Sears Canada Finds Ideal Internal Customer Support System

October 11, 2010

“Having an open, easy-to-integrate customer support solution like Zendesk is crucial, especially with so many cloud-based products available for the enterprise. We liked Zendesk’s philosophy from Day 1.”

– Timothy Eberwein, Director of Information Technology, Sears Canada

Sears Canada is a multi-channel retailer with a network of 197 corporate stores, 241 dealer stores, 31 home improvement showrooms, more than 1,800 catalogue merchandise pick-up locations, 108 Sears Travel offices, and a nationwide home maintenance, repair, and installation network. The company also publishes Canada’s most extensive general merchandise catalogue and offers shopping online at www.sears.ca.

Busy internal call center needs flexibility

Like every competitive company, Sears Canada is always looking for ways to efficiently use its resources. In October 2009, when Sears Canada faced the challenge of streamlining its call center customer support system, the company decided to try something completely different other than the help desk applications they commonly used.

“We serve store associates and other internal clients, handling a wide variety of technical issues around applications,” explains Timothy Eberwein, Director of Information Technology, Sears Canada. “We have a lot of complex enterprise applications, but the process of collecting support ticket information has typically been cumbersome and labor-intensive. Nothing we had really met our needs, so we decided to look at other alternatives.”

Eberwein knew exactly what he was looking for, but wasn’t sure if it existed.

“We wanted a solution that was lightweight, but powerful and customizable, and something that worked with numerous other cloud-based solutions so we could constantly integrate new capabilities.” Eberwein recalls. “It was also critical it not require a huge investment of development time and budget.”

Customizable solution fits right into call center workflow

Eberwein evaluated several support solutions but kept coming back to the only one that met all of his criteria: Zendesk. The tone of Zendesk’s website convinced Eberwein he had found a customer-friendly vendor, and the open integration allowed it to easily fit into Sears Canada’s workflow.

“Having an open, easy-to-integrate customer support solution, like Zendesk, is crucial, especially with so many cloud-based products coming onto the market,” says Eberwein. “We liked Zendesk’s philosophy from Day 1.”

Once live on Zendesk, Sears Canada’s call center staff found the solution easy to customize.

“None of the other solutions we researched had the simplicity and flexibility of Zendesk,” says Toan Le, Application Support Technician, Sears Canada. “Zendesk allows you to start off simple and gradually add more features. So far, the triggers and targets have let us automate a lot of redundant jobs and save time.”

Central point of communication helps expedite support tickets

Today, Sears Canada’s internal call center processes revolve around Zendesk’s help desk system. Each customer support ticket now contains concise information on the nature of the problem, including which business division and application is involved. Technicians can more easily understand any situation without needing a detailed description. Custom ticket views enable all technical staff to maintain a high-level view of incoming issues and requests.

“Zendesk is an excellent customer support solution that our team uses daily,” says Le. “It’s our central point of communication between end users and support personnel, and because it’s so customizable, we can handle all requests and needs in an organized manner.”

Zendesk gives Sears Canada the flexibility to make customizations that help its call center staff categorize issues. Using JavaScript, the staff has added context-sensitive drop-down menus and custom fields.

“When our call center staff gets an initial email from an associate in a store, we can define the problem with just a few clicks before forwarding it to Support,” says Eberwein. “We’re increasing consistency while also streamlining our workload.”

Sears Canada will soon deploy another time-saving customization: a template-based front-end that will allow associates to email detailed information directly to the Zendesk system, which will create a ticket automatically and then send email alerts to support staff and management based on triggers and tags in the ticket. The template will help Sears Canada run a leaner call center.

“We want to reduce the cost of manning a call center desk with four people, 24 hours a day,” says Eberwein. “With Zendesk and our custom-built template, there will be far less need to have staff members engage in support calls and emails from associates.”

Eberwein’s team is contantly in contact with Zendesk’s support staff. With each call, they get the help they need to continue fine-tuning Sears Canada’s new online support system.

“We’ve made several requests for enhancements or fixes since we started using Zendesk, and they’ve pretty much all been completed,” says Le. “The Zendesk team continually enhances their product and listens to their clients, and that’s made us even more certain that we made the right choice.”