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Rewriting the Playbook for Customer Support: Lessons from Decathlon Singapore
 — August 20, 2020

As Head of Customer Engagement at Decathlon Singapore, Camille Ract’s team manages every single channel that fuels customer interactions. Seems like a tall order, right? 

It is.

With emails, calls, web chats, reviews, and social media channels under her purview, there’s about 300 to 500 incoming customer inquiries on the average day. And, unsurprisingly, there was a huge surge in volume during the peak of the pandemic, as Singaporeans sought to maintain active lifestyles while socially distancing. 

Like many leaders in the realm of Customer Support, Camille had to act quickly to ensure Decathlon’s customers were getting the support they needed: whether that meant finding the perfect new bike, an ideal yoga mat, or running shoes that go the extra mile. 

“Stores in Singapore closed on April 7th, and when we take the store out of the equation, customers can’t ask questions to our in-store experts about what to buy. This is a gap my team needed to fill, and we did.” 

Unarguably, the pandemic brought a complexity and uncertainty to everyday life across the globe, which put added pressure on brands like Decathlon Singapore to provide a respite. Decathlon Singapore rose to the challenge by ensuring a simple and seamless ecommerce shopping experience, while offering consistent and proactive communications to their customers at every step of the buying journey. 

As Camille puts it, “My department, Customer Engagement, really became the axis of the business at this time. We had to act fast and adapt quickly.” In pre-pandemic days, Customer Engagement was the epicentre of answering common FAQs related to shipment tracking, returns, and so on. While questions around order tracking was still a huge responsibility, her team also started to promote more products via chat, aligning with their product-centric livestreams on Facebook and other key digital engagement initiatives. 

So what learnings can Camille share about transforming her department within weeks? And how can you borrow a page or two out of her playbook? 

Here, Camille unpacks a few of her key learnings for you.

1) Think about omnichannel in a new way 

If you would have asked me before the pandemic if it would be possible to have our teammates working in-stores on April 7th, and then immediately working from home assisting customers with online orders on April 8th, I would have said no. But we did it. 

At Decathlon Singapore, we saw this crisis as an opportunity for our teammates working in our retail stores to be exposed to new business units: ecommerce operations and our customers service centre. 

Operationally, this meant onboarding more than 50 people from our stores to join the User Happiness Centre, so they could get up to speed on what we do, the tools we use, and how we serve our customers. 

As a result, our teammates in the stores discovered an entirely new world. We often think about omnichannel as a way to be present and consistent for our customers across every channel. But I thought: what if our people could be omnichannel, too? 

Our retail team discovered the universe of restocking, order tracking, and order fulfillment questions, while immersing themselves in the centre of customer service at an insanely difficult time. Not only did this boost camaraderie among all team members, but it also allowed our retail team to learn in-depth about our ecommerce ecosystem and better understand customers’ expectations across all channels. If our customers have omnichannel behaviours, so should our teammates. 

Plus, our sports leaders who are experts in specific domains were able to provide quick assistance for highly specialized questions on our chats, and our entire team could learn from it!

2) Empower your team to evolve their expertise 

When you suddenly onboard 50 teammates and your daily workforce, a change in the organizational structure is definitely a must. 

Since we had to move extremely fast in April, I appointed three interim leaders who rolled up their sleeves and took up the challenge. These people were already members of the customer service team. They were in charge of planning and training new team members, tracking KPIs, and keeping the pulse on overall team happiness. 

Then, those who were ready to take on more responsibilities, had the opportunity to become User Happiness Centre captains. These captains are in charge of ensuring smooth operations during different shifts within the customer service team. 

This model worked extremely well – and as a result – we have decided to expand the operating hours from 8am to 10pm, up from 9am to 7pm. While we’re still focused on finding ways to automate and improve efficiencies, our new recipe led to improved satisfaction for both our customers, and our teams. 

With the newfound reliance on ecommerce to generate sales, and the burgeoning responsibility for our Customer Engagement team to provide significant support in the sales cycle, we also decided to implement a User Happiness Centre duty manager. This person oversees all customer service activity, and connects regularly with the ecommerce operations duty manager during the day. As a result, teammates get autonomy to trigger initiatives from both pillars of the business to improve upon the customer experience every single day. 

3) Find the right partners for your business

When remote working is the norm, having the right technology partners becomes even more important. Our live chat and automation partner and our telephony partner really came through during this unprecedented time. 

Our telephony partner

In January, we started to work with Toku, a cloud-based business system. This solution allows our ambassadors to work from home and be connected in one click. Captains can whisper to teammates on the line and phone calls can easily be transferred to one another. Phone calls still account for about 30% of our incoming customer messages, and they are time consuming, so having an efficient process is crucial. 

Toku offers detailed reporting, which allows us to proactively see when there will be a spike in calls, and plan our manpower accordingly. 

Our next step with Toku is to revamp our interactive voice response menu (IVR) so we can identify quickly the main reasons for contacts. 

Our chat partner

Chat and messaging now accounts for 50% of all incoming customer inquiries. Despite a huge influx of inquiries in April and May, we were able to keep our CSAT score at 74% –  excellent. 

With Heyday, we’re able to combine the power of advanced automation and live chat to connect with our customers on multiple channels, in multiple scenarios. It provides us with flexibility while serving as an always-on Decathlonian member so our customers get the attention they deserve at all hours of the day. As we know, shopping never sleeps!

We leveraged Heyday to: 

  1. Automate customer FAQs: our bot, KT, answers 30% of queries incoming to our customers. That means our Customer Happiness Team focuses only on the high-value questions that require specific expertise to handle. Especially during intense surges, having this part of our messaging channel taken care of hands-free is very crucial. 
  1. Give unlimited chat access to all our agents: Heyday allows unlimited seats for users, which was crucial for us as we had to rapidly expand the number of people using chat to connect with customers. Adding the entire retail team to the chat was easy: and that amounted to 100 accounts created! Having this feature at no extra cost was crucial for us.  
  2. Reproduce the in-store experience with online chat: As we moved our store associates onto online chat, they had the ability to create carts and recommend products directly in the chat. This replicated the experience of walking down the aisle and picking the ideal product directly off the shelf. In the absence of our brick-and-mortar stores, the power of this feature was phenomenal. 

With Heyday’s collaboration, we were able to have a two-pronged approach to our messaging ecosystem: it doubles as a sales and customer service centre, the ideal combination for our new demands.

Want to learn more about the power of Heyday? Talk to us.

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