Getting up close and personal with customers on Facebook Messenger

Getting up close and personal with customers on Facebook Messenger

Everlane is an online-only retailer known for their “radical transparency”—a value system they doggedly put into practice. The company discloses the true costs of their apparel as well as their markups, and customers are encouraged to learn about the factories where Everlane products are made. In fact, CEO Michael Preysman recently made the risky move of inviting a journalist along to factory visits in China.

It’s fair to say that Everlane does things differently and that taking risks is part of what they’re about. The company, now 4 years old and 70-people large, is comprised mostly of self-proclaimed “rule-breakers and questioners” looking for a challenge.

Being a small fish in a large pond might be challenge enough, but Everlane has already made a number of creative, stand-out-from-the-crowd moves to provide the most value and best experiences for their customers. For example, in advance of the 2015 holiday season, they brought their online aesthetic offline by arranging in-person tête-à-têtes with their customers at select hotels in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and San Francisco. Room service appointments allowed customers to preview Everlane’s new Italian-made shoe collection in a relaxed, luxurious setting.

This kind of intimate, one-on-one attention to customers isn’t an isolated event. In fact, it happens every day on Facebook Messenger. In a ground-breaking move, Everlane became one of the first companies to become a Facebook Messenger Beta launch partner, adopting Facebook Messenger as a customer support channel, powered by Zendesk Chat on the back end.

First on the Facebook Messenger bandwagon
Prior to becoming a Facebook Messenger Beta launch partner, Everlane was looking to expand their support offerings to include live chat. They’d started with Zendesk Support as their customer service platform since day one, back in November 2011, and focused on providing excellent email support. The same philosophy that drives their product offerings informed their support strategy: quality over quantity.

Today the Customer Experience Operations team, led by Shane Roach, includes five full-time, in-house employees all focused on operations and managerial tasks. A distributed, part-time team of 25 agents work 25-30 hours a week remotely across the U.S. By early 2015 Roach felt confident the team was staffed enough to offer live chat and narrowed the choice to Chat and one other solution.

“Knowing that Chat is a Zendesk product and integrates really well, we chose to go with Chat,” he said. “It was super seamless and seemed like the obvious choice.” But then the conversations about Facebook Messenger began, and Roach was intrigued. “That really made Chat feel like the right choice.”

Everlane ultimately decided to open Facebook Messenger as the team’s second support channel—a smart move.

“Different customers have different preferences, and it’s about finding the way to interact with your customers where they want to interact,” Roach said. “Working in customer experience you want to launch something new and be the best at it, but we also want our customers to be able to interact with us across every channel and to be the best at everything. It’s about setting and meeting those expectations. If there are other alternatives and other channels where we can continue to learn about our customers, we can try and meet them effectively there too.”

Where support gets friendly
The team still plans to roll out live chat on their site in 2016, but first wanted to get the hang of Facebook Messenger. To date, they’ve delivered more than 10,000 chats via Facebook Messenger and handle roughly 750 sessions a week. Through the anecdotal feedback they’ve collected, customers love the option.

Customers are more likely to engage with Everlane through Facebook Messenger than through email—and about different issues and in different ways. The customer experience operations team has seen their email ticket volume decrease even as their customer base expands. The reason, Roach explained, is because Facebook Messenger is on a customer’s phone. It’s convenient and easy, as there’s no real need to open an email and compose a message. “They just shoot a quick line across.”

It’s easy for agents too. While the goal is always to be thorough and professional, agents can handle up to three or more Facebook Messenger chats at a time and spend less time structuring the perfect email.

They’ve also learned that customers prefer to ask questions about shipping and tracking or to check on stock and sizing through Facebook Messenger. They sometimes also ask for product recommendations, making it easy for agents to quickly put things in their cart and send a quick message across—a faster, more visual, better experience than having the customer click through links in a long email. Overall, the team finds that Facebook Messenger offers everyone a chance to be more conversational, much like live chat. Customers frequently send across a thank you or a thumbs up, or respond with messages like, “Can’t wait, this is going to be awesome!” It creates a great opportunity for agents to respond in turn with emoticons or a high five. “Because of the chat-like interaction, you feel a little like you’re talking to a friend,” Roach said. “The Facebook Messenger platform just makes sense for Everlane customers.”

Intrigued? Learn more about what other retailers are doing with Zendesk Chat