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Internet Retailer – How Overstock saved nearly $14 million with a web-hosted contact center

Internet Retailer

By Katie Evans

August 24, 2013

About eight years after its launch in 1997, web-only retailer Overstock.com Inc. realized its call center infrastructure was overloaded.

The retailer, No. 31 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide, had been using a combination of on-site hardware, hosted software applications from vendors and its own homegrown software and manual systems for its call center operations. The several systems combined were inefficient, the retailer says. For example, the overall system could not match the caller to the agent trained to help answer a caller’s specific questions, such as queries about returns or shipping.

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Overstock.com also relied on a vendor to supplement its in-house agents during high-volume call times, such as over the holidays. That created more complexity as the outside and internal call center systems operated on separate platforms. All the different systems and programs led to several problems, including long hold times, says Carter Lee, vice president of information systems and technology. Additionally, agents couldn’t easily access the information they needed to help customers. And, since consumers and agents touched so many different systems, Overstock couldn’t easily track call center performance, such as checking how quickly calls were answered and if consumers got the help they needed.Preview

The system was also costly, Lee says. Overstock’s in-house hardware call center system required back-up equipment in case it crashed. And, to support all the moving parts, Overstock had three full-time I.T. staffers dedicated solely to ensuring the call center was up and running. It also paid for ongoing consulting help from an outside firm.

To solve the headaches and save money, Overstock in 2005 switched all its fragmented systems to one “cloud-based” or web-hosted contact center management system from Echopass.

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