Hanife Yeter
Hanife Yeter
Marketing Communications Manager
Jun 13, 2019

ROBIN’s Brand Chief interviewed by InternetRetailing: competing on customer service

At the Internet Retailing Expo 2019 (IRX), ROBIN’s Brand Chief, Michiel Gaasterland was interviewed on camera by IRX’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Ian Jindal.

Both Ian and Michiel share a passion for eCommerce, so check out the video of this fruitful meeting about the need for higher performance in Customer Service, where currently the industry focusses on shiny objects (while the actual secret is in the boring stuff).

ROBIN & Internet Retailing Interview

Hi, Michiel! Now ROBIN is not a name we've come across yet fully in the UK. Tell us a little bit about the company.

ROBIN is a Dutch company. We are in eCommerce Customer Service. Currently, we serve about +120 leading eCommerce stores in the Netherlands. We are focused on helping our customers build a sustainable operation and boost the performance of the Customer Service team. We’re now entering the UK market with already two fantastic customers on board: Revolution Beauty and Soak!

You didn't pick the name ROBIN because it was a typical British name. But we know it's not a Dutch name either. So how did the name come about?

The name ROBIN was inspired by how the product was originally designed. We're really good at eCommerce integration. So, next to every question, you immediately get all the relevant Customer and eCommerce data. In that respect, the product is kind of functioning as a sidekick for the Customer Service department.

So, the sidekick of Batman is: ROBIN. That's how the name came about. Then, we came up with an actual bird, a red bird as a logo. And it works like a charm, as everybody recognises it and it's got some sort of cuteness to it.

Excellent. Well enough of the cuteness. So, Customer Service, it’s often a back office. In the past it was considered as an “overhead” function rather than the best contact with the customer. What exactly is the problem ROBIN is solving for eCommerce retailers?

Yeah well, at first it depends on where the company is at in its maturity level.

First, we have our own Maturity Model we take our customers through. Then there is the Conversation Console, which is our version of a help desk system. It's not a ticketing system, but rather a conversation manager for eCommerce. It's got an open inbox structure designed for service reps to better collaborate and boost performance.

The first stage of our maturity model offers a Performance Plan called: 'House in Order'. This is where you get your act together, sort your data out, make sure you're answering questions in time, that kind of stuff.

The second stage of the Performance Plan is called: 'Compete on Service'. Live chat plays a central role here – seamlessly integrated with your other channels. I mean, there are so many different customer service software systems; I like to compare it with laptops. A Windows laptop essentially gets the same job done as an Apple MacBook. But it's a different experience and usually the output is different as well. It's the same with our system. It's a completely different architecture, it feels different, but essentially it brings all the customer service questions from all channels, in one interface and gets you a 360° view.

So, out of your clients, who do you think is really exemplifying the best use, so that people are really engaging with their customers?

One of the first clients that we signed, is a big eCommerce store, called ‘Body and Fit Shop’ and they're part of Glanbia now, which is a big name in the UK. These guys are nailing it. They had this quality rule: ‘no more than 10 to 12 conversations an hour.’ When they go above that, Remco, the Customer Service Manager would walk up and say: ‘I need new folks.’ Body & Fit Shop’s customers want product advice. And because they care about their customers, they are always online with live chat.

Many eCommerce stores also want to start with live chat. They switch it on, on Mondays and they switch it off again on Tuesdays, as they can’t sustain it: too many phone calls, too many e-mails, difficult to plan, etc. Live chat is not a tool you just switch on. It's a strategic decision to start speaking in real time with your customers. And when companies really embrace that, which is what ‘Body and Fit’ did… you start seeing big conversions. These guys convert 50% of all their chats in the cart and 33% sitewide.

So, the company has dieticians as second-line support for advice. They get the most extraordinary questions, because customers are able to ask. The fact that a customer can ask questions is definitely a massive strength that builds the customer relationship.

What I find exciting is that we’ve seen an important shift in the market. From chats or workflows to control undertrained cheap staff to save costs, to really leaning in to engaging with customers with great staff. On the basis of like standing still, what's coming next from you?

At ROBIN we really want to make the connection between Customer Service and Customer Experience (CX). Customer Experience has been the buzzword for years now. And, it just keeps being the buzzword. Many studies now show the same results. Take e.g., Forrester, that recently noted that CX transformations have stalled. It's coming to a standstill. We're not improving CX anymore and that's because of two reasons.

First, the domain is way too big. Where do you start? As an industry, we love to focus on the front-end, on shiny objects. We love to focus on personalisation, on chatbots and all that stuff, while the actual secret is in the boring stuff, in the back, in the operations. You need to get it right.

"As an industry, we love to focus on the front-end, on shiny objects. We love to focus on personalisation, on chatbots and all that stuff, while the actual secret is in the boring stuff, in the back, in the operations. You need to get it right."

Secondly, we think that customer service conversations are, “make or break” moments in customer relationship. There’re loads of data to back that up and we think that these touchpoints are critical in the CX and you need to manage them as such. So, we think that Customer Service will more and more become the centerpiece of smart Customer Experience Management. Actually, looking at that data, the big question I'm often getting from everybody is: “How can I reduce the volume of customer service questions? and then I reply: “Which questions would you like to have less of?

You know, you get 30% conversion on pre-sales conversations, so maybe a bit more of those and a bit less of questions that are not valuable. We make a distinction between Bottable, Avoidable and Desirable Questions. Bottable questions is the stuff that you can actually automate. Then you’ve got your Avoidable questions, stuff that you can actually optimise in the CX so they won't appear in the first place. Better for the shopper, better for you. And then there are many Desirable questions, conversations you actually want to have.

The proportion of customer service questions an eCommerce store should desire, avoid or answer with a bot

Exactly. Desirable questions, about products that you like, from customers you like, coming together.

Yeah, currently we’re building a tag-based shopper journey. At its most basic, conversations happen in three phases: pre-sales, purchase and after sales.

First, we ask which conversations happen where, in which volumes and through which channels. Then, we ask where the friction is. We look for root-causes and how we can optimise the front end, so these Avoidable questions won’t happen again. We get real granular on Customer Service data. At the same time, we help our customers boost performance by being faster, more available, more efficient in Customer Service. So, that's what we do at ROBIN.

Wonderful. Well I'm sure we'll be hearing loads more of you.

Thank you so much for having me.

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Customer service, ROBIN, Partnerships, irx


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