Levi Strauss is one of the world's largest apparel companies and is renowned for creating the ‘blue jean'. Being an organization that is over 150 years old, it is more than accustomed to adapting during periods of uncertainty. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, it did just that.
During ServiceNow's annual user conference, Knowledge 2021, Dave Hellman, Director of ITSM at Levi Strauss, explained how the company introduced a virtual agent to support its employees and service desk during this turbulent time. Understandably, once COVID-19 hit, Hellman was very aware that demands for IT support both had the potential to increase and change in nature, as staff got used to working remotely and in their at-home environments. He said:
We're in the middle of a global pandemic. Everybody overnight shifted to 100% work remote. How do they get support? Gone is the local deskside technician that you can just walk up to over coffee or over your lunch break and try to get something solved. Everything's remote, so how do we put the tools back in our employees hands so that they know where to go.
Hellman and his team set about assessing how a virtual agent could be used to modernize the organization's ways of working and make it faster and easier for employees to get the support that they need. He added:
Every minute that they're on the phone with a global service desk is another minute that they're not doing their job to support the business and so we wanted to reduce that as much as we possibly could.
Levi wanted to make sure that it was spending money wisely during the pandemic, rather than making a swathe of new purchases, but it also wanted to make sure that it was getting the most out of its existing investments. Heimann said that the goal for the ITSM team was to drive more self service and deflect tickets away from the service desk, making it easier for employees to get back to supporting the business. He said:
We wanted to make sure that they had the right tools to do their job. In order to do that, we didn't want to spin up a whole bunch of new technologies that they had to have to learn, or a bunch of new landing pages for them to get the support they need. So we wanted to put it in their hands. That meant leveraging things like Microsoft Teams, that meant leveraging our corporate intranet, and that meant leveraging ServiceNow.
As such, Levi decided to make use of a virtual agent that integrated with systems mentioned above, to deflect tickets and free up time for real life agents to focus on bigger issues during the pandemic.
To better understand what the virtual agent should focus on, Hellman used data within ServiceNow to assess where there was the most demand. He describes it as an "open book test", as the data easily shows the top volume on incidents and service requests, giving a good indication of what employees are seeking help with.
With this data in hand, Hellmann and his team moved on to what they called the ‘blueprint phase' - which essentially meant establishing use cases. He said:
What are our customers going to be asking us for that can be catalogue items? That can be helped when something's broken? It can even be project support, right? So making sure that you've got knowledge articles, you've got the right catalogue items and more importantly you've got the right topics for your customers to take advantage of.
And again, ServiceNow does a pretty good job of putting those topics into your hands. When we launched, about 90% of the topics we had enabled were already out of the box, it didn't really require a lot of work on our part to get those built out.
Hellmann also spent time talking with partners and with other companies that had been through this journey before, taking lessons from them.
Following this, Levi then went into what it termed the ‘crawl phase', where Hellmann and his team began to prepare agents for the introduction of the new virtual tools, ensuring that they understood the new dashboards and that the right routing rules were in place. This was then followed by the integration with Teams, the corporate intranet and ServiceNow, ensuring that employees were able to access the agent where they were already comfortable working.
Wisely, Hellmann recognized early on that organizational change management (OCM) would be key to the success of this project, as well as measuring success with data. He said:
OCM was another piece, you've got to really communicate and prepare your users for what's coming next, what's in it for them and why they should be taking advantage of this new way of working.
And then the last piece is from a KPI standpoint, what are you going to measure? For us, a lot of the KPIs really aligned closely to what we already leveraged for our call system - wait times, abandon rate, things like that.
But in addition, one of our major goals was the automation component. How do we load that bot up? How do we make sure that we're doing ticket deflections and really preventing our live agents from having to get on there to support the chat?
During go-live - or the run phase - Hellmann spent time talking to both employees and the agents managing the systems to get a better understanding of what could be done better, what was missing from the virtual agent, and to plan for what should come next. Why were people still calling in, in certain cases? He said:
What is it they're asking for? They're letting you know: ‘hey, I tried virtual agents, I just couldn't find the topic I was looking for, or couldn't get the information I needed'. We want that feedback, so we can convert that into enhancement stories, get it into our sprint planning process and ultimately make this tool more successful.
Once Levi had the knowledge in the bot that its customers were looking for, over the past four months it has seen some excellent results. The deflection rate from the service desk was above 50%, but this number needs more context to better understand the benefits. Hellmann explained:
If you're selling this to senior leadership, they're gonna ask: so what? What's the story behind that? What are your benefits? Our benefits were that we saw improvement in all trends and our call volume SLAs. Over the last four months when our deflection rate was over 50%, all our SLAs at the service desk turned green. The other piece was our internal CSAT, our customer service rate for the global service desk, for the first time that I'm aware of in the 14 years I've been at Levi's, was 100% for March.
Levi is now looking at how it can expand the use of the virtual agent beyond the use of ITSM for corporate employees at the organization. Hellmann added:
Now we want to extend this into HR, so that people can get the questions that they need from HR answered, through a bot or through a virtual agent. We're also looking at our retail store operations. Again, we don't want our retail store employees having to be on the phone with the Corporate Service Desk, that's taking away from time they could be spending with our customers and providing value out there.
For more diginomica stories from Knowledge 2021 visit our Knowledge 2021 event hub. Knowledge 2021 opened on May 11th and sessions are available to view on-demand until October 2021. This is the event registration link.