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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5 Things You Can Start Doing to Go From Reactive to Proactive Support

In our CEO and Co-Founder Brad Birnbaum’s latest piece for Forbes, he dives deep into the theory and practice of proactive service.

How can you prepare your service organization to anticipate your customers’ desires in order to deliver an experience that defies their expectation? We’ve outlined some steps you can start taking to upgrade your experience and delight your customers with forward-thinking support.

  1. Train Your Team: Proactive service isn’t just about analytics, it requires an equal amount of human insight. Before investing in tech, make sure you have a team of engaged agents that are already thinking about your customers’ needs. For example, Outdoor Voices’ agents are able to collaborate more easily because of comprehensive training, amplified by Kustomer’s intuitive interface. Great service starts with great people.
  2. Invest in Analytics: By combining human insight with powerful analytics, reporting, and a record of every customer’s history, you can equip your team with everything they need to know about your stakeholders. Just ask Glossier, who works with Kustomer and Looker to get rich insights into customer behavior. If you don’t have all the data in a single customer view, it’s almost impossible to be proactive.
  3. Have a Secure Data Warehouse: Beyond having all the necessary data at your fingertips, that data needs to be in one safe, central location or network of locations. This can be a system you’ve created in-house, or a third-party CRM—the important thing is security and usability. Read more about our commitment to security here.
  4. Make Searching Easy: When you have all of your customer information in one system, across all of your platforms and integrations, you can create the kind of granular searches for customers that account for their specific behaviors or needs. Once you’re able to identify customers by their last order, their location, their sentiment, and more, surprising and delighting them is a snap. For example, Slice uses Kustomer to segment their users, then automates workflows to deliver more efficient service.
  5. Track the Right Metrics: You need a way to capture how your customers are feeling. That requires a combination of several things. You should be measuring sentiment within customer communications and on social, using surveys that capture metrics like CSAT, NPS, and CES, and tracking behavior across every channel of interaction. For a brand like LOLA, having all the relevant information at agents’ fingertips when customers have a question about their subscriptions is crucial to great service.

To be smart, personal, proactive, and timely requires a lot of moving parts to come together, but doing so is the hallmark of a standout customer experience. Once you’re gathering and storing all of the relevant customer information, you can act on it with a combination of well-trained employees and specific features within your software platform. Once you can connect with individual customers over their preferred channel with the right personalized message, your experience can become a true revenue driver and differentiator for your organization.

Getting there isn’t as simple as completing a checklist—it’s a complex process, unique to every business. However, when all of these threads come together, your customers will see and feel the difference in every interaction.

Get more advice on delivering proactive service from Brad’s piece in Forbes.

Product Update: Making Live Chat Scalable

Online chat is everywhere these days, but many companies are still figuring out how best to manage chat conversations at scale. This is why Kustomer’s Chat function—available over both web and mobile—now includes a few features that makes life easier for support teams.

End Chats

Kustomer Chat now includes the option to “End Chats”. Now agents can permanently close a chat conversation once it’s over. This will happen when an agent marks a conversation as Done—locking the ability for a customer to type a reply back to the chat (they can always open a new chat, of course).

This also adds an “end chat” button to the customer experience, allowing the customer to end a conversation when they are done communicating and notifying the agent. In addition, it sets customer expectations regarding agent availability, so customers aren’t replying to chat messages when agents are not available.

Single Chat Sessions

Another option available to companies is to allow only one chat conversation from a customer at a time. This feature ensures that every customer is matched with one agent, and limits the number of teams the customer may work with at once.

Chat Reporting

Support teams that choose to activate the above feature will also be able to better track open and closed conversations and more accurately analyze their chat volume. For example, if you collect the contact reason, every conversation will (usually) have a single reason for contact (unlike chat conversations that are opened again and again, for a different reason each time), so you can look at a definitive number of closed chat conversations per specific topics.

Kustomer Chat is always evolving. Our latest updates to Kustomer Chat include:

  • Conversational Assistant: a pre-conversational feature that helps your team collect information from customers automatically, before reaching the agent.
  • Chat Availability: a feature that incorporates Business Hours into the chat experience, allowing admins to determine what the after-hours experience will be for chat users.
  • Chat Deflection: helps to set proper expectations for your customers with estimated reply times, and diverts traffic when your Chat team doesn’t respond by directing your customers to other channels.

Kustomer Chat is used by online marketplaces and direct-to-consumer brands like Slice, Zeal, UNTUCKit, LOLA, PetcareRX and more. Schedule a demo below to see how Kustomer Chat can work for your business:

This Direct-to-Consumer Brand is Disrupting Feminine Care With Experience

Watch the webinar recording here.

It’s not easy being a new brand in an industry with a lot of established players. However, if you can use your incumbent status to take a fresh look at the marketplace, you can end up turning the entire category on its head.

LOLA has done just that. The forward-thinking feminine care brand has overturned the status quo with their totally new approach. By highlighting what actually goes into their products, providing a convenient subscription experience, and openly talking about women’s health issues that were previously taboo, they’ve created the first lifelong brand for a woman’s body.

While they started with tampons, the brand has quickly expanded their range, now offering pads, wipes, condoms, and other reproductive wellness products. Despite their rapid growth, they’ve kept their focus firmly on delivering great, personal experiences to every customer.

On our latest webinar (hosted by Glossy), LOLA’s Senior Manager of Customer Strategy and Operations Caroline Dell spoke with Kustomer’s Senior Manager of Marketing Programs Stacey Dolchin about their strategy and approach to delivering a highly personal DTC experience. For more information on delivering a great DTC experience, check out our whitepaper.

Webinar: How LOLA disrupts personal care with personalized, direct-to-consumer experiences

Pursuing Purpose

Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman founded LOLA in 2015 with a simple idea—women shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to their reproductive health. It all started when the two women realized that the tampon brands they had been loyal to for over a decade weren’t don’t disclose what they’re made out of. What was actually in those tampons? This desire for straightforward transparency and frank discussion about a topic that we’ve traditionally shied away from has animated the brand ever since.

This unique perspective, coupled with high-quality products and a smart business model, has helped them shaped the broader conversation around women’s health since launch. By empowering women with information, they’re helping their customers have more control over what they put in their bodies. By focusing on questions asked by real women, they’re dismantling the stigma that surrounds female reproductive wellness by creating a two-way dialogue with an engaged community. Every communication channels is an opportunity for a conversation—-website, social media, email newsletters, and their blog, The Broadcast.

By answering questions that their competitors aren’t with a relatable and no-nonsense brand voice, LOLA has both become a resource for their customers and started a national conversation about reproductive health.

Rewarding Relationships

LOLA’s goal is to create relationships that last a lifetime. They receive 1000+ emails per week from customers about personal topics, often asking questions to LOLA’s agents before consulting with a doctor. 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 many younger customers and their parents, their ongoing relationship with the brand starts with LOLA’s First Period Kit. After posting a video where LOLA founders told their first period stories, they were inundated with moms reaching out to ask if they offered products for teen—a great example of their ongoing dialogue with customers driving product development.

For their most recent launch of Sex by LOLA, they sent 100 loyal customers mailers of their new products. It was an easy way to get feedback while rewarding loyalty, and one customer even emailed to say that she loved the products and, as a single mom, they inspired her to start dating again.

A Single View in a Single Platform

All of this wouldn’t be possible without a platform to manage their relationships and provide incredible experiences. Their previous platform wasn’t linked to their back-end system, so they had little context on the customer’s order history or subscription details. The same was true for incoming messages on social. With Kustomer, it’s now easy for their agents to switch between social and support channels, helping their customers on their preferred channel at a moment’s notice.

Context Cards with buttons enable the team to take direct action such as modifying, cancelling, or scheduling a subscription, and checking on shipping status for an order. Clicking on the “Modify” button, 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.

Features like Workflows and Bulk Messaging have helped LOLA handle larger issues proactively. When their subscription management page experienced a brief outage, LOLA created a workflow based on keywords that automatically identified and then proactively bulk messaged thousands of impacted customers to notify them of the issue. As a result, LOLA was able to handle over 5x their normal volume at a highly-sensitive time.

Since combining all their order, subscription, and customer data into the Kustomer platform, LOLA’s reply time has decreased by 15%, while their agent efficiency has increased by 15%. Watch the webinar recording.

A Brand for Life

LOLA’s mission is one-of-a-kind, and with Kustomer, they’re able to scale while living up to the values that inspired them in the first place. For a brand that empowers and informs women, LOLA’s team needs to be just as empowered and informed to deliver great service. Building meaningful, ongoing relationships is a major part of what LOLA stands for. With Kustomer, their agents are able to get a holistic view of every subscriber and see their entire history with the brand. With more streamlined support, they can focus on what matters—a groundbreaking, personal experience. Delivering service with a purpose requires a robust and flexible platform, and with Kustomer, LOLA is building relationships that will last a lifetime.

For more information about building a great DTC experience, check out our whitepaper.

Webinar: How LOLA disrupts personal care with personalized, direct-to-consumer experiences

How Subscription Companies Can Deliver a Better Customer Experience

Subscription’s rising popularity isn’t a fluke. There are a lot of real benefits for customers and businesses alike that you don’t get from traditional retail. Customers receive just what they want delivered to their door—even things they didn’t know they wanted—with no extra effort required.

However, their biggest benefit is also a huge drawback. Because customers don’t need to think about their subscriptions all the time, it’s easy for them to cut them loose once they stop adding value to their lives. This is why brands with subscription models are plagued by churn. Customers might jump on with ease, but if they don’t find lasting value, the novelty wears off.

Subscription-based companies must reward loyalty. They should be incentivizing customers to stay with them for the long haul, delighting them with new surprises and offers based on the length of time they’ve been subscribed. Every delivery must be used as an occasion to build a deeper connection. Agents need to be well-trained to deliver a complimentary experience, consulting with customers on their options and learning more about them to better target offerings.

There are more than 2,000 subscription box services on the market right now, but only a small percentage will still be doing business this time next year. To succeed, subscription businesses need to deliver a valuable customer experience. What does this level of customer experience look like on a practical level?

Rewarding loyalty

Bespoke Post and Boxycharm reward the customers that have been subscribed the longest with more hand-picked, high-value options in their boxes. The upfront cost pays for itself, as customers keep subscribing in anticipation of future surprises.

Asking questions

Every change in behavior is a chance to build a deeper connection. For a brand like Material World that delivers personalized outfits, if a customer puts their delivery on hold, it’s only in their interest to find out why. If the customer is going to be traveling somewhere warm, they could even send their box to where they’re going to be staying—with some tropical inspired options inside.

Exceeding expectations

Don’t hesitate—if a customer is asking about upgrading their subscription tier for a brand like SprezzaBox, reach out and follow up with a personalized offer. After trying out a free trial of a premium box for three months, they’re more likely to be convinced to bump up their subscription permanently!

Digging for more data

For classic subscription brands like Birchbox, agents should take every opportunity to learn more about their customers. They should be reaching out to customers to fill out their profiles, sending surveys to get a better understanding—and their organization should be empowering their agents with the data they already have.

Being proactive

If bad weather is about to roll in to a particular region, rather than being reactive and waiting for customers to respond with questions about a shipment, a brand like LOLA with a time-dependent delivery can reach out to them as early as possible and present them with new shipping options to avoid a delay.

As both brand new and legacy brands catch on to the benefits of subscription model, the delivery box options will only grow. However, the subscription companies that understand their customers and use great service and customer experience to ensure their loyalty are the ones that will last.

Want to see how Kustomer can help your company? Find out how we enable ecommerce business here.

The Future of Retail: Four Essential Takeaways for B2C and DTC Brands

Kustomer’s Future of Retail event brought together business leaders from leading modern B2C and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, featuring a majority of female founders and executives across the agenda. Together, they discussed the trends that are shaping the retail and DTC landscape today, and what it takes to compete and thrive in this world.

We covered a range of topics, from understanding the customer to creating a consistent experience in-store and online and growing a business. However, four main threads emerged from all the conversations at the event:

1) Experience is the differentiator for modern brands

Now every retail brand, digital-first or established legacy, is in competition with Amazon. It’s unlikely that most will be able to compete on choice, ease of use, or connectivity of their product ecosystem. The only sure way to win is on experience—curation, community, and content is where you’ll be able to stand out.

A simple, clear business model means you can set yourself apart with your experience and service. Lola does more than deliver all-natural feminine hygiene products, their intuitive subscription service and direct-to-consumer prices, plus their commitment to a personal and engaging experience, makes them much more appealing than mass-market brands.

Fast delivery and a good website is not enough, instead customers crave a community and a genuine experience. Women’s workwear brand Argent even calls their pop-up stores “Community Centers”, where they host events themselves and from members of the community—with the end-goal of adding value to customers’ lives. You can learn more about using pop-ups as part of your retail strategy in our report here: Digital First, Store Next.

Similarly, cycling brand Rapha received a shout out for their innovative Club Houses. Instead of traditional brick-and-mortar retail, they’re a hub for Rapha customers, where they host events, local artists, athletes, and speakers, plus organize daily rides.

As Aniza Lall, Chief Merchandising Officer at Bluefly, summarized: “Commerce, content, and community: the brands that can monetize those channels are going to succeed.”

2) You need an omnichannel approach to connect every touchpoint

From first touch and acquisition to the post-purchase experience, you need to be able to trace a solid line following your customer along each.

More brands are getting their start on Instagram like AYR, or as a source of content like Glossier, and scaling from their with a handful of products. It’s crucial to be able to capture all the information about those early fans that you can, because they will form the core of your audience and define your brand experience.

Eleanor Turner, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Argent, described the importance of connecting these dots: “Experience is such a buzzword today, but it’s really all about creating an experience that’s unique to your brand, personal, and streamlined end-to-end.”

3) Subscription is the future of customer loyalty

New, digital-first brands are shifting their business model to become part of life and rhythm of the customer. For these businesses, profit comes from retention and lifetime value, and you need to know whether or not customers are happy based on their actions, not their words. Doing so can drastically raise their lifetime value.

Men’s subscription box Sprezzabox uses a loyalty program to reward customers based on how long they’ve been a subscriber, giving them access to higher-quality items and delighting them with special offers.

Feminine hygiene brand Lola partners with other brands like Cuyana, Warby Parker, Equinox, and Harry’s to extend their value proposition and reach new audiences.

Material World has shifted their focus from being a marketplace for secondhand luxury items, to building an ongoing relationship by having customers exchange their old clothing and other items for a new pre-owned set each month. As Rie Yano, the company’s Co-Founder and CEO described, “People used to use the brands they shop for as their identity, but now identity is about how you spend your money, not what you spend it on.”

Brands like Rent the Runway and Material World provide more value for customers with a service that replaces ownership with an ongoing relationship with a brand.

4) Stay laser-focused on what your customers love.

Even as you grow, you need to keep the core facets of your brand and experience that your customers love at the forefront.

Women’s clothing brand AYR launched on Instagram and social 3 months before their product lineup fully launched, just to communicate with their customer and get feedback. It’s remained a huge driver for their business: “Our biggest win has been having a direct line to the customer. We launched our t-shirts, plus-size jeans, and eco-friendly products based solely on customer feedback.” Co-Founder Max Bonbrest also gave a big shout out to Glossier for the same reason, “Having an engaged community before you start selling a product is a huge benefit. The best example of this is Glossier, obviously.”

Similarly, Lola’s brand is built on what real women have to say about feminine hygiene. After having a number of conversations while coming up with Lola’s brand direction, founder Alex Friedman had an epiphany: “I realized that there are all these moments where stigma leads to a lack of discussion. I see our job as contributing to the conversation in those areas and extending the brand in those directions.”

Whether your brand is just getting started or has established itself over decades, the discussions at Future of Retail reiterated that success in the modern retail landscape is grounded firmly in gaining better customer understanding, and delivering a powerful, connected experience.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event possible, we’ll have even more awesome events and informative conversations like this one coming soon!

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