Guest blog from Christina Bauroth, Senior Expert Public Relations at Conrad Electronic
The impact of COVID-19 and the ensuing changes on the retail business is something we currently experience on a daily basis. However, companies like Conrad Electronic that have long established a digital presence have one less crisis in sales to think about: With more than six million products covering the full range of technical items from small gearwheels to smart home equipment, the offering in our online shop has had significant advantages in user-friendliness for a long time.
“Above all, apart from just selling, our branches have the following purpose: They are service centres for our customers. For example, they act as a pick-up point for ordered goods and customers can receive personalised support, get the right practical advice for installation or assembly or test the product right on the spot. Our store teams are available to provide assistance for everything from products to workshops,” explains Sven Wachtel, Senior Director for Customer Care Germany-Austria-Switzerland at Conrad. “The advantage of the online shop, as you would expect, is that the entire range is available under one roof and it enables the use of practical features such as the search option or the My Account function.” Simple, fast purchasing that covers everything: Conrad has positioned itself for the future by delivering on this promise to their customers – with one specific target in mind, namely to become Europe’s number one B2B procurement platform for technical equipment.
Conrad has also provided plenty of touchpoints for customers and has high standards for customer service and the whole customer experience. “It quickly became clear at the start of the crisis: the coronavirus should not impact these expectations. We must find a way around this and ensure that we and our customers can remain in contact”, says Sven Wachtel.
Digital in multichannel
As a result of the pandemic, Conrad faces two major challenges: to maintain the same quality of service for its customers despite shops being closed, and secondly, to enable their staff to work in a mobile, decentralised environment from one day to the next. Conrad has been able to handle both challenges effortlessly, with the ideal digital solutions.
The promise of great service is and remains the primary focus of the Conrad Customer Care team – and with the right tools, they are also able to implement this for all channels and at all contact points. However, what happens if service agents suddenly have to work in “many small, decentralised offices” instead? With the right tools, this can operate smoothly, without any deterioration in the support that customers receive.
Zendesk has been providing support to Conrad Customer Care since 2017. It started with Zendesk Support, which provided seamless customer support across all channels and international sites with an omnichannel approach. Added to this is Zendesk Guide, a knowledge base that enables customers and support staff to find all the information they need about the product range. Zendesk Sell, the sales CRM software, is the latest solution and has even been implemented during the crisis within a very short period of time.
“With Zendesk we can see how useful it is to have a solution from a single vendor. Otherwise, we would never have managed had such a fast, smooth transition to remote working”, explains Sven Wachtel reassuringly. “Our staff are able to access the system with ease from anywhere.”
Close collaboration with the Zendesk Customer Success Team, frequent communications regarding best practices, and benchmarks or new solutions have also helped Conrad to establish new targets based on the customer experience, keep a close watch on processes and also ensure that solutions are used to the best advantage. “With Zendesk, we don’t just have a vendor; much more, we have a partner alongside who asks challenging questions and provides us inspiration”, comments Wachtel.
Seamless customer service
As a result of the pandemic, new customers have flocked to Conrad. There is also new demand for products and solutions. Customers now include schools, which quickly had to become accustomed to digital technologies, while supermarkets require technical solutions for regulating the flow of customers in line with measures put in place for the coronavirus. This has inevitably resulted in peaks for the support team, which they have handled well using the existing tried-and-tested self-service solution. The Customer Care team also saves a great deal of time by using constantly updated macros for automated answers to simple questions, such as about the reduction in VAT. The Answer Bot has also been tested.
An editorial team constantly monitors the articles in the knowledge base to ensure that all information is accessible. This ensures there is time to handle more complex requests so that these can also be resolved with a single reply, if possible, and that afterwards this information can also be found in the knowledge base. That is also a standard that Conrad sets for itself: The same problem must not occur twice. When the customer’s problem has been pinpointed, this information is immediately passed on to the relevant department. “Conrad has always placed great emphasis on customer care. It is our responsibility to categorise the responses from contact with customers and ensure they are passed on to the right people. The Customer Care team is deeply involved in further developments that are focused on customers, such as shops or IT. This makes a clear difference to the Net Promoter Score for customer satisfaction”, explains Wachtel.
And how are things currently in Conrad’s bricks-and-mortar stores? Social distancing is still the rule, so Conrad aims to make it as safe and convenient as possible for its customers when visiting their stores. Customers who don’t want to go to a store right now can schedule an online customer service appointment in a video conference. “Click and Collect” means that customers can order goods online in advance, then pick them up at the store without having to wait in queues. Conrad has set up a WhatsApp communication channel for store B2B customers.
Even without the pandemic, Conrad was already strongly positioned in its digital operations. However, the crisis has demonstrated that working digitally and its wider concept works particularly well with customer service.