Shifting Omnichannel Support from Concept to Reality

The concept of omnichannel customer service has been watered down. It’s more than simply communicating with customers on every channel. True omnichannel support ensures seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next. Companies providing true omnichannel support are collecting and harnessing the information gained in every interaction across channels to drive stronger, more meaningful customer relationships, increase revenue streams, and improve operational performance.

Implementing an omnichannel support strategy is a significant investment for any company. From a people perspective, it requires organizational and cultural shifts in how your company and its employees view the goals of customer service.

Customer service must move from a ticket-centric to a customer-centric model. This enables your customer service team to focus on goals, such as reducing customer effort, driving more first call resolutions, and building long-lasting customer relationships, rather than resolving tickets as fast as possible.

An omnichannel support strategy will create more effortless experiences on both sides that yield better outcomes for both customers and agents. It will ensure customers are provided meaningful support that places them in the driver’s seat, and agents will be given the proper context to progress every interaction forward.

From a technology perspective, an omnichannel strategy requires that you have a support solution that can integrate your communication channels and capture the free flow of conversations across channels, displaying the data in a single screen. A best-in-class solution should create a unified home for all of your customer data, regardless of the source, not just the data generated from customer conversations.

An omnichannel strategy backed by a true omnichannel solution will quickly facilitate the customer service that drives loyalty and keeps your customer base growing. To learn more about why customers expect an omnichannel approach, and how your company can benefit, download our guide.

Why the Kustomer experience matters to Abercrombie & Fitch Co

For more than 125 years, our brands have shared a commitment to offering products of enduring quality and exceptional comfort, allowing our customers worldwide to express their own individuality and style. Since our founding in 1892, we have always been known for creating unique store experiences – but the rise of omnichannel retail requires meeting our customers wherever, whenever, and however they choose to engage with our brands. Increasingly, even when the customer journey finishes in a physical store, their journey often starts online.

The digital age has forever changed the retail industry and ultimately, customers’ expectations of it. Simply put, customer service has never been more important, which is why we put our customers at the center of everything we do across all our brands – Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie kids, Hollister Co. and Gilly Hicks by Hollister. As technology has evolved, and the shopping experience has changed to adapt to and anticipate customers’ changing preferences, we saw an opportunity to update our customer service capabilities to meet our customers’ growing needs. We were in search of a new customer service system that would deliver enhanced value for both our agents and our customers.

3 reasons Abercrombie & Fitch Co. chose Kustomer

Partnering with Kustomer helps ensure our current needs are met and gives us confidence that we are positioned to meet our customer service goals now and in the future, as their needs continue to evolve. Here are three key ways Kustomer delivers on our requirements for a new solution:

Personalized interactions

We wanted to align customer service tactics with our organizational mission of putting the customer at the center of everything we do, as well as implement more personalized experiences that would resonate with our customers.

Kustomer allows us to view each customer holistically across channels and time, giving our agents not only the supporting information they need, but also organizing order history and pertinent customer data in a single location. Additionally, we will soon be able to see the entire customer journey, from what they’ve bought, to the offers they’ve received and other products they’ve viewed. This will allow us to anticipate and adapt to a wide range of customer needs in a highly individualized manner.

Improved agent and reporting service

The comprehensive view Kustomer provides also helps simplify and streamline the agent experience. Agents can review necessary information and take appropriate action to resolve issues from a single screen. Most importantly, the entire agent experience is highly intuitive; the quick training process allows our agents to easily get up to speed, and they are able to comfortably utilize Kustomer to its full potential.

As a result, our agents enjoy using the system, and accessing dashboards and metrics to provide management insight into our performance is easier than ever.

A flexible, adaptable platform that keeps pace with customer needs

We needed a solution to streamline and automate time-consuming workflows and business processes to help our agents do what they do best — deliver great customer service experiences.

Kustomer helps to effortlessly manage our customer needs in real time. Operational and routing changes are now more user-friendly and can be easily made in seconds using Kustomer’s queues and routing features. More importantly, Kustomer’s experience in the digital customer service landscape assures us we can continue to improve the customer experience, and that Kustomer will evolve with our business.

Becoming a customer service fixture amongst fads

The digital age has forever changed customer expectations. By unifying the customer experience, helping us streamline how we operate, and providing a platform for future innovation, our partnership with Kustomer has helped us implement and personalize our company’s commitment to quality into each and every customer interaction.

 

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service Without Losing the Human Touch

Customers have high expectations when it comes to the level of service they demand from brands. While the American Express Customer Service Barometer found that Americans are willing to spend up to 17% more on businesses with excellent customer service, the top reason most customers switch products or services is because they feel unappreciated by the brand. In fact, 33% of Americans are inclined to switch to a different company after a bad experience.

Unfortunately for companies, the cost of human support is high. Introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into operations is one way companies can control costs while improving their service abilities and maintaining the human touch that makes customers feel appreciated and valued.

What Is AI Customer Service?

While AI and machine learning may at first appear to threaten the customer service industry, they actually have the power to make customer service agents’ jobs less time-consuming and more fulfilling.

Integrated AI can instantaneously retrieve the data an agent needs, while the agent or support team deals directly with the human side of customer service. This eliminates the need for human agents to run multiple systems simultaneously to address customer inquiries. Rather than employ agents to work 24/7 in a call center, AI can be used to field and classify calls and messages so human agents are then able to work more reasonable shifts with increased efficiency and reduced physical and mental stress.

Through intuitive machine learning that constantly works to improve itself, AI allows companies to be present to the very best of their abilities along every step of the customer journey.

How Are AI and Machine Learning Being Used in Customer Service?

There are plenty of reasons why AI and automation should be loved, especially when it comes to customer service capabilities. Here are a few ways the technology is already being used:

Chatbots

Everyone has had the experience of needing a simple question answered by a brand, only to dread having to jump through customer service hoops just to get someone on the phone who may or may not have the answer. Conversational chatbots can make these conversations more seamless. Not only do conversational platforms help cut costs, they also can help your customer service scale and enable your agents to have more meaningful and productive conversations. By using chatbots to aid your live chat operations, your business will be able to engage customers in real time without the need for an around-the-clock staff.

Amazon, for instance, uses chatbots that leverage the data the company collects on all of its customers and their past orders. By allowing chatbots to access information about the customer’s past preferences, you can have the chatbot interact with customers up to the point where an agent is needed. Once the conversation is transferred to an agent, they can pick up where the chatbot left off.

Eventually, you can train your chatbot to not only acquire customer information, but also recommend the actions customers and agents should take next. If a customer simply needs a common question answered about a product they already purchased, the chatbot can direct them to a FAQ rather than contact an agent. This saves the human agent’s time and allows them to make better use of it dealing with more complex customer queries. All chatbot interactions can be automatically tagged in your AI system so they’re easy to track and reference, and can be used to improve future recommendations.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to handle the necessary, but routine tasks that keep support agents from interacting with customers in meaningful ways. By taking care of low-priority, mundane tasks, RPA helps customer service agents reclaim time in their days that would be better spent handling high-value customers or fully addressing complex questions without feeling rushed.

RPA works across multiple systems to track user actions within an application to complete and perform tasks ranging from automatically replying to emails to routing conversations. The improved efficiency from saved time on menial tasks also saves companies money. Aside from cutting costs, RPA has the power to increase revenue by speeding up the rate at which customers are able to make purchases through your company.

Agent Specialization

In the past, automated phone systems performed data dips, moving customers through a phone tree where they were asked to “press 1 for a current reservation,” “press 2 for reception,” “press 3 to make a new appointment” or something similar. The flaw in this system is that the information collected was never handed off to the agent, and the customer would have to repeat themself once they were connected with a human. AI eliminates this unnecessary process — if a customer is calling about a product that’s discontinued, for example, there might not be a need for a human agent to talk to the customer only to relay that same information. This saves time for both parties by supporting your human customer service agent and saving the customer from exasperation.

Using AI to capture information about the customers and pass along only the absolutely necessary parts of that information allows agents to have more meaningful conversations and become more knowledgeable about the areas of the business that matter.

If a customer still wants to talk to a human even after discovering their product is discontinued, the agent can immediately begin the conversation by offering recommendations for other products the customer may like. AI doesn’t eliminate the need for humans, as many people incorrectly assume when they hear talk of using AI in customer service. Instead, it augments the human team and allows them to be better at their jobs.

Monitor Support Operations

When you use AI to monitor support operations, you can predict when conversations may start to turn from positive to negative. This insight allows managers to intercede accordingly, and no longer requires them to randomly audit customer service calls to regulate quality.

AI can also help monitor which responses result in reopened tickets. If response A, for instance, tends to resolve inquiries quickly, but response B results in the ticket repeatedly being opened, the system can recommend you eliminate response B in order to set your agents up for success. Managers and executives can use the data generated by AI to oversee customer service operations in a more clear, efficient way, improving day to day operations for everyone involved.

What Are the Advantages of Automated Customer Service?

Customer satisfaction is directly linked to the service experience, and so it’s important to make sure the customer journey is as seamless as possible. Integrating AI into your customer service isn’t about replacing humans. Rather, it is about arming your customer service agents with the information they need to have purposeful conversations with your customers, and using data to personalize your customers’ experience with your brand.

Incorporating AI customer service not only improves your relationships with your customers, it builds trust and increases brand loyalty. This means more repeat customers, and more word of mouth referrals for your business.

When you build an incremental strategy to roll out AI in your organization and optimize according to data collected, success is sure to follow. Using AI to build a more complete view of a customer’s relationship with the brand helps companies meet high expectations for exemplary service, and come across as anything but artificial.

Kustomer Offers AI Business Solutions

The Kustomer platform stands out among customer service solutions for the comprehensiveness of available customer data and its business process automation that is driven by branchable, multi-step workflows and custom business logic. Kustomer IQ is a groundbreaking new service that integrates machine learning models and other advanced AI capabilities with the Kustomer platform’s powerful data, workflow and rules engines to enable companies to provide smarter, more personalized, automated customer experiences with increased efficiency.

Kustomer IQ integrates machine learning, natural language processing, predictive analytics, deep learning and multi-dimensional neural network mappings as a part of its AI suite. Natural language processing involves the interactions between computer and human language, and dictates the extent to which computers are able to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data. Natural language processing is used along with text analysis, computational linguistics, and biometrics in sentiment analysis, also known as opinion mining, which helps companies keep a finger on the pulse of their target audience’s interests and values.

Companies that employ the AI suite are then able to use their own data to train Kustomer IQ’s predictive machine learning models, automatically customizing them to address their own business needs. With each new interaction and piece of data, these models learn and self-tune increasing their predictive accuracy and improving the decision making of both the models themselves and the customer service organizations using Kustomer.

Through Kustomer IQ, companies will be able to automate manual, repetitive tasks and essential processes of their customer service experiences. In addition, Kustomer IQ changes the way companies manage knowledge during a service inquiry by surfacing relevant insights and predicting future outcomes to enhance customer self-service, facilitate real time intervention through recommendations, and streamline proactive outreach. By automating everything and providing the right information at the right time, Kustomer IQ frees up agents to focus on more complex and emotional customer interactions, resulting in reduced costs and faster resolution of calls.

Features of Kustomer IQ include automated conversation classification, queues and routing, customer sentiment analysis, automatic language detection, suggested agent shortcuts, customer self-service, conversation deflection and workforce management. If you’re interested in learning more about Kustomer IQ and how it can help elevate your business’s customer service capabilities, download our ebook, explore our website and get in touch today.

Kustomer offers real-time, actionable views of customers, continuous omnichannel conversations, and intelligence that automates repetitive, manual tasks to make personalized, efficient and effortless customer service a reality.

 

Customer Service for the Digital Age

Customer Service for the Digital Age Blog Header

From transactions to experiences, see how today’s customers are changing customer service

The digital age has forever changed the way companies do business. Direct-to-Consumer brands now make up 40 percent of the manufacturers, cutting out middlemen and offering personalized, nimble services and products to their customers. Amazon has redefined our notions of speed, convenience and selection, and companies like Airbnb, WeWork and Car2Go have revolutionized the economy allowing users to exchange the downsides of ownership for the upsides of sharing.

Meanwhile, companies like Birchbox and StitchFix have built up sizeable customer bases—and built-in loyalty—through subscription box services, and companies from Glossier to Parachute are joining the $50 billion pop-up industry, creating customer experiences that unite brick-and-mortar shopping experiences with the nimbleness of online shopping. The result? A business landscape where convenience, personalized service and customer experience are king.

New Generation, New Customer Expectations

But the digital revolution has affected more than just the way that businesses interact with customers. It has also changed what customers expect from businesses. More than three quarters of Americans now own smartphones and communicate regularly through social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. Modern-day consumers live in a world of interconnected platforms, instant communication, and personalized experiences—and they’ve come to expect the same from brands. And, as millennials become key customers and Generation Y gives way to Generation Z, expectations for quick, easy and customer-centric customer service will only grow.

Already, nine out of ten customers say they prefer to contact a company through messaging, 70 percent of customers say speed a top priority in their shopping experience, and 64 percent say that reducing the effort it takes to engage with a business is a key concern. Ultimately, however, the millennial customer is looking for more than just a product—however good it is, or how speedily it’s delivered. They’re looking for a customer experience, a lifelong interaction with a brand that is more about relationships than transactions.

Out With Old Customer Models, in With the New

In this new business landscape, businesses cannot rely on old models of customer interaction and support. To survive in the world of Amazon and eBay, where inventory is endless and speed is the rule, they must distinguish themselves by finding proactive and creative ways to build long-term relationships with customers over time. And to do this, they have to find new ways to identify and track the changing needs, experiences and expectations of their customers, providing fully-integrated, personalized, 360-degree support over the customer’s lifetime.

Moving from Transactions to Relationships

To provide this kind of support, companies must stop seeing customer interaction as a transaction and start seeing it as an ongoing conversation. Customers are not reducible to tickets, or to emails in a queue. They are complex human beings with a variety of motivations, and they bring a unique history to every customer service interaction.

Unfortunately, many companies are still relying on the old model of customer service, where they treat each new interaction as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. In this model, there’s no way to store, share and track the customer’s history and past conversations, so customers are forced to repeat their issue to each new service agent. And this is no way to build a relationship!

Imagine if every time you met a new person, you had to tell them your name and life history all over again. It would be exhausting and insulting—and yet, it’s what companies expect customers to do each time they call with a question or problem. No wonder customers rank having to repeat information as their number one customer service complaint!

Know Your (Whole) Customer

To attract, satisfy and keep new customers, companies need to know who their customers are, where they’ve been and what they need. Understanding the context of a customer’s call—from the number of times they’ve ordered a certain product to the issues and conversations they’ve had with agents in the past—allows companies to deliver a more efficient, more personalized, and more proactive service.

Creating an omnichannel system that collects all of the customer’s history in one place transforms the customer service interaction, allowing agents to quickly identify problems, suggest solutions, and preempt future issues. Seeing that a customer has a long history of buying a certain product, for example, can allow an agent to suggest other products they might enjoy, while knowing what prompts a customer to engage with customer service can help the company direct them toward the best platform for resolving their issues. This approach doesn’t just save time by eliminating the need for unnecessary repetition. It also allows companies to build customer histories that ensure proactive, personalized and conversational service—and long-term customer loyalty.

In the modern business climate, the companies that will succeed are the ones that meet people where they are: anytime, any place, and on any channel. But the most successful companies will go beyond offering efficiency and access to a whole new philosophy of customer engagement, building systems that allow them to understand and serve the whole customer. See how Kustomer is setting the standard for customer service in the digital age in this on demand webinar.

 

Kustomer + Jeannie Walters: How to Create an Omnichannel Journey

On the latest Conversations with Kustomer Podcast, we discuss creating an emotionally impactful omnichannel customer journey in an increasingly fragmented service and support landscape.

We sat down with Jeannie Walters to learn the ins and outs of building a memorable customer journey. Jeannie is the CEO and Chief Customer Experience Investigator of 360Connext. 360Connext specializes in qualitative, human evaluations of the real customer experience through a process called Customer Experience Investigation (CXI). Jeannie is also a Co-Host on the Crack the Customer Code Podcast.

Emotion colors every experience we have—whether we realize it or not. Is there a place you shop just because the people who work there are really nice? Or because you’ve had a positive experience in the past with the brand? Maybe there’s a coffee shop or a bookstore where you end up spending way more than you set out to just because of their warm, friendly experience.

How can customer service and support teams spread that positive feeling when customers are contacting them over the phone, over email, over chat, and across all of these channels and more? It definitely isn’t easy, but it is very possible.

Listen to hear our answers to these questions:

  • What is the process of mapping the customer journey?
  • How do you retain your customers’ trust?
  • How can customer experience professionals use empathy while designing the customer experience?
  • When should you rely on data to design your journey, and when should the process be more intuitive?
  • How can you deliver a personalized experience for each customer?
  • How can customer support organizations improve the experience more proactively?
  • How is this process of mapping the customer journey different for B2B versus B2C brands?

For the latest from Kustomer, follow us at @Kustomer on Twitter.

What Is It Like to Work on the Product Team at Kustomer?

If you’re interested in joining the Kustomer team, check out our Careers Page.

What is it actually like to work here at Kustomer? We’re going to help answer this question in a series of interviews with folks from every department to tell you about their unique experience, and how it applies to anyone looking to join our team.

Here’s Peter Johnson, VP of Product at Kustomer, to share what it’s like to build our powerful platform for customer experience:

Q: What is unique about working on and building the Kustomer platform?

PJ: We get the chance to totally challenge the status-quo in the support space and re-imagine what a modern CRM should look like. We get to ask questions like, “Could ticketing be done better?” or “How can we improve on legacy routing models?” These are old problems being reimagined in modern tech, and we’re at the forefront of them.

Q: What skills and programming languages do we recommend applicants know and use on our team?

PJ: Project Managers and Designers don’t need to be able to code at Kustomer! Though it doesn’t hurt to know HTML/CSS or Javascript. I think the most important skill is being able to learn quickly. Yes, having previous experience leading a dev team, designing in Sketch, working in Agile, etc. are all helpful traits. However, the best PMs/Designers are open-minded, data-driven, curious, and genuinely give a shit about the products they design.

Q: What features are the product team most proud of?

PJ: Many come to mind: Obviously the Customer timeline, Synchronous and Asynchronous Chat Product, and Chat Conversation Assistant are highlights. Though I’d say that I’m even more amazed at what we were able to ship considering how quickly we shipped it, with such a small team, and in such a short timeframe.

Q: How does Kustomer set up its Product team for growth and success?

PJ: We try to inject data into the decision-making process as much as possible—both qualitatively and quantitatively. Existing customer feature usage metrics, as well as feedback, are extremely important in our future feature decision-making. There’s a quote I love that says “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

Q: If you had to describe the Product team in one word, what would it be?

PJ: Kustomer. We commonly use the phrase “Don’t just talk about it, be about it.” At the end of the day, no phrase or one word sums up our team better. The results our team’s hard work and output can be seen in the Kustomer product.

Q: What kinds of things does the Product team do as a team outside of work?

PJ: A few recent events we’ve done: a ping-pong outing at Fat Cat, lunches in Bryant Park, drinks at the Pennsy—we definitely have a lot of fun as a team.

Q: Where have other members of the Product team worked in the past?

PJ: Social networks, CRM software companies, real estate management software, health startups, video chat software, and more.

Q: What are some of the benefits of working at Kustomer?

PJ: Beyond things like great health insurance and snacks, I’d have to say ownership. You have the chance to design and be a part of launching a totally original product that has your fingerprints on it, and is used by thousands of people every day. It’s a really satisfying feeling to own a product end-to-end.

If all of this sounds makes you think, “Wow, Kustomer sounds like the kind of place I want to work,” then we have some good news. We’re growing fast, and are hiring for our Product team in our NY office RIGHT NOW! If you’re interested in joining our team, apply directly here.

Live Chat: What Does a Modern Solution Look Like?

When organizations are considering a chat strategy, there’s a common debate over whether live chat or a messenger app is the right method to use for client communication. Both models have pros and cons, but technologies have evolved to make a hybrid approach not just possible, but effective. By blending both models together, you can test, collect feedback, and grow—and new tools make it easier than ever to take the best from each approach.

Read about Kustomer Chat’s new features here.

But before we define the benefits and drawbacks of each, it’s important to define the difference between “Synchronous” and “Asynchronous” messaging.

Synchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with “Live Chat”, where a customer can only maintain one chat “session” at a time with an Agent. These conversations only exist for as long as the customer is active or at least one agent is online.

Asynchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with email, social media, or SMS messaging. Within these channels, neither the customer nor the agent communicate in real time. This means customers can start a chat and come back to it an hour later without worrying about ending “sessions”.

What’s wrong with Live Chat?

Chat used to be confined to a website, where customers would wait for an agent to become available. If they got disconnected or refreshed the page, the session would end. To keep customers from waiting after sending their chat message, many organizations would disable the chat experience on their site whenever agents weren’t available. Once connected to an agent, customers would have to stay confined to their desk chairs chatting back and forth until they resolved their issue.

The Old Version of Live Chat: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers get instant replies and immediate feedback, which sets that expectation going forward.
  • CON: The “session” philosophy means a customer can’t message you from their computer, and then respond to you from their mobile phone.
  • CON: Normally works based on “agent availability” meaning that if agents are maxed out or not available chat is removed, and you are asked to leave a message or worse, the website hides chat completely.
  • CON: Missed/Dropped Chats immediately stop a conversation and require everyone to start over.

Why Have Messaging Apps Replaced Live Chat?

With the introduction of smartphones, app-based communication shifted customer expectations. They could open an app, click “contact support”, and start a conversation, but didn’t have to wait around for a reply. When a reply did come, they’d get a notification to check it and keep the conversation going. This allowed customers to move freely from a desktop to their mobile app if they needed to get up and grab a coffee, for example. The ease of use across any device lead to a natural shift from the need to be “live” to customers becoming accustomed to asynchronous messaging within third-party apps.

Asynchronous Messaging App: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers can start a chat from their computer and finish it from their smartphone.
  • PRO: The app is always available as a means to collect and store customer issues while “offline”, which agents can follow up on later.
  • PRO: Past chat conversations can be stored and replied to for context.
  • PRO: Customers don’t expect instant replies.
  • CON: Conversations are never “closed”, making it hard to measure agents on that metric.
  • CON: Conversations with customers are dragged out over a longer period of time, slowing down resolution times.
  • CON: Customer can always reply to old conversations, which can make it harder to follow up and provide timely or quality support.

While asynchronous messaging has become more popular, there are some great concepts that underlie Live Chat functionality, like using Agent Availability to set expectations. Instead of completely removing the experience of chat from your site when agents aren’t available, you can collect customers’ info and issue, and then pass them to another channel for follow-up—setting the expectation that a reply will not be live.

Modern Chat Gives You the Best of Both Worlds

Ideally, you can bridge the gap between these kinds of synchronous and asynchronous messaging by providing a customer the ability to chat live with an agent, but maintain an asynchronous state when agents are not available or over-capacity by shifting the conversation to channels like email or text messaging or setting expectations about your reply times.

Customers need a fast response to get an answer or complete a sale—like asking about clothing sizes on a retail site—but you can’t always provide 24/7 communication. That’s why your chat tool needs to evolve to combine the best features of synchronous Live Chat and an asynchronous Messaging App. Kustomer chat is always on, allowing you to set business hours so that customers have the right expectations. That makes it easy to provide synchronous chat when agents are available, and asynchronous when they’re not. The history of every conversation is saved across platforms, so it’s easy for agents and customers to move from platform to platform for a fully omnichannel chat experience. The option to close conversations makes chat support more efficient and easier to manage and measure, and because everything is tied to the customer, agents have all the necessary conversation when they start a new one. Modern chat solutions meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your business—and with Kustomer Chat, you can deliver the best possible chat and messaging experience.

Kustomer’s Chat makes it easy to deliver the experience that’s right for your team and organization. To learn more about our latest additions to our chat offering, read our product update here.

Conversations with Kustomer Podcast: How can Marketing and Customer Support Create a Consistent Experience? Featuring Sue Duris

As Customer Experience overtakes product and price as the key differentiator for many brands, it’s increasingly important that all parts of the organization work together to deliver seamless communications and service.

Our Director of Marketing Chen Barnea sat down with Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience for M4 Communications and a leading CX strategist, to discuss the evolution and importance of CX for B2B and B2C companies across verticals. While their chat covered a lot of ground, we’ve highlighted some of the key points below.

Investing in CX pays off. This is especially true if you’re a leader. According to a Temkin report, CX Leaders see a 17% compound average growth rate, versus 3% for laggards. Customers that receive a great experience are likely to purchase again, and 11 times more likely to recommend a product or brand.

Consistency is key, especially for retail. But it’s also very important for B2B organizations too, especially those with a long sales cycle. Both kinds of organizations need to have a C-suite that is championing that vision of the customer experience and explaining why it’s so important to rally behind it, and how everyone fits in. Without that commitment, alignment, ownership, Customer Experience initiatives just won’t work.

CX is not a shiny new toy. You need to have a strategy and purpose for tackling CX. It can’t be done piecemeal, either, with the Contact Center pioneering an initiative, but then the experience dropping off once a customer contacts Sales or Marketing. Inconsistency is one of your greatest enemies to a great experience.

Don’t neglect the employee experience. Engaging your employees and communicating what your experience should look and feel like is crucial. They’re the ones who are making that experience a reality. It takes more than just surveys. You need to speak to your employees in person and get qualitative insight, backed up by hard metrics. Once you can take those insights, build them back into your experience, optimize your CX, then look for insights again, you can create a closed loop of constantly improving experience.

There are three kinds of metrics. Metrics based on perception, description, and outcome. Perception-based metrics are about your experience and how your customer understands it. They include metrics such as NPS, CES, and satisfaction. Description metrics are based on observable events, like FCR and AHT, and ensure you’re being efficient and effective. And outcome metrics are things like how many customers renewed their contracts or upgraded their package. Bottom line: you need all kinds of metrics to cover the entire scope of experience.

Experience is a mindset. It’s more than just a strategy or process. It’s who you are as a company, and as individuals. Customer centricity needs to start before a prospect even knows about you—it’s in your bones, your culture, and it’s how you truly create consistency. Maximizing Customer Lifetime Value is the goal of any CX effort, and the only way to do that is to have a mindset where you’re putting your customers first.

Start small. If you haven’t invested in CX at all, you can always begin by sending out an NPS survey and segmenting customers based on that score. From there, you can work in more complex layers of metrics and build up your understanding.

This is just a taste of the wide-ranging discussion on the podcast, so if this sounds relevant to your needs, be sure to have a listen.

To learn more about how Kustomer can help you deliver a more consistent and effective experience, request a demo with the form below!

What Is Conversational Service—And Why Is It the Latest Trend in Customer Support?

You may be hearing about “conversational” support, and we’ve previously discussed some examples, but let’s pin down what it really means in practice. Conversational support, service, and experience are methods of helping customers that focus on building a long-term relationship, rather than resolving a series of issues. They use context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help while allowing agents to provide more personalized support at scale.

Read our full whitepaper here.

Imagine trying to build a friendship with someone new if you had to ask for their name, address, and a list of interests every time you interacted. They’d be understandably upset that you couldn’t remember anything about them. And you wouldn’t be able to build a relationship if you start from the ground up with every conversation. Ease of communication and connection are starting to raise customer expectations, and they increasingly expect the same treatment from brands as they do from their friends.

Delivering this level of relational support might have been impossible at scale even a few years ago. But technology is catching up to the expectations of customers. By integrating systems and channels, and empowering agents to build relationships, every company now has the ability to deliver conversational customer support to every single customer.

So, what constitutes conversational service?

Omnichannel Outreach

With so many support channels available, the variety can be overwhelming. Instead of putting that burden on your customers, why not implement an omnichannel support solution and let them reach you on their preferred method—whether that’s email, live chat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, mobile app messages, voice, or any other option you offer?

Traditional transactional support treats each new contact through a different channel as a different incident. Help desks allow agents to “merge” these transactions into one, but agents have to locate the tickets and information frequently gets lost between multiple systems.

When using an omnichannel support system, it’s easy for customers to contact you on their end while the conversation continues between channels, ensuring sure all the relevant information stays in one place.

An Integrated View

Understanding how customers have come to land in your queue is a big part of conversational customer support. Context is key to helping customers effectively. Pulling context from other systems, including your own product or storefront, makes it easy to see what’s going wrong, or even jump in proactively.

For example:

  • Does the customer have an order being delivered? What’s the current status of the shipment?
  • What other products have the customer purchased? Can you suggest something that fits their previous history?
  • Does the customer have a quarterly business review or renewal coming up? Should sales be pulled into the conversation?
  • Has the customer searched the knowledge base already? Have they read relevant documentation, or would that be helpful to send?

Creating a support environment that allows for ongoing conversations and a 360 view of the customer, rather than one-off phone calls or email tickets, enables you to build better relationships with your customers.

Building Rapport

It’s not always what you say—it’s also how you say it. Most people already have a good idea of what a conversational tone sounds like. It’s friendly, engaging and polite. There’s no lecturing or academic business-speak, and it doesn’t sound robotic. It’s easy to follow, and when you read it out loud, it sounds helpful and natural.

Because conversational customer support helps build relationships, you might see the same customers coming back time and time again for support. You’ll have their previous conversation history available, so feel free to ask them how their last trip went, how their daughter liked their new shoes, or wish them a happy birthday—as long as it’s professional.

Moving beyond a dry, transactional tone helps break down walls between you and the customer.

To recap:

By taking a more conversational approach, you can win over customers with an experience that feels personal, intuitive, and informed by what they really want. In essence, conversational service is how you can help your agents and your brand act and feel more human.

Whitepaper: From Transactional Service to Conversational Experience

The best way to implement conversational customer support effectively is with a tool built to handle it. Whichever one you choose—Kustomer or another option—you need a full view of the customer, omnichannel capabilities, and full agent empowerment. With that, your team can finally deliver a modern, meaningful customer experience. To learn more about how Kustomer can help deliver a conversational experience for your brand, request a demo below:

Kustomer Localization is made for Global Teams

Many customer service teams today have to support a global customer base. Kustomer has launched Localization, a suite of features that allow you to easily detect, respond, and provide help to a multilingual customer base. Customers and support teams deserve an seamless experience in their respective language, across any channel.

Whether you service customers around the world, or have a team that communicates in multiple languages, our localization features will help you provide personalized customer support. We focused on developing features that make teams more efficient as well as automating tedious tasks associated with providing multilingual support.

Automating Language Detection

 

When your customers contact you, Kustomer is now able to automatically detect the language of the message using Amazon Comprehend dominant language detection. Oftentimes a new message will require your team to have to identify the language, and then assign it to another team or agent. This manual triaging by language is time consuming and ineffective. Automating the language detection for inbound messages allows you to route conversations to the correct team or agent, providing quick reply times. When language detection is enabled, you’ll also be able to get sentiment analysis in multiple languages, helping you to better understand your customer. Language detection will allow agents to work more efficiently by automatically sending messages and displaying Knowledge Base articles in the customer’s’ own language.

Making Translation Easy

We focused on making processes as time-efficient as possible. One of the Localization features that enables this is Snippets. Teams can easily insert translated content into messages, email templates, and Knowledge Base articles. Let’s say you want to provide your agents with an automatic response to questions about returns. You can quickly create a snippet for “return policy” with corresponding translations for languages you want to support. Then, when your agent uses a shortcut with the “return policy” Snippet, it’s automatically translated based on the customer’s language. Adding in personalization is easy too, just combine Snippets, Shortcuts, and Dynamic text and your agent is fully empowered to provide quick personalized support in the correct language.

Enabling Agent Adoption

It’s not just your customers that are global. Many support teams are based all over the world, and it’s important that users can access and use Kustomer in their native language. Unlike other tools where translations are limited to certain features and interfaces, in Kustomer you’ll have full access to language translations across all our features and the user interface. The user interface can be used in over 51 languages (both Right to Left and Left to Right). See a list of all available languages in Kustomer.

For more information about Localization and its included features, check out this article.

Scale Your Online Marketplace Faster Through Customer Support

The Marketplace model is exploding in eCommerce, so much so that it’s taking over entire industries. By 2025, it is estimated that Marketplace companies could account for $335 billion of revenue globally. If you’ve used Lyft, ordered from Amazon, gotten a late night snack through Seamless, or stayed in an AirBnB, you’ve participated in a Marketplace transaction.

With the Marketplace model comes unique challenges. Managing a Marketplace business where you don’t own all the pieces increases the complexity of delivering support. Imagine a Marketplace that connects boutique shop owners with customers around the world. If a shipment goes missing, who owns that mistake? Who does the customer communicate with? Who ultimately fixes the problem and makes sure the customer walks away happy?

Successful Marketplaces know that a great Customer Experience isn’t just about delivering a product. Everything comes down to supply and demand. To really succeed, you need strong relationships with both buyers and sellers. The best Marketplaces elevate everyone’s experience. The necessity of managing so many relationships adds to the complexity of delivering great support in a Marketplace environment.

The Complexity of Marketplace Support

Most support solutions are designed for 1-1 interactions. Traditionally, companies focused only on the relationship with the end customer. For Marketplaces, there’s more to it. You have the Marketplace team talking to their vendors, who are talking to their customers, who are also talking to the Marketplace—all with their own workflows.

Slice, a Marketplace for pizza, has experienced this challenge firsthand. Pizza shops want to know when their customers complain. Slice Customer Support handles complaints from both the hungry customers and the pizza shops. Cody, Director of Product at Slice, says “We have to interface with many restaurants, who all have different workflows that we need to accommodate. Our team wants to provide service that allows them to run their business better, not just answer their questions.”

Our tools often shape the way we work, but most tools aren’t built for this. Most systems aren’t designed to support so many complex relationships and that can contribute to a poor end-user experience.

Ultimately, managing the Marketplace means ensuring a consistent experience for the end customer. All the complexity behind the scenes shouldn’t make it more complex for the customer to get problems resolved. Customers shouldn’t need to know how your business works, in order to do business with you.

Building Relationships, Not Transactions

Multiple relationships mean a complex data model. A simple transaction like a return or exchange means communicating with a multitude of systems, many that might not even be owned by your company. From package tracking to conversation management to inventory updates—support teams are on the hook for a ton of moving parts. And they have to search for the correct information across these many disconnected systems.

Usually resolving an end customer concern means logging into several point solutions. Support team members will look up shipping numbers in one tab, confirm inventory in another, all while reading customer conversations in another help desk screen. Support teams are overloaded with transactional systems, instead of focused on relationships.

Relationships are built on a shared history. Knowing the past experiences of buyers and sellers means that support teams can provide proactive, helpful advice. Getting this data into one place empowers support teams to build stronger relationships with both vendors and purchasers.

We need to focus our data models around the one thing every transaction has in common—the end customer.

To visualize what this data model looks like, imagine pulling up a support conversation with an AirBnB customer in your help desk. If you’re only looking at the customer’s history, you’d see their past reservations. That’s helpful! But you’re missing part of the picture—you also need to view past host bookings to see if there’s a history of issues there. Only by connecting to both the buyer and seller can you truly understand the source of the issue.

Supporting Multiple Stakeholders

When supporting a Marketplace, there’s so many stakeholders involved, both inside and outside the organization. Vendors want to know customer concerns, Marketplace support teams want to improve their own service and product teams want insights to improve too. Like Slice, all businesses want to provide value to their vendors.

Thinking beyond the individual conversations with customers, you need a data model that delivers insight on both buyer and supplier behavior. Lyft drivers want to know what riders say about their experience. They also want to know where the most profitable ride requests come from, and how many riders they can expect to serve in a day. The Lyft product team wants to know what tasks trip-up customers when booking. And the support team wants to know when things go wrong so they can staff their contact center effectively.

That’s a lot of information to sort through and deliver to the various stakeholders—but there are even more valuable insights to glean if you’re able to identify issues early on.

With a platform that’s designed to help businesses unlock the data that’s being collected in support conversations and build better workflows around them, you can do more. If your platform operates on a flexible data model like Kustomer, even unconventional businesses like a pizza marketplace can fit the tool to their needs.

Finding Business Value in Your Platform

Businesses can struggle with balancing the individual needs of a customer with their strategy for the entire company. Traditional help desks aren’t helpful. They let you export raw data, but aren’t set up to serve up insights for the business.

Using a customer experience platform will help you serve up insights from customer conversations to the major stakeholders without the need to hire a data scientist.

Showing Internal Teams the Value of Support

How many teams wish they could talk to customers all day long? Marketing, product, and executives all want to know more about how customers think and the problems they have. But often, that valuable information is locked up in Customer Support conversations. Getting that data out of your service platform in a usable format and into the hands of internal teams is often an impossibility.

If you can highlight trends in customer contacts, focus on your neediest vendors, and illuminate your biggest areas of opportunity—all from the customer conversations you’re already having—then you’ll be able to share this valuable insight with relevant stakeholders across the organization.

Building Stronger Relationships with External Partners

Companies are successful when their customers are. Using a support platform with a flexible data model means you can pull insights from your partner’s perspective. Independent vendors often don’t have the big business tools to gather their own business intelligence.

That’s where a great Marketplace support team comes in. Being able to analyze customer trends and serve up insights for their business means building a stronger relationship. Your support platform shouldn’t just provide value to you—it should provide value for your partners too.

Highlighting Opportunities For Business Intelligence

The best tools help you grow. If you’re thinking of your help desk as just an email inbox, you’re missing opportunities for growth.

Pulling out service trends, customer questions and feedback can highlight new markets to expand into. Combining this with other data can help superpower your growth machine.

A Platform for Marketplaces

Supporting customers in a Marketplace environment is a tough gig. But tools are improving to help support teams be more effective in building relationships. Using a support platform with a flexible data model means that your workflow (however complex) doesn’t need to compromise.

If you’re working with multiple stakeholders, you need software that makes complicated relationships simple. Take a test run of Kustomer and see how we can help you manage your Marketplace.

How Do You Take Friction Out of the Customer Experience?

Does this sound familiar?: You reach out to a company that you know has tons of information about you, but when you connect to an agent, you have to tell them all the same information you’ve told them a dozen times before. Or worse, one agent asks for your account number, and on the same call, you’re transferred to a different agent who asks for the same number again. This kind of experience is universally hated and creates frustration and friction for your customers. How does your business overcome it?

That was the opening topic of discussion between Kustomer’s Co-Founder and CEO Brad Birnbaum and Shep Hyken on the latest episode of Amazing Business Radio. The answer? Support agents need to have all the relevant information about customers at their fingertips. Knowing all the relevant details about your products and services is now just the bare minimum. By helping provide agents with all the information they need, Kustomer has seen 20% faster resolution for customers.

“Want to have 100% less frustrated customers? Don’t ask them to give you the same information again and again.” Said Brad. Understandably, repeating themselves is customers’ top complaint, according to our whitepaper benchmarking the state of service for retailers

Eliminating friction is an enormous area of concern for modern customer experience organizations—and for good reason, as it’s a major impediment to doing business. It also happens to be the topic of Shep’s next book. “When you create friction, the problem becomes a complaint,” says Hyken. Instead of solving your customers’ issues, you’re putting up new barriers that are impacting their experience.

When you’re able to have an immense amount of data about your customers in one place, it acts as a multiplier for the kind of amazing interactions you’re able to have.The faster agents can provide a “wow” solution, the less friction there will be.

“Wow the customer by telling them at the beginning of the conversation, ‘I know why you are calling, and here’s what we are going to do about the problem,” said Brad.

Other information, like sentiment, can be key to delivering that next tier of experience. For example, Slice is able to see every unhappy customer who hasn’t ordered in the last 90 days, then use that information to reach out and engage with a coupon or other offer.

Chatbots are also becoming increasingly important to the CX expert’s arsenal. They have their limitations, “Chatbots only as good as the person who programs it or creates it,” added Brad, but when used correctly, they can provide a real edge to your experience.

Shep and Brad agreed that chatbots are good for routine use, but for context-sensitive answers like “what’s the warranty on my most recent purchase?”, they’re not so effective. That’s why Kustomer uses Conversational Forms. These act like a bot, instantly responding to your customers’ queries with questions, while getting info on the customer’s account themselves and their problem. They then connect directly to an agent, with all the relevant info they need to deliver great service.

Knowing everything you can about the customer, then acting on it at the right time, is key to creating the kind of customer experience that wins customers for life.

From Bots to Superheroes: Empowering Agents to Deliver Amazing Service with the Help of Chatbots

There are a lot of buzzwords gaining traction as we settle into 2018, but probably none are bigger than “Bot”. Particularly in the customer support arena, as companies look to further reduce the cost of serving customers. This has resulted in the rise of chatbots. However, no matter how good the technology, bots aren’t going to be able to resolve every situation or interaction anytime soon. That means that transferring from bot to agent will remain a crucial part of the chatbot experience. What do agents and customers expect when the time comes for them to be connected?

Chatbots are undoubtedly improving and becoming better at seeming human while collecting crucial customer information—their name, address, and description of the problem—and based on that they may be able to produce some initial solutions.

However, the risk companies face is that they give their customers flashbacks to the 90’s. That means an experience that’s identical to the Interactive Voice Response phone trees that end up connecting them to an agent who needs to ask all the same questions over again. How can brands prevent this? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Put Agents in the Driver’s Seat: Empower agents to select the right channel to engage with the customer and best resolve the issue.
  2. Deliver Complete Context: The agent of the future will be a critical thinker. If you provide them with all the information they need about the customer story so they are well-informed of their profile and history, agents can craft some of their own dialogue based off of talking points from reference scripts. While this creates a more natural customer interaction, it also means that agents must be able to think on their feet and deal with possibly tense situations. Adapting to every situation and keeping calm and focused under fire is thus crucial for great customer service.
  3. Give Agents a Heads-Up: Automate agent alerts based on changes to the customer’s status, order updates, or snoozes so they’re always aware and ready to connect.
  4. Enable Empathy: It’s always great for agents to show empathy, but empathy is hard for any human being to deliver if they don’t understand the gravity of the situation. Brands can use tools like NLP (Natural Language Processing) to provide some insight into how the customer is feeling at the time of engagement, and know whether their outlook is positive, negative, or neutral.
  5. Streamline Connectivity: Efficiency is still critical at the point of contact, but not at the detriment of communication skills. Create personalized shortcuts that don’t just display simplistic customer information like name and email, but provide details of their relationship such as recent items they’ve viewed, their current sentiment, their order’s delivery status, etc.

For brands to be successful in the future, the hand-off between bot and human needs to promote a differentiated experience. If your customers have to start the process all over again when they switch to an agent, then they’re better off just connecting with one in the first place.

However, if your customer can go from speaking with a bot to an informed and empowered agent, that’s a game-changer. If your agents are equipped with all the context and transaction information they need, then they’re well-placed to deliver a meaningful experience. Combining chatbots, automation, sentiment analysis, and a full view of the customer is what it takes to turn your agents into heroes and deliver next-level service. Instead of going from a bot to a human who’s asking mundane questions, doesn’t know anything about the customer, and is powerless to make a decision, they can be connected to a CX superhero.

Vikas Bhambri is Kustomer’s VP of Global Sales and Customer Success

The Why, How, and What of Measuring Customer Service Quality

This is a guest post by Jakub Slámka, CMO at Nicereply

As customer service professionals, we’re in the business of making sure our customers get the highest quality support. We strive to help them succeed with the highest caliber guidance we can provide, and to solve their problems with excellent solutions and service. When we do that, it feels good.

To create long term relationships with your customers, you need to understand how and why they act the way they do. There are three surveys that work really well for this: Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Survey, and Customer Effort Score. All of them involve surveying customers to get their opinion, but they ask different questions to find out different things.

Let’s break them down the Simon Sinek way so you know exactly Why, How, and What to measure when it comes to customer service quality.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is most often used to measure customer’s feelings about a specific interaction with your support team. It can also refer to how happy a customer is generally, though in the customer service industry it usually refers to an agent or a customer support team.

WHY should you measure CSAT?

Measuring customer satisfaction means having a better idea of what works to keep customers satisfied – and what leaves them unhappy. This way you’ll know what to keep up and what to fix. You’ll also be able to gauge performance of not just support generally, but specific teams and individuals as well.

HOW do you measure CSAT?

Customers will receive a survey asking if they were happy or satisfied with the service they received, which they can respond positively or negatively to. The customer chooses their response on a scale from bad (or not satisfied) to good (or satisfied). To calculate the CSAT score, subtract the % of customers who were unhappy from 100%.

WHAT does a CSAT survey look like?

You can set your CSAT survey in one of two different ways. Either you can send out an email with a survey after a ticket is closed, or you can measure it in every email interaction with your customers in the form of “instant ratings”. Survey itself can have many different looks. Nicereply CSAT survey usually looks like 3 smileys portraying different emotions, 2 hand with fingers facing upward or downwards or a scale of 10 stars.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was specifically developed to measure loyalty and to provide you with feedback about how well your products are received. This metric will tell you, how likely your customers will recommend your services or products.

WHY should you measure NPS?

NPS brings a simple solution to finding out who is your loyal customer and transform unhappy clients into satisfied promoters. You can use NPS to enhance your customer service, but it can also be used by your marketing department to gauge your customers feeling toward your product.

How do you measure NPS?

NPS is usually measured via a regular survey (bi-monthly, yearly etc…). In this survey, customers are asked the above question “How likely are you to recommend *|COMPANY|* to a friend or colleague?” and they respond on a scale from 1 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely).

If a customer answers lower than 6, they are a detractor. If they respond 9 or higher, they are a promoter. Customers responding 7-8 are passives.

NPS is calculated by subtracting the % of customers who replied as detractors from the % of customers who answered as promoters. NPS scores are not a percentage and range from -100 (very bad) to +100 (very good).

WHAT does an NPS survey look like?

Due to it being based on a research by Bain & Co, NPS survey will always look the same—a scale from 0 to 10. The question itself can vary slightly. One such example could be a question “On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this organization as a good place to work?”—this is also known as Employee Net Promoter Score.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Customer Effort Score is a highly specific measure of how much work your customer felt they had to do to solve an issue. Support teams using CES are able to find and eliminate friction points that cause high-effort experiences.

WHY should you measure CES?

Imagine having a problem you need to solve. Now imagine you have to jump through several hoops and switch multiple channels to get hold of someone willing to help you fix it. Even though this support agent might be “super nice”, there’s a big chance you won’t ever want to go through the same experience again.

The idea of CES is that customers enjoy doing business with companies, that are easy to work with. It means, that CES measure the amount of effort customers were experiencing with your company as a whole.

HOW do you measure CES?

CES is often sent as part of a post-service survey and it’s measured by surveying customers after the resolution of their customer service conversation (usually 24 hours after a ticket is closed).

Similar to the NPS before, customers are asked to rate one simple statement: “The *|COMPANY|* made it easy for me to handle my issue.” a standard 1(low) – 7(high) scale whether they agree or disagree with the statement.

Your CES will then be the averages of these ratings, although we recommend to look not just at your average score, but at their distribution as well. Afterall, if your scores are bunch of 7s and 1s, it still means your experience is confusing a lot of people.

WHAT does a CES survey look like?

Being based off of a research paper by CEB, CES survey will always ask the same question. Original CES used a scale of 5 different answers, while updated CES 2.0 uses a scale of 7.

Measure, Manage, and Improve

As the old saying goes, “Whatever gets measured gets managed.” Measuring quality and using what you learn to better meet customer expectations is what will propel your efforts to truly serve your customers and drive your business forward.

Try Nicereply for Kustomer for free and measure any and all of these metrics to get more feedback out of your customer interactions.

Jakub Slámka is CMO at Nicereply.

Six Essential Sessions on Customer Experience at eTail West

Our top picks for the CX obsessed to check out in Palm Springs.

We’re now just two weeks away from kicking off eTail West in Palm Springs! With so many ways to spend your time, Kustomer wants to suggest a few panels that you shouldn’t miss when it comes to customer experience. Take a look:

1. Tuesday, February 27 — Panel Remix: Tracking Your Customers: The Jump From Online To Offline featuring: Bonobos, Sugarfina, Walgreens

Understanding the customer journey is crucial to growing your business in today’s (over)connected world. This mix of D2C and retail brands are well-placed to deliver a first class primer on retail success.

2. Tuesday, February 27 — Panel Remix: Going Beyond Omnichannel, Moving Towards A One Customer, Unified Commerce Mentality featuring: Chico’s, Benefit Cosmetics, Bombas

Omnichannel is hard enough to achieve, but to capture real success in the market, you need to do even better. Getting a single view of the customer is key, and this talk will help inspire you to bust down the walls between channels and take a universal approach.

3. Wednesday, February 28 — Keynote Panel: Footprinting Retail Experiences Of The Future featuring: The RealReal, Shinola, Zappos

What will the future hold for retail? It’s a question on all of our minds, but this lineup is well-positioned to actually give an answer. Diving into current and experimental experiences, this is a forward-looking glimpse at the future of turning interactions into transactions.

4. Wednesday, February 28 — User Experience Optimization at Modcloth

This fireside chat is a great chance to learn firsthand how a modern, D2C company is outpacing the competition by improving user experience and driving mobile conversion. Want to increase your customers’ speed to purchase and give them a satisfying experience? Who doesn’t!

5. Wednesday, February 28 — Building Your Online Community And Keeping Them Loyal featuring: Chubbies

Get your seats early for this one — if you’ve never heard the bombastic CEO of beloved shorts and swim trunks brand Chubbies, you’re in for a treat. Learn how one of our customers turns ordinary shoppers into fans, advocates, and influencers with their incredible experiences and compelling brand story.

6. Thursday, February 1 — Keynote Disruption Panel Remix: Start-Ups: Started From The Bottom (Now They’re Here) featuring: Parachute Home, Cuyana, Farmstead

Making a mark on the competitive ecommerce landscape is hard, but these brands make it look easy. Check out this exciting conversation between fast-growing startups that redefine the meaning of hustle. We’ll be listening extra closely what D2C women’s premium fashion and accessories company Cuyana (one of our customers) has to say, and their inspiring story of delivering better basics while giving back.

We’re looking forward to a great week of conversation and connections! Kustomer will be hosting lunches, dinner, and events all week.

To set up a meeting at eTail, contact us here.

Priority Bicycles on Making Customers the Priority

We spoke with Founder and CEO David Weiner to learn how his low maintenance, direct-to-consumer bicycle brand keeps their customers at the heart of the business.

If you’ve ever been to a bike shop, you know that a lightweight, stylish, low maintenance, and affordable bicycle is almost impossible to find. That is, until David Weiner hit “launch” on a Kickstarter campaign promising just that. That was in 2014, and now David runs Priority Bicycles, a direct-to-consumer bicycles and accessories brand that sells its low maintenance models to individuals, resorts, hotels, and anyone else who needs a good bike.

In a recent Forbes article, David gave Kustomer a shoutout for enabling better customer-centricity, so we sat down with him to follow up and talk about Priority’s approach to customer experience. Specifically, how does a challenger brand in a busy space make sure new customers have a good time buying their product? How do you ensure they’ll come back ride after ride? David gave us his insight:

Kustomer: What’s your approach to CX, and how is it influenced by your past experience?

David: As an online company, I knew that customer service was paramount. My background is in software, and I learned long ago that providing old-fashioned service in a modern business is a rarity. There are so many tools available for customers to receive service, however we need to be cautious to remember to keep it personal. I always want to make sure our customers feel like they are working with a small local company despite the large reach that being online provides. We always want our customers to know that we care.

Customer service, above and beyond your products, is a differentiator. A customer won’t use your products, and certainly won’t advocate for them, if they aren’t properly cared for during their research, purchase experience, and beyond. Any organization I’m involved in has to have exceptional customer experience; it’s really important to me as an entrepreneur. So many consumer brands, particularly startups, can be so focused on product that they forget the customer interaction. In fact, good customer experiences are so rare that, outside of work when we’re chatting with friends, we often share them— since a good experience seems so outside of the norm.

Kustomer: How are you applying this strategy at Priority?

David: If you’re a new company, and the only place to buy the product is through you, you have to earn trust, and fast. One of the best ways to do that is to respond very quickly, with a knowledgeable and personal response.

Speed is crucial. If someone is interested in buying a bike, we want to get back to them instantly; we don’t want them to wait for 12 hours when their mind has drifted off, we want them to keep thinking about buying a bike in that moment.

Similarly, if someone has a problem with something we shipped to them, we want to get back to them very quickly before that problem festers.

We also feel that, since we started with Kickstarter, our customers made us who we are. 100% customer satisfaction is part of our ethos. Our customers gave us life, so we have to be there for them! While that’s true for any company, we really feel it every day as a socially funded company.

Kustomer: How are you able to stay true to that ethos as you scale?

David: It’s about 7-day a week, 365 days a year service. As we grow, we continue to get more and more knowledgeable about our customers. That’s something that Kustomer helps us do — consolidate growing amounts of data about our customers so that we can come back to them more quickly and with more knowledge about them.

Kustomer: How do you use Kustomer?

David: Kustomer is a very fast way for us to look at an aggregate view of a customer. What I like is the consolidation of information. In a single timeline view we can see Shopify data, emails, Chat, SMS, Facebook Messenger, and phone calls. The minute someone calls, we can see if they’ve emailed before, called before, bought or not bought. The second you pick up the phone, you know if they’re a customer already, or if they’re calling to ask questions before they buy. Having that all in one place helps us understand how to treat that person.

Kustomer: In which situations do you find Kustomer the most useful for you?

David: On the sales side, for example, when an email comes in, we can see that they have asked about four different models over the last six months, and spoken with three different people, but haven’t made a purchase yet. That’s super useful because, it’s important to have that context of what’s been discussed in the past to give the best recommendation.

On the support side, we may have people who are having trouble setting up their bike. Many of our customers aren’t used to assembling or working on bicycles, so we want to make sure they feel comfortable. Let’s say they call in and are having trouble installing their front wheel. There’s no way they’re going to be able to describe the problem over the phone. In that case, a picture really is worth a thousand words. So they can take a video on their smartphone and text it to the same number. Now we can text them back with the knowledge base video they need on how to help. With the complete thread running through the experience, it makes it easy to deliver personalized and hands-on technical support for a mechanical issue — or any request!

Kustomer: What are the benefits of being able to offer this kind of experience?

David: People ask questions about our bikes every day. If we’re not able to answer those quickly and competently, we won’t sell product. Our bikes are incredibly durable, but if our customers have a product or delivery issue, they often end up being customers for life. We respond really quickly, let them know we’re here for them, and then take care of everything. Customers are blown away that you care, and that’s when they chat with friends about the innovative new bike they bought, they talk about their customer experience, not just the product! We not only aim to keep a customer, but we’re aiming to gain a reference and lifelong loyalty.

In business, you don’t have the right to grow your business if you’re not taking care of your customers. And if you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

Want to learn more about Kustomer? Check out how we can help you deliver great customer experiences here.

 

’Tis the Season for Returns

With the Holiday rush behind us and both Black Friday and Cyber Monday a distant memory, a new season for retailers is just beginning. That’s right, when all those regrettable gifts from in-laws and mis-sized sweaters go back where they came from — with the express expectation that they’ll be returned or exchanged without a hassle. According to the National Retail Federation, 8% of total sales are returns — and that number will only rise alongside online shopping, as 1 out of every 5 items bought online is returned.

Returns are an increasingly crucial element of the customer experience. The rush and excitement of buying is replaced by frustration and boredom, and customers want the return process to be over as soon as possible. As a result of their rising frequency, customers have come to expect clear and agreeable terms — the lower the bar to return, the more likely they are to buy. UPS’s research even shows that 15% of customers will abandon their cart if the policy isn’t clear.

Providing a better return experience might feel like hiking uphill in a headwind, but the retailers that are able to overcome the logistical complications will see real rewards. Not only will shoppers be more inclined to buy, they’ll also shop some more if they have to return. UPS also found that 70% of online shoppers made another purchase when returning in-store, and 45% bought something extra when returning online.

Prioritizing the return process means connecting your view of the customer across your service teams and fulfillment partners. However, that prep will be invaluable once the return season is in full swing. Kustomer client DSTLD—a digital-first retailer that sells high-quality, affordable denim and basics—found that laying the groundwork for their exchange process in the offseason paid dividends in terms of customer experience over the holidays. “We’ve created a new process for exchanges to make completing them even easier. As a result, our customers receive their item even faster than before, giving them a better customer experience and helping us stay competitive. Then, when the winter season gets closer, we hire seasonal workers to meet the influx of demand.” Said Laura Gramlich, DSTLD’s Customer Experience Manager.

Returns are, increasingly, inevitable. But with planning, you can deliver a demonstrably better return experience, encouraging customers to shop without fear of a harrowing trial when they get to the service desk. This leads to more willingness to buy, and they may even add a few extra items to their cart as they bring back back a pair of jeans that wouldn’t have fit in middle school. And, by enabling your service teams and streamlining your view of the customer, Kustomer can make that return experience that much better. ’Tis the season!

Kettlebell Kitchen is Bulking Up Its Focus on Customers in 2018

It’s a new year, and that means New Year’s resolutions. Many will be hitting the gym, and just as many will be paying closer attention to their diet in an attempt to meet their fitness ambitions. Chances are more than a few will be turning to Kettlebell Kitchen to help stick to their resolve. Kettlebell Kitchen is a leading healthy food delivery service, offering freshly-prepared meals that meet customers’ dietary needs and fitness goals, no matter how strict. Whether you’re looking to bulk up, lose weight, or are strictly vegetarian or paleo, Kettlebell Kitchen has plans for pretty much any lifestyle. Simply enter your current and goal weight, personal fitness info, and preferences, and Kettlebell offers you an automatic dietician-approved meal plan. Your healthy aspiration just got that much closer to becoming reality.

We spoke with Menachem Katz, Kettlebell’s Director of Operations, about how Kettlebell is working to deliver real results for their goal-oriented customers.

“We all have food for goals — to lose weight, to build muscle. Our food is designed to help you achieve it. Every meal comes with low and high carb versions, plus meal planning using an algorithm that creates a custom plan based around your information and needs.”

This is a key differentiator in a year where a lot of food delivery companies are struggling. Blue Apron, the incumbent in the space, has seen share prices plummet and user numbers shrink after cutting marketing budgets and opening a struggling fulfillment center in New Jersey. But Kettlebell’s fitness-focused offering is finding traction — they’re currently operating in 14 states, recently bringing their service to the midwest, and currently have over 900 pickup locations nationwide.

“The most important part of our business is the product.” says Katz, “Improving service helps to keep those customers — but people are more interested in whether the food tastes great.”

The majority of customers contact Kettlebell over the phone and email. With Kustomer, they can pull all of these touches into a single stream.

“It’s very user friendly, and the integration with Aircall works really well for us. It didn’t work at all with our previous service platform.”

Kettlebell are looking forward to streamlining and syncing up their customer experience with every other part of the business to create a holistic view of the customer.

“We are working on the connection between Kustomer, our API, and our back office. Our customers are being split between different cities, routes, gyms, and if a vehicle breaks during delivery and a customer is complaining about a delay, I want to know what’s going on with the other customers on that route. It’s a gap between doing things the way we are now and what we are looking to do. Once we have this integration, we will be able to start building segments — even around who ordered which specific chicken dish on a certain day. That will be amazing.”

Connecting this experience is going to be crucial for Kettlebell Kitchen as they continue to scale. They’ll be building a kitchen in Louisiana and California in the coming months, ramping up to nationwide delivery by end of next year.

“We’re just trying to give the customer whatever we can give them, and keep them as happy as possible.”

The food prep and delivery space remains hotly contested, but a focus on delivering real, measurable progress on customers’ health goals, mixed with a healthy measure of good CX, is keeping Kettlebell in fighting shape as they bring nutritious meals to gyms and homes across the US.

3 Seinfeld Situations That Made Us Want to Shout “Serenity Now!”

We could all use a little bit of serenity now. So in a very un-Seinfeldian effort to be a little more positive, we thought we’d explore the world of customer experience through a lens that a lot of us can easily understand and find some humor in.

At Kustomer, we often find ourselves relating everyday life back to one of our favorite shows. Who among us hasn’t found themselves in a situation or misunderstanding with a retailer or vendor and thought, “Man, am I in a Seinfeld episode?” Maybe these Seinfeld situations are more relevant to our business than we thought?

The question is: How can the Kustomer platform improve upon, or even prevent, these Seinfeld situations? Let’s explore a few examples.

In The Alternate Side, Season 3, Episode 11. Jerry’s car is stolen and he’s forced to make a reservation to rent a car from Worthy Rent-a-Car. However, when Jerry and Elaine arrive at the rental counter, the agent informs them that the agency is out of cars. Jerry rightfully raises a stink because, after all, what does a reservation mean if it’s not respected? Even though I’ve never had my car stolen, I imagine I would have very little patience for this. There would probably be some four-letter words, and there would definitely be zero chance of me ever returning to that agency.

However, Kustomer’s CX platform could have prevented this. What if Worthy Rent-a-Car had a customer support CRM that could integrate with their reservation tracking system? This integration could help Worthy manage their relationships better with customers, and ultimately improve lifetime value and repeat business. Upon realizing that there would be no mid-size cars available for Jerry on that particular day, Worthy could have let him know before he showed up and found a solution. Worthy could have reached out to Jerry through his preferred method of communication earlier in the day and made a reservation for him at a different location, or even at a competitor, in a show of good faith. Alas, they did not. Bad news for Jerry, but at least we are left with yet another hilarious encounter.

“I don’t think you do. You see, you know how to *take* the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

Another Seinfeld situation that Kustomer could optimize is from The Pool Guy, Season 7, Episode 8. Here we see George, who gets home to his apartment to find a note from Susan indicating that she went to go see a movie with Jerry and Elaine. Worlds are colliding, and George is in a panic to find out what theater they went to so that he can intervene. Naturally, George called his trusted hotline, Moviefone, to find out where the movie was screening in his area. After some hilarious miscommunication with the not-so-automated Mr. Moviefone (Kramer), George eventually gets a screen time and location for the movie but hangs up before he hears the correct theater.

Now, imagine if a modern day Moviefone had access to George’s entire movie ticket purchase history within the support platform. Moviefone could know who George was before he identified himself, and recognize that he usually sees movies at the Lowe’s Paragon at 84th and Broadway. Moviefone could then send George the showtimes for that theater, helping him realize there there is more than one showing of Chunnel, thus preventing another hilarious Seinfeld situation wherein George is removed from the theater by security. Moviefone had the opportunity to win George’s repeat business by incorporating all relevant information about him across systems and driving the appropriate action.

Let’s also look at an example of good customer service, beyond the transaction. In The Hot Tub, Season 7, Episode 5, we find Kramer enjoying a recently installed hot tub in his apartment. However, the hot tub proves to be too much of a strain on the power in the old, pre-war building that Kramer and Jerry share. Caught in the middle of this power outage is Jean-Paul, Elaine’s Trinbagonian house guest who stayed at Jerry’s house to guarantee a good night’s sleep. Because of the power outage in the building, Jerry’s alarm clock does not go off and they awake in a panic, late for the New York City Marathon.

How could this humorous plot be bettered by the Kustomer platform? Let’s assume in today’s version, Jerry has a smart alarm clock. In the Internet of Things, a support platform would be able to recognize that a connected device was taken offline and the alarm clock company could take proactive measures to get its device back online. Imagine that the alarm clock company phoned Jerry and informed him that his smart device was no longer connected to the internet. Kustomer’s platform allows IoT companies to recognize these outages and to act in the moment, thus preventing another great Seinfeld plot from unfolding.

There are myriad other examples of poor CX in Seinfeld — the show’s plots are overwhelmingly based around amusing and relatable interactions between consumers and businesses. During the time the episodes were broadcast, these were customer service interactions that the population was used to and, unfortunately, expected.

With Kustomer, Seinfeld just wouldn’t have been as Seinfeld-y. Now we expect businesses to know everything about us, and to minimize the frustrating little interactions that so many episodes of the show about nothing revolve around. If brands can understand our unique histories and create seamless service experiences, we’ll no longer feel like we’re trapped in a Seinfeld rerun. While that’s less funny to watch, it’s definitely better for you and for business.

Helping Every Customer Find Their Happy Space

Editor’s note: ParkWhiz has since rebranded to Arrive.

By Ryan Kern, Director of Operations, ParkWhiz

The parking industry, like many other industries, is experiencing rapid change through innovation. But innovation alone will not assure success for any player in the space. In my opinion, exceptional customer support is the key. In the year that I’ve been at ParkWhiz, we have experienced immense growth, which is significantly attributed to our focus on the customer.

ParkWhiz provides superior, all-encompassing customer experiences. We listen closely to the feedback our customers provide and ensure that we go the extra mile for everyone who takes the time to interact with us. Since we truly value our customer’s time and input, our goal for each interaction is to exceed their expectations. One way we are able to do this is by providing personalized answers. Each time a customer reaches out to us, we leverage the activity feed and objects within the Kustomer timeline to quickly gain information on purchase history, favorite locations, and previous interactions with our team. Having robust information on each customer’s experience with our product in one place allows us to quickly provide tailored answers, which demonstrates our commitment to solving each unique inquiry with the first reply.

The customer timeline also provides us opportunities to provide proactive support. For example, if we are assisting a customer who has a historical pattern of purchasing parking in Washington DC, but has just booked parking in NYC for the first time, it presents an opportunity for us to provide helpful insight about the nuances of Manhattan parking. By offering a few additional tips and tricks we are able to reduce a future interaction that pertains to the differences in markets. Since we made our transition to Kustomer, it has been extremely refreshing to have migrated from a ticket-based world, where questions would come in and our team would just solve the ticket in front of them in a somewhat siloed view, now to a world where our agents are now focused more on “finding the best way to assist this particular customer”.

Cross-channel conversation starting with a text and ending on Facebook Messenger.

Another priority for our CX team is to be available for our customers when and where they need us. Customers often use the channel that is most convenient for them at the moment, which is why we offer multiple communication channels, including text, email, phone, and social media support. Kustomer makes it simple for us to manage this mix of channels because everything is built natively into the system. Whereas previously, our communication channels were all housed in different platforms, which meant we were constantly challenged to sync data across platforms.

Kustomer’s omnichannel support integrates all of our data into one place and enables our team to partake in continuous conversations over multiple channels. Our reps will often start conversations with customers on the phone, then pivot to text or email based on the situation. A customer can easily send a text or email to us to provide additional context while speaking with a CX rep on the phone. This new information quickly shows up in the customer timeline, enabling us to continue providing seamless service without having to hunt around for another ticket in the queue and trying and match it up with the original phone call.

The impact of providing real-time, dynamic customer support has been extremely significant on our business. Our retention rate for customers who interact with our CX team is actually 2 to 3 percentage points higher than the average retention rate for our entire user base. We have also found a strong correlation between customers who were “Very satisfied” with their customer experience and their actions to promote ParkWhiz within their circle of family and close friends.

Switching to Kustomer has enabled us to provide support that truly differentiates ParkWhiz. As the mobility industry continues down the path toward connected and autonomous cars, ParkWhiz is a chief architect in how parking fits into the transportation ecosystem. We are combining our tech innovation with our superior user experience, proactive support, and internal efficiency. With all these parts in play, our path to success becomes much more defined.

About the Author: Ryan Kern leads operations at Parkwhiz, whose mission is to free you from the hassles of everyday travel. ParkWhiz makes it faster and easier for you to find the perfect parking space so that you can focus on your destination, rather than on the logistics of getting there. Ryan studied operations management at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and has helped drive awesome customer experiences at ParkWhiz since September of 2016.

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