Vice President, Experience
John Rote heads the customer experience program for men’s online and offline clothing retailer Bonobos. From its customer-service “ninjas,” to its social media service, Bonobos has crafted an innovative approach to customer service that, according to Rote, has fostered high levels of word-of-mouth and brand advocacy. Rote spoke to eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about the company’s customer service goals and expectations.
eMarketer: Bonobos refers to its customer service agents as Bonobos ninjas. Can you talk about the level of service they provide?
Rote: Ninja customer service is a combination of three things: it’s fast, it’s easy and it’s personable. We focus on giving a customer a fast response time and we pair that with a basket of policies to make ordering and returns as easy as possible for customers. That means fast and free shipping that provides a free return label already in the box. We've tried to back up that model with nice and personable ninjas who really want to help out if you have a problem.
We have an interesting stat: If a customer has talked to one of our ninjas, he’s actually much more likely to shop again and he’s much more likely to tell his friends and family about us than if he hadn't talked to our customer service team. It’s a reverse of what you typically see in the industry, where customer service issues are a pain and lead to dissatisfaction.
We tell our ninjas it’s their job to build a relationship with a customer and give a customer a reason to tell their friends and family about us. Since we are still a young, growing company, word-of-mouth has been an economical way for us to acquire customers.
“Ninja customer service is a combination of three things: it’s fast, it’s easy and it’s personable.”
eMarketer: Bonobos has a Buy the Best Size for You feature on the site. How helpful is this for customers?
John Rote: That’s a great feature since a lot of our customers are new to our brand. Someone might not know if he’s a size 32 or 33 since brands typically differ in their sizing. Through our brief survey, customers tell us what size pants they wear from other stores. It takes into account fit—slim vs. relaxed, for instance—and calculates the Bonobos size equivalent. We're really looking forward to doing a lot more with this feature in the coming year.
eMarketer: Tell us about Bonobos’ social customer service.
Rote: Although we definitely solve [customer issues] on Facebook and Twitter, more often than not we’re just talking to consumers about our brand. It’s amazing the number of tweets we get from people telling us about the first time they’re wearing our pants. So we get a lot more conversational branding than customer service issues.
“It’s amazing the number of tweets we get from people telling us about the first time they’re wearing our pants.”
I think a lot of companies ignore that chatter because they feel like it doesn’t directly and immediately drive a sale, but it’s great for us because that’s an opportunity to have a conversation with someone. They might potentially involve their friends, their family or their coworkers.
eMarketer: What do you measure in terms of your customer service activities?
Rote: First and foremost, we measure quality. We have customer ratings on every email interaction. We also have our ninjas review each other’s email correspondences with customers. So every few weeks, a ninja will get a packet of their emails back. They’re marked up with comments like an English paper. Their peers will call out what they did well and how they might have approached the issue differently. We also use traditional metrics around response time, resolution interactions, call time and wait time on phones.
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Check out today’s other articles, “Across Channels, Retailers Push to Keep Customers Happy” and “In Canada, Social TV Viewers Tune In.”