schuh Steps Up its Customer Experience with AWS



Working with AWS is exciting, passionate, and rewarding.”

Blair Milligan
Head of Systems Development, schuh

Customer experience (CX) is a big deal for schuh, says Blair Milligan, head of systems development at the UK and Ireland footwear retailer. And CX is an opportunity for schuh’s development team to deliver better outcomes through innovation.

Experiences matter to customers and to companies, Milligan explains: “It’s not about the numbers—it’s about finding an emotional solution. It’s about the brand. It’s about the quality of your customer interactions and that’s really hard to get right.”

Customer complaints are hard for companies to handle. Resolution can be a lengthy, painful process that can permanently affect a customer’s relationship with a brand. There’s a good reason why customer experience is on top of the C-suite’s agenda.

When schuh struck out to improve the speed and quality of its responses to customer contacts, it turned to AWS.

Machine Learning Helps Detect Customer Sentiment

As a retailer, schuh offers a broad product range but chooses to differentiate itself from competitors by delivering a superior customer experience. This extends to in-store experiences where staff with customised iPods use an in-house application, iScan. The devices provide real-time stock information across the whole business and let staff communicate with one another and help serve customers. The iPods also use a mobile point-of-sale app that can take payments and orders without the customer having to queue at a till.

At schuh’s support centre, the company uses Amazon Comprehend’s natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to analyse customer emails and recognise the sentiment of the messages.The technology is so effective that it can automatically assess, for example, that 41 percent of communications contain positive or negative sentiment—long before the support team logs in.

Support tickets are sorted by issue and colour-coded, then passed through to the customer care agent who can best deal with them based on experience or area of expertise. The solution “just works”, says Milligan. Prior to using Comprehend, prioritising queries was manual and time consuming.“Using Comprehend to put a customer problem in front of the right person really gives us the best chance of retaining that customer going forward,” says Milligan.

In addition to analysing incoming messages, Comprehend scans outgoing messages to assess the responses of schuh’s agents for quality assurance. If Comprehend detects negative sentiment in emails sent to customers, it alerts managers so messages can be quality assured.Thanks to the Comprehend solution, the schuh support team has more confidence in dealing with enquiries. The intelligent distribution of customer enquiries allows new members of the team to ease into the job during the onboarding process. It’s also used for training to show new employees how to deal with difficult situations.

schuh is investigating whether Amazon Transcribe’s speech-to-text capabilities will allow Comprehend to run its sentiment analysis in real time. This means that a customer experience manager could monitor live voice calls, recognise if they are going badly, and intervene to deliver a better outcome for the customer. It would also provide a valuable learning experience for the associate, raising the bar on service.

The retailer has also been talking to the AWS solution architect team about plans to integrate Amazon Forecast to predict its finance and sales targets, and about how to spin off parts of its on-premises infrastructure to a serverless model. schuh is already using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for parts of its operations and is planning to go serverless for its microservices, as well as for its API gateway to allow third parties to access product and sales information.

Creating an Innovation Hub to Attract and Retain Staff

The range and depth of the AWS services toolkit is a big draw for schuh. According to Milligan, remote and in-person sessions with AWS solution experts give the schuh developers a “buzz” and encourage them to explore the art of the possible. The idea for the Comprehend solution came from the development team exploring how it could apply AWS’s ML capabilities to solving business problems—something Milligan describes as “the technology driving the solution”.

This spirit of curiosity and experimentation is another benefit of AWS for Milligan. schuh operates in a geographical location in Scotland that is rich in both traditional banking and emerging fintech companies, so the demand and competition for new tech talent is huge.

By offering prospects the chance to explore the whole AWS toolkit, schuh becomes a destination for local tech talent and builds a reputation as a hub for innovation, helping to both attract and retain staff. “These things can mean more to people than salary,” says Milligan. “If you can give someone a job where they’re excited, that’s a huge currency. We talk about Comprehend and Forecast and other AWS services when we are interviewing.”

For a company so focused on positive customer experiences, the technology in the AWS toolkit has let schuh’s development team create innovative services that allow it to differentiate from the competition. And the chance to explore and play with the huge range of AWS tools and technologies also delivers a great experience for the development team. “Working with AWS is exciting, passionate, and rewarding,” says Blair.

About schuh

Founded in 1981, schuh is headquartered in Scotland and operates over 120 stores in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. The company’s core product selection consists of a broad range of branded casual and sport footwear complemented by schuh’s own branded products.

Benefits of AWS

  • Greater staff productivity
  • Faster customer service
  • Better customer satisfaction
  • Innovative R&D opportunities
  • Availability and performance

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon Comprehend

Amazon Comprehend is a natural language processing (NLP) service that uses machine learning to find insights and relationships in text. No machine learning experience required.

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Amazon Transcribe

Amazon Transcribe makes it easy for developers to add speech to capabilities to their applications. Audio data is virtually impossible for computers to search and analyze.

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Amazon Forecast

Amazon Forecast is a fully managed service that uses machine learning to deliver highly accurate forecasts.

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Companies of all sizes across all industries are transforming their businesses every day using AWS. Discover how Amazon Comprehend uses Machine Learning to find insights and relationships in text and start your own AWS Cloud journey today.