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In early July, the Tour de France route is all but secured for the cyclists. That’s when it dawns on agents at Aurora Fashions that the race will interrupt deliveries. They quickly log into their help center and add an article that lists the impacted postcodes.
This kind of proactive care is a small but good example of Omotenashi, the Japanese art of hospitality. Omotenashi is all about anticipating a customer’s needs and providing an effortless experience. It’s also the ideology behind Maria McCann’s customer service philosophy. McCann is Chief Venturer for JoHo Ventures, a customer engagement agency, working with high street fashion brands of Oasis, Karen Millen, Coast, and Warehouse on optimizing their Zendesk Support software.
“You can’t build a great customer experience until you get rid of the major pain points, and you need to understand what those are,” she explained. “Additionally, you can’t execute transparency, autonomy, and success in your support team if you don’t have the right tools. Even with the best intentions it’s just not possible.”
Finding the right tool began over a cup of coffee. “We were using a system that required a computer science degree to make even the simplest of changes,” McCann said. “It was just a mess. Zendesk Support was much more elegant and agile for our needs. The power and usability of Support was perfect for my vision to create the ultimate repository, to harness the opportunity and failure that exists in a customer interaction, across all channels.”
Dealing with change isn’t easy so McCann wanted to find out how the team really felt about the switch to Support. “We sent a survey to our 84 support agents asking what system they preferred and 83% said they preferred Zendesk Support to the previous solution.”
Aurora Fashion’s heritage is bricks and mortar retail. Across the four brands there are over 1250 stores in 38 countries. But omnichannel service is the new watchword in retail and Aurora’s been focused on moving into the digital space. As McCann explained, “The brands in Aurora have been leaders in opening up product selection across stores and online since 2011. It’s very fluid for the brands and friction-free for their customers.”
McCann began working with Aurora Fashions at the end of 2012. In the two years since then she’s made it her mission to help them create wonderful customer experience strategies while also looking for shared efficiencies across the brands.
Aurora’s Customer Service Agents have a lot of autonomy, and they decide what action to take based on the operation’s “right for the customer, fair for the business” doctrine.
“Support has driven agent upskilling,” McCann said. “They have a new understanding of why a customer is contacting them and why they input certain data—how that data goes back into the business and is useful, how it gives insight into the impact their decisions have.” Each agent monitors their own visual dashboard, which showcases work throughput, satisfaction scores, and analytics of problem root causes. “With more control over their role and purpose, performance management is changing from top down to self-improvement day-to-day.”
Customers get in touch with Aurora Fashion brands via email, web form, social channels, and live chat across web and mobile. In the not-too-distant future they’ll add phone support. “We’re just cranking up some development, opening up new channels of contact,” McCann said.
If, for example, a customer must have that pencil skirt in turquoise, size 8, an in-store team can locate where the stock is at any moment, as can the customer, sitting on their sofa at home. That equality is great, but McCann wants more. Digital customers are missing out on the knowledge and expertise in stores, she said. “It’s such a waste, so the next big thing is to unlock that store knowledge outside of the store environment, using Support.”
When it comes to data, stores are “a big black hole” because they only see when sales and returns are made, which are the outliers of the customer experience. She hopes that using Support will help give the retail stores more visibility into the entire customer lifecycle. “Our mission is for Support to be the all seeing eye of customer interaction. Whether over digital or physically in store, it shouldn’t matter.”
McCann is all about the data. “Whether a brand just needs access to customized dashboards, or data that’s been interrogated a bit more, Support analytics presents it in such a clean way.” Before Support they had “a lot of urban myths,” but now, when they see a spike in faulty bikinis over summer, the cost of failure can be measured. “We now see the efforts needed in managing failure and then set targets for improvement,” she said. “Zendesk Support is the guiding light for prioritizing, and has definitely saved us money.”
Zendesk Support analytics has enabled Aurora Fashions to easily measure the cost of failure and set targets for improvement.
McCann’s other trick is to stop thinking retail. “I look outside the retail space to get inspiration. Old retail was all about the supply chain and efficiency. The new generation of retailers are cultivating a tribe, or a community of customers, and then will monetize and hang products and services off that community. The new model is much more exciting.”
Since implementing Zendesk Support, the Aurora brands customer service organization has undergone a radical metamorphosis. “Rather than being seen as a woolly cost center answering in ‘maybes,’ we’ve made the department data-driven, giving us more gravitas and credence. In return we have more autonomy to go and solve problems, which in the end means our customers feel better.”
“You must understand why a customer is getting in touch, then manage it through human, community, self-service, or in-store interactions. The clever bit is to share the trends with the business to help do better business. That’s customer understanding and, in a nutshell, that’s Zendesk.”