SNOW's Blueprint for Ecommerce Customer Service Team Management
Customer Support is usually seen as an expense of doing business, which it still is, but considering
- how 73% of customers report they value good customer experience over price,
- and 33% of customers say that they’ll consider switching brands after just a single instance of poor service
it is also a key differentiating factor when it comes to your business's revenue and it’s important to not let customer service as a function be an afterthought, especially for growing eCommerce businesses.
We recently did a Masterclass with Thomas McCray, Director of Customer Success at SNOW where he shared a blueprint of how to structure and scale your e-commerce customer service function.
In this article, we share lessons from the webinar on how SNOW redefined customer service and transformed it into a strategic function that has a direct impact on revenue.
“Customer Support is a people-centric business so it’s important to ensure that technology supports the people and not the other way around”. - Thomas McCray
4 Basic Qualities of a High Functioning Customer Support Department
In Thomas’ experience as a customer support leader for the past 20 years he swears by these 4 qualities that’s necessary for a high-functioning customer service team.
- Being Customer Centric: Obsess about exceeding customer expectations in every interaction
- Being Data-Driven: Take strategic decisions based on data and experiments without sacrificing customer experience.
- Being Agile: While processes exist to carry out operations as smoothly as possible, it’s important to stay on top of customer trends by being quick to pivot and adapt.
- Being Innovative: Always be on the lookout for new ways to solve customer problems to keep up with changes in customer behaviors.
How to structure your customer service team?
Most often, there isn't a lot of deliberate effort that goes into structuring a customer service team. It's usually let's throw more people at the problem or let's outsource and forget about it.
But what separates the great from the good is thoughtful planning and the creation of micro pods with clear objectives that tie back to the organisational priorities. Here is how Thomas approaches it at SNOW:
Customer Support can be broadly categorized into 3 modules.
- Transactional Support deals with basic customer requests such as order updates, product information, returns & exchanges, cancellation & refunds, etc. things that are handled by using a helpdesk and live chat.
- Customer Retention deals with gathering feedback about policies, collecting experience ratings such as CSAT, and asking customers for reviews.
- Revenue Augmentation consists of processes the customer support team can set up to quantify their revenue impact and contribute to the bottom line, which deals with revenue impact from abandoned carts, wholesale and high-value first orders (HVFO), and self-service, etc.
1. How is the customer success team structured at SNOW?
The Customer Success team is split into two main functions:
- A service function that handles transactional support and customer retention modules
- A revenue function responsible for the revenue augmentation module
The jobs to be done for agents in SNOW’s 24*7 customer support team looks like this:
- A combination of In-house & BPO agents used Richpanel as their helpdesk & live chat, along with Richpanel’s self-serve capabilities automating a significant portion of transactional support.
- In-house agents handled reviews on Okendo, TrustPilot, Amazon, Bed, Bath & Beyond, etc. While they used Richpanel to get customer feedback and monitor their CSAT.
- Initiatives and experiments that drive revenue from customer support such as Wholesale & Upsell, Abandoned Cart & High-Value First Order (HVFO), etc. are completely handled internally.
2. Job Modeling Framework
Traditionally customer service has been about dealing with the first two modules and in the early stages agents are usually generalists each handling all interactions without any specialization.
But fast-growing DTC brands require specialists to focus their efforts on these 3 categories to keep up with the growth and continuously deliver exceptional customer experiences.
While focusing on specializations it’s important to match the strengths and weaknesses of each agent you hire with the above 3 categories to tailor the agent’s skills to the jobs to be done using the Job Modelling Framework.
This framework is based on four factors that contribute to employee performance - skill, motivation, morale, and resources.
At SNOW, Thomas used this framework to speak with his agents to first understand which part of their jobs they enjoyed doing and which parts they hated, scored them on their strengths and weaknesses, then restructured the team to match their skill set with their responsibilities.
This resulted in increased job satisfaction and higher employee morale, leading to improved productivity, & accountability among team members.
It’s natural to worry about your support team’s responsibilities when adopting a team structure that promotes specialization.
Thomas tackled this at SNOW by ensuring there’s a maximum of 80% occupancy at any given time in the support team so that agents have enough capacity to accommodate their teammates’ absences.
Even though the focus is on specialized functions, everyone is cross-trained in most of the responsibilities and jobs to be done to cover these scenarios without it being detrimental to the customer experience.
Transforming customer service into a revenue driver
It is not common to see customer service teams working towards a revenue goal in an E-commerce business. But the deliberate and thoughtful experiments that SNOW has been driving to augment revenue are something that every brand can try to emulate.
At SNOW, Thomas’ team looked at identifying, attributing, and enhancing the revenue impact from 3 major sources - High-Value First Order (HVFO), Abandoned Carts, and Self-Service.
1. Revenue Impact from High-Value First Order (HVFO)
The objective was to retain customers who had their first orders above a predefined threshold.
Their support team would assign one agent to that customer, who becomes the single point of contact and would proactively reach out to the customer to give them a personalized experience.
This was done easily with Richpanel’s Smart Routing & Assignment where you can set up conditions to assign the customer to specific teams or agents based on cart data or any other data available in your CRM.
They measured the % of customers who placed a second order within 12 months of the first order and were able to consistently improve YoY.
2. Revenue Impact from Abandoned Carts
Similarly for abandoned carts, they would reach out and nudge the customer to complete their purchase by providing a personalized experience.
By keeping track of the % of customers who completed the purchase after reaching out they were able to tie back the value of personalized experiences to revenue impact and consistently improve upon it.
3. Revenue Impact from Self-Service
When they initially onboarded Richpanel the objective was to use Richpanel’s helpdesk capabilities to manage tickets and conversations.
But they were able to quickly make the connection between revenue and customers who chose to purchase using Richpanel’s self-service module and even reduced their ticket volume by 50%.
Richpanel’s Revenue Reporting also helped them to understand the revenue impact of their phone and chat support lines.
What Goals, Metrics, & SLAs should you set for your customer service function?
At SNOW, we optimize our team’s goals for both customer and agent experience. So having a ‘minimum calls per day’ expectation doesn’t make sense for us because calls are customer driven. We didn't want to incentivize agents to cut a call short so they can get to the next call just because they have to hit a metric. - Thomas
At SNOW, they staff their agents based on average call time as a metric and take great care to ensure that they don’t choose metrics that would sacrifice even one of the two: customer experience and agent experience.
The end goal for the customer service department is to provide a high-quality experience to their customers and to quantify that experience Thomas uses proxies which are customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, first response time, and query resolution time.
While measuring these figures it’s important to benchmark them based on what makes sense for your business instead of blindly following industry standards.
Richpanel is super intuitive. It has a very short learning curve. There’s a lot of data that we find to be very useful and we’re super happy with the results we’re seeing with Richpanel. - Thomas
Importance of a good tech stack for customer service teams
Typically customer support software only takes care of the backend operations, which are ticket routing, agent productivity, and customer experience metrics.
Even then it often ignores simple things which makes it simple for the agents and the customers.
For example, with conventional helpdesks agents get tired of hopping between multiple platforms to get context on important customer information. This makes customers more frustrated because they end up repeating the same information multiple times.
Richpanel forms the core of the customer service tech sack allowing the SNOW team to ensure that:
- All customer information is available within the helpdesk without switching platforms
- Repetitive queries are automated with customer self-service capabilities
- Customer satisfaction is measured accurately with relevant metrics and goals while tying it to revenue.
This helps them provide a seamless customer experience, and they can truly focus on growing their business instead of worrying about bad customer reviews and agent attrition.
This goes to show that the importance of all these factors - good tech stack, team structure, goals, objectives, etc. working together in conjunction to provide a great customer experience cannot be discounted in your eComm brand’s growth. Book Demo or Sign up for Free to Learn more about Richpanel
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