Meaningfully engaging with customers should be a priority for any business, but isn’t always easy. Thankfully for CX Manager Caroline Nolan, Brooklinen is taking measurable steps to improve customer relationships and is enabling its team to interact with customers in more impactful ways.
In this fireside chat, hear insights from Caroline and Solvvy’s Maria Jiang on how to ensure Customer Support has a voice in determining the product roadmap, how to better position your products and services to align with customer expectations, and more.
How have you seen the role of Customer Support changing over the years? What’s the biggest trend you’ve seen?
- Maria: The role of Customer Support has been changing from reactive customer service to proactive customer experience over the last decade. We’re now seeing more and more Customer Support teams acting as the customer experts, advocating for changes on their behalf and sharing actionable customer insights directly with the Sales, Marketing, Product and Design Teams.
- Caroline: On the Customer Support team at Brooklinen, we are primarily focused on building true connections between customers and our brand — and getting to know the customers. We find that this approach helps our team really listen to our customers. For example, we added corner ties on our duvet cover because we heard that customers were “wrestling” with comforters. Another product feedback we got from our customers is the pain in making their beds because they can’t tell the difference between the short and long sides of fitted sheets so we added a tag so you can easily tell them apart. I would say that our team hasn’t just been focused on reacting to customer support issues, but that we strive to proactively get ahead of issues before they even happen.
Given this changing role of CX, what has been the biggest change in the relationship between sales & customer support?
- Maria: We’re seeing the lines blur between Sales and CX where CX is oftentimes acting as the new sales team. That’s because great customer experiences increase trust, and we buy from those we trust. For example, think about the last time you took your car into the shop for an oil change. Often times, auto shops attempt to upsell you on other services/products. So an example of an auto company that established trust with their customer is Audi. Audi started providing a custom video from your technician explaining exactly the additional repairs your car needs. This is a great example of how CX can establish customer trust and make recommendations.
- Caroline: That’s a great example, Maria. Similarly at Brooklinen, we give bedsheets to support agents as part of new hire onboarding so they can provide a first-hand experience to our customers. Our agents are also using other Brooklinen products — towels, pillows, etc — so they can recommend the best products to the customer based on their intimate knowledge of our products based on their wants/needs.
What about the relationship between marketing & customer support? How has CX played a key role in aligning marketing with customer expectations?
- Maria: In many ways, I think Customer Support is the new marketing, and I see CX playing a key role in acquiring new customers as well as in elevating a brand in the customer’s eyes. According to Gartner, 76% of businesses expect to compete on customer experience alone and it is predicted that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator between brands. Not only that, but consumers are now making purchasing decisions based on the quality and level of CX they believe they will get from the brands and 86% of customers are willing to pay a premium for better customer experience.
- Caroline: Actually, our VP of Marketing came from CX so he’s always open to customer feedback on our marketing campaigns. For example, we get involved in doing pre-mortem for campaigns/events to predict what’s going to be confusing for a customer and share that feedback with the Design team before launch. A specific example was our “Thank you for sleeping with us” campaign. Before we launched this national campaign, Marketing approached my team to test out the campaign concept and ensure this tagline was going to resonate with our customers. We recommended that we pilot to a smaller audience before we printed out the new slogan on thousands of tote bags and sent it out our email communications. We have great collaboration with the Marketing team.
What about the relationship between operations and customer support? Can you share about a time when CX has collaborated closely with operations?
- Caroline: At Brooklinen, we proactively give a heads up to customers whenever there is going to be a shipping delay so they don’t have to contact us first. We even update our Help Center articles in case our customers want to self-serve and find those answers on their own.
- Maria: That’s a great example of proactive customer support! 73% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that a company can do so it’s no wonder that self-service interactions have overtaken all channels for the third year in a row. The volume of interactions between brands and customers is growing exponentially across all channels, and it’s not economically sustainable to increase the number of support agents. That’s why many of our clients are re-imagining operations with AI and automation technologies such as Solvvy.
What do you think about the use of technology to fuel the changing role of CX to have a stronger voice and enable tighter cross-functional collaboration?
- Caroline: We are focused on using technology in a strategic way so agents only spending time on detailed questions that cannot be self-serviced. For example, if a customer doesn’t like the color, they can easily self-serve and request the return without ever talking to an agent. We are here to make true connections with customers who want to and give the option to those who prefer to self-serve.
- Maria: I think Caroline hit the nail on the head! I always advise clients to deploy new technology with care and try to set clear expectations on what technology can / cannot do. Many of our clients are high growth startups like Brooklinen who experienced huge spikes in customers and sales — and looking to free up agent time so they can focus on the interactions that truly require a human touch while providing immediate support 24/7 on issues that can be automated.