UrbanStems focuses on the quality of the flowers they deliver and the very exceptional and human way in which those flowers are delivered. Every company strives to achieve that perfect balance, where high quality exceptional experiences are achieved, in consistent, sustainable, and effective ways.
For UrbanStems, achieving this balance was essential to being successful in what was primed to be a very unique Mother’s Day season. Mother’s Day 2020 was going to be extraordinary for a few key reasons.
- First, UrbanStems was itself on a tear, having it record volumes and revenue as a result of an incredible, momentum-building effort across all its teams going back to the 2019 holiday season.
- Next, Mother’s Day was always one of UrbanStems’ best times, specifically because Mother’s Day volumes tend to focus on sales across a full weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, even Monday) as opposed to a single day such as Valentine’s Day, which has a surge but with a focus on a single day.
- Finally, as a result of COVID-19, eCommerce volumes across the board were up at record levels; retailers were seeing higher volumes in May than they were for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Related Read: High-Level Customer Support Trends During COVID-19
The perfect storm was set. UrbanStems was operating in extraordinary circumstances, and forecasting for what to expect would mean balancing against a striking number of possible scenarios.
- What if Mother’s Day remains focused on the few days around the holiday but with larger volumes?
- What if Mother’s Day demands more volume of a longer, more sustained period of time?
- What if COVID-19 restrictions dramatically affect shipping and deliveries, and increased customer support inquiries within longer and irregular time frames?
- What if people were afraid to ship florals altogether, and actually, volume tanked?
Planning for Surges in Customer Support Volume
Luckily for UrbanStems, the business saw the best possible outcome: record volumes.
They had collaborated with Boldr to work through scenarios and contingencies that prepared the team to ramp up, and ramp down, over the course of a full week, including supporting at peak, a 10x increase in support agents for specific shifts.
UrbanStems had been working with Boldr since 2018. The original engagement was triggered by Valentine’s Day 2017, which left UrbanStems struggling to cover the fluctuating volumes with its in-house team.
With Boldr on board and working in partnership with the UrbanStems team, therein lies one of the most important aspects of the partnership. Laura McDonald, Head of Customer Experience, had pulled off the first part of planning for such a complex environment: working with her team and across departments to build a robust, smart, and adaptable plan to accommodate all scenarios.
Boldr and Urbanstems Forecasted and Worked Through Customer Support Scenarios Together
This is where the partnership with Boldr started to shine. After years of working together, Boldr was well aware of the uncertainty around volumes and collaborated with Laura to build a staffing and support plan that would accommodate exceptional surges, prepared to ramp up a team 10x larger than normal to accommodate specific channels and shifts.
Staffing flexibility was fundamental to overall success. Boldr created an internal task force to help manage everything from cross-training existing team members for on-demand ramp-up, to hiring seasonal staff members, to the inverse, and running financial models and being ready to scale down and even cancel shifts if necessary while still honoring and being respectful of seasonal team members that were hired specifically for this work.
Also read: Employing Outsourcing and Automation to Scale a Support Experience
Mother’s Day Seasonal Customer Support was a Runaway Success
Mother’s Day went from being one of the busiest days in one of the most uncertain environments to the smoothest and most successful (on all counts, revenue, support metrics, team health, and wellness) UrbanStems had seen.
Our efficient, forward-thinking, and data-driven methodology in scaling our support coverage propelled the success of the partnership we’ve nurtured and focused on in the past few years.
- Phone Support – The Boldr team stepped in and controlled, managed, and owned the phone lines. Even when the volume was 130% higher than expected and materially higher than our highest forecasts had projected, customer requests were being handled on their first call in. This was a delightful experience overall while also stopping the downstream effects of customers following up on the same phone inquiry via email and chat.
- Prioritization – The individual ticket volume was extraordinary; having the Boldr team focus on organizing tickets into buckets that could then be routed to team members who were ready to take on high-priority tickets as they arrived meant a beautiful and seamless experience for our customers. The implementation of the “Play” button on Zendesk meant agents were served tickets immediately after resolution, eliminating any need to search, sort, filter through a queue and allowing our team to put full emphasis on resolving issues as opposed to dedicating extra time and effort to identifying, prioritizing, and then, solving.
- Collaboration and Communication – With as many as 100 team members and agents managing support across all channels in a 100% remote environment, 24/7, communication and collaboration was key. The core team and seasonal agents worked together efficiently and harmoniously across Slack and Google Hangouts after establishing simple but comprehensive rules of engagement.
- Teamwork – Without teamwork, alignment, and a commitment to flexibility in service of the best possible customer experience, none of the above would have been possible. Here, we see the value of building a great company culture from the bottom up and exercising a people-first attitude in managing teams.