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Target Stores' IVR scores bullseye on help desk.

When Rob Ash assumes command of the help desk at Target Stores' Minneapolis headquarters, he watches over the entire computer network with the help of 15 service representatives and interactive voice response (IVR).

It's a far cry from just a few years ago when all of the Target network service problems were handled solely by people.

The Target help desk provides user support for all types of devices in the retail chain's vast network--CRTs, PCs, printers and point-of-sale terminals and registers. The network includes 474 stores in 33 states, seven distribution centers, regional and district offices and the Minneapolis headquarters.

"We introduced the RobotOperator System from InterVoice some four and a half years ago," says Ash, help desk supervisor. "From day one, it resolved or answered 25% of all incoming calls or better. That equates to four full-time people."

The system tackles the more common problems, so the help desk staff can concentrate on technical matters requiring problem-solving abilities. And there are plenty of questions to be answered, Ash says.

The system answers over 20,000 calls per month, while the help desk service reps take on more than 15,000.

Furthermore, Ash estimates that around 80,000 of Target's 90,000 employees touch some kind of hardware or machinery during the course of a business day just doing their jobs. "That means we come into contact with most of them at one time or another," he says.

When a user experiences a problem and calls the help desk, the interactive voice response system intercepts the call and prompts for store location and equipment type. The system determines the store, the configuration and the necessary system information.

It then consults a log stored on the mainframe for messages that might affect that particular store or device. If a message exists, it is voiced by the system to the caller.

"The system's ability to read availability messages proved to be a big selling point," Ash says.

"Although it happens infrequently, the satellite link or computer may experience downtime. The system reads the appropriate message to callers and can even inform them of estimated uptime by saying, for instance, 'The system will be up by 9:30 CST'. Since we are familiar with these types of situations, we know how long it takes to have things up and running in different parts of the country."

The system can also ask questions of the caller and offer advice on resolving problems. It can even reset a terminal automatically with no human assistance.

Another feature is the ability to transfer problems which have immediate customer impact to a special hotline. When a POS terminal goes down, for instance, the system sends the call directly to the hotline where a live representative takes over.

"Users who have urgent needs never hold for a rep, but are put through immediately to the help desk," Ash explains.

Although the call handling capabilities of the RobotOperator system have made life at the help desk more productive, the host link capability was the primary reason Target selected it.

"The ability of the system to consult the host for messages or for specialilzed information on individual stores saves employees' time," Ash says.

He says that flexibility and adaptability are essential considerations for those companies looking to integrate interactive voice response into fast-paced, often turbulent environments like a help desk.

"In this arena, situations change momentarily. Consequently, we modify the application almost weekly," Ash says.

"Only a flexible, easy to use and easy to change product would work here."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Help Desk Management; interactive voice response
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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