April 1, 2020
Ep. 15 – Scaling Customer Service For High-Growth ECommerce Stores – With Vincent Phamvan

Ep. 15 – Scaling Customer Service For High-Growth ECommerce Stores – With Vincent Phamvan


When you’re interacting with a brand and it
feels like you’re interacting, not necessarily with a bot, but just a script, that’s really
where it becomes impersonal. Welcome to Honest eCommerce where we are dedicated
to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I’m your host, Chase Clymer. And I’m your host, Annette Grant. And we believe running an online business
does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. If you’re struggling to scale your sales Electric
Eye is here to help to apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. And let’s get on with the show. On today’s
episode of Honest eCommerce, we welcome Vincent Phamvan, the Head of Growth at Simplr and
he teaches us all about customer service. Hey everybody! Welcome back to another episode
of Honest eCommerce. I’m sitting here next to the lovely Annette Grant. And today we
welcome to the show, Vincent Phamvan. You may know him as our only sponsor. But not
him. It’s the company he works for. He is the Head of Growth at Simplr. Both him
and Simplr helps high growth companies engineer unforgettable customer experiences through
top-notch human and AI-powered customer service. That was a huge mouthful, but I promise this
will not be a salesy episode, this will not be all about Simplr. Vincent brings a lot
of experience to the table talking about customer service and his past. So without further ado,
Vincent, welcome to the show and what makes you so good at customer service? That’s a great question. Hey, it’s great to
be here. When you guys originally told me about the podcast, we knew that it was something
that we absolutely wanted to be involved in right away. There are so many podcasts out there that
just sell this dream of, you start an eCommerce store and it’s just going to take off like
wildfire, you’ll make your first million dollars and you’ll quit your job. And that’s just
not the reality of eCommerce. And it’s so nice and so refreshing to be able
to get the truth and some of the hardest journeys. And the reality is, that folks that are successful,
put a lot of work and a lot of grind into their venture. Customer service, like anything
else, is just something that you get with experience. And so the reality is, we’re not
smarter than anybody else better than anybody else. But because this is the only thing that
we do. We have so much research on it. And we’ve
seen so much information across what great brands do, and also the mistakes that some
brands make, not because they’re not trying harder or they’re not putting effort into
it, but just because it might not always be obvious. So I’m excited to be here and be able to share
some of the learnings along the way from some of the best brands that we’ve seen. Cool, so let’s take it back a bit. What did
you do before you ended up at Simplr? So I started my career in retail, actually.
I spent 10 years working at Best Buy across a lot of different roles. And then after that,
(I) progressed into different types of support roles. Running and supporting call centers
up to 10,000 different people working for hundreds of different companies, I’ve been
able to see some of the best and some of the worst in terms of practices and most importantly,
what works in terms of being able to keep customers long term. One of the things that we talked about is
customer service impacts are not always obvious. But if you take a look at it from a lifetime
value lens, then that’s really where it makes sense to take a look at how to provide not
just good support, but amazing support that really wows somebody, which a lot of the best
brands are doing. When you take a look at Casper, when you take
a look at Dollar Shave Club… Chewy.com is one of my favorites. They’re known for their
customer service and that’s really the thing that makes you go to Chewy instead of going
to PetSmart. And that’s what so many of the upstart brands are doing today –they’re digitally
native– they’re putting service/experience curated products, and really high-quality
products at a fraction of the price because it’s direct-to-consumer. And that’s what’s
making these companies take off. Absolutely. Cool. You hit on a few things
there that I want to bring up. So, you mentioned that you work with all these great brands.
And not only do they… You can see what they’re doing good, but you can see the mistakes that
they’re making. Do you have any that come up top of mind when you’re thinking about
mistakes that people are making in customer service? I mean, mistakes in customer service. The
first thing is when it feels transactional. When you’re interacting with a brand and it
feels like you’re interacting –not necessarily with a bot– but just a script, that’s really
where it becomes impersonal. The things that really make a good experience are when you
get wowed. When you can feel like there’s a human behind it or a relationship behind
it. And you’re just not talking to a person at
a company who’s not empowered. And so the empowerment is really big as well. Because,
sometimes when you interact with really large companies, you get the sense that you’re just
talking to a person that can’t make any decisions, really can’t do anything to help you. And
they’re really just there to respond or reply to you, but not necessarily somebody who has
your back. Yeah, so I’m assuming everyone on this call
and a lot of our listeners have listened to the 4-hour Work Week or read the 4-hour Work
Week. And that whole chapter about how he empowered his service reps at his vitamin
company or whatever. He’s like, “Hey if it’s within $100 just do it, I don’t care.” And then his job, his requirements went way
down because he empowered his people and everyone liked his company because of that experience
and that shot way up. So the empowerment there that… I just drew
a parallel between that and the 4-hour Work Week. If you haven’t read it, it’s not a pipe
dream, but it’s kind of fluffy. It’s an okay book. But yeah, that’s what I was thinking
about as you’re going into that. That’s a very (good) sounding review, and
I absolutely concur with that. It’s a very okay book. At a minimum. (laughs) (laughs) It was the first book I read where I was like,
“Wait, I can be my own boss and not work?” Yeah. In defense of Tim Ferriss, I think he
at least gets all of us thinking on a different path with the book at least. What’s your review of The 4-Hour Body? I haven’t even read that one. Oh yeah. Because that one, I’m probably not gonna believe
in it. (laughs) (laughs) So, Vincent, I have a question about… I
know that sometimes with customer service, I feel like it’s about speed and just getting
the customer taken care of. How do you suggest a company has the speed and taking care of
the customer but still making sure that it’s not feeling transactional and that there is
a human behind it. Because sometimes, I feel like in the world
at Amazon, people just want to know like, “Okay, where’s my order? When am I getting
it?” And they just want answers quickly. And so sometimes that leads a company to have
the AI responding, or make it not feel as human. So where’s that line of speed and really
taking care? How do you marry those two? Make sure you’re taking care of both of them? Yeah, that’s a great question. When you think
about customer service, there are three things that customers are looking for speed, empathy,
and precision. And so speed is actually the number one factor that customers actually
think about in terms of evaluating customer service experiences. Brands get evaluated
on customer service through surveys. Taking a look at speed and improving speed
is actually the quickest way to be able to make an improvement. And that goes along with
precision though. And that’s where in your question of using chatbots (comes in). If
you can get speed and precision at the same time, that chatbot is a great solution. You should put that in right away because
then that customer is going to get the instant answer. The challenge is that customers do
want speed but if precision suffers, they’re willing to wait a little bit more time to
get the right answer. And “wait a little bit more time” can be challenging. The largest businesses, when they either build
customer service teams or outsource customer service, staffing something like live chat
takes at least a minimum of 5 to 16 people. That’s how you get to a point where you can
answer nearly any question in a matter of 30 seconds. And so the biggest challenge in eCommerce
right now, at least in the customer service space, is being able to compete with the big
guys. But it is something where customers get wowed by it. And those will be the things
that –especially in the early days– this will be the things that customers remember
about the store –in addition to obviously the product and service– was the experience. It’s definitely the thing that’s going to
make customers recommend a store to buy another customer. And that’s how you start driving
some organic acquisition without having to pay for every single acquisition. So for our listeners that don’t have 5 to
16 people available for chat, how would you suggest they utilize chat where… I see chat
come up a lot, and then there’s no one there. So how do you suggest someone dip their toe
in the water to have live chat, but then not misfire on it either? When is that point where
you need to have a live chat do you suggest? I mean, if you were opening up a brick and
mortar store, would you have that store open 24/7 to start? No. Probably not. Unless it was a convenience store. (laughs) (laughs) Actually, that’s a really good point.
If it’s a convenience store, it probably should be open. (laughs) I mean, take a look at Google
Analytics. Understand where your high traffic hours are. And if it’s a brand-new store,
you can staff your chat yourself because just like your brick and mortar store, you’re going
to want to be there at the hours that customers are there the most.
Almost every single chat tool has the ability to be able to set different hours to be able
to cover support. And some of the different chat tools make it so that it does show offline,
some of the others, you can actually make it so the widget doesn’t appear, or you can
actually put that into the code on your website to make the widget not appear so that you
don’t appear offline. So there’s a lot of different options there.
Definitely get a chat for in early on that you can answer questions from your cell phone.
And so that way, you don’t have to buy a laptop. And the other option that some stores go with
is to use a solution like Simplr to be able to cover nights and weekends. But the first one early on, is to be able
to get a chat for where you can program different hours and make sure that that’s sending everything
to your cell phone so that you can answer it yourself on your cell phone. Cool. That’s a great transition. So let’s
talk about the tools that are available for the small business owner. What are some of
your favorites for ticketing and for chat? Yeah, there’s a lot of different players out
there. In the Shopify ecosystem, one that’s definitely up and coming and getting a lot
of momentum is Gorgias. Gorgias integrates in with a lot of different other Shopify apps.
So for instance, if you’re running a subscription box service, and you’re using ReCharge for
your subscription billing, you can actually access ReCharge and be able to do things like
skip a box or cancel a subscription directly from Gorgias. So you know, the old school way of doing that
is you would have to log in to Shopify in one screen and then a ticketing system and
another screen. Gorgias kind of brings that all together. Another popular option is Intercom. Intercom
is a really slick modern tool. It kind of feels like using a message on an iPhone where
you can see if the other person’s typing, you can see if a message has been delivered,
has been sent. You can program it to the pop up different messages on different pages. And so there are some chats that you want
to… Or some conversations that you want to push to chat. Like if a customer hasn’t
made a purchase yet, you really want that to go to chat so that you don’t lose them
of your website and convert. But at the same time though, if you have a
customer that’s already placed an order, really not that big of a deal if they send an email
because you really want to focus your fastest responses. And especially if you’re doing
this for yourself, the ones that you really want to work on right away are customers that
haven’t yet made a purchase and might have a question about your product. And then one gold standard in the space is
Zendesk. So, Zendesk has a ton of market share because they’ve grown a lot and their capabilities
are really great as you grow into enterprise space. And so those are typically the most
common players that we see in the market. Absolutely. Those are some fantastic tools.
I’m actually a big fan of Gorgias and we had Phil on the show not too long ago, actually.
He beat you to it. (laughs) He’s a great guy and I can understand
how he beat me to it. Support for our podcast comes from our friends
at Simplr: a new way to staff 24/7 sales and customer service on your eCommerce store.
It works with your existing email and chat platforms setup is quick and easy. Simplr’s network of on-demand, US-based, Simplr
specialists are standing by to answer your customers’ most common questions. Set it up
for free today and then turn it on or off depending on your customer volume. You only
pay $2.25 cents for every resolution. No hidden fees, contracts or minimums Close more sales with Simplr by staffing your
email and live chat around the clock was Simplr specialists. Start your free seven-day trial at simpler.ai/honest. Let’s kind of pivot a little bit into what’s
now happening in the customer service space. People are coming in with this blended approach
where it is kind of some of this machine learning/AI and then they blend it with, like real human
experience. Let’s talk about that. What are the pros there? What are the cons there? And
why can’t we just have computers do it? In the future, there likely will be a world
where computers will be able to do a ton. I think it goes back to being able to deliver
for the customer on speed, empathy and precision. So the computers are going to deliver by far
the best speed. Today, precision is not 100% there for chatbots. And empathy is hard to
be able to do. Sarcasm is even harder to be able to do for
a computer. And so you know, just like the self-driving cars, I think there’s a capability
there. That’s really exciting for the future. What’s been interesting in eCommerce is last
year was by far for sure the year of the chatbot buzz. When you take a look at Facebook messengers
when you take a look at chatbots that started showing up on websites.
And it was also the year of customers rebelling against it in some instances. And some instances,
what I mean by that, it really depends on just what that customer is looking for. So
if that customer is looking for something like order status, that absolutely should
go to a chatbot. Because the chatbot will be able to answer
it way faster than a human can answer it. And it can accurate it can answer that question
with precision if it knows who that customer is and what they’re tracking number is. The challenge that lies when you have something
like a boots store and you’re trying to have a customer that’s trying to decide between
a size eight and a size nine. That’s where you get into a situation where, if you throw
a chatbot out that and the chatbot just sends you a sizing chart, sometimes the customer
is going to be like, “Well, I already saw this sizing chart because it’s like an inch
above the Add to Cart button. And I clicked it and I looked at it already. But I still
have questions and that’s why I reached out to you.” And those are the circumstances where being
able to have a fast human to be able to respond to that is what’s going to drive that conversion
without that person bouncing off your site. I think the second that computers learned
sarcasm, it’s game over. (laughs) (laughs) Yeah. I’ll definitely be terrified of that. No,
you made some great, great points there. So I’m not going to drop the name of the company,
but I was talking with someone the other day. And it goes to your point about like how the
sizing issue is like a huge deal. So what they’re doing with their solution is that
they’re tracking the data of why things are getting returned. And they’re actually gonna put a widget on
the page, and it’s gonna be a true-to-size widget. And then if any of these AI companies
that have these solutions integrate with that new widget, the app/the bot will be able to
give them an answer to that question using that data that was derived from reasons for
return meaning the size was off by X or Y. That’s genius. Well, I think it’s brilliant. And I think
we’ll continue to see a world where more and more solutions like that become available
and get integrated across the ecosystem. And I think that’s super exciting. Absolutely. So, here’s the next big thing
–and it’s the worst– is when people think customer service costs them money. It’s not
even… It’s not an investment. It’s just a cost, cost of doing business. What are your
thoughts on that? I think that the cost of doing business is
worse if you’re acquiring traffic to go to your website, and you can’t convert. I think
about how much money goes into paid search and paid display ads and Facebook ads. And you know, what’s challenging when growing
a site and part of what having something like a live chat widget on your site will do is
it’ll help you refine your messaging. It’ll help you understand the things on your product
page and the things in your description or things like customers want to know when a
package is going to be able to be delivered before they place an order. And those types of things, if you don’t have
some of those things built into your product pages, it’s going to hurt conversion, and
now you’re losing the traffic that you’ve already paid to set to send to that page.
So I mean, the cost of support, we tend to think of it a lot of the times as an investment
in acquisition cost. So for instance, there are stores that we’ve
worked with where one out of every five cats turns into a conversion right off the bat,
just because there’s some type of information that either was on the product page, and the
customer just didn’t see it or didn’t read it, or wasn’t on the product page and it was
able to be answered by a human. And absolutely should be something that gets added to the
product page after the fact. That’s awesome. So I kind of want to pivot
a bit here and actually explain to our listeners the difference between Simplr and these chat
tools because I realized, I know what the difference is because we’ve known each other
for quite a while now. So Simplr is not a chat tool. It’s not a ticketing tool. Do you
want to kind of say what Simplr is and what your guys’s value proposition is for people
that may be looking to solve that problem? Yeah, absolutely. So this whole thing started
because I’ve worked in call centers that have been massive with thousands of people in the
past. And that’s hard to scale. And the reality is those are the types of things that the
big guys have access to be able to compete in the customer service space. And Simplr
really started because we wanted to level the playing field. We wanted the stores that are solopreneurs,
all the way to the stores that are doing 250 million in revenue, to be able to get access
to top-notch support that’s based in the US (and) that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
What Simplr is a network of Simplr specialists all across the US. So these folks are amazing.
They’re stay-at-home parents, they’re high school teachers, they’re looking to supplement
their income. There are military spouses who have to move across the country. And so we basically have created a platform
that allows these folks to be able to jump on our platform and help businesses with customer
service. Now, they log into our platform, but it connects to all of those ticketing
systems that I just mentioned earlier. And so for a business, think about it as on-demand
human labor, but the human labor is AI-assisted. So what we do is we do the things like the
sizing that you were talking about earlier, by providing that information at this person’s
fingertips. So that when a sizing question comes in, –even
though this person might work for a few different shoe stores on our platform– they’ll have
the exact sizing information for each of those brands pop up on their screen, they can use
that to be able to either answer that question in a chat, in a text message, in an email
to that customer and this whole solution is on-demand. And so we’ve had partners, they’ve run a Kickstarter,
and they’ve raised over $10 million, and they sell 50,000 of these widgets. And they’re
a team that’s rapidly growing. But because of the influx of thousands of emails that
are coming in all at once, using this network, they’re able to keep response times under
just a few hours. And then that you mentioned earlier speed. This is how you can scale and still have speed.
And the old school way of doing this and having speed was hiring a bunch of people before
you have the volume, which is just a waste of money because you’re paying people that
are sitting there waiting for the growth and waiting for the volume come in. So, Vincent is Simplr is something… Let’s
say during the holiday rush, is it something that a company could hire on just temporary,
like use you temporarily? Yeah, absolutely. And you know, you shouldn’t
have to pay for things when you don’t need them. And the old school, the traditional
way of doing this was you had to sign like a 2-3 years contract, you had to commit to
minimum volumes, you had to pay for dedicated headcount, you had to give 30 days notice
if you wanted to ramp up the volume, because you were planning a big product launch. Those are all the types of things that we
felt like, just were horrible in the industry. So yeah, absolutely. Some of our favorite
partners that are using the Simplr platform today, I remember one of them actually reached
out to us two weeks before Black Friday, and they said, “Hey, we just signed a massive
deal, we’re going to get way more volume than we expected. And the week before Black Friday,
we launched them on the platform. And because of this machine learning and artificial
intelligence, we were able to program our algorithms to be able to have some specialist
help them pretty much instantly without going through like the weeks of classroom training
that are traditionally necessary to be able to get folks up to speed to be able to support. So this past Black Friday, we actually helped
one of the largest cell phone case manufacturers that sell through their own store as well
as on Amazon. And they went from hundreds of tickets a day up to thousands of tickets
a day. And we scaled straight up. And then at the end of the week, they went back down
to hundreds of tickets a day, which is the normal volume.
And so this absolutely is something that you can use temporarily, you can use it long term,
you can use the nights/weekends, you can have it on 24 seven. Super flexible. Cool. So, Vincent, my name is Tom and I have
a side hustle. I sell widgets and I’m only doing like $1000 a month. Is this a good fit
for me? Yeah, we have no minimums. You know, our goal
here is to be able to bring enterprise-grade solutions that do scale into enterprise volumes
but also be able to provide it to any business of any size. And so Tom who sells widgets on the side,
if Tom were to start a software company, Tom can just go to AWS and sign up and use AWS
with a credit card. And the largest of the largest startups can also use AWS and we built
the same thing to be able to provide enterprise-grade solutions to the entire market. Cool. Well, thank you so much. Is there anything
else that you want to kind of add on to this in the realm of customer service, or just
eCommerce or just anything cool that you’ve read lately? Customer service, I think the biggest thing
that we talked about here is a lot of folks think of it as an afterthought in doing eCommerce.
Often than not, building the site getting traffic to the site is number one to start
to get some conversions. And what we found is really good support and being able to use
tools like that can actually accelerate your conversion. So there was a study by the American Marketing
Association that actually found that customers who use live chat are three times more likely
to convert. But for Tom who’s building the website, I would say that the biggest thing
initially, is it’s the fastest way to learn about your customers. And so that’s why we’re
excited. The other thing we’ve done those… We’ve also scaled those insights. So for instance, when Tom does get to the
point where Tom needs way more people, it’s not going to be possible for Tom to be able
to read every single customer service ticket anymore. So sometimes it becomes hard to be
able to get a pulse on your business. And so this is where there are ways of being able
to analyze those insights at scale. And that’s why using the ticketing systems
that we mentioned earlier, helps get you those analytics, but Simplr also uses machine learning
to be able to analyze those conversations. And we can actually tell Tom, “Hey, you just
launched a new product last week, and we’re seeing a higher defect rate than normal.”
or “Hey, the warehouse that you’re using, for some reason last week, their packaging
just changed and you have more damaged packages than normal.” And so these are the other types of things
in Customer Service, where it’s not just the cost of doing business, it’s the best way
to be able to understand exactly what your customers are thinking and feeling about your
product and how to improve the product. But it’s been great chatting with you guys. Absolutely. And then, as always, there’s a
free trial if you go to simplr.ai/honest, and I’m sure somewhere in this episode Aiden’s
chop in that ad. Without Simplr, this podcast wouldn’t be here. They helped us get off the
ground and running. They help us buy all this equipment. So seriously, check them out. Like
I said, this wasn’t a sales… If it makes sense for you go check it out. It’s free for
seven days. And with that, Vincent, thank you so much. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on. We can’t thank our guests enough for coming
on the show and sharing the truth. Links and more will be available in the show notes.
If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you’d like to apply to your business,
please reach out at electriceye.io/Connect. Please make sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts,
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