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DeSerres: Lifting Spirits and Supporting Creativity with Conversational AI
 — July 12, 2022

About DeSerres

In 1908, 27-year old Omer DeSerres acquired an iron working shop in downtown Montreal. He transformed the business into one of the city’s first hardware supply stores and opened more locations; during the 1950s, Omer’s son Roger took over the business and expanded the range of products it sold to include art supplies. By the 1970s, the DeSerres retail chain was focused entirely on the art supplies market — and the rest is history.


Today, DeSerres is one of the most prominent art and leisure supply chains in Canada, counting 30 locations across the country. With the laudable mission of helping creative people of all ages and skill levels express themselves, DeSerres is the one-stop-shop for artists and creators to find the products, assistance, and even the inspiration they need to thrive. 


Summary: Handling rapid growth with AI

Early in 2020, DeSerres experienced a huge increase in orders on their e-commerce site as people worldwide stayed home during the first wave. Unsurprisingly, people were looking for ways to keep their spirits up — especially parents with kids at home, who needed ways to keep their young ones inspired and entertained — and for many, this meant engaging in artistic activities.


Along with the spike in online orders came a comparable increase in customer service requests across the company’s channels, including website, email, social media and good old fashioned phone calls. It quickly became clear that the company would need to find a way to keep their customer service teams from being overwhelmed, and to ensure that customers continued to receive timely responses to their inquiries. 

After considering their options, DeSerres chose to automate their online customer questions with conversational AI from Heyday by Hootsuite. Within weeks of rolling out Heyday on the DeSerres website, Facebook Messenger, Google Business Messages and email channels, the company saw thousands of customer inquiries being handled by the AI.


Pandemic challenges — and opportunities

Roxane Saulnier, Marketing Director for DeSerres, said that when the pandemic kicked DeSerres e-commerce business into high gear, it brought with it a flood of customer service inquiries that needed to be addressed quickly.


“Overnight, we had phenomenal growth due to the pandemic,” she said. “It created a bottleneck from a logistic perspective, but also from a customer service perspective.” The company was looking for an always-on automation solution that would welcome customers any time day or night without sacrificing the personal touch DeSerres is known for. 


“FAQs on site aren’t interactive, phone calls don’t appeal to everyone, and it can be hard to get instant help in-store,” explained Roxane Saulnier. “We wanted a 24/7 solution, especially to answer the simple questions.”


As well, DeSerres was hoping to benefit from automation solutions that would help drive sales, such as product recommendations, a store finder feature, and an easy-to-use appointment taker.


A centralized approach

Once DeSerres selected Heyday by Hootsuite to provide a conversational AI chat solution, the partners got to work designing Dess, the bot that would welcome DeSerres online customers. 


DeSerres tasked Heyday with automating 50 FAQs, ensuring 24/7 service across digital channels, and integrating upsell functionality in the form of product recommendations, in-stock notifications and promotions and more. For DeSerres, the goal was to create an enjoyable, engaging chat experience for customers; to make it easy for customers to find the answers to their questions; and to support internal customer service teams by automating responses to simple questions. 


Heyday AI was integrated on the DeSerres e-commerce site, Facebook Messenger, Google Business Messages and email channels. (The company is also currently integrating Heyday AI chat with Instagram.) In addition to chat, DeSerres also rolled out:


Product search and recommendations features
Order tracker
 Appointment taker
Store finder

With these features, DeSerres ensured that all their online visitors would enjoy a five-star experience, no matter which channel they use to connect with the company. 


Immediate results

Roxane Saulnier said the impact of Heyday was immediate.

“Right away, Heyday helped so much with answering operational questions: around orders, opening hours, and other simple questions,” she said.

“It also allowed us to centralize our communications. Before, they were spread across many channels.”


Sylvie Hudon, National Sales Director for DeSerres, appreciated the visibility on customer behavior that Heyday provides. 


“We could finally see how many people were trying to reach us, and [to see] what people were looking for that we hadn’t been aware of before Heyday,” she said. “For example, many people asked about the depth of our canvas frames; they could see the dimensions online, but that one answer wasn’t there. Once we had our centralized Heyday inbox, we could see the question, and it was easy to fix on the website.” 


Doing numbers

Between July and October 2021, Heyday:


  • Handled 12,500+ conversations per month

  • Saw an 88% automation rate for engaged conversations

  • Triaged 6500+ customer emails to the correct department


During the same period, popular inquiries from customers involved looking for specific products, finding a DeSerres store location, and tracking orders. Of the customers who engaged in chat with the AI, 25% searched for a product. 


Between November 2021 and March 2022, the virtual assistant: 


  • Handled over 108,000 conversations
  • Saw a 90% automation rate for engaged conversations
  • Helped 95% of users track and find their order

Catherine Daoust, Customer Service Manager for DeSerres, noted how easy the Heyday platform is to use, and how it’s become an essential tool for her team.


“It’s very easy to use. I really enjoy the summaries and [analytics] reports I get — I would absolutely recommend Heyday! It’s so user-friendly, I can see everything at once: what the agents are doing, I can read the bot conversations, it’s really great.”


Despite previously having reservations about using AI for customer service, Roxane Saulnier reflected on how DeSerres’ experience with Heyday has put their concerns to rest. 


“At first, we had concerns that the experience with a chatbot would be a bit ‘robotic’ for our customers,” she said. “But what set our minds at ease was all the tests we did with Heyday. We really worked on the user experience together, and after trying the product ourselves, we were sure it would be a great fit for us.” 


Roxane Saulnier noted that Heyday shines for her on the marketing side as well. 


“One of our challenges as a marketing team is to connect with the specific audiences and personas we want to reach. For younger customers, having AI chat available to assist them is expected, and it clearly improves the online experience,” she said, noting how chat is perfect for those customers who don’t want to visit a store, use the phone, or send an email. 


“I would definitely recommend Heyday to anyone looking for an AI chat solution.” 

Find out how Heyday by Hootsuite conversational AI can help your brand automate customer care and drive social commerce sales by booking a demo today.

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