Macy’s precisely matches customer service agents with customers


Macy’s has a distinct purpose: To make life shine brighter via service — to customers, colleagues and communities. That credo is the undercurrent of the Macy’s approach to customer service and the customer experience.

The retail giant finds new ways to brighten moments for its customers, whether through shopping in stores, within digital channels or across all the many other interactions possible. Macy’s uses the metaphor of brightness by first referencing the Macy’s bright red star as the centerpiece of making the customer experience a brighter one.

Drawing inspiration from the North Star as well as a red star tattoo on his forearm from his sailing days, R.H. Macy chose the iconic red star to guide his company toward a successful and optimistic future. More than a century later, the iconic red star is “still shining bright and serves as the focal point of the Macy’s North Star strategy,” said James Cave, senior director of omnichannel customer experience for Macy’s.

“Each point on the star represents a key focus to guide our business to growth. Overall, this strategy reinforces the fundamentals of our business, while also positioning us for success, both today and tomorrow, in a very highly dynamic retail environment,” Cave said while speaking at a technology conference recently. While each point carries equal weight to fuel the Macy’s business, there is an “every experience matters” theme to the strategy.

“Simply put, it is everything we do to win our customers, both inside and outside of the physical store,” he said. “We strive to combine the personal touch that comes when you visit one of our physical locations with cutting-edge technology across all channels and all touchpoints.”

Recalling the cumbersome cellular phones of just a few years ago before the birth of the smartphone nation that many rely so heavily upon, Cave pointed to mobile technology where shoppers can make purchases within an app, send messages instantly on social media or scan and pay for items within a store, right from their phones.

“Customer needs and the technology to support those needs is rapidly changing,” Cave said. “I think about all the ways our customers can access our brand, how her needs are evolving and the need to execute nearly flawlessly at scale. It’s a challenge that motivates both me and my team every single day. We think of this challenge as providing service at scale. Our goal is to deliver positive, friendly interactions, through the combination of technology and a human touch by anticipating the expectations of the increasingly evolving customer.”


The guiding image, he emphasized, is that at the end of every interaction customers should say “Macy’s gets me,” reinforcing their decision to shop the company’s brands. “We started down this path of redefining our service delivery a few years ago,” he said, “at a time we knew we needed to augment our interactions with powerful technology to match the speed of innovation and ensure every single one of our agents could make good on that promise to make every experience matter.”

That’s when Macy’s discovered technology from Mattersight, a subsidiary of software provider Nice. Mattersight’s cloud-based, predictive behavioral routing system connects customers with the agent that’s most likely to provide the best interaction, based on personality, communication preferences and behavioral characteristics.

“It bolsters our ability to provide a personalized experience that our customers have come to expect, and it’s revolutionizing the way in which we connect with them. It truly is personal connections elevated,” Cave said.

“The language we use broadcasts our personality style and our communication preferences, and generally translates across all of our interactions, whether we’re catching up with a friend and colleague, or speaking to a customer service representative. When these personality connections are made, when we click with someone, conversations become more enjoyable and effortless,” he said.

“Learning about each of our customers and treating them individually, as they expect to be treated, is a core tenant of making every experience matter. In addition to finding an agent with the knowledge best served to help our customer, predictive behavioral routing is going one step further to determine the best match for our customers’ personality.”


The technology plays out strategically. When a customer calls into a Macy’s contact center, predicted behavioral routing recognizes the customer’s personality style, leveraging the industry’s largest customer personality and behavioral database. The routing engine makes a recommendation of which available agent is most likely to perform well with that customer’s personality, and the connection is made.

“The result of these smarter connections is a reduction in overall customer effort, more positive call outcomes and overall better business results,” Cave said. “My Macy’s colleagues have affectionately come to know the predictive behavioral routing as the ‘matchmaker’ of our contact center interactions. As such, it gives us the unique opportunity to make impressions for our customers where they’re left to say, ‘Macy’s gets me every single time.’ ”

Macy’s has been using the technology in two of its largest contact centers for nearly two years. Since 2017, behavioral routing has influenced just under half of the centers’ calls and the calls have become nearly a full minute shorter. “We’ve already set them up for success, and so they’re spending less time trying to navigate each customer’s unique communication preferences,” Cave said. As a result, the calls are more personalized experiences and productivity has improved by more than 5 percent.

Implementing the technology required some salesmanship. It was critical to ensure that internal financial stakeholders understood the true bottom-line business topic and were aligned to the priority of the initiative as a key driver to achieve business goals for the year. After some learning with test teams, Macy’s involved agents in the decision to use predictive behavioral routing, reinforcing the end goal: Make every experience matter. Then, the technology allowed Macy’s to scale the customer experience for everyone, especially to those teams on the front lines with customers every day.

Cave said success in retail customer experiences requires leaning on experts and working with them to bring vision to reality. “We work almost daily with a team of trusted partners at Mattersight to adapt the solution to achieve our unique goals,” he said.

“Our partnership reflects the level of flexibility necessary to keep pace with our customers. Perhaps most importantly, though, we don’t send our customers on blind dates. With predictive behavioral routing, we know who they are and who we can best connect them with, to ensure that every experience matters.”

Jim Romeo is a writer with a focus on business and technology topics; his work appears widely in industry publications and includes articles about logistics, supply chain and artificial intelligence.


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