Sendcloud stand and deliver for their e-commerce customers
For this article, we teamed up with Europe’s number 1 shipping platform for e-commerce to find out:
How they coped with peak support demand
What are the best ways to relieve stress on agents
What has changed for their team since the crisis
And what the new expectations in b2b support are.
Sendcloud at the heart of e-commerce demand
Our fastest-growing customer in Europe, Sendcloud, experienced enormous demand during the crisis. Their logistics platform makes it easier for web shops to connect to multiple carriers in the countries that they operate in - a necessity for dealing with the logistical nightmare created by the crisis.
Jeff Perales, Head of Customer Success at Sendcloud, remembers that when Covid-19 hit Europe in March, "we did the same thing that everybody [else] did; we went to our financing team and said, okay, 'how do we save money without having to cut people?'”.
But, since they’re in the e-commerce business, in mid-March their volumes sky rocketed - and remained at 180% throughout the crisis.
“It was a pretty intense period for the whole company. On the one hand, of course, we had record-breaking sales, lead generation was through the roof and we shipped a record number parcels through the platform”.
In fact, he goes on to explain that every Monday they hit a new record for parcels shipped through Sendcloud. He credits the platform, and the team behind it, with all that success. However, it’s not a stretch to imagine a record number of shipments means a record number of parcels lost, damaged or delayed. “It was a double-edged sword,” he admits.
The origin of the stress
For a start, the number of parcels being shipped worldwide was overwhelming for all transport networks and for all carriers. This led to a higher level of service expectations which made them up their game.
That the stress from their customers was being transferred to Sendcloud’s Success and Support teams.
“I think oftentimes in customer service, you reflect the level of your customer. When all the delivery networks were completely full of parcels and carriers couldn't get them to the customers on time, a lot of stress came through the whole chain to us”.
The effect of the crisis was polarizing.
Some people will be more understanding about the whole situation, others will also be stressed out - and that stress will reflect in the way they speak to customer service about their issues. This was often confusing and off-putting for agents, constantly having to deal with “hot” and “cold” customers, as Jeff describes.
Of course, the 80% higher volumes made a significant contribution. They had to look for ways to relieve this stress.
Remaining social, at distance
Like many or all other European companies, they quickly made the switch to remote working. Thanks to web-based tools like Zendesk and Hubspot, this didn’t pose an immediate problem from a technical point of view. But, because they're a very social group, being pulled apart meant that team spirit suffered.
“We organized drinks and kept in touch with everybody, it was a way to say that we were all in it together”, says Jeff. Aside from the company sending employees gin and tonic care packages, they organized social events/calls most evenings and a few more special nights - like having famous Dutch singers guest appear at these Zoom events.
Jeff concedes that one of the main reasons that they held a debrief from 5:30pm to 6pm everyday was because of the effect of these “hot and cold” customers. They told jokes about what had happened during the day and that really helped lighten the mood. Taking the time to share their experiences - joyful or painful - brought everyone closer together.
What’s changed internally?
Training, tools and people.
This overwhelming demand looks set to stay and is now the new ‘normal’. Sendcloud have nearly doubled the size of their support team and have put an extra emphasis on training.
“We do a lot more training and obviously we have solutions like Miuros to make sure our performance is up there”.
There’s only one thing more important than effective training and the right solutions - people. Much like Automattic (read about their story here), having to look after new-comers and existing team members is the priority. The status quo for everyone has obviously changed. But, how so?
Well, for one, Zoom has taken over. “We’re more likely to all jump on Zoom now, which I think is great”. He continues, “I think people were more into Slack before, but if they connected personally [over Zoom] as opposed to slacking and emailing all the time, that's a positive improvement”.
Going forward, they won’t be employing a remote policy, at least in the short-term. That said, “We don't encourage people to come back - we still want to be socially responsible. If you want to go to the office, you can, but I would say we're not bothered when people work from home. I think we learned after March, April and May that it can be done!”, says Jeff.
B2b support is less about personalization and more about building relationships
Sencloud’s Head of Success and Support believes that the main difference between b2b and b2c support comes down to tolerance: “There's a higher tolerance for smaller mistakes in b2b than b2c. B2c is like ‘no mistake is okay’, you know things can go wrong”.
B2c customers are very “I want it now, I want it fast, it better be cheap and it better be high quality” and that is a very difficult expectation to manage. B2c customers crave personalized interactions - and one bad experience can cause them to leave.
“When someone’s shipping one parcel a month and it gets lost, that's really bad. But, if it's a big customer shipping 10,000 a day and one goes missing, that’s pretty good. So there’s a tolerance for smaller mistakes, but bigger mistakes aren’t really tolerated in b2b because there's a much higher expectation of quality”.
Do your customers expect more from you now?
Coupled with that expectation of quality, b2b relationships are inherently personal. They are personalized by the nature of the relationship: there’s a key account person, a single point of contact in most cases. Jeff has seen that interactions are expected to be far more personal than before the crisis. He explains that this particular context means that you should even know about your contact’s family, whether they have children etc.
“There is a higher expectation of service levels now to be honest because the carrier companies...really struggled”. and it's not for lack of trying.
One way in which Jeff warns b2b has to be careful is that, because technology is becoming easier and easier to adopt from a user experience perspective, it also means they are easier to ditch. “The scary thing about this [is that] you can literally just go from one to the next; you uninstall one plugin and install another”.
Finally… are you prepared for another spike in demand?
Whether it’s a spike in demand due to a second wave, or for any other reason, Sendcloud are confident of handling it better than the last. “We have the people for it, that's for sure”, says Jeff. “We have more people now as well; we've almost doubled the team now so I think we would definitely be able to tackle it easier...but I'm not sure that people would be super happy to jump into the situation again!
Invest in your training, your technologies and your people.
Optional daily drop-in debrief for your team, to reduce stress.
Don’t rush your people to come back to work too soon, be socially responsible.
If you can afford to, use Zoom not Slack (fine, you can still video call on Slack!)
B2c customers crave personalized interactions...but b2b is moving that way. Form personal relations with your business partners.
Do more. Rise to the growing expectations in support services.