Whirlpool Case Study
In 2015, IBM announced an investment in companies interested in solving problems through the use of IoT solutions. In a news release, IBM stated, “Whirlpool Corporation is leveraging IBM’s IoT and predictive maintenance and quality solutions to improve the performance and reliability of its appliances.”
As the world’s leading appliance manufacturer, Whirlpool attracts some of the most innovative people to design and create state-of-the-art products. However, even with the most advanced technology, there is still need for maintenance and support.
In order to stay competitive, Whirlpool realized they needed a way to stay ahead of the curve and this is where IBM comes in.
The Connected Appliance team consisted of business analysts, data analysts, programmers, IBM product engineers, and a visual designer.
“Each week there were a set of objectives that needed to be met to so that the next set of reviewers would be capable of signing off on it. Britta lead parts of the team discussions to make sure that any conflicts were resolved, that the uncertainty of the system running were lost...” — Project Manager and Business Partner, Michael Holton
Process and Development
Design Request and Solution
In order for Whirlpool to benefit from their newly designed connected appliance line they needed IBM to help analyze and display the information in a support portal. The new portal became known as the Next Best Action Portal, or NBA.
IBM’s Connected Appliance team was asked to create three different interfaces that would meet the needs of the three support specialist personas.
Initial sketches were done on whiteboards, which were quickly followed by wireframes in Illustrator. The final templates were created in Photoshop and were designed so that they could change, as needed, for future use cases.
Insights and Discoveries
In order to be successful it was extremely important to take time to research and interview the current call center agents. It was quickly discovered that the interface would be important for
future workflows and that the agents were enthusiastic about the NBA Portal.
By using analytics and sensors, the new portal will help the support agents and technicians eliminate previous issues with uncertainty and miss guided fixes. The consumer will see positive results on the first attempt and will not need to try a slough of “possible fixes” before discovering the “one” that works.
There are three main users of the NBA tool. The "first responders" known as CXC agents or the Customer Service Center Representatives, Techline Engineers, and Field Agents. They represent the various levels of support Whirlpool provides it's consumers.
Challenge for CXC Call Center Agent
As a CXC Agent, their main goal is to “save a call” and to eliminate any need to send out a service technician or parts. The agent’s initial workflow starts with the collection of personal information. Then the agent asks for issues the consumer is experiencing. Once the agent receives enough information they begin to manually search through articles and product manuals to see if they can find the answer. It is a very tedious process that the agents described as frustrating and time consuming for both the agent and the consumer.
Solution for CXC Call Center Agent
The NBA system will help the CXC agent quickly determine the next best action the consumer should take to fix the problem.The new workflow streamlines the process for the agent. It provides them with more information such as “success odds” that ensure the agent is choosing the action that has a high success rate. Every time an agent chooses an action they must select one of the three icons “Yes/Pending/No.” The NBA engine is always learning from the feedback it receives in order to continue to provide the most likely fix to a problem.
Challenge for Techline Technician
A Techline Technician is a specialized call center agent who is trained to troubleshoot difficult appliance problems. They are typically referred to as the support call center for Whirlpool service technicians that are on-site. Techline Technician’s are trained on all appliances.
Solution for Techline Technician
The Techline Technician requires more information to be accessible in order to assess the underlying problem that the on-site Service Tech might not be able to see. The Techline Technician’s interface is identical to the CXC Agent, with the exception that additional modules were added to the bottom of the interface that display diagnostic features.
Through the NBA Techline Technician portal they can run a diagnostic test, which will provide a detailed chart of the machine’s functions. With all this additional information and the intelligent NBA, the Techline Tech should be able to provide the on-site Service Tech with enough information to fix the problem.
Challenge for Service Technician
The interface for the Service Technician requires the ability to be used on any mobile or web device. The technician works directly on the appliance at the consumer’s location.
Solution for Service Technician
The solution for this user group had to be simplified to the most basic and pertinent information. Most technicians are not Whirlpool employees for this reason they cannot have access to internal Whirlpool account information or diagnostic readouts.
“Britta showed logical analysis and problem solving skills when she worked with the business analysts. She was a key player in determining how the business requirements came to life. She worked with the business analysts one on one to help them storyboard the various scenarios and personas. She then began making visual, computer generated prototypes that could be tweaked on the spot to help the analysts see the impact on the design immediately.
Britta took people who were not completely familiar with the process of working with a designer from being unsure of how to visualize their ideas to being confident in their decisions and understanding how to convey elements to the entire team using UX terminology.” — Project Manager and Business Partner, Michael Holton