Back when eBay founder Pierre Omidyar was a boy playing with his Pez dispensers and the number of Internet users could be counted on two hands, my grandmother was a telephone operator. She sat before a huge board full of plugs and routed phone calls from one place to another. She was a connector, in other words.
Fast forward to the early 2000s. A company located in St. Peter Port in the UK called Allbeauty.com, which sells perfumes, skincare, cosmetics, haircare and beauty products, had been using its current phone system for customer service inquiries.
“It distributed calls to agents in Customer Services and they could be diverted to the office if needed, like a switchboard,” says Chris Le Cheminant, Customer Services Manager of Allbeauty.com. “It also handled emails from multiple sources and allocated them to the CS team.”
So far, so good. But when the company opened stores in multiple channels – namely, eBay and Amazon – customer service grew more complicated.
“Amazon emails worked OK with the current system but eBay messages had to be handled manually,” says Le Cheminant. “This was a severe drain on the team.”
Later on, Allbeauty.com moved to the highly popular CRM service Zendesk. Le Cheminant was faced with a dilemma: how to get those messages from the company’s website, Amazon, and eBay to the people assigned to handle them?
Quick responses are critical in ecommerce not only because it’s good business practice, but because marketplaces require it.
“Customers want a quick response and, to a degree, so do the Channels,” says LeCheminant. “Amazon will drop your rating if you take too long to reply to customers.” Anyone who has fretted over eBay’s seller performance standards knows that responses play an important role in one’s overall evaluation on that marketplace.
After using another solution for six months, Le Cheminant and his team found software that functions a bit like an old-time telephone operator – receiving calls from everywhere and connecting them with the right individuals.
It’s called ChannelReply, and it connects customers on eBay and Amazon to an ecommerce seller’s Zendesk interface. ChannelReply also picks up standard messages regularly sent by eBay and Amazon: eBay Resolution Center cases, Amazon Answer, eBay Returns, and eBay Refunds.
Replies, on the other hand, look like they’re coming from the seller’s eBay or Amazon account or from their website, depending on the source of the purchase. Like a phone operator, ChannelReply can also send eBay buyer questions to a specific customer service person assigned to eBay, and Amazon customer questions to a staffer assigned to Amazon.
This is exactly the way ChannelReply’s New York City-based cofounders Michael Dash and David Gitman wanted the system to work when they sought to solve their own multichannel CRM problem. They run several ecommerce businesses: CarPartKings.com, Plumburs.com, and StrictlyPursonal.com. They sell on their own websites and in various marketplaces including eBay, Amazon, Sears, NewEgg, and Rakuten.
“We were getting hundreds of customer service inquiries daily on the marketplaces,” explains Dash. “We were already managing our website customer service CRM via Zendesk and thought it would be great to manage all of our customer service in one place. We looked around and no one had built a solution.”
After six months of what Dash describes as “brutal” development, they had that solution. “Rather than our guys having to switch through three or four screens, they can have all customer service information populate in one place. This makes customer service for marketplaces extremely manageable, efficient, and creates accountability. The accountability and efficiency drives better communication and ultimately increases sales.”
Not only do messages from multiple sources come to a single screen, but they go back from the customer service representative and are delivered to the marketplace from which they originated.
In other words, if a customer asks about one of your eBay product listings and your eBay staffer replies via ChannelReply, the message is delivered to the customer’s eBay account. “You just have the added benefits of the CRM platforms from which you are responding,” says Dash.
Le Cheminant also mentions the benefits of using Zendesk and ChannelReply rather than eBay or Amazon’s message systems. “The team can see additional information that is not normally on the usual Zendesk tickets. Data ChannelReply can add to tickets include ebay_item_title, ebay_item_link and ebay_item_id. With this additional information on hand, it is easy to resolve the customer’s query without having to investigate too much.”
Since making its solution available to other businesses, ChannelReply has grown to nearly 150 customers. The software comes in three versions:
Standard ($49/month) includes one eBay and Amazon account integration each and up to 250 messages per month.
Pro ($79/month) includes two eBay and Amazon account integrations and up to 1000 messages per month.
Enterprise ($179/month) includes unlimited eBay and Amazon account integrations and unlimited messages.
ChannelReply is working on developing more integrations to other CRM programs (Desk.com, Freshdesk, OSTicket, HelpScout) as well as a wider range of marketplaces (Etsy, Newegg, Sears, Rakuten, Mercado Libre).
The software was easy to set up and use is the best feature, Le Cheminant adds: “The fact that I spend very little time implementing the solution and I can forget it’s there has to be the best thing for me.”