Columbia Sportswear Takes Customer Service to the Cloud

From its humble beginnings as a hat business founded by German nationals who fled Europe in 1938, to a global corporation with five brands, Columbia Sportswear is made up of real people who are passionate about the outdoors. That passion also extends to delivering outstanding customer service. As their customer support inquiries increased, Columbia Sportswear knew they needed a new contact center solution to support seasonal call volumes, e-commerce, and their unique brands.

Searching for the Ideal Contact Center System

Offering outstanding customer support is a primary mission for outdoor apparel manufacturer, Columbia Sportswear, but their PBX-based system had long been a bottleneck for their contact center and IT teams. In 2010, Kristina Coker, Enterprise Mobility & Telecommunications Engineer, created a Request for Proposal (RFP) with a long wish list of ideal characteristics of a new contact center system including:

  • Support for a wider range of communication channels
  • Scalability to satisfy seasonal call volumes
  • Flexibility to handle growth
  • Resiliency to outages
  • Quick and simple access to live call statistics
  • Easy-to-use, allowing business owners to make system changes as needed

“Our old call center placed a heavy burden on IT because it was so inflexible. Making any type of system change involved weeks of waiting until IT could implement it,” explained Kristina. “Our internal customers struggled to meet their business objectives because of the system’s limited functionality.”

Columbia Sportswear was in the process of acquiring new offices so supporting these additional locations was important. Additionally, e-commerce was being added to their website so they needed to support SMS, chat, email, and click-to-call functionality. “We had a lot of changes on the roadmap, and we needed a solution that was stable, flexible, and scalable for our call center,” Kristina noted.

Seasonal Call Volumes Demand Scalability

As a highly seasonal business, Columbia Sportswear’s customer inquiries peak as the holidays and winter approach. Their old call center wasn’t scalable, so the phone system and telco’s capacity were sized to accommodate peak call volumes – an expensive approach. They also couldn’t easily adjust agents to different queues resulting in some customer service teams being overwhelmed while others sat idle.

They also needed the flexibility to implement unique identification for their five brands: Columbia Sportswear, SOREL, Mountain Hardwear, Montrail, and prAna.

As Kristina explains, “Most people don’t want to call Mountain Hardwear and hear ‘Thank you for calling Columbia Sportswear.’ Their first thought is ‘Did I dial the wrong phone number?’ Many of our reps take calls for multiple brands, but they needed to know which brand the customer was calling for in order to answer the phone with the proper greeting. inContact’s Agent Interface automatically provides all the information they need to be the voice of any brand.”

Flexible & Scalable System with the Cloud, Results with inContact

With inContact, Columbia can manage agents in multiple buildings, states, and even multiple countries on a single platform regardless of physical location, team size, call volume, or other normal constraints of a PBX-based solution. Furthermore, Columbia’s contact center managers are no longer dependent on IT to make simple or complex changes. “We wanted the business owners to become responsible and make their own changes without needing IT,” continued Kristina. “I have one call center manager who will spin up a brand new number and queue without even calling me! That was unheard of in 2010.”

Managers can also get detailed reports that measure agent performance and live call statistics in real time. Previously, they pulled data from three separate systems so they often ended up with reports that painted different pictures, because the process was inconsistent.

Columbia Sportswear is also more resilient to outages and site emergencies. “If a building needs to be evacuated, if a phone switch goes down, or if call volumes exceed our anticipated peaks, the inContact system is quickly scalable. We can easily add more agents regardless if they’re working from home or elsewhere – all they need is a computer and internet connection.”

Columbia Sportswear has seen the following results since implementing inContact cloud solutions in early 2014:

  • Talk time reduced by an average of 20 seconds
  • Sales orders increased 56% and revenue 59%
  • Earned a customer satisfaction score of 93.6% while absorbing and handling a 34% increase in call volume
  • 1,346 man hours saved for the year

For more information on how Columbia Sportswear improved their customer service operations with inContact Cloud Solutions, please download the comprehensive case study here.