Motorcycle gear and parts retailer RevZilla has a team of 60 customer service representatives, known as Gear Geeks, who educate customers about products and options. RevZilla tried a variety of tools to assess interactions between customers and Gear Geeks, but while the tools provided valuable information, none offered strong, individual customer feedback at the agent level, says Patrick Roscoe, director of customer experience.
Roscoe and his colleagues considered creating a system for emailing customers to gather feedback on the agents, but wanted to be mindful of email fatigue. In 2015, RevZilla began working with Stella Connect, a system from StellaService Inc. that can gather insight on every interaction between each customer and agent, whether via phone, email, chat or even in stores.
Stella Connect was unique in its simplicity and ability to provide feedback specific to each employee, Roscoe says. “There wasn’t anything as progressive and as simple as what Stella was proposing,” he says.
StellaService launched Stella Connect when management saw customers using another of its products, a benchmarking tool, to try to determine individual employees’ engagement levels. “Our clients were using the dataset in ways Stella hadn’t intended, because it addressed bigger pain points for them,” says Jordy Leiser, co-founder and CEO. The pain points? “Getting down to the individual employee level engagement.”
Ride-sharing app-users, media users and online purchasers of all kinds can quickly and easily leave reviews of products and services. Why not customers who call into retailers’ customer service centers or work with sales associates at their stores? The customer gains a voice, the employee obtains feedback and employers get data that can highlight outstanding performance and improve performances that fall short.
Shortly after a customer talks to a Gear Geek, they receive an email through Stella Connect that asks about the interaction. The email also contains information about the agent, including a short bio and photo.
The key part: It’s technically only one question — customers simply choose the number of stars that indicate how the agent performed during the interaction. Because of its simplicity, 40-50 percent of RevZilla’s customers click through and respond to the emails, Roscoe says. What’s more, about 75 percent of the customers who click through add comments about their experiences.
At RevZilla, team leaders can quickly pull interactions that went well and those that need improvement and use them as learning tools.
Customers can also reward an agent; companies can tailor the potential rewards to fit their culture. A company also can ask customers to identify the areas of strength of the employee, such as product knowledge or friendliness.
Among other rewards at RevZilla, customers can ask the company to “ring the gong” — a giant gong at the customer service center — for Gear Geeks who go above and beyond.
RevZilla also hosts a “Geek of the Year” challenge for its top employees, using input from Stella Connect to determine potential candidates; Roscoe says Stella Connect scores are also considered during performance reviews. As Gear Geeks collect rewards, they can convert them to points at regular intervals. The points equate to TeamZilla cash, which Geeks can use to shop on the site.
Just as important, Geeks can see the comments as they come in. When customers provide feedback through Stella Connect, positive responses tend to run about five times that of negative feedback, Leiser says, adding that the photo and brief bio of each agent that’s included on the email helps to humanize them.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Retailers integrate Stella Connect with their customer relationship management or other systems they use to track customer interactions. When it implemented Stella Connect, RevZilla made sure to write rules that control the frequency with which it issues emails, Roscoe says. So, if a customer calls several times in one day — unusual, but possible — they’ll receive one Stella Connect request for that day.
While Stella Connect is intuitive, the onboarding process for new RevZilla employees includes a class on the system, Roscoe says. They’re taught how to set up and use the tool, how to monitor it and how it’s included in their monthly performance metrics.
Until recently, many customer service managers focused on operational efficiency and lowering costs. Adding customer interaction quality to the equation represents a shift in approach, Leiser says, which can offer several benefits. While negative feedback occurs — and when it does, RevZilla takes it seriously — most responses are positive. For employees, “it’s nice to have that continual thank you from the customer,” Roscoe says.
That feedback can boost morale and engagement. Employees who are more engaged tend to deliver higher quality customer service. They also tend to stay in their jobs longer, gaining a greater mastery of their roles, which can lead to better customer experiences.
One Stella Connect retailer saw a jump of 50 percent in its net promoter score, a measure of the degree to which customers act as promoters of a brand.
Stella Connect can also enable customer service teams to more easily scale — because the system leverages customer feedback, it becomes another tool for coaching customer service representatives, meaning each supervisor might be able to manage more employees.
At RevZilla, team leaders see all feedback for Geeks on their teams in real time. They can quickly pull both interactions that went well and those that need improvement and use them as learning tools. The process is more efficient than, for instance, listening to phone calls or reviewing email transcripts. Roscoe says. “Stella allows us to get there faster.”
IN THE STORE
While Stella Connect has focused on customer service teams, some retailers use it for in-store sales associates, and RevZilla is testing it in its Philadelphia showroom. “We’re trying to get the same type of customer feedback, based on that one-on-one in-store interaction,” Roscoe says. Within a day or two after working with a store associate, a RevZilla customer receives a Stella Connect request asking about the experience. Right now, employees manually send their requests; Roscoe says RevZilla plans to automate the system.
The information obtained on in-store interactions with customers is clearly valuable. It’s also often harder to measure than in a contact center environment, where the productivity and interaction metrics are more defined.
Between both RevZilla’s contact center and showroom, “Stella Connect has been a huge tool for us,” Roscoe says. The ease with which companies can gain feedback from customers is key. “It’s not coming from my managers. It’s not coming from the company. It’s coming from the customer,” he says. “That goes a long way.”
Karen M. Kroll is a business writer based in Minnetonka, Minn.