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IBM - Customer Service Success


Gold Stevie Award Winner 2019, Click to Enter The 2020 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service

Company: IBM, Armonk, NY
Company Description: IBM is a values-based enterprise of individuals who create & apply technology to make the world work better. Today, more than 400,000 IBM employees around the world invent and integrate hardware, software and services to help forward-thinking enterprises, institutions and people succeed on a smarter planet.
Nomination Category: Customer Service Awards Success Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Customer Service Success - Business Service Industries

Nomination Title: Pursuing Excellence in Serving its Customers

Tell the story about what this nominated organization achieved since the beginning of July 2017 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:

For over a decade, IBM billing and invoices were provided via an external company supporting several different instances across the geographies. Over time these instances became heavily customized and adapted to the geographies’ needs.

In an effort to eliminate dependency on external provider and consolidate these disparate instances the newly established INOVICES squad (team) developed and deployed a single instance of INVOICES application in the cloud intended to fit all user needs delivering a single look, interface, and same process for all clients globally.

IBM INVOICES squad is one of several teams that comprise IBM Enterprise Operations and Services organization, supporting IBM Sales function with a mission of “Making things simple for IBMers and Clients by creating winning experiences through innovation, executing with excellence and continuously reinventing the way we work.” The INVOICES squad consists of 23 members from a cross-functional areas including process subject matter experts (SMEs) and developers.

INVOICES application was fully deployed within six months with approximately 14,000 users migrated to the new instance. The new instance provided several benefits like a state-of-the-art design, access via mobile devices, more frequent and better controlled code deployments, improved monitoring and security and last, but not least 75% cost savings over previous year.

Overall the new application was very well received, but team saw users in some regions were not pleased seeing their frequently used functionality not being available anymore. The analysis of the user feedback (received thru Medallia) identified primarily six areas, with one of them being the limited search functionality, which needed more flexibility and filter choices. Also, not all feeders from internal systems were established yet, so clients were missing some of their invoices.

Realizing that clients’ feedback is as important as the planned functionality release timeline, team implemented a “divide and concur” approach to handle it. They split into two sub-teams, one focusing on customer requirements identified thru the feedback analysis, the other on critical defects. Working thru prioritization, the two team leads closely collaborated doing a crosscheck to make sure, there are no dependencies between both areas. This sounds easy and straightforward, but was a highly intensive process, bringing the teams to their limits.

In the first half of 2018, the team deployed 7 releases continually increasing client satisfaction, adding new functionality with every release. Within 3 months period the team brought down the negative feedback to near zero. The whole design and development approach of INVOICES stands now as a role model for future applications aligned with customer support functions.

Pursuing excellence in serving its customers, with introducing single INVOICES application and fixing migration related issues, the INVOICES squad delivered over $1M in annual savings, over 50% reduction in invoice retrieval time, and demonstrated to IBM clients that their input is valued and welcomed, earning their advocacy and support. The team also proved that even with constrained resources, you can achieve a lot by doing the right work and doing it right.

What do you do when you get a mini-flood of negative customer feedback on a new tool that was intended to make things better for our customers? Break out the oars and row harder? A better plan is to find the hole and fix it. “ That’s exactly what the team did. They mobilized to fix a pervasive issue and then watch the negative feedback drop to zero, illustrating that closing the loop really works. -Carolyn Maher, IBM Client Advocacy Officer.