While many shoppers still rely on traditional customer service channels like voice, others — like millennials and Gen Z who use SMS, chat, and social media regularly in their day-to-day — prefer digital channels. In fact, 87% of service professionals have seen an increase in digital channel use.
At Gladly Connect Live 2023, we sat down with a panel of experts from Chegg, Deckers, and Zenni to discuss how they are using contact center digital channels to improve their customer experience.
Use these insights to optimize and leverage your brand’s digital service channels for an invaluable boost to your customer service strategy.
Chegg is an online, subscription-based service that supports student learning around the world. We spoke with Sienna Hitzeman, Senior Product Manager of Customer Support at Chegg, about how her team navigates using digital service channels to support their students internationally.
Chegg offers support 24/7, 365 days a year. This follow-the-sun support model includes all holidays, regardless of culture or region. Hitzeman’s team has made it their priority to offer the same level of service at any hour of the day.
Part of this equalized approach to service includes localized help centers that provide assistance in 12 different languages so customers get support in the language of their choice. This shows Chegg’s commitment to delivering assistance in ways that work best for their clientele. It also creates consistency across their service for students in every time zone.
One of the ways Chegg has made strides to connect with customers is by prioritizing user engagement across channels, especially their digital channels. Over time, Chegg has found that international customers prefer digital channels, such as SMS and WhatsApp. “We work to engage bright minds in their preferred mediums,” Hitzeman explains of their decision to lean into the success they found using WhatsApp for customer service in particular.
After Chegg began using WhatsApp to connect with customers, they received a surprisingly quick and high level of adoption, revealing the untapped potential of digital service channels.
However, voice is still an essential element to their channel mix, with Hitzeman saying, “We know students prefer digital channels, yet they feel that voice is more effective.” This meant her team had to work on improving the confidence levels of digital channels to continue increasing their user base and shifting pressure off of phone channels — which can be costly, and often drive up average wait time (AWT).
“The more we meet students’ expectations of us to be that good in the spaces they want us to be in, we’re not only serving them but we’re serving us as well because we also have incentives to be in the digital space,” Hitzeman says.
One takeaway from Chegg’s experience is that changes like transitioning to digital channels should not be taken lightly — especially when it comes to your agents. “We definitely want to take [agent adoption] with a lot of care,” Hitzeman says.
Ensuring your agents understand and can efficiently operate in digital service channels is the key to meeting customer expectations. The better your agents are at using digital channels, the more useful they are to your customers.
Creating a seamless adoption plan for your agents begins with a few helpful steps:
SMS and WhatsApp interactions can take much longer than typical voice interactions, since your team will have to wait for a customer to respond before moving forward. This means your team needs to understand your updated workflows and expectations. Luckily for Chegg, Gladly creates a centralized space so that no matter which channels their customers choose, agents have a similar process across all communications.
Deckers is a fashion and performance lifestyle group that holds a portfolio of well-known brands, including UGG, Teva, and HOKA ONE ONE. During our Gladly Connect Live panel, Bryan Riter, Director of Customer Service for North America at Deckers, discussed providing service that fits into the lives of the active individuals that make up their customer base.
“How are we providing support for the busy mom and dad, the busy professional, and the introvert that doesn’t want to reach out through a phone call?” Decker asks.
In the past, Deckers had relied on common channels like voice and chat. However, in 2020, they launched SMS through Gladly and saw the results right away.
“We wanted to drive some efficiencies, but also leverage a new medium in the service world to really drive great experiences,” Riter says.
SMS through Gladly has now become Deckers’ second-highest performing customer satisfaction channel. By using SMS as a complement to other channels, Riter and his team have created an omnichannel customer experience that works for their busy clientele. “I think it goes so far when we can show respect for a customer’s time,” he says.
Riter’s team not only developed opportunities for customers to use self-service channels at their own convenience, but they also crafted a seamless experience that allows shoppers to easily communicate with an agent. A balance of the two makes the channels complementary, rather than working against one another.
While SMS has been effective for Deckers, Rite says that before CX leaders launch new channels, they have to make sure it’s efficient for them. SMS is not beneficial if it prolongs issue resolution compared to a phone call. Be sure to consider how new digital service channels impact your customer experience — as well as your agents’ workflows.
Instead of using traditional metrics to measure success, Riter and his team used topic-based contact categories to identify common opportunities for positive interactions with customers. Some examples include:
These interactions tended to be more voice-driven, as customers preferred lengthy interactions when seeking information they were excited about. So, Riter’s team decided to optimize their website to increase opportunities for these conversations while simultaneously reducing customer effort. “At the end of the day, we want to be easy to do business with,” Riter says.
When it came to hard metrics and customer service SLAs, SMS presented a new challenge in making each interaction as efficient as possible. Riter asked his team, “How many text messages does it take to resolve an issue?” He says a CX leader’s goal on SMS should be to reduce this number to as few as possible.
To minimize interaction metrics, agents should prioritize learning and understanding customer journeys over time. Taking note of frequent customer service complaints and issues that are commonly connected helps agents proactively address common downstream issues.
[Read more: Key Proactive Customer Service Strategies by Channel]
This anticipatory service helps customers solve their issues before they happen, increasing their overall satisfaction. By using Gladly, Riter’s team had a full view of their SMS interactions, which allowed them to optimize their channels, improve their customer experience, and serve more customers within the scope of their everyday lives.
Zenni Optical is an online eyewear brand that has been in business for 20 years and has sold over 50 million pairs of glasses. But even given the brand’s long-standing success, Brian Kershon, Head of Global Customer Service for Zenni Optical, says one of his biggest challenges has been educating customers on the validity of the company’s services.
Zenni is an online-only retailer that has eliminated the need for traditional eyewear practices, like in-store trials and fittings. “We want to deliver an amazing experience to customers,” Kershon says. “We’ve all been on the other end of it, where we’ve felt helpless and frustrated.”
This vision became crucial for his team as they worked to educate a new wave of customers who discovered Zenni during the pandemic. But it would take a lot of effort to transform their perspective on the traditional eyewear industry.
Zenni Optical has adapted the world of vision into an easy-to-use, online experience. However, in an industry full of local eyewear shops and in-person services, online eyewear can be daunting for first-time customers.
To get customers accustomed to this new, digital environment, Kershon and his team take the best practices of an in-store experience and transfer them over to their virtual platform. “We really try to structure our support to be there every step of the way during the customer journey,” he says.
For example, when searching for glasses, customers can schedule a free consultation with a stylist to receive guidance and confidence in their purchase — just as they would shopping in a store. Zenni even has a post-care team that helps customers make adjustments to their frames.
Time is valuable to customers, which means they’ll stick with the brands that make shopping quick and easy. “There’s a direct correlation between low effort and high loyalty,” Kershon says. But how does a brand provide a low-effort experience for its customers?
According to Kershon, it all starts with how you support your agents. “The more we are able to empower our agents, the more we are able to build up through learning and development, quality assurance, and tools and systems,” he says.
One of the best ways to reduce agent effort is to identify inefficiencies and eliminate them. These changes could include:
Zenni made these internal tweaks by switching from a ticket-based solution to Gladly. Kershon chose Gladly because it gave his team an easy-to-use resource with a clear, singular view of customer data. This broke down inefficient barriers that kept agents from feeling successful at work — stress that was being passed on to customers.
Zenni eliminated redundancies by providing agents with access to all of the information they needed in one place. Kershon and his team also found that Gladly took the pressure and stress off of agents to deliver personalized customer service, which meant customers received consistently excellent service from every agent. By reducing effort for agents with Gladly, customer effort was equally reduced — increasing overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Learning from leaders in the CX industry helps your team grow, develop, and improve your customer experience across the board. If you’re interested in accessing more valuable insights from experts like these, check out more on-demand sessions from Gladly Connect Live 2023.
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