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For brands and retailers, providing a great experience for shoppers encompasses more than what happens during the time leading up to a sale. Whether it’s a question about a product that arises or an issue that comes up, the interactions that take place during the post-purchase period can be key to ensuring a customer is happy with their new find, and that they will return to the brand to buy again.
It’s one reason why customer service remains a crucial part of the operations equation for brands who are building a base with ecommerce. In fact, during a time when shoppers are still getting acquainted with digital experiences and fledgling brands, one could argue that it’s more important now than ever.
At the same time, customer service itself is evolving for the internet era. The web elevates all things instant, meaning consumers want a quick response and resolution when they reach out. For a brand, the direct communication presents a chance to engage more deeply with a consumer and better understand them.
HiOperator shows how this is an area where software can assist humans as they work to meet those expectations. The growing company is providing customer service outsourcing for marketplaces like HipCamp, subscription businesses like The Athletic and DTC brands such as Outdoor Voices and Tipsy Elves.
It employs US-based agents, and equips them with AI-powered technology that helps to make decisions, and provide solutions.
“We’re partnering software with customer service agents to make them faster, make them smarter and make them much more data driven,” HiOperator Chief of Staff Wayne Worthington told The Current.
This is designed for the kinds of customer service requests that require the person responding to catalog the type of issue, match it with a company policy and make a decision.
Worthington said most ecommerce brands receive about 5-15 standard inquiries frequently, whether it’s requests for replacements, price adjustments or general questions that tend to come in. These types of requests are too complex for a chatbot, but also happen with enough frequency that a process can be applied.
HiOperator creates automated workflows that segment these tasks, and help agents move quickly to address them. Case studies from the company show that it helped to speed up the times of first responses and resolutions, as well as clear backlogs. With humans still responding directly, brands can project the empathy and voice that helps maintain authenticity with customers.
HiOperator's Wayne Worthington. (Courtesy photo)
Using a standard process and centralized system can also enable a brand to gather insights to improve their service, and business as a whole. Along with helping to move issues to resolution, the technology can assist a company as it gathers data on what customers think of their experience with a brand, and use that to refine processes. This opens up customer service as a new area in which to measure customer interactions, which are closely tracked during the pre-purchase browsing and buying process on a website.
“Not only are we solving customer service, but the feedback is the rich data insights that come out of it,” Worthington said. “That only happens when you’re a tech-first provider when it comes to the execution of customer service.”
With a stateside team of 200 employees based in Dallas and Buffalo, New York, the company’s model shows how adding technology to these processes can power onshoring in an industry where outsourcing has often meant hiring in other countries.
The service it provides is one illustration of how advances in technology change the way we work. Professionals have plentiful access to devices, so, as Worthington pointed out, virtually every job is tech-enabled. The next wave of data advances points toward AI, in which what's on those devices can do some parts of the work for us. While sci-fi and Hollywood depict AI-enabled technology as powering sentient beings, what’s happening in the real world is that this technology is being applied to help humans make predictable business processes more efficient. In the end, an AI-powered capability comes down to the ability to inform a decision.
“It’s not the Terminator. It’s not this organic, self-thinking object. It’s a program that uses a vast quantity of data points, creates a statistical probability and then can start nudging people in those different ways,” Worthington said.
Trending in Shopper Experience
Dealboard has details on acquisitions in CPG and social marketing.
This week, there are new investment funds for QR codes and ecommerce software. Plus, Purple rejects a takeover bid, and a tennis star gets a voice with a beverage startup.
Tennis star Nick Kyrgios took an equity stake in Alive, a no-sugar probiotic soft drink developed by Australia’s Gen U Brands. Kyrgios will help the startup brand raise its profile, and is also offering business advice. “As an international citizen, so to speak, he brings a different perspective to the business,” CEO Andrew Blew told Business News Australia.
Beaconstac, a QR code customer engagement platform, raised $25 million in a Series A round. Telescope Partners led the financing, with participation from existing investor Accel. Over the lat year, the company helped businesses create 1.8 million QR codes, which were scanned over 150 million times by consumers. It is used by Revlon, Nestle, FedEx, and Marriott. The company is planning to increase its 75-person workforce by 200% in 2023.
Boxed, the bulk delivery service and ecommerce software provider, raised $20 million as it seeks to either become profitable, or sell itself. The company received $10 million upfront from an unknown lender, and could receive another $10 million upon completion of certain milestones. “This new financing will provide greater flexibility for us to continue to execute on our strategic vision and the strategic alternatives process,” said Boxed CEO Chieh Huang.
Food Should Taste Good, a natural tortilla snacks brand, was acquired by Real Food From the Ground Up from General Mills, Just Food reported. It comes about a decade after General Mills acquired Food Should Taste Good. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Purple rejected a bid to be acquired by Coliseum Capital Management in a takeover bid that was submitted in September. Purple announced last week that it declined the offer in November after Coliseum proved unwilling to $4.35 per share. In a statement, Purple Chairman Paul Zepf said the proposal “undervalues Purple and fails to recognize the strength of our business today as well as our compelling future prospects.”
Tinuiti, a performance marketing firm, acquired Ampush, a growth marketing agency. It’s a move that is designed to expand the paid social capabilities of Tinuiti. Ampush offers performance creative, optimization and analytics. Founded in 2010, Ampush works with ecommerce and subscription businesses such as Instacart, Blenders Eyewear and STARZ. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founder Jesse Pujji shared these lessons over 13 years building the business.
\u201cI just sold my company for life changing $.\n\n13 years later, I'm an overnight success.\n\nHere are 13 lessons from the journey, by year:\u201d— Jesse Pujji (@Jesse Pujji) 1674583389
Henkel completed its acquisition of outlets in Malaysia and Taiwan from Shiseido Professional. It’s the final piece of an acquisition that began in January. Subsequently, Henkel closed on deals to acquire the haircare business in China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. Shiseido joins a portfolio at Henkel that also includes Schwarzkopf Professional, Authentic Beauty Concept, Bonacure and Igora Royal.
WeCommerce and Tiny are combining to form a single technology holding company. The combined company will be known as Tiny, with WeCommerce operating as a software and services group inside the business. The combined company will be valued at about $910 million. Tiny cofounders Andrew Wilkinson and Chris Sparling will serve as co-CEOs, while WeCommerce CFO David Charron will serve as CFO. Tech investor Bill Ackman will own 15.4% of the company through his firm Table Holdings, and is the largest non-management shareholder.WPF Holdings acquired ecommerce assets of KPOP 1004, which is a specialty store for K-POP and K-Beauty speciality store. With this, WPF Holdings is set to form a subsidiary called K-Shop. This will include the online shop, and kiosks at KPOP1004 in-store locations that provide shopping beyond what is offered in-store. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.