If you’re married or have ever been part of a wedding-planning process, you know that the lead-up to the walk down the aisle is equal parts exciting and stressful. Couples, and their families, go to great lengths and make significant investments to coordinate a celebration. So it makes sense that, often, when aspects of the planning process go astray, tempers flare. The last thing any bride wants to experience during wedding prep are vendors and companies that are unwilling to make accommodations or provide extra customer support.
The digital landscape has changed customer expectations regarding customer service; people want immediacy and ease—they simply do not have the time to spend hours, or days, resolving an issue. According to Forrester Research, 77 percent of people claim that valuing time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service.
In many ways, customer service in the wedding industry is more significant than any other retail niche because planning a wedding is such an emotional and highly personal experience. Not only are brides planning a once-in-a-lifetime event, but it is also an event that they have (likely) spent years dreaming about. The vendors that couples choose to help them facilitate their day aren’t just vendors, they’re people who are going to play significant roles on what will likely be the most important day of their lives. For organizations in the wedding vertical, the stakes for delivering personalized, supportive, and seamless service are high.
I recently sat down with Azazie’s head of Customer Service, Rachel Hogue, to learn how digital-first retailers in this traditional space are carving new paths to better customer experiences. According to Rachel, these three pillars comprise a strong customer service foundation for any retailer or digital organization, in the wedding industry and out, to build upon.
1. Be human
There is nothing more frustrating than spending 30 minutes waiting on a customer service line only to be redirected to a voice-automated system. People want to connect with other people. No one, especially not customers experiencing problems that could hinder what is potentially the most important day of their lives, wants to dial through 7 different categories while following an automated system. Azazie has built a strong company through its mission of helping brides find unique, customized gown options to help them experience the most special day of their lives.
Azazie’s team of stylists are dedicated to helping brides, and members of their bridal party, combat the anxieties and issues that often arise during the planning process. “The old adage that the customer is always right isn’t true; people are people and mistakes or miscommunications happen, especially during the lead-up to weddings because brides are juggling so many coordination points. But even in the face of this, we do our best to help our customers, even if they make mistakes with ordering and sizing. We’re not seeing people face to face, so we have to work extra hard to make our client interactions highly personal,” says Hogue.
Azazie’s stylists work to deliver highly personalized customer service experiences because no two problems are the same and no two brides are the same. The attention to personalization and empathy is what sets Azazie’s stylists apart; there is so much emotion tied into the wedding planning, and the company knows that the only way for them to be successful is to offer unconditional support.
2. Offer multiple customer touchpoints
As a digital-first company, Azazie’s customer service department began with a focus on delivering digital support via email. In fact, an email-first approach was a trend may retailers across niches tried on for size. However, Hogue and her team quickly realized that an email only approach would not suffice, especially among brides who craved extra nurturing and guidance. While it’s true that consumers today are less enthusiastic about talking on the phone than they are about texting and emailing, this behavioral shift does not necessarily translate to the world of customer service. Customers don’t want to wait hours for a call-back or email response, when they are frustrated they want answers—and they want them fast. Today, customers want more customer support options at their disposal to help them find the best (and quickest) solution to their problems. Since their inception, Azazie has expanded their Service avenues to email, phone, and online chats, giving brides that Azazie’s team is available to help them work through their problems.
3. Be transparent
Customer service providers have direct access to customers that no other company department has; day in and day out they work with customers to solve issues or devise outside-the-box solutions. Because they’re constantly connecting directly with customers, Customer Service providers also spot patterns and common issues before any other member of an organization. Azazie’s stylists make it a priority to make the bridal and bridesmaid gown shopping experience as seamless as possible by constantly looking for areas of improvement across product pages and the FAQ section; they know that customers would rather find the answer to their questions by browsing the FAQ page than by directly messaging a Stylist—even if the responses are almost instantaneous. When an FAQ page on a website is comprehensive and intuitive, it can even serve as the tipping point for customers who may have been on the edge about purchasing.
People’s behaviors and demands are constantly shifting, which means that customer service departments must value agility and evolution. Implementing a customer service strategy that conforms to customers, rather than expecting customers to conform to your tools, is one of the best ways to stand out among competitors. Tools and technology are essential pieces of the customer service equation, but at the end of the day customers, especially bridal customers, want to know that your organization is willing to offer guidance and support regardless of which issues may arise. After the wedding brides may forgot which flowers were included in their bouquet or which guests had trouble booking hotel rooms, but they will never forget the people who helped them bring their wedding day to life.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily shared by TNW.
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