b8ta brings a human touch to customer support
At b8ta stores in Japan, customers can experience and discover new, unique products, everything from the latest gadgets to products created by start-up companies. With growing interest in experience-type stores, b8ta needed a support system that would enable its small team to respond quickly and reliably. By turning customer requests into Zendesk tickets, staff in charge are able to confirm consolidated customer information on the same screen and respond to every enquiry on the same platform which sets the right foundation for b8ta’s business to grow.
“Our policy is to have a human touch when replying to an inquiry. Zendesk has made that possible, increasing our efficiency through an automated system and enabling us to reach out to customers personally.”
“Zendesk is very easy to understand and navigate for the customer and support staff. ”
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In 2015, the first b8ta store opened in Palo Alto—it provided a space where customers could interact with cutting-edge technology that was not yet fully available in regular stores. Customers could also leave feedback for manufacturers. For the past two years, b8ta Japan has been carrying the torch, showcasing over 1,000 items from more than 500 manufacturers in total throughout its four stores.
“We call it the ‘experiential store’, and our mission is to bring new discoveries to people,” explains Tomohiro Haruyama, senior business development manager at b8ta Japan. As it turns out, locals crave this type of exploration. “We opened a new store in a large shopping mall at the end of April. And just in one and a half weeks, we have had 30,000 visitors to the new location,” Haruyama adds. “I believe that the desire to try, touch, and experience things are engraved deeply in human nature.”
Transforming customer support
Before b8ta set up a customer support system, people had to either visit the store or reach out through social media channels with inquiries. “Our business operation was old-fashioned,” recalls Haruyama. “As the number of stores increased, the number of inquiries rose too, and our store managers needed to continue responding in a timely manner.” In addition, b8ta store managers also needed to have access to the inquiries and be able to share inventory information within the company.
To streamline customer support and internal communication, b8ta decided to implement Zendesk in November 2020. The company’s stores in the United States were using the tool. “We wanted to keep things simple—that was one of our main policies. Having too many features would cause omissions or slip-ups, and that would make our response time slower,” explains Haruyama. “Thankfully, I found Zendesk to be very user-friendly and our staff of every store felt the same way as well.”
Creating quality and cost-effective support
Using Zendesk has enabled b8ta to transform its customer support into an efficient system. Rather than opting for a traditional phone support system that would have required the company to hire a dedicated team, its store managers can now concurrently serve as online customer support agents. “It’s great that our staff can respond to inquiries because they already have the expertise needed to provide the right information. We save cost on training a new team, while customers can be sure to get the answers they need right away,” says Haruyama.
Today, b8ta receives around 60 inquiries every month. “Zendesk helps us resolve 90 percent of our inquiries and we can respond within two business days,” says Haruyama. b8ta can also reliably provide optimized support around the clock with its small team. “We don’t have to provide call support 24 hours a day, but customers are still able to make inquiries anytime through a form on our website, which is then converted into a Zendesk ticket. It’s convenient for them and good for us because it gives us enough time to check any information we may need to properly respond to a question,” says Haruyama.
A more informed and efficient team
Because the team represents the exhibitor companies’ products at b8ta stores, it is important that b8ta staff provide accurate information about products. “The majority of inquiries we receive are about the products supplied by exhibitor companies, so we have to provide proper explanations or support on behalf of them. It’s important that we don’t speculate or give unreliable information,” says Haruyama. “With Zendesk, everyone can check tickets and find out if the product requested is available at a store or e-commerce site, or if it’s up for crowdfunding. Once we confirm the information needed, we reply to our customers.”
b8ta also integrated Slack into Zendesk for more effective internal communication. Having one communication tool enables the team to keep track of their conversations and reply in a timely manner. Messages are also not lost or skipped easily as may happen with multiple communication channels. “It’s also great for store managers who are busy serving customers because they can get Slack notifications on their smartphones or smartwatches, and follow up on issues later,” says Haruyama.
Equipped for scale
As the demand for experience-type stores grows, b8ta is planning to open eight to ten more stores by 2025. “We are considering new business ventures. We don’t know what kind of inquiries our customers will have but so far, Zendesk has made it possible for us to have a customer support system that prepares us for future growth,” says Haruyama.
One thing is for sure, b8ta will continue to prioritize the human touch in customer support. “Our store staff always considers the customer and tries to assign the right person who can respond sincerely,” adds Haruyama. “When asked what our selling point is, we always say it’s the b8ta tester (the store staff) standing in our stores. I don’t think that customer support can be provided by only a digital system. I think the ‘human factor’ and its fusion with technology is vital—so we’re glad to say that Zendesk supports that communication style.”