When Photospecialist first began offering live chat it was immediately met with success, but it also brought with it new customer service demands. First and foremost customers appreciate the quick, expert advice, and the conversion on live chats is spectacular! And yet the channel also faces some challenges. Perhaps the biggest one is to remain consistently available for customers. In this article, Anita Boschman, Customer Service Manager at Photospecialist, talks about how her team, with ROBIN’s help, has begun to use live chat to make the transition towards becoming a real-time service company. Also, check out the Infographic at the bottom of this post.
Photospecialist has been a leader amongst European photo and video equipment and accessories specialists for nearly a quarter century. Just over a year ago, the company expanded the customer contact centre with live chat via their website, which is available in eight languages. Right from the outset, this feature was greatly appreciated by both the hobbyists and professionals who visited. It became increasingly challenging to answer all incoming live chats immediately and to remain online on a constant basis. Additionally, adding live chat has increased the work pressure felt by customer service staff. The solution: A new work schedule, designed by ROBIN, for the in-house customer service team.
High demand for expert advice
For the majority of products bought online, you can simply go to the online store of your choice and locate what you need. The filters you set, for example, for the price, size and colour of a product, give you a number of options to choose from. You might take a look at what other people think (i.e., customer reviews or recommendations) and then ultimately make a final decision.
It’s a very different story when it comes to the world of online screen equipment and related products and accessories. After all, it’s important to know whether the lens that appeals to you because of its technical specifications will fit the body of your camera. And what exactly do you need in a flash set-up for a specific situation? These are just two examples of the many queries from customers who, rather than visiting one of the physical shops in Overijsselse Den Ham or the Belgische Turnhout, shop online at Photospecialist.
Photospecialist’s customers can locate answers to questions relating to processes, such as returning items, in the FAQs. Anyone who experiences difficulties can contact them directly via live chat. From Photospecialist’s experience, live chat is also the ideal channel for customers who are working their way through the online purchasing process because it ensures they receive personalised advice from experts.
The decision for a comprehensive solution
Anita Boschman, Customer Service Manager at Photospecialist stated that “because live chat has proven so successful, we were keen to use it more in the future. But this proved to be harder than we initially thought. The fact that there was no single, comprehensive view of customer data meant that our staff needed to dive into different systems when trying to solve a customer query. This is painfully time-consuming when you’ve been contacted via phone and e-mail (or vice versa) by the same customer”.
“E-mail is a truly time-consuming channel because it’s always a case of waiting until the customer replies. We chose ROBIN because they offer a total solution for all our customer contact channels. In addition, ROBIN doesn’t simply implement a new system without thought, but enters into consultation about business opportunities and challenges. After this point, objectives are formed and a plan is made”.
The need for a new work schedule
When discussing the approach to the transition, Boschman stated: “It doesn't matter whether a customer query comes by phone, e-mail, or live chat: the implementation of a multichannel conversation system that is linked to the CRM system creates a 360° image for the customer. This means that the customer information and history can be immediately viewed by everyone in the customer service team”.
“Edwin van Veen, expert coach at ROBIN, spent a day on location at Foto Photospecialist to analyse what happens on the shop floor and then chart the working methodology. Additionally, all the data from incoming and outgoing calls was analysed. ROBIN’s advice for Photospecialist was based on all this information along with the experiences of other customers”.
“The core of the advice was centred around a different work schedule for the customer service team. Because the combination of customer contact channels had made the working pressure undesirably high, we took ROBIN’s advice down to a tee. With the old work schedule, everyone worked ‘across all channels’, which created unease. The former work schedule simply no longer fit with the way in which we wanted to provide our customers with fast, efficient service that provided comprehensive information regarding our products and services”.
Work in blocks and focus on one channel
ROBIN advised Photospecialist to work in ‘blocks’ so that the customer service staff could focus on one channel. “Say that under the old schedule ten employees were working, there would be one employee dedicated to working on live chat. Nine employees would answer customer queries by telephone, e-mail, and live chat. This working schedule meant we were available via live chat six days a week for four hours per day, which totalled 24 hours per week”.
“Under the new schedule, the same ten people are divided up differently. Now, seven employees work on one specific channel in blocks of two hours. Depending on forecast and availability, it may be that three employees are on the telephone, two are on e-mail, and two are on live chat. We also ensure three employees are flexible so that if necessary, depending on the number of incoming customer queries, they can switch between e-mail, telephone and live chat”.
This new schedule means that somebody is now available for live chat eight hours each day, five days per week. This equates to 40 hours a week of availability, a whopping increase of 67% compared to the former customer service work schedule.
Boschman makes no judgement about additional results in terms of figures, but she is certain that the combination of improved processes – and offering live chat – creates a win-win situation. “Employees experience less stress as they work, they get more done, and they are also more satisfied. Additionally, they achieve much faster response times to e-mail and live chat. This has, in turn, resulted in a higher customer rating. Overall the number of positive customer reviews has increased greatly”.
Keep pushing live chat availability
“The basis for the new working schedule is the most frequently-used channel, which for us, is the telephone”, says Boschman. “We can use our experiences to make predictions. We don’t have customer service staff who speak Polish or Spanish, for example, available every hour of the day. However, when that is the case, we assign them to live chat”.
“Live chat is rapidly gaining ground, even though there are cultural differences between countries. In The Netherlands, live chat functionality was immediately embraced by website visitors, with the United Kingdom and Poland following close behind. In Germany, however, things are taking a little longer. By offering live chat, we can keep customers informed and allow them to experience the benefits”.
“We’re always keeping in mind the need to think ahead. High up on our wish list is to put personalised advice literally into the picture by using video chat”.
Nailing real-time, personal service
By placing telephone and live chat at the heart of their channel strategy, Photospecialist has focused their service efforts where shoppers need it most: precisely at moment of purchase.
The challenge with these channels is to both be available and be able to respond within seconds when your customers need you most. The ROBIN Program helps stores tackle these kinds of eCommerce issues. As Photospecialist demonstrates, it's great to know that a relatively small change – like adapting your working schedule – can yield such spectacular results!