L.L.Bean

Design of Call Center Systems That Cut Training Costs in Half

Challenge

I led multiple phases of a project with L.L.Bean to redesign the user interface (UI) of its call center systems for order entry and inquiry. These systems are used by L.L.Bean customer satisfaction representatives to input and manage phone and mail orders.

One of the main challenges of the design project was that the users of this system included two groups with somewhat divergent needs:

Approach

The team's first step was to fully comprehend the original L.L.Bean order system from all perspectives including business, users, and technology. We kicked off with a workshop during which we reviewed the business goals of the project. We also defined and segmented the system's user groups and began to explore the technical requirements of the system.

Next, we conducted a period of intensive user research to understand the tasks, needs and priorities of the reps. The inherent challenge involved the large number of users that rely on the systems for differing business functions. Our research activities included several standard knowledge acquisition techniques including structured observation sessions, interviews, and focus groups.

In parallel with these activities, we conducted a more detailed assessment of the current screen functionality and technical requirements. At the end of this initial phase we worked with our clients to analyze and synthesize our findings to define the scope of work that would meet the project goals, user needs, and technical requirements.

In the next phase, we established the basic organizational model to guide the development of the detailed elements of the UI. Then we began creating the screens of the application. We used rapid prototyping and participatory design as the central activities of our design process as a means to incorporate the deep knowledge of L.L.Bean reps.

Upon completion of the participatory design process, we made refinements to the UI and developed a system of electronic documentation that included detailed functional specifications. We delivered the completed UI to the L.L.Bean technical team in a one-day workshop to ensure a seamless handoff, then provided ongoing design support to the technical team during the development process.

Results

Our project was delivered both on time and on budget. The new order entry system has been deployed at L.L.Bean through multiple peak seasons now, and has produced measurable improvements in several key business areas:

Steve Fuller, L.L.Bean's Vice President of Corporate Marketing, cited my team and the success of the application in an interview with Catalog Age Weekly. The project also earned a nomination from L.L.Bean for ComputerWorld's Innovative Technology Awards, which showcase vendors who provide leading-edge technology products and services that help clients achieve return on investment.

Please note: I cannot display screenshots due to L.L.Bean's confidentiality rules.