Rapha

At a glance

  • Industry

    Retail
  • Tickets solved per month

    ~13,000
  • Feature

    Insights
  • Number of Agents

    40+

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For Rapha, a sportswear brand that celebrates cycling, customer service means much more than just organizing product returns. Through cycling, the company strives to connect customers to beauty, art, and a belief in themselves.

The idea of a bike as a liberating force, an expression not only of man’s practicality but his connection to the sublime, existed before Rapha was founded ten years ago. But no company has done as much as Rapha to elevate cycling from a gritty mode of transportation to a powerful statement about simplicity and perseverance.

From the company’s famously well-made and beautiful cycling gear to the events sponsored by its cycle clubs in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, London, Manchester, Tokyo and Osaka, Rapha promotes cycling as a sport, an art form, and a spiritual quest. “I wanted people to be proud to cycle,” says founder Simon Mottram, recalling the days when bikes were mostly associated with kids who couldn’t drive or adults who couldn’t afford a car.


The growing number of bicycles and bike lanes in cities around the world is one measure of Mottram’s success. Another is the steady stream of tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram photos from the company’s devoted fans. Indeed, to outsiders, Rapha has long appeared a paragon of customer satisfaction.

Yet inside the company, the ride hasn’t been as smooth.

David Barnes, the head of customer service, joined Rapha in October 2013. The company had grown into an international brand, but the tools the customer service organization were using were more suited to a local bike shop. There were five customer service teams spread around the world using 21 different inboxes. Information about tickets was shared in Google Groups.

“Agent efficiency was suffering,” Barnes recalled. The lack of coordination meant two agents sometimes responded to the same email. Other times an email went unanswered because every agent thought another agent had picked it up. The ad-hoc system lacked reporting tools, making it difficult to spot trends or gain meaningful insight into Rapha’s customers. It was crying out for a tune up.

Barnes had experience with traditional customer service software vendors, and he knew he wanted something more than they could offer. After giving Zendesk Support a two-month trial, he was convinced he had found a solution that would allow him to both streamline and scale up global operations—all with minimal help from IT.

“Zendesk Support is really intuitive to use,” Barnes said. “It’s not a product that requires days or hours of training.” In addition to the speedy global rollout, Barnes appreciated being able to administer Support himself. Tasks such as gathering responses to a special promotion could be completed without calling in a consultant. “If you can configure an iPhone, you can configure Support,” he observed.

As Barnes began shutting down the company’s multiple inboxes and replacing them with Support, agent productivity soared. Macros made it easy for agents to handle standard tickets with ease. Dynamic content supported localized interactions, allowing agents to easily include content based on a customer’s preferred language. An integration with Sprout Social allowed interactions on Twitter or Facebook to instantly turn into tickets in Support. Instead of being manually allocated, tickets got automatically routed to the right person at the right time.

Meanwhile, as the customer experience improved and response times shrank, Support rolled out new features that made the team even more efficient. When an integration with Google Hangouts was added to the Zendesk apps marketplace over the summer, Rapha’s agents were among the earliest adopters. “If we need to talk to somebody else within the agent pool to be able to deal with a ticket, we’re able to go straight from the desk view to a Google Hangout,” Barnes said.

The customer insights gleaned from Zendesk Support are helping Barnes improve operations. For example, the data provided by Support made it possible to identify the high cost of manually setting up each return. The company is now looking into ways it can empower their customers and partners to increase the speed of returns and decrease friction.

But perhaps the biggest benefit from switching to Zendesk Support is Rapha’s renewed ability to keep its finger on the pulse of each customer’s level of satisfaction. Before Support, the sheer number of interactions was overwhelming. Now, patterns are easy to spot. “We can actually see if a customer has emailed us ten times about the same issue,” Barnes said. “Or we can see if a customer is in the middle of booking a cycling trip with us at the same time that they are emailing us about a problem with one of their purchases.”

The information allows Rapha to put the pieces of a customer’s experience together—and ensure it matches the quality Rapha is known for. “Support enabled us to grow closer to our customers again,” Barnes said.

“The insight we’re getting now from Support enables us to be a better business and to improve the whole customer experience. Zendesk Support has allowed us to provide a high touch service experience for our customers.”

- David Barnes Head of Customer Service at Rapha

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