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Boarding any plane, any hour of the day, you can see traveling businesspeople enviously eyeing those of their breed who are carrying (or rolling) the latest TUMI luggage. TUMI ownership provides elevation to instant cool-kid status within the traveling business set (at least in the eyes of the poor schlubs consigned to carrying AmazonBasics luggage), like a great lunchbox did at school in days of yore.
Yet I don’t recall actual lunchboxes indestructible the way TUMI bags seem to be. (Indestructibility, in fact, is my fundamental complaint with the TUMI brand of luggage: that the stuff so rarely breaks, or suffers wear and tear other than the occasional cosmetic issue, that I can be stuck year upon year without an excuse to buy the brand’s latest, ever more eye-catching and feature-laden models that I in turn find myself eyeing with envy as the coolest kids board the plane.)
The product standards at TUMI workmanship provide a challenge as well to Charlie Cole, who took over as Chief Digital Officer at TUMI in 2016, as well as becoming Global Chief eCommerce Officer at Samsonite, TUMI’s corporate parent starting that year. “Being known for our standards in manufacturing and style, when we do get a customer service issue” (and Cole says they get their share: logistics issues, aka, “where’s my stuff?”; customers searching for their refunds, etc.) “our response needs to be commensurate with the product quality, because that’s what customers are expecting from us. Otherwise, in the glare of the contrast, it’s going to be a real disappointment.”
And, when Cole came into the company, glaring contrast is essentially what he uncovered. “In the aggregate, we’ve long been known for some pro-customer fundamentals, in the sense of having a solid warrantee and standing behind the product with a great repair center, and never wavering on these. But we were also fairly lackadaisical in our systems to handle such things, and it was making it hard to get the service from us that customers wanted and that we wanted to provide. We weren’t doing a good job of supporting that customer service in our call centers, whether on the phone or by email, because, frankly, we had amazing people using really mediocre tools.”
One of the fundamental places the operation was falling down was in speed of response. “One of the things that I always do when I join a company is ask, ‘Please c.c. me on all of the inbound customer service requests.’ I did this for a while when I got here in January 2016, and what I would see is us often taking a long time to get back to our customers. This wasn’t a by-product of training. It was simply a by-product of the systems we were using.”
The solution TUMI came up with was an integrated approach, provided by the vendor Gladly, that allowed TUMI to be channel-agnostic. “The way we sped up service to our customers was to give them more choice in channels. We didn’t force people to the phones anymore; we didn’t force them to use email. When customers are able to use various real-time channels to reach us, like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, they’re a lot happier, and they get the resolution they’re looking for a lot sooner.” With the new functionality, regardless of which channel the customer initiates the discussion, TUMI’s agents will respond and continue the conversation on the same platform seamlessly, even in extreme cross-channel scenarios, such as if a customer starts out by sending an email, then instantly places a phone call, then while on hold decides to open up a web chat window.
Beyond speed of reply, Cole had also been frustrated by “the traditional way customer service operations are arranged by order, ‘Micah ordered this backpack on 12/1,’ or whatever it may be. An improvement I wanted to see, and that we achieved with the new system, is to be able to pull up the entire customer history every time a customer calls in, in a single thread. This gives our customer service reps more actionable insight into what the customer has done with us in terms of purchase and repair history, how they have corresponded with us in the past, and what they may be looking for in the future.”
Beyond this easy access to institutional knowledge, Cole found himself hoping for a more personable experience for both his customers and his agents, for what he calls continuity in the human-on-human experience. “It may sound like a small thing, but one of my favorite aspects of the Gladly platform we’re using is that, by default, customers are routed to the last agent they spoke with, thus offering continuity and the immediate historical knowledge and empathetic insight of that agent. I think a great human-on-human interaction is fundamental to supporting the TUMI brand. And, as long as we keep humans in the forefront of how we interact with customers, I want to get the very most out of each agent in a humanistic way, both for their sake and for the sake of the customers.”
December 29, 2018 at 06:20PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs