Avril, a specialty supermarket with 10 stores throughout Quebec, underwent significant changes in 2020. The pandemic catalyzed the company’s need to innovate their ecommerce operations to meet the newfound demands for online ordering and services.
With the right partners, and a small-but-mighty team that’s focused on ensuring an excellent customer experience, Avril is entering 2021 with a digital foundation that promises a lasting shelf-life to their customer service and website ordering teams.
Avril’s Customer Service Supervisor, Amelie Carey, recently spoke to Heyday about how Avril approached the complex, multilayered challenges that 2020 brought. Not only did Avril experience significant pressures on their ecommerce operations, the new demands for online ordering and remote support for customers changed the nature of Amelie’s teams’ demands. But, in a short few months, Avril took a variety of quick actions to help customers shop for food in the new reality.
“We overhauled our website and launched an entirely new click-and-collect feature to meet customer demands,” notes Carey.
Like most supermarkets, a large portion of Avril’s revenue was attributed to in-store sales prior to the pandemic. Their website functioned as a place for customers to explore and discover products before they visited one of Avril’s physical locations to shop for groceries.
“Our customer service team started working much closer with our web order department to resolve greater volumes of those types of queries efficiently.”
And yet, as of August 2020, 22% of Canadian consumers reported buying more groceries online than they used to pre-pandemic. This uptick in online shopping for groceries had a huge impact on how Avril’s customer service team operates and serves its customers.
“Our small but mighty customer service team resolves all types of cases, and the scope of our work expanded as our customers started purchasing groceries online. We resolve questions as straightforward as verifying in-store inventory levels for certain products, as well as more nuanced, health-related questions relating to a product’s ingredients and possible allergens.’” notes Amelie. “To support those health-sensitive questions, we connect customers to a naturopath we have on-staff. We’ve always taken questions on our products and the health and wellbeing of our customers very seriously.”
While questions on product availability in-store and allergies and health restrictions accelerated in March and April, so did questions around inventory availability, online orders, and order tracking. “Our customer service team started working much closer with our web order department to resolve greater volumes of those types of queries efficiently.”
So, how did they use Heyday to keep up with the mounting pressures on their team to offer excellent customer service to more customers than ever before? Here, Amelie answers six key questions to offer inspiration and guidance to customer service teams everywhere.
1. You had to transform your customer service operations following customers shifting their shopping online. Can you tell me what those first weeks were like and the challenges you encountered?
It was a very intense time for our team and our organization. As a department, our standard was to reply to people within two business days. In the heat of the first lockdown in Quebec, our email inbox looked like many who work in customer service at that time: we had hundreds of unread messages, and people were waiting for responses for over a week. Adding to that, we had to issue refunds due to restock and out-of-stock issues. This was unprecedented for my team.
In the heat of the first lockdown in Quebec, our email inbox looked like many who work in customer service at that time: we had hundreds of unread messages, and people were waiting for responses for over a week.
It’s important to note that our team handles all support cases, so during the days, we spent a huge portion of our time on calls and supporting our customers. People were asking us about mask wearing policies, store lines and wait times, any number of things. It was understandably a high-stress time for people across the province, so conversations could often be tense. That’s one of the realities of our jobs; we’re dealing with people, and that can take on any range of characteristics!
2. That sounds like a lot to overcome at once. How did your team refocus and get their footing again?
Teamwork across the entire organization was central to our success. In Customer Service, we stayed a team of three, but we grew our web team’s headcount and started collaborating more closely with them. We also expanded our partner ecosystem to reflect the new grocery business imperative: giving customers a smooth shopping experience from search to sale and after: whether they make their purchase online or in-store.
We also expanded our partner ecosystem to reflect the new grocery business imperative: giving customers a smooth shopping experience from search to sale and after: whether they make their purchase online or in-store.
We also started using Heyday’s AI-powered virtual assistant to automatically resolve queries customers frequently ask and free our human support agents from responding to FAQs — that was a game changer. When your business is transforming at a rapid pace and you have a relatively small team, relying on partners like Heyday is key for survival.
3. You were able to successfully shift directions to create a seamless ecommerce experience and give your customers the level of support they need in this new reality. What are some of your secrets to success?
As I mentioned above, we chose the right partners and had the right team in place. The next step was educating our internal teams on how to use Heyday’s messaging platform effectively. At first, opening up live chat support was seen as a possible risk — could the team handle the volume of conversations we’d get?
But, with a blend of automated responses for repetitive FAQs and live chat for more complex customer service requests, we’ve found the return on investment in new tech to be tremendous — both from a customer satisfaction and sales perspective.
4. On that note, how did implementing chat impact your customer service operations? What are the results like to-date?
In a few short months, we transformed to fit the new digital realities of our organization. And along the way we’ve also achieved great results, speaking to both our partners and the resilience of our teams.
Our automation rate has climbed from 35% in August to 64% in November. We’re serving more customers at scale thanks to automation, and in effect, making our customers happier.
As of November, our CSAT score is currently at an “excellent” grade thanks to continual updates we are providing. Our conversation volumes are constantly increasing each month, but our automation rate has climbed from 35% in August to 64% in November. We’re serving more customers at scale thanks to automation, and in effect, making our customers happier.
5. Other than automation and increased customer satisfaction, what’s a surprising benefit you and your team are getting from Heyday that may not be represented in the hard metrics?
Honestly, the convenience of the mobile app cannot be understated! It’s so easy to use, and a lot of inquiries come in over the weekend when people do their shopping. With the mobile app, I can respond quickly to a tricky question via chat while I’m on-the-go, without having to wait until I’m home to log into my computer. I can be fast, efficient and always available for my customers, even when I’m at the grocery store myself.
With the mobile app, I can respond quickly to a tricky question via chat while I’m on-the-go, without having to wait until I’m home to log into my computer.
The role of messaging and chat as a way to have direct customer feedback cannot be underestimated. We see entirely new types of questions pop up, and we identify new patterns, and can filter that feedback through to our web ordering team. It can relate to product, stocking, in-store experiences, and more.
6. Bonus question! Any final words on what it’s like to partner with Heyday?
Working with Heyday is akin to working with one of your own! My team deals directly with Charlie, and she’s like an additional member of our team. Our success is her success, and it’s clear that you care about the success of our operations, but also, the reputation of our brand. Working in customer service, it’s amazing to collaborate with a partner who has the same ethos as we do: we work together to move fast, but also maintain high quality standards. I always know that Heyday will put the same love into a project that my team will - and the result will be an outstanding experience for our customers.