Should store associates handle customer service chats?
At Bonobos, store associates are answering some customer service chats to help reduce waiting times.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Bonobos enabled associates to handle customer chats beginning as a pilot in 2019 on an employee’s suggestion and they now do so at all of its 62 stores.
Associates are told in-store shoppers remain the first priority and they are only allowed to assist with chat queries during downtime and when at least one other store associate is on the selling floor.
Beyond reducing customer waits, store associates are said to be better able to address questions involving style, such as fit, that make up about 20 percent of customer chats, leaving non-store staff to answer questions on shipping and payment.
The Journal article found some Bonobos associates apprehensive about ending chat calls when a customer walks in. Angry online messages can also weigh on their mental health, although associates aren’t required to assist with chats.
High turnover rates among customer service reps in recent years have been attributed to negative interactions as complaints have picked up during the pandemic amid late deliveries. Annual turnover rates at contact centers jumped from 30 to 45 percent to as high as 80 percent during the pandemic, according to Cresta.
A recent survey of business leaders across industries exploring contact center engagement from software provider Five9 found 86 percent reporting a massive increase in call volumes, 53 percent flagging the need for more emotional intelligence and empathy during customer interactions and 43 percent indicating agent calls are longer and more complex. Half of the respondents were focused on reducing agent turnover, with 44 percent implementing artificial intelligence and automation to assist contact center agents.
Peter Fader, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told the Journal it might work better if Bonobos’ in-store associates focused solely on online interactions for some shifts. However, he believes the practice could support a consistent omnichannel approach. Prof. Fader said, “Once we get to version 2.0 or 3.0, we’ll look back and say, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’”
- Your Call to Bonobos Might Not Be Answered by the Next Available Agent – The Wall Street Journal
- Cresta Insights Report: Reducing Ramp Time & Agent Attrition In Contact Centers – Cresta
- Five9 International Study Finds 9 out of 10 Contact Centers Have Increased Focus on Agent and Employee Experience – Five9/Business Wire
- How A.I.-Powered Voices Could Transform Customer ServiceArtificial intelligence technology may help solve retention problems in the customer service industry. – INC
- Smiling Down The Phone: Emotional Labor, Attrition In Customer Service And What We Can Do – Forbes
- Report reveals 92 percent of customer calls are opportunities for business growth – Ruby.com/PRNewswire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more pros than cons in having in-store associates handle some customer service chat queries? What protocols should be in place to ensure the in-store experience isn’t impaired?