Waste management, especially the customer service piece, has traditionally been a phone-centered business, but that’s changing as customers want to do more online. They want choices they can make on their own and fast, and some companies are responding by upgrading their websites with add-ons to meet them where they are. Waste operations who have figured out how to do it effectively are learning more about what their customers want; finding easier ways to get it to them; and making customer service reps’ jobs easier.
Waste Connections shares the story of taking its websites from a stagnant sales platform to a dynamic one with multiple functions. The team tells what went into deciding how to do it; and how the new digital features are working from a business perspective.
A few years ago, the company’s websites – it has over 200 to support its brands and facilities – had basic recycling information, list of services, and numbers to call.
The early tweaks to build on this simple framework came after staff began looking at search engine optimization (SEO).
“Just by altering content based on what we learned from SEO results, we immediately saw positive outcomes, as we were getting customers what they were looking for fast. That’s when we started looking at what those websites could do and how they could benefit us. We decided to build a new platform that’s faster with a lot more functionality,” says Eric Hansen, chief information officer, Waste Connections.
In three months, 230 websites were converted to enable users to make decisions online, with the options that they click on most often placed at the top of the home page: Pay My Bill; Pickup Schedule; Missed Pickup; Broken Container; and I Am Moving.
One early new feature is Click2Order (C2O).
“We started C2O a year and a half ago, and it’s taken off. We rolled it out to 50 districts and are in the process of rolling it out to more. Customers agree to terms and conditions; enter their credit card number; and they have service set up in about two minutes,” Hansen says.
Phone calls that take the most time are new customer calls.
“There are 57 data points to set up that you have to get right as a customer service rep. It takes 8 to 15 minutes to complete the transaction, after a customer has waited on hold. But now they can get on the website and pick from a line of services right there,” Hansen says.
For customer service reps, digitizing the process is translating to about 90 to 95% less data entry time, he estimates, as most of the information they used to enter is already in the system.
The Pay My Bill form, which is the most popular, offers three ways to pay from the home screen. It’s one of several online forms.
“Each one was designed to enable users to pinpoint exactly what they want to tell us. For instance, if it’s a Missed Pickup they want to report, that form has specific options such as which waste stream was missed and whether they had it set out on the curb or not. This allows for quicker decisions and turnaround on the service response,” explains Tracy Reynolds, Waste Connections manager of Web and Digital Media.
The forms have integration built in so when a customer service rep receives a request, it links directly to the customer’s account, expediting whatever process needs to happen.
An alternative to the online forms is a chatbot, which answers basic questions such as what do I do if I have a broken container or if I’m moving.
The forms and chatbot collectively have made a big difference especially in seeing that people know when to put their containers on the curb, particularly around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
“Before we transitioned, we had a tiny chatbot and for the first year after the holidays we answered that question [about pick up] 7,000 times,” Hansen says.
The next year they tweaked chatbot, enlarging it and putting a red banner above the holiday schedule.
“We answered that question on line 75,000 times that second holiday season, preventing missed pickups and saving a lot of time,” he says.
But Trina as she is known has limitations, so the site includes live agent messaging too.
“Blending these two features has been successful in that while Trina has a knowledge base, she’s still a robot and can’t be dynamic as a person can. So, if and when she runs out of answers, we bring in the live agent,” says Brianna Langley, Waste Connections Customer Experience specialist.
Gaining insight about customers to be able to improve their experience— one of Langley’s core functions—has involved educated experimentation.
“For example, we learned by using heatmaps (software to track where people go on a page and what they click on most) that customers rarely scroll past the first five or six inches on any given page. So, it’s important to place buttons to initiate action we want them to take above the fold at the top of the page,” she says.
The platform was designed with both customers and employees in mind.
“Giving customers the option to self-serve really streamlines the employees’ workload while also giving customers more than one avenue to get their problems solved or questions answered,” Langley says.
Reduced call volumes and wait times and streamlined communication have been main payoffs, but the ability to measure online interactions has been a bonus.
“Knowing what customers want and where they go helps guide future decisions around rolling out digital strategies to enhance customer experience. We can really see what’s working and what’s not,” she says.
Waste Connections will be adding recycling videos and has made a number of design updates, mainly to the look of the website.
“That would be the images, the layout and especially improving the navigation to make it as user-friendly as possible. It’s important to consider design updates every few years to keep it fresh and stay current, both on desktop and mobile devices,” Reynolds says.
Hansen confers. “Like trucks, websites get old. You have to keep them in tune and running strong. There is no finish line. You have to constantly look at what customers want next to make it better for them and better for your employees.”