Andon Cord is a tool used by Amazon seller support associates to request for help from supervisors in case of a problem beyond their capability.
Andon cord tool is a tool built by one of the seller associates who was struggling to get help from his supervisor using the traditional placard way which was adopted by the plant. Soon this tool became the heart of the support associates day in and day out job. Slowly associates kept adding more and more features they wanted to make their job easy. This tool soon became very cluttered and complicated to use.
The project request came as a small enhancement to already existing tool by adding additional form fields to capture specific business metrics for the seller support organization. I was assigned to work on this project.
During my initial interaction with the Andon Cord, there were way too many issues and complications which I identified with the tool.
In addition to doing what the business team requested, I started doing deep dive to understand the in and out of this tool and collect my findings.
Andon Cord Redesign is the outcome of my research and deep dive which turned into a full-blown project saving millions of dollars to Amazon.
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Project: A redesign of an existing web interface used by seller support associates and supervisors to request for help resolving seller queries.
Platform: Web and Smart TV
Andon Cord is an online way to request help from associate supervisors and managers. As I did deep dive I figured out that old design was way too cluttered and time consuming for the associates and supervisors. The drop down had 50+ options to select from depending on the support site location.
New Andon Cord type are added frequently based on new feature addition into seller central
Andon cord customizations - varies from site to site
Depending on the support site location the design changes and had additional fields or inputs are added by associates.
Multiple external tools dependency
In order to resolve an issue associates has to rely on 5 different tools (1 Paragon and 1 Andon Cord and SOP's etc) and they had multiple windows open as every associate works on multiple cases at once. This increased the time and reduce efficiency as it was hard to stack Andon cord and paragon issue management together.
Associates use greasemonkey script to stack Andon Cord and AC Dasboard view side by side to get following information:
Determine how long the advisor would take to act on the Andon Cord
Advisors current AC queue
Once the Andon Cord is created there is no way associates would know which supervisor is assigned to the issue and how much time it would take before he can address the issue. This was another issue which lead to multiple supervisors coming over for help at once and wasted time and effort.
Associated would go to another site called AC Queue if they wanted to see the status of the issue before it has been assigned. This queue had all issues requested by different associates and sometimes the list was huge without proper search.
Deep Dive on the Andon Cord Tool
Integrated Andon Cord within the case in Paragon Tool which reduced the number of duplicate steps needed to request an Andon Cord like
Selecting Org Unit
Entering Case Id
All that was needed is the AC severity type which I made a toggle and the reason for Andon Cord.
This way associates didnt had to spend too much time selecting from a list of dropdown item or referiing back and forth to enter case information.
Also by integrating Andon Cord within Paragon I was able to solve for the stacking of Andon Cord problem and reduced multiple tools usage.
Integrated Andon Cord within Pargon
Reduced and optimized the Andon Cord creation process from 6 steps to 2 steps.
This reduced the time of Andon cord creation from 40 seconds to 2 seconds.
Two step process to Request Andon Cord
Introduced Andon Cord Live Status
To avoid disambiguity introduced live status update of Andon Cord Request within the tool.
This would capture the status of Andond cord, which supervisor claimed it and whats the estimated wait time before associate can get help.
This helped the associates act smartly and promptly on other cases and make wise judgements.
With my design process and approach I was able to achieve my goal to reduce the Andon Cord creation time from 40 seconds to 2 seconds and reduced the number of external tools to one.
Average Andon Cord pulled each week = 17000
40 seconds to pull one Andon Cord equates to 1 FTE each week performing copy paste efforts
To design an optimized solution I decided on the following mission statement
"Design an optimized, scalable solution which increases associates efficiency."
We can achieve the mission through the following two design goals:
By reducing the Andon cord creation time under five seconds
By reducing the number the tools used by associated to one
Reviewed the Andon Cord Reports from beginning of 2014 to identify patterns
I reviewed the excel generated weekly Andon Cord reports till date to identify patterns which can help optimize the process like:
Average time to request AC
Average time to resolve AC
Categories for which most AC are pulled etc
Pre-populate key case related information from case management tool and queue information
Move non important or one time settings to preferences
Leverage existing employee information system for pre-populating POD number, IM information, Phone number etc
I prototyped few potential options for the interface using Axure and did a quick usability testing with few associates on their support site location. Associates were very happy with the changes and found it more efficient to raise andon cord with the new system.
I measured the success based on the time creation for Andon Cord which drastically decreased due to
Less number of steps required to create Andond Cord
Less numbers of tools to interact with
Clear communication mechanism helped bring in the efficiency
Deep Dive and User Research
To understand the problem, started by questioning what I wanted to know.
- What is Andon Cord?
- Why does call center use Andon Cord?
- How does Andon Cord process work?
- How many stages are involved in requesting an Andon Cord?
- What are the challenges with the method?
- Who are the users and what is their role in the process?
- How does it help the call center employees?
- How long each Andon cord process takes?
Began the process by literature review, interacting with the Andon Cord tool and conducting ethnographic research at the call center for several days to observe in real time
- how associates resolve a case
- how many times they request Andon Cord
- how long each Andon Cord takes from start to finish
I did 1:1 interview with multiple seller associates and supervisors to understand current process, their pain points, and needs.
I was responsible for end to end design of the Andon Cord associates and supervisor flows.
Led and conducted user research processes like ethnographic research, user interviews, and usability testing during various stages of the project
Designed several user flows, paper sketches, and wireframes
Worked with PM and other stakeholders for design review and approvals
My learning was that in the merchant call centers there are certain cases which are complicated and seller support associates are not able to resolve it without additional help. During such instances which occur 94% of the time as per my findings, associates rely on supervisors for further assistance.
Andon cord is a process used by seller support associates to request for additional help from their superiors for cases they are not able to solve themselves.
The Andon Cord is a 6 step process where associates need to give the following information to request an Andon Cord.
Select case type and severity
Select which merchant org the issue belongs to (FBA, TRMS, etc.)
Enter case ID
Choose skill type (inventory management, returns, sales, etc.)
Select Andon Cord Type, which means the origin of the case? (email, phone or chat)
Depending on all the above information, the supervisor with specialized knowledge in respective Andon Cord accepts the request. The case is then dissected by the supervisor to find a resolution. Supervisor's start working on the requested Andon cord depending on their current queue order.
Average time to just pull an Andon cord is approx 35-40 seconds. The resolution could be longer depending on the case type and supervisors current queue.
In addition to the Andon Cord creation time, multiple tools were referred back and forth to copy paste the information mentioned earlier needed into the Andon Cord tool.
Average Andon Cord pulled each week = 17000, 40 seconds to request one Andon Cord equates to 1 FTE each week performing copy-paste efforts.
Looking into the overall findings, I realized the problem is bigger than the initial ask of adding few additional form fields into the Andon Cord tool for capturing some business metrics.
I took this project as a personal challenge to optimize the Andon Cord request process and reduce the time taken, accommodating the initial ask.