What Consumers Expect from Retail Customer Service

Modern day consumers don’t think of relationships with retail brands as simply transactional — they see brands as an extension of their identity. That’s why building relationships with customers, and treating them as part of the brand, is imperative for business success.

According to a new Kustomer survey, nearly eight in ten Americans say that they wouldn’t shop with a retailer ever again if they encountered bad customer service.

From social media to old fashioned emails, Americans contact retailers 125 times a year – that’s every three days. The survey of 2,000 Americans asked their thoughts and opinions on customer service practices and experiences – and found that Americans aren’t that forgiving when it comes to bad customer service experiences.

In order to remedy their relationship with retailers, 82 percent of respondents are in agreement that retailers should proactively reach out when there is a problem with an order. Those most likely to agree with this sentiment were those aged 55 to 64 and those 65 and older – at a whopping 90 and 94 percent, respectively.

One point of contention between generations, is whether retailers should know their consumers and personalize their interactions with them. Of those age 25 to 34, three-quarters said they expect this personalized communication from retailers, whereas those 65 and older disagreed with this notion at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s clear that the digital age has transformed what the modern day consumer expects from retailers,” says Brad Birnbaum, CEO of Kustomer. “The younger generation not only wants instant resolution to their problems, they also demand personalized interactions and availability across all channels. Retailers must put a customer service strategy in place, and leverage the right tools, to deliver on these expectations.”

This older generation also disagrees with the age-old expression that “the customer is always right” – at 58 percent; but over half of those 65 and older, get very frustrated when they have to repeat information to customer service – that’s 10 percent more likely than those aged 18 to 34.

Sixty-six percent of those aged 25 to 44, however, do agree that “the customer is always right.”

Perhaps speaking to this expression, over half of respondents said they would post an online review after a bad customer service experience, and another four in ten (41 percent) would take to social media to complain.

In order to avoid the hassles of bad customer service experiences, 74 percent said they would spend more money just to get better customer service.

“Customer service can impact business success from end to end,” says Birnbaum. “Delivering a bad experience could not only mean a lost customer, but also a PR nightmare. Conversely, by providing exceptional service, customers are willing to spend more time and money with your brand, building brand loyalty and lifelong customer relationships.”

Read our retail report to access the full survey results, including insights on the importance of real-time support, personalization and omnichannel service.


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How 4 Retail Brands Deliver Modern Customer Support

What are the core principles of a modern retail customer experience? Personalization, curation, agility, and community. Direct-to-consumer retail brands use owning the design, marketing, distribution, and support of their products to build deep relationships with consumers. As a result, many DTCs have transformed customer support into personalized experiences that build loyalty and lifetime value.

Luckily, Kustomer works with many of the leading DTC brands. So we’ve pulled together a few of their customer service secrets for you:

Glossier builds products with their community of fans

A lot has been written about the CX revolution led by cult-fave-turned-unicorn beauty brand Glossier. A key part of Glossier’s success has been thanks to community building (the brand was of course born out of a popular blog) and the customer experience team, called their gTeam, has been instrumental in growing and engaging this community.

Glossier’s gTeam plays a foundational role in bringing community feedback into product design. The company is known for transforming customer feedback into hit products (see: Milky Jelly Cleanser). “They help us figure out and predict all of the questions or concerns that our customers might have about the product,” explained Jessica White, the executive director of customer experience, to Glossy.

 

 

The gTeam editors also go beyond transactional support (shipping, coupons, etc) to deliver complimentary style recommendations. The editors focus on specific channels, including ones not typically covered by support teams, like FaceTime. In combination with digital tools like the Shade Finder app and content illustrating how products look across a range of skin tones, this approach has helped the beauty brand recreate the experience of shopping in a makeup store.

“Instead of limiting interactions with customer service, which is the norm in the industry, we strive to create conversations with our customers,” continued White to Glossy.

The results of this CX investment for Glossier? Reddit threads literally raving about the brand’s customer service.

ThirdLove invests in a culture of CX and smart data

ThirdLove shook up the women’s undergarment industry with personalized recommendations for every body type, money-back fit guarantees, and diverse product models. Which brings to mind the now-famous Victoria’s Secret founder story of feeling unwelcome in the women’s section of a department store and proves how CX complacency can lead to history repeating itself — disruptors becoming the disrupted.

Customer service is such an important differentiator to ThirdLove that the brand invests in Customer Experience centers designed to be great places for their support teams to work. (Proof? There’s even an office slide.) ThirdLove’s Fit Stylists who work there receive training to make customers comfortable during their journey trying and buying intimate apparel, a personal process that can make or break customer loyalty.

As the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive officer, David Spector, explains to Apparel News, “We want to provide exceptional customer experience to people. The only way to do that is with our own team.” Spector also points out that the U.S.-based Experience Center helps ThirdLove’s Fit Stylists form deeper connections with their American customers than outsourced support would.

Like Glossier, ThirdLove also incorporates customer feedback and data into its buyer journey. More than 13 million women have completed ThirdLove’s online Fit Finder tool, resulting in more than 600 data points the brand uses for product development and delivering recommendations back to customers.

Outdoor Voices invites participation in

With a brand that’s about #DoingThings, Outdoor Voices is another DTC brand thriving because of its (extremely on-Instagram) community. The Outdoor Voices Brand Reps play a key role in letting customers know what the brand stands for, why it’s different, and what each clothing item was created for. According to Muse, Outdoor Voices HQ and Brand Reps have monthly video chats to discuss brand news and initiatives.

To make contacting support simple and on brand, Outdoor Voices has a welcoming page and easy-to-navigate support page. By making its email contact “hello [at] Outdoor Voices,” the “support” vibe is swapped for a friendlier, conversational tone.

Like other leading DTCs, Outdoor Voices leverages customer support as a product and trend feedback engine. The company’s recent job posting for a Customer Experience Manager explicitly lists a requirement to “Operationalize customer data and feedback, both within the team (e.g. measure and improve Associate performance) and the company at large (e.g. make customer trends actionable).” This invites fans into the product development process, with customer support as the entryway.

LOLA designs support workflows for empowered agents

Like ThirdLove, LOLA is disrupting traditional brands in another very personal space for women: feminine care and sexual wellness. The brand’s customer service team must handle deeply personal topics from customers, often over email. To return the trust their customers have in them, LOLA’s team goes above and beyond to make sure their products are rushed to women wherever they need them. From sending tampons to a customer’s hotel via Uber, to overnighting condoms so that they arrive in time for a honeymoon, LOLA works overtime to create a memorable experience.

For a recent product launch, the Lola team took it as an opportunity to both reward loyalty and gather feedback. They sent 100 loyal customers mailers of their new Sex by LOLA products. One customer even emailed to say that she loved the products and, as a single mom, they inspired her to start dating again.

For a brand that empowers and informs women, LOLA’s team needs to be just as empowered and informed by their technology solutions to deliver great service. Context Cards enable the team to take direct actions such as modifying, cancelling, or scheduling a subscription, and checking on shipping status for an order. Clicking on “Modify,” for example, takes them directly to the customer’s subscription, where they can edit the frequency, products, etc. This makes it easier for the team to spot orders that have been placed, but may need modifications. LOLA has a search for customers who have emailed and placed an order in the past day, so that agents can make modifications to the order before it actually ships.

Key takeaways:

5 ways to deliver CX like DTC leaders

  1. Consider customer service on the front lines of community and relationship building, not simply a necessary business cost.
  2. Operationalize mining customer conversations for product feedback by support to bring product ideas back into the company.
  3. Use technology to compliment the role of support agents, through algorithm-based recommendations, self-service fit finder tools, and seamless exchanges/returns.
  4. Empower your support teams to go beyond transactional support, have social conversations, and reward loyalty.
  5. Build service conversations off a shared history and understanding that customers are people, not support tickets.

These approaches can benefit any brand, regardless of business model, because they’re key to delivering the type of service customers want and expect. Evaluate your own service operation to see how you compare to these DTCs, and then look for scalable opportunities to deliver a more modern experience — it’ll pay off in community, loyalty, and lifetime value.

Learn more secrets of DTC brand leaders in our downloadable guide.


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Why Companies Are Switching from Ticketing Systems to Kustomer

Ticketing systems have been around for decades. Ticket numbers, formal emails (“don’t reply below this line”), isolated data (“what is your order number?”), have been a part of our lives as customers and customer support professionals. It’s hard to believe a better world is possible. Kustomer, built by industry veterans, was created with a different vision in mind—a customer-centric platform that ties together all the conversations and business information about a customer into a single timeline, together with powerful workflows that enable customer-first companies to execute their customer experience vision. In the past year, a number of customers have successfully migrated from ticket-based solutions to Kustomer. Here are a few items that CX agents and executives who made the switch have highlighted about making the move:

1) From Isolated Tickets to a Single Timeline View of the Customer

How many platforms does your team use to communicate with customers? Is your team in constant need to merge tickets? Because tickets from different channels are often disconnected, it’s easy to run into a customer who is chatting with another agent while you’re in the middle of replying to their email. Or worse, you might reply without knowing that they’re already being helped.

In Kustomer, you can see all the communications with your customer in one place. That means that real omnichannel communication is possible. You can go from emailing with a customer to chatting with them, to calling them on the phone, and see all those records in one conversation. That’s because the customer is the atomic unit of our platform—everything revolves around them.

2) From Disconnected Solutions to Actionable Integrations

How many tabs does your team need to keep open at the same time? When your customer support platform is disconnected from the rest of your platforms, agents need to keep copying and pasting customers’ email addresses into your admin systems to get even basic information about the history of their interactions with your company—past orders, delivery status, etc. Kustomer pulls data from all your platforms and tools and arranges it in a way that makes sense for your business.

With Kustomer’s single timeline view, the customer is the focal point, not individual conversations. Not only does Kustomer merge every interaction into the same conversation automatically, it also integrates with your other systems—like Shopify or JIRA, just to name a few. That means you can see when orders are dispatched and delivered, or previous items that customers have added to their carts or subscribed to on your site. All of this is displayed in that same timeline, so you have a deeper context whenever they reach out. Everything is completely customizable, so it’s easy to create a view that empowers your team to tackle your specific business challenges.

With this level of integration, tasks like returns or reimbursements can be completely automated (as we’ll discuss in the next section). No matter if your business is pizza, shoes, or software, Kustomer can be customized to show your agents everything they need to know in a single window. Orders, shipping info, product or version number, buyer and seller information, and social interactions can all appear beside each customer in bespoke “K Objects”. This makes it easy for agents to get the whole picture and take the next best action, or communicate with the right parties while staying on one platform.

3) From Repetitive Tasks to Intuitive Automation

Kustomer makes it easy to automate commonly-used workflows so that your agents can focus on connecting with customers rather than rote tasks. Don’t be limited by basic workflow functionality that won’t simplify your agents’ day-to-day work. Now you can define intelligent, branched workflows and reports encompassing all customer-related systems in your business.

Because Kustomer integrates with your other platforms, it’s way more powerful than just showing your customer history—it allows you to act on it. These branched, multi-step workflows make it easy to efficiently scale your team and automate simple tasks. Sending instant follow-up emails or processing a return is now only a click away and no longer has to take your agents’ attention away from the customer.

4) From Reactive Support to a Proactive Experience

Proactive service solves for what your customers need. That means it may be something they haven’t even asked for, like a faster delivery to avoid an incoming storm that might cause delays. It’s one of the best ways to build stronger relationships and deliver meaningful experiences. Ticketing systems are inherently reactive, as agents only respond when customers have a problem or a question. Because Kustomer keeps all of your customer information in one place, you can create granular searches for customers around specific behaviors or qualities, all on the same platform. That means your service isn’t just efficient—it’s smart.

If you want to build customer loyalty, you can search for customers that may have bought a product that could give them an issue, then send them all a message proactively. Let’s say your new mascara is mislabeled as “Vegan”—you can look up all the customers who have preordered it, then send them an email letting them know the mistake and offering a free refund or exchange if they don’t want it—all before their orders have arrived. Or if there’s going to be a storm that affects customers in a certain geographic area, you can notify all the customers with orders going to that region with a list of options before their shipment is delayed. With all your customers’ information in one place, it’s easier to surprise and delight them than ever.

When you combine this robust search capability with automated workflows, intelligent and proactive outreach can become a reality.

By putting all the information about your customers in a single view and making it easier than ever to act on it, Kustomer is winning over companies across industries. To try our powerful platform for yourself, schedule your demo today.

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.

The Key KPIs to Analyze When Comparing Internal and External Support Agents

This is a guest blog written in collaboration with a Kustomer partner: CloudTask

What will bring you the most success? An internal team, an external team, or a combination of the two—and how can you find out which will be the most effective?

That’s where KPIs come in. What you focus on will always be dependant on your organization, and your product or service. However, we have highlighted some of the most important factors below.

Track whether your clients are interacting with internal or external agents, and analyze the stats behind this to see which team is performing better.

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

If a customer’s issue is solved on first contact, the benefits are far-reaching. The following stats compiled by PhaseWare speak volumes:

  • Every 1% improvement in FCR results in a 1% reduction in operating costs
  • A 1% rise in FCR leads to a 1%-5% improvement in employee satisfaction
  • FCR increases customer cross-selling acceptance rates up to 20%
  • 98% of customers experiencing FCR will remain loyal to your company

Average Handle Time (AHT)

Ever become irritated by an interaction that takes way too much time? 23 minutes waiting to be connected, 7 minutes speaking to one agent, 9 minutes on hold, and an extra 12 speaking to agent two—sound familiar? You’re not the only one That’s an AHT of 51 minutes. The longer the AHT, the worse every other stat will be for your organization.

Customer Retention

It costs 5 to 30 times more to attract a new prospect than retain an existing one. There are a wealth of factors as to why a customer stays with you, but the quality of customer support is one of the key ways you can increase client retention.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The score that measures how likely your clients are to recommend your organization on a scale of 1 to 10. When people are 4 times more likely to buy when referred, this is key.

And Many More

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) – the average score from a survey you receive at the end of your interactions on how satisfied you were.
  • Abandon Rate – the % of customers that leave the interaction before their query is solved.
  • After Call Work (ACW) – the amount of time your agents are taking to update a clients information post-interaction.
  • Quality Assurance – measured internally. Did the agent follow best practices and procedures?

The list could go on…

So, Internal or External? What is Right for You?

It depends… This is an impossible question to answer and will always be dependant on your organization. We will briefly touch on the quality and the cost of the two.

Quality

Outsourcing has really changed over the past few years. Of course, there are still a number of bad examples, but it is now easier than ever to have a high-performing, top quality outsourced team. Also, with technology the way it is nowadays, it’s now easier for any team, in any part of the world, to be aligned.

Some organizations will need their support teams to be internal, but it is just as possible to achieve the same quality, sometimes more, by going externally.

Cost

External teams usually cost less. First of all, they are often based in countries that have cheaper labor, and secondly, because you don’t have to take care of all the extra costs in addition to the salary—from training to taxes, recruitment to holiday pay, and more. Afterall, an in-house employee costs a lot more than you may think.

What About Combining the Two?

This is an approach many leading organizations have chosen to adopt. After all, with technology today, it can often feel like there is no gap between internal and external teams. At CloudTask, we have our head office in Miami, and further offices in Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, London, and the Philippines. Problems do occasionally come up, but much more often than not, we’re working as one united team.

There is no perfect formula for combining the two. However, a popular way to achieve is to have external teams highly-trained in resolving common issues that can be solved with simple, repeatable outcomes. For example, for a software company, this could be handling common licensing questions. Then when it comes to more tailored and complex coding questions, there may be an internal specialist who is in place to handle these queries.

Processes and technology can also be put in place helping to get the right query, to the right person, in the shortest possible time. For example, an interactive voice response (IVR) – an automated response to help direct calls to the ideal department.

So Where Now?

Really the thing we want to leave you with is to be open to all the possibilities. What will work best will depend on your business.

There is only ever be one way to truly know and that is through data. There is no harm in testing each approach. If done in a professional manner, you should be able to see a level of success with each option. However, it’s likely that one way will stand out above the others and that will be the way to go.

Once you have the winning formula, you will be in a great place to thrive!

Want to learn more about hiring an external customer support team? Download CloudTask’s ‘Beginners Guide to Launching a Remote Customer Support & Customer Success Team’
 

Burrow Delivers More Than a Couch

Are you sitting down?

If you’re on your couch, take a second to think about that piece of furniture you’re so firmly planted on.

Where did you buy it from? What was the experience like? Was it a pain to finally get it into your living room? If your memories are less than rosy, there’s good news: Burrow is working hard to make buying a sofa as convenient as ordering lunch. In fact, founders Stephen Kuhl and Kabeer Chopra were complaining about Ikea assembly times and West Elm delivery fees when they were inspired to create a startup that solves the problems facing big-name furniture sellers.

Burrow delivers a luxury sofa made with the highest quality materials that is easy to ship, fully modular, and stain resistant. That means it’s made to last, so you can take it from apartment to apartment to your first home, and easily add on new seats and sections to fit your lifestyle. Its flat pack design also makes shipping way less expensive than traditional retailers, and it’s made entirely in the US with sustainable materials.

We spoke with Steve Finnern, Burrow’s Chief Operating Officer, to find out how they manage to deliver an amazing customer experience alongside an amazing sofa.

Kustomer: What is your approach to CX at Burrow, and how does that tie into your business at large?

Steve: As an ecommerce company, we want to build an amazing brand that people connect to and love. These are the four principles we believe are key to doing just that.

  1. Creating a product that meets our value propositions and lives up the promise we have committed to our customers.
  2. Creating a brand that customers engage with, connect to, and relate to.
  3. Creating ways of improving and enhancing the shopping experience.
  4. Delivering amazing customer service.

For us, Customer Experience and Service is key to our brand, to our success, and it’s something we’re absolutely committed to and passionate about.


Kustomer: What does this commitment to delivering a great customer experience look like?



Steve: Communication is crucial to our experience. Our customers can reach over live chat, email, the phone, or Facebook Messenger. We make sure we’re notifying our customers of every change or update that will affect their delivery date. We’re constantly trying to put ourselves in the customer’s’ shoes, and help our team understand what they’re going through.

We have to keep in mind that our customers have just bought a high-ticket item, so we make sure we’re constantly reassuring them throughout the experience.

We use Kustomer to manage the entire process, for example generating emails to help customers understand what happens after they’ve placed their order. Letting them know: “Your order is on the way, now we’re building your couch, here are the materials we’re using.”

We’re always reiterating that there’s a lot of thought, care, and detail going into what they’ve just purchased, and we want them to feel confident about the choice they just made. On the day of delivery, we send them a text or email letting them know it’s Burrow Day—we really try to make our customers excited about the experience.



Kustomer: How do you keep communicating with customers after their couch is delivered?

Steve: First off, we’re building a customer feedback system. We examine the delivery process, the quality, the assembly, and the comfort of the couch. We want to understand what the experience was like, collect the ideas people have had, and try to improve.

We also look at how they rate the experience or product against those three or four pillars. If they respond and don’t rank some of those as high as they could be, we’ll respond and follow up over Kustomer to understand what we could do better.

We’re also implementing a content program that lets us show off our different kinds of customers and their lifestyles so that we stay top of mind.

While people probably won’t buy another couch right away, there are other products like an ottoman or a chaise they might want to purchase later on, or they may want to get a matching one-seater—so we can build lifetime value by remaining in touch.



Kustomer: What do you feel is different about Burrow’s customer experience from your competitors’?

Steve: If you start with the product, one of the reasons this is such an amazing brand is because we’re solving actual problems with our design.

We’re solving the problem of moving, making it easy to pack up and take with you.

We’re solving the adaptability problem—if you’re starting off with a 2-seater but move in with a significant other, you can easily add another seat.

And we’re solving the issue of shipping: our flat pack model cuts out a lot of the cost of shipping that comes from traditional furniture retailers.

All of these things allow our product to be more attainable for a larger audience. I think people connect to that and want that higher level of quality without all the extra costs.

What we have to do is make sure people understand the story and what they’re getting, why we’re innovating, and why that matters. As long as we’re doing a good job of communicating this story, people absolutely connect to it.

Kustomer: How are you using Kustomer to help meet your goals for a better customer experience?

Steve: 

One thing we’re looking at are the responsibilities on our team.

We have a number of parts to our support, including escalation levels, swatch fulfillment, refunds—so we’re using Kustomer to create inboxes to assign roles and responsibilities to make sure that outstanding tasks aren’t getting lost, and better-allocating resources for the specific task or function that needs to take place.

 

Our next big focus in on building a custom issue-tracking and feedback system. It will allow us to report issues or delays directly to the manufacturer. This allows a lot more efficiency than spreadsheets or emails. We can keep all of our discussions and workflows centralized, then automate an email to the customer once the issue is closed and their coach has shipped.

This will have the added benefit of helping us follow trends in certain issues to see why there’s a spike—is it a breakdown in our quality control process, with our shipping provider, or somewhere else? We’re really excited to have this total view so we can deliver an even better experience.

Introducing ‘Collaborators’

Support isn’t a back office cost center anymore, it is a strategic team at the center of a company’s operations. For this to happen, Support teams need to be better connected with other teams. With this in mind, we are proud to announce the launch of a completely new feature — Collaborators.

What Is A Collaborator?

Collaborators are users from other teams outside of support that can view conversations, customer history, and searches. These users can help you solve customer questions with internal notes and @mentions, see customer feedback and more. Don’t worry though — we’ve also set them up so they don’t do any harm or cause confusion. They can’t have conversations with customers, or edit organizations, profiles, etc. This ensures that your external communications with customers are consistent and owned by your Support team.

Here are some ways Collaborators can help your support team today:

  • You get a difficult technical question and need a developer’s help to get the answer
  • You need approval to authorize a refund over a certain amount
  • You need an answer from your product team about when an item is coming back in stock
  • You need to ask your Shipping department if a package has left the warehouse
  • You want to find a customer’s original sales rep

What Are The Benefits of Collaborators?

Finally, you won’t have to worry about the number of seats you have in your support system. Collaborators help your support teams provide more efficient service by making it easier to communicate with other departments. Whether these internal users want to stay informed about individual customers or learn more about your business operations, they can view and research any customer of interest. Collaborators can help support teams respond quickly and flexibly to complex customer requests, solve issues faster, and surface common issues with the rest of the company.

How Do I Set Up Collaborators?

Collaborators are free and available to the Enterprise Plan. Instructions on how to add them can be found here.

Deliver effortless, personalized customer service.

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