultancy firm Bluewolf to help it structure and execute the initial phases of its "digital transformation".

Over a 20-day sprint, Bluewolf connected Fisher & Paykel's CRM information to Salesforce Service Cloud, then integrated it with field service software ClickWorkforce, providing the company with a better view of its customers' profiles and post-purchase journey.

Ensuing phases saw the implementation of solutions for case management, invoice management, and smart field service scheduling.

"We did some really neat things like creating Uber-style 'track and trace' for customers, better online service trackers, automated communications to customers, as well as just making the agents' jobs really easy on top of that," Khoury said.

Fisher & Paykel launched a pilot program in the UK to get customer feedback. Within 30 days, the company said it noticed a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction scores.

"And that was really from quite a low base. That market has no systems [and] was operating on paper-based tools. So we took a really big step there and it really paid off," Khoury said.

In addition, the company reported a 15 percent increase in employee satisfaction following implementation.

"[The team] really liked the consumer style experience. For them, it felt natural ... so we weren't having to spend a lot of time teaching them interfaces."

The company realised at that point that it needed to continue its efforts to increase brand loyalty, especially given the company sells appliances, which are generally expensive and the time between purchases is usually years.

Khoury said the company is increasing its net promoter scores by 2 to 3 percent monthly, which "in an established environment, can be quite hard to do".

Where before, customers would spend half a day or more waiting for a service person to repair their appliance -- with just a single email confirming their appointment window -- now Fisher & Paykel provides customers with a two-hour appointment window, with expectations further managed through ongoing text message updates about the status of their appointment and the progress of the repair person on their route.

Khoury said it's important to design an end-to-end process and build it at the same time.

"We found early on that when we tried to design the end-to-end process that it was out of date before we started building again," he explained.

Khoury pointed out that the Fisher & Paykel kicked off its digital transformation journey with "data everywhere", then all the data was centralised on Salesforce. But a new problem emerged: Now that the data is all in one place, what should be done with it?

"And then you start realising you've got a huge opportunity to do something with it. But where do you start? Or you break it down into small pieces. You try and find the quick wins and the small ones that will move the dial, and the ones that will have the greatest impact to the customer," Khoury said.

"But even with the data in one place, it's still not perfect. There's still improvements to be made. We learnt a lot about the construct of how a customer exists in Salesforce after we went live, so similar challenges but just a new platform and new opportunities arise."

Khoury noted that the digital transformation journey has no end-point, that it's ongoing, especially with technology constantly evolving.

"I think it's important for organisations to make their platform choices now and get on with that journey, because the next wave is coming pretty quickly," he said.

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