Zola combines compassionate customer service with modern tools and technology. Our customer support team fields inquiries via email, phone, and chat. When we launched Zola, email was our only support function. When we added phones and chat it became clear that we needed a single interface to house all customer interactions. We also needed agents to be able to pick up emails in between chat, and vice versa, in order to be as efficient as possible in handling tickets. An omnichannel solution was the only way we were going to manage the complex issues facing Zola customers, while delivering the level of customer service we wanted.
At Zola, we have two different customers: couples who are using the site for wedding planning and gift registry and wedding guests who are purchasing gifts and attending the wedding. The ability to link related conversations between these two types of customers who are interacting about the same event (but in different ways, and for different reasons) is key.
By creating custom fields within our tickets, we can group all conversations by wedding registry or website. These tools make it easy for us to search for a wedding registry and quickly see the history of customer interactions, from the couple and their guests. We can see all conversations across all channels, whether chat, phone or email, and pertaining to all Zola services. Questions about a gift on the registry, shipping, contributing to a group gift–any question or interaction that relates to this wedding–is available for all agents to access.
When you think about how stressful wedding planning is, and how many questions come up around wedding registries and gifts, you can see why offering seamless support is so critical. The last thing we want to do, as a couple gets close to their wedding day, is add stress by wasting their time, their guests’ time, or getting some aspect of their experience wrong.
We provide couples convenience and peace of mind because the bulk of their wedding communication is happening in one place. Customers never have to re-explain something to an agent, because any past conversation, no matter where it took place, is in one history that agents can access at a glance.
Because we’re in the wedding space, our business is very seasonal. This is another reason we require an all-encompassing support solution. The seasonality aspect affects not only what time of year we get the most contacts, but also what type of customers are reaching out.
Our customer contacts mirror the wedding life cycle: Most people get engaged after Christmas, especially near Valentine’s Day; in April and May, couples have wedding showers; and in the summer months, many couples get married. So, early in the year, we’re mainly talking to couples. Later in the year, we’re primarily talking to wedding guests who are buying presents for upcoming showers and weddings. Our interactions switch back to couples again later when their gifts are shipping, they wish to exchange a gift, or they’re utilising our “thank you manager” tool.
Onboarding and staffing for omnichannel
From a staffing standpoint, our organisation is small, with about 20 agents based in New York City and Charlottesville, VA. Our customer service hours are Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 10pm EST. Our phones are on from 10:00 AM to 9:30 PM, EST. On Saturday and Sunday, we work from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM, and our phones are on from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Everyone on our team handles either phone calls or chats and in between those contacts they answer emails. All agents are universally trained across phone and email. Our team doesn’t have specific tiers of specialisation, per se, but we do have some people who focus on chat, primarily due to how quickly they can type. These agents are also the ones who can think quickly on their feet— they’re just better at the chat experience than your average agent.
Again, one thing that’s unique about the wedding business is the time of year when things are busiest, which is when the weather is nice, from April to October. That’s our peak season, not the typical retail peak season around the winter holidays.
To help with that seasonal peak in our business, we work with temporary agents who join us for three—or four—month stints. It’s imperative that we quickly get these folks to where they’re servicing tickets as well as agents who are with us year-round.
Omnichannel tools have made this process of staffing up during peak wedding season much easier. After one week of training, new agents can independently field inquiries via email. The second week, they’re paired up with a veteran agent to respond to customer service phone calls. At the end of two weeks, they’ve learned 80% of what they need to know to support Zola customers.
We use one customer service phone number, and one support email address, so all tickets are in one place. The answers to support questions and issues are different depending upon whether you’re speaking to someone who’s getting married or someone who’s a guest. This is all addressed in training.
If someone’s having trouble placing an order, by default they’re likely a guest. If someone’s asking about how to change the font on their wedding website, you can assume it’s a couple. Luckily, the types of questions that we get from the two different populations don’t overlap, which makes it easy to quickly tailor interactions and responses.
Examining customer conversations/using custom fields to listen to the customer and create great experiences
Before our tools were integrated with an omnichannel solution, we didn’t have good visibility into the type of questions we were getting from customers, let alone the ability to spot patterns among the tickets.
Now, with all our customer conversations in one place, we can examine the nature of those interactions by channel. We regularly measure why people are contacting us and use a predetermined list of what we call “wrap codes” or “resolution types.”
Understanding what kind of question or issue comes up most often by which channel allows us to get very strategic about the agents we deploy on those channels, the resources they have, and how we might tailor the conversation. This has really enhanced the customer experience.
For example, we have a good idea that someone reaching out via chat is concerned with A, B or C, and that bit of forewarning means we’re that much more prepared with a solution. Of course, there are always surprises, but getting ahead of the curve on even a small percentage of tickets improves the experience for agents and customers. The data also allows us to provide insight and feedback to other Zola teams, which is a huge win. This is something we couldn’t do until all customer support channels were under one umbrella.