These are projects posted by the students of Dr. Gove Allen at Brigham Young University. These students have taken one semester-long course on VBA and generally have had no prior programming experience

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jesse Plumb - Universal Evaluation Form Generator for Lands' End


Executive Summary
Lands’ End is a clothing manufacturer and direct-to-consumer retailer headquartered in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.  Now owned by Sears Holdings, the company is highly profitable with over $1 billion in annual sales and $100 million in net income.  A defining aspect of Lands’ End’s value proposition is its excellent customer service.  In order to maintain its high level of customer service, Lands’ End rigorously trains and evaluates its customer service specialists.  The project I undertook for the Customer Care Services (CCS) department will have a significant impact on how Lands’ End maintains its customer service specialist evaluation forms, potentially saving managers hundreds of man-hours per year. 
The Lands’ End Customer Care Services department has a collection of 8 performance evaluation forms implemented in Excel.  Each form is used to evaluate performance of customer service specialists in its respective division.  Each form has the same heading format, although some forms include division-specific performance metrics just below the heading. 
All forms evaluate specialists in the same 4 categories: Customer Experience, Productivity, Time Management, and C.A.R.E. (Commitment, Attitude, Relationship, Effort), although forms can weight categories differently.  Each category has a number of questions corresponding to it (between 2 and 5).  These questions can differ between forms in wording and/or weight, although many questions have the same wording and/or weight in multiple forms.
For each question, the evaluator decides whether the specialist is “Highly Effective” (HE), “Effective Plus” (E+), “Effective” (E), “Effective Minus” (E-), or “Opportunity” (O).  A typical question presents 3 descriptions: 1 for HE/E+, 1 for E, and 1 for E-/O.  Each description has a colored field next to it that allows the evaluator to put an “x” in it.  A different score is awarded depending on which description has an “x” next to it, and then the scores for the category are averaged according to their weight.  The final score for the category is compared to a scale and then assigned a HE, E+, E, E-, or O rating.  The scale is the same for most forms and categories but is different in a couple instances. 
Some questions have the evaluator input a numerical score (the output of a different evaluation), then use a scale to convert the number to HE, E+, E, E-, or O.  This letter score is then assigned a numerical value based on another scale, then the resulting numerical value is weighted against the other scores in the category and compared to the category scale to arrive at the final category score.  The intermittent scales used to convert the numerical score to the letter score and then to a different numerical score can differ from question to question.
Once a category score is determined for each category, the category letter scores are converted to numerical scores using yet another scale (which is mercifully the same across all forms… for now), then the numerical scores are weighted together to come up with the overall evaluation score.  A summary of all of these scores is shown in the heading area of the form. 
Currently, the maintenance of these forms requires a significant amount of time due to their complexity and the need to change the same question/weight/scale multiple times across 8 different forms.  My task is to simplify the maintenance of these forms by creating a universal form management tool.
In order to create a single application to manage all of the forms, I first broke down the forms into their simplest parts and cataloged the attributes of these parts using data tables.  I then created a class for each data table to represent the data as a logical object in the program layer.  The classes and their associated methods add an abstraction layer that makes the data easy to work with from within the presentation layer of the application.  For that presentation layer, I built user forms that give users complete control over the questions, weights and scales of each form while keeping the user experience as intuitive and friendly as possible.  The following email from my contact at Lands’ End sums up the sponsors’ response to the finished product:
I just met with Nancy Gavin, Mgr RB CCS and Julie Adelman, Mgr Employee Services about your Universal Form.

Nancy and Julie are 2 of 5 people on the Success Criteria Committee.  The Success Criteria Committee tells us what to update and when.

They came up with the idea of a Universal Form and let me tell you, they were very impressed with your work!  You blew their socks off!  Way to go!

Thanks to the success of the project, I have been asked to do the same thing for the Lands’ End Outfitters evaluation forms – before the end of the year.  Wish me luck!

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