Founded in 1905 in Red Wing, Minnesota, Red Wing Shoes designs and manufactures heavy-duty, purpose-built footwear for people who work and play in rugged conditions. With three factories in the United States and sales offices around the world,
Red Wing Shoes has implemented a Microsoft Unified Communications platform for messaging, communications, and collaboration to help employees increase productivity and work better together. The company recently upgraded to Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to provide
enterprise voice and innovative call center solutions based on Lync technologies for its customer service agents, which resulted in immediate improvements in call response times. Red Wing Shoes also plans to retire its legacy Avaya private-branch exchange
system and deploy Lync enterprise voice across the company to help reduce travel, long distance, and maintenance costs.
At the turn of the twentieth century, a Minnesota shoe merchant named Charles Beckman designed a pair of boots for workers employed in industries such as logging, mining, and farming. In 1905, with 14 other investors, Beckman opened Red Wing Shoes in
Red Wing, Minnesota. Since then, Red Wing Shoes has continued to design and manufacture innovative, quality footwear for harsh conditions. The company markets shoes under the Red Wing, Irish Setter, Vasque, and Worx brands. Today, people in more than 100 countries
wear Red Wing Shoes to protect their feet in the toughest working conditions.
Implementing Unified Communications to Work Better Together
About three years ago, Red Wing Shoes took a look at how its employees were working together across the company and decided to implement a Microsoft Unified Communications platform to help promote better communication and collaboration. The company was already
using Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for messaging, so it deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to provide capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and web conferencing, along with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to provide
capabilities such as document sharing and workflow processes. “We were amazed at how quickly people adopted the technology,” says Mike Cleary, Director of IT Architecture and Operations at Red Wing Shoes. “They started using it right away, with very little
training. Almost instantly, we saw a reduction in travel costs because people started using Office Communications Server to have meetings.” Recently, the company upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which it also
uses to host its corporate intranet, so that employees could take advantage of the latest messaging and collaboration capabilities.
Creating the “Wow” Effect
In the area of customer service, Red Wing Shoes is no stranger to innovation. In 1940, the company launched the first mobile shoe store. Trucks that contained miniature show rooms drove up to worksites and sold shoes to workers on the spot. Not only did the
shoe trucks improve sales, but the company found that they were a valuable way to get customer feedback. It still has about 200 mobile shoe stores in operation today.
In the spirit of ongoing improvements to customer service, in 2011, Red Wing Shoes introduced an internal “Customer Wow” initiative. The company takes about 1,000 calls a day from distributors, retail stores, and consumers who call to place orders or report
an issue. “We realized we needed a new customer relationship management [CRM] system,” says Cleary. “Agents were literally collecting call information using pencils and paper, and we had no way of tracking information or keeping customer history that would
help us know how we were performing.”
||When the agents started using Lync with the Plantronics headsets, within the first week, the average times to pick up calls were the best we had ever seen, and they continue to improve.
|| Donna Thompson
Customer Service Manager, Red Wing Shoes
Red Wing Shoes wanted to integrate its new CRM solution with its Avaya private-branch exchange (PBX) system and automated call distribution (ACD) service, but it found that the integration would be too expensive. The company had planned to eventually implement
a voice over IP (VoIP) solution across the company and to retire its PBX. The need for an integrated call center solution accelerated the timeline for this implementation.
To provide enterprise voice for its customer service agents, Red Wing Shoes upgraded from Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to Microsoft Lync Server 2010, the latest generation of communications and collaboration technologies from Microsoft. The company
worked with Avtex, a Microsoft Certified Partner, to deploy Lync Server 2010, which it deployed in a virtualized environment using Microsoft Windows Hyper-V virtualization technology and configured for high availability to ensure business continuity. After
deploying Lync Server 2010, Red Wing Shoes worked with AltiGen to deploy its MaxACD for Lync call center solution, a software-based auto attendant and automatic call distribution (ACD) system that integrates fully with Microsoft Lync 2010 on the desktop.
Making the Move to Enterprise Voice
At the company’s headquarters, Red Wing Shoes used a pair of NET VX1800 session-initiation protocol (SIP) gateways to connect Lync Server 2010 to the public-switched telephone network (PSTN) and for load-balancing calls. Initially it made Lync Enterprise Voice
capabilities available for 200 employees including customer service and IT help desk employees. It plans to roll out Enterprise Voice capabilities for the rest of its 2,100 employees and retire its Avaya PBX by mid-2013. To provide Enterprise Voice capabilities
at its branch offices, the company plans to use survivable branch appliances (SBAs) based on cost-effective media gateways hosting the Microsoft Survivable Branch Appliance software package. SBAs provide network access and a PSTN connection, which maintains
communication capabilities in the event of a wide-area network (WAN) failure.
Red Wing Shoes has deployed Polycom CX600 IP phones for some employees to use at their desks and Polycom CX3000 IP conference phones in conference rooms, warehouses, and general areas. Customer service and IT help desk employees use Plantronics Savi 440
wireless headsets to access enterprise voice through the Lync client on their desktops. “We weren’t sure how quickly people would adapt to the headsets, but in the first 24 hours, people were voluntarily unplugging their desk phones,” says Cleary.
Enhancing Unified Communications Capabilities
All Red Wing Shoes employees have the Lync unified client interface for presence information, instant messaging, audio and videoconferencing, and collaboration and online meetings. People can join a conference with a single click, and a participation announcement
shows everyone who has joined the call. They can also share an application or use the whiteboarding feature for more interactive brainstorming sessions. They use desktop sharing for collaboration and knowledge sharing. Additionally, employees can place peer-to-peer
calls through the Lync client from any location with Internet access. The company also enabled open federation to help employees communicate with vendors and customers.
Social networking features such as contact cards are popular with Red Wing Shoes employees. “The company is growing fast,” says Cleary. “Features like the contact cards with pictures give people better insight to who their coworkers are. We have a weekly
newsletter to promote these types of features and encourage people to use them.” Employees are also starting to use Skill Search, which is available through both Lync Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010, to find subject matter experts in different departments.
Additionally, they are taking advantage of the interoperation between Lync Server and SharePoint to collaborate on documents in real time.
With Lync, the IT team is using the Windows PowerShell command-line interface to manage Lync Server and automate administration tasks. The team can also use the web-based control panel to manage Lync Server from anywhere on the corporate network. By using
desktop sharing, the IT team can troubleshoot and walk employees through any issues they have with their applications or computers. For monitoring and reporting in its Lync Server environment, Red Wing Shoes deployed a Monitoring Server and the Lync Management
Pack for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager.
Providing a Comprehensive Call Center Solution
With its Avaya PBX, Red Wing Shoes had some basic ACD capabilities, such as workgroups and queuing, but the features were limited and the solution did not include valuable reporting tools. Red Wing worked with AltiGen, a Microsoft Certified Partner, to provision
a call center solution that would integrate both with Lync Server 2010 and with its CRM solution for capturing call information, in addition to providing call-routing functionality. MaxACD for Lync is a 100 percent software-based solution that integrates with
the Lync 2010 client on the desktop. Call center managers and agents can use it to record calls, track information such as response times and call length, and view comprehensive reports to help make better decisions about how to improve service. The CRM application
will grab call information from MaxACD, and agents can add notes to keep a history of orders and resolved issues.
||Collaboration has increased dramatically with Lync Server, especially because partners and vendors can use the Lync web client to join meetings and share desktops.
|| Mike Cleary
Director of IT Architecture and Operations, Red Wing Shoes
Red Wing Shoes and AltiGen studied call flows and created more extensive workgroups for call distribution. Using MaxACD workgroups, Red Wing Shoes can do things such as capture direct-inward-dialing information in order to route the call to a specific agent.
“Many of our agents have been working with particular customers for years, so the customers dial them directly,” explains Cleary. “With MaxACD for Lync, we can ensure that when a specific customer calls, the customer is routed directly to the agent it works
with most frequently.” When an agent is unavailable, the call is directed to an agent in the workgroup with a similar skill set.
AltiGen also configured workgroup voice mail through Exchange Unified Messaging. When a call comes through and agents are unavailable, customers can leave a voice mail message that gets routed to agents who monitor the call center afterhours. Agents can
review messages on the Voice Mail tab in the Lync client, or through the inbox in the Microsoft Outlook Web App browser client. That way, the first available agent can respond to the customer immediately, either by returning a call, placing an order, or researching
how to resolve an issue.
For reporting, Red Wing Shoes is using a feature of MaxACD called MaxReports, a web-based reporting application that can generate up to 40 predefined reports, designed to provide both detail and summary views of agent and workgroup performance. The company
also worked with AltiGen to create custom reports.
By implementing Lync enterprise voice along with MaxACD for Lync, Red Wing Shoes can better support its “Customer Wow” initiative because call center agents have better tools to help them improve their overall performance. In addition, with the social
networking features available through the Microsoft Unified Communications platform, employees at Red Wing Shoes can increase productivity and improve collaboration. The company also expects to see reduced costs in travel, long distance, and PBX maintenance
as it moves forward with its Lync Enterprise Voice initiative.
Improved Customer Service
Some of the benefits that Red Wing Shoes expected to see from implementing Lync enterprise voice with MaxACD for Lync in its call centers were expected: for instance, better call distribution and better reporting. Some of the benefits were surprises. “When
the agents started using Lync with the Plantronics headsets, within the first week, the average times to pick up calls were the best we had ever seen, and they continue to improve,” says Donna Thompson, Customer Service Manager at Red Wing Shoes. “With the
wireless headsets, they can answer calls even if they are away from their desks.”
| A small sample of the PBX phones that Red Wing Shoes is replacing with
Plantronics Savi 440 wireless headsets as part of the Lync Server 2010
The new workgroup configurations in MaxACD provide more flexibility in terms of how agents handle calls, which also helps to improve customer service. Agents can maintain their relationships with customers with whom they have worked for years, but if they are
unavailable to answer a call, they can be sure another skilled agent will handle the call. The workgroup voice mail through Exchange Unified Messaging also ensures that customers receive immediate attention. “By having the workgroup voice mail routed to both
the Lync client and Outlook Web App, agents can view messages from anywhere, so they can respond quickly,” says Cleary.
The reporting helps Red Wing Shoes understand what further improvements it needs to make in its call center to ensure that customers have the best possible experience. “The reports we have are detailed and flexible, so we can see the information from different
viewpoints,” says Cleary. “We can see information about the supervisors, the agents, the call volumes, and the response times. All of that information helps us build a better call center.”
Additionally, call center employees are using information in the reports to track their own performance. “Agents come to me to tell me how many calls they have taken during a week or how much better they are doing over a previous day or week,” says Thompson.
Increased Productivity and Improved Collaboration
||For us to enable voice over IP capabilities through our Avaya PBX and connect it to our call center applications would have cost us more than Lync Server 2010 and MaxACD for Lync combined.
|| Mike Cleary
Director of IT Architecture and Operations, Red Wing Shoes
Across the organization, Red Wing Shoes has found that collaboration and productivity have improved. “Collaboration has increased dramatically with Lync Server, especially because partners and vendors can use the Lync web client to join meetings and share desktops,”
says Cleary. Because it enabled open federation, the company can also use Lync to chat with partners and vendors who use Lync Server 2010, Microsoft Lync Online, Office Communications Server, and public instant messaging clients such as Windows Live Messenger.
The interoperation between Lync Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 has also helped to increase collaboration and improve productivity. Using contact cards and Skill Search, call center agents can locate subject matter experts quickly and conference them
in while they are talking to customers. Skill Search has proved to be useful internally as well. “We have had people include more general skill information, such as proficiency with Microsoft Excel or Microsoft PowerPoint, to help provide training in those
areas,” says Cleary.
Employees also appreciate that they can view presence information through SharePoint Server 2010 and can start a chat to discuss a document. With one click, they can escalate the chat to a desktop sharing session or an online meeting. “People find it much
easier to follow up on discussions or action items because documents and articles have been posted and they can see when colleagues are available to discuss things,” says Cleary.
With its Lync Server 2010 deployment, Red Wing Shoes expects it will see an ongoing reduction in travel costs that started when it deployed Office Communications Server 2007 R2. “We encourage people to use the peer-to-peer calling in Lync as much as possible
when they are traveling to help keep costs down,” says Cleary. As the company implements Lync enterprise voice, it also expects to see a reduction in long-distance costs and costs for third-party audio conferencing services.
Because Red Wing Shoes implemented Lync enterprise voice and MaxACD for Lync as its call center solution, the company avoided a large expense to connect its Avaya PBX to provide voice capabilities through its call center and CRM solutions. “For us to enable
voice over IP capabilities through our Avaya PBX and connect it to our call center applications would have cost us more than Lync Server 2010 and MaxACD for Lync combined,” says Cleary. Eventually the company plans to retire its Avaya PBX, which will also
reduce maintenance and licensing costs.
Going forward, Red Wing Shoes plans to take advantage of more of the anytime, anywhere capabilities of Lync Server 2010 by deploying Microsoft Lync Server Mobility Service and Lync mobile clients, which are available for Windows Phone, iOS for iPhone and
iPad, Nokia Symbian, and Android smartphones. With enterprise voice, chat, presence, messaging and social networking capabilities available on so many different devices, the company believes that it can continue to improve customer service by continuing to
find new ways to leverage its Microsoft Unified Communications solution.
Microsoft Lync Server 2010
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 ushers in a new connected user experience that transforms every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative, and engaging; and that is accessible from anywhere. For IT, the benefits are equally powerful, with a highly
secure and reliable communications system that works with existing tools and systems for easier management, lower cost of ownership, smoother deployment and migration, and greater choice and flexibility.
For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2010, go to:
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