Birchbox + Zendesk: Breaking the mold in beauty and customer service
Birchbox reduces cost per contact by 39% while solving 37,800 tickets a month using Zendesk's suite of tools.
“We’ve been meeting quarterly with our Zendesk team, and with every meeting there’s always something new to consider. In 2018 alone, we’ve implemented many changes that have made working with our customers so much easier.”
“Zendesk has been really efficient for us day-to-day, for reporting to different teams and up to management, whether it’s about customer issues, employee KPIs—everything lives in one place.”
Retail, Beauty, Makeup, Online Subscription
New York, NY
There are as many skin types, hair textures, and budgets as there are products created to meet those needs. Anyone who’s ever felt overwhelmed by a trip down the cosmetics aisle, and left empty-handed or disappointed, can vouch for this. No one has enough time or money to test every option—that is, not until Birchbox revolutionized the way beauty and skincare products are bought and sold with its “try-and-buy” sample-size subscription service.
Personalized beauty and makeup
Birchbox subscribers complete a Beauty Profile that considers hair, skin, and makeup routines and preferences, as well as level of beauty knowledge and personal style. The Profile, along with a customer’s shopping behavior and review feedback, guides Birchbox in curating a personalized box of samples each month.
This takes the guesswork out of building effective, feel-good beauty and grooming regimens, which are as unique as each customer, according to Leanna Nazzisi, customer operations coordinator at Birchbox. “It’s the magic behind the idea that someone who knows exactly what you like is picking out these samples, just for you,” Nazzisi explained.
Nazzisi would know, having been a Birchbox customer for more than six years, longer than she has been an employee at the company. Her passion for the mission continues in her role supporting customers and working with the Birchbox Customer Operations Team, also known as “Discovery Specialists.” Birchbox’s personalized approach requires a strong customer service backbone, both to support customers’ understanding of the service and to provide customer input back into the business.
Beginning with the company’s founding in 2010, Birchbox’s initial customer service team numbered only a few people answering email. Fast-forward eight years and the team has grown considerably. By 2018, 54 agents managed a monthly volume of nearly 38,000 tickets across a full roster of support channels, including email, Facebook Messenger, phone, text messages, and live chat. The team also maintains a self-service help center. While building out the support organization, Birchbox first adopted Zendesk Support and Guide in 2012, beginning to build toward the team’s future state. In 2015, they added Zendesk Talk and Chat to allow for SMS and live chat support, tying together all channels into a single integrated system.
Evolving to meet customers where they are
Part of taking a personalized approach means adjusting and evolving the channel mix over time. New customers are turning to text before email, Nazzisi shared, which makes their initial experiences with the brand even better when the first response time is under two hours.
“We’re very surprised at how fast and how popular text is becoming. I think having your phone on you and being able to chat with a company instantly is something that people really love,” Nazzisi said.
It’s been helpful to see channel performance all from within the same solution. “Zendesk has been really efficient for us day-to-day, for reporting to different teams and up to management, whether it’s about customer issues, employee KPIs—everything lives in one place,” Nazzisi said.
The team reported its lowest resolution time ever in 2018—a noteworthy accomplishment given its expansion to five channels of support. Birchbox also implemented a Service Recovery Program in 2018. Using Stella Connect, a Zendesk partner, Birchbox agents are empowered to follow up with customers who rated their initial interaction with a Discovery Specialist poorly. Any customer who provides feedback is also able to “reward” specialists with a star rating and treats, which translates behind the scenes into real prizes, ranging from free coffee to spa days.
These efforts have led to a consistent decline in ticket volume, as well as cost per contact, since 2015, despite the company’s growth. For example, ticket volume fell 15 percent in 2016, dropped another 3 percent in 2017, and 22 percent in 2018. Similarly, cost per contact reduced by 40 percent in 2016, 18 percent in 2017, and by a whopping 39 percent in 2018. As a subscription-based company, effectively managing scale and satisfaction in this way is key to the health and success of the overall company.
Increased efficiency also allows the team to adapt processes and communications. Customer outreach is quantified to identify potential gaps in the experience, and feedback is directly related to the larger organization to help the business change and evolve. This helps the team understand customer engagement and priorities, and this data has influenced site experience and checkout format, gifting processes, and overall communication.
Birchbox’s in-house team continually revamps their help center to encourage self-service. Updates to brand language and digital practices are reflected in new support content, and engagement with specific articles further helps the team indicate where there’s room for improvement in clarity.
Above all, the Birchbox support team has been able to adopt the mantra of meeting customers wherever they are. “Being able to adapt to the customer has been huge,” Nazzisi said. “It’s no longer just an email where you wait and hope you hear back. Zendesk is helping us answer whatever the customer is looking for, however they reach out.”