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Behind the Olark: Upper 90 Soccer

Olark Customers eCommerce and Retail

Behind the Olark: Upper 90 Soccer

Ted Carmichael

Olark customers often wonder—will adding another live chat agent to my team increase my sales? In a previous article, we talked to OnePageCRM about how they used data to justify hiring another agent. In this article, we talk to Ben Jata, Director of Operations at Upper 90 Soccer about the benefits he gained by adding just one new live chat agent.

How one Olark customer increased sales by adding more live chat agents

The old adage is, "Do what you love." Ben Jata loves soccer.

This is Ben, Director of Operations for Upper 90 Soccer, talking about how adding customer service team member helped him increase sales.

It makes sense - he grew up in the sport. “I played with my brothers. My parents coached me. Ever since I was three years old, my whole family was very involved in the sport.”

Since graduating college, nearly every job Ben has had involved soccer. He's been a coach, analyzed data for Opta Sports, worked for Major League Soccer (MLS), and amassed over 10,000 followers on Twitter. In 2015, he joined Upper 90 Soccer as their Customer Experience Manager.

At the time, Upper 90 was a thriving brick and mortar business, but had a small ecommerce presence. While its three stores successfully sold soccer gear to customers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island, its website was overshadowed by massive competitors who dominated the online space.

Ben realized there was an opportunity to grow Upper 90's ecommerce business if he could focus on bigger, long-term projects, like reorganizing the company's warehouse. But in his role as Customer Service Manager, he was being overwhelmed with repetitive, detail-oriented tasks. With only a few people in his department, and a lean budget to work with, he didn’t have many options for reducing his day to day workload.

A picture of David Villa and youth soccer players at an Upper 90 Soccer Store. Ben Jata is the Director of Operations for Upper 90 and uses Olark live chat software on the website.Soccer legends like David Villa have made an apperance in an Upper 90 Soccer store.

Differentiating in a crowded market

Ben recalls that as a young company, Upper 90 was going up against companies that had been in business for 20 or more years. Those more established companies dominated nearly all of the organic search results, making it hard for younger companies, like Upper 90, to attract new customers.

"We knew if we were ever going to compete, we had to turn every person who visited Upper 90 into a repeat customer," said Ben."We had to ensure that the customer experience, from landing page to product delivery, was smooth so customers would have a great experience, leave a good rating, and come back to shop with us again. Customer Service became - and still is - huge for us.”

One small problem - Upper 90 was not yet optimized to be an ecommerce business. Order fulfillment took longer than expected because the warehouse wasn't organized for efficiency. This lead to increased phone, email, and live chat volume for the customer service team - Ben - who was also responsible for the company's product catalog, website design, and online user experience.

It was more than one person could handle and was adding up to 100 hour work weeks for Ben. Someone with less passion for the business might have walked away, but Ben dug in and began to prioritize.

"We already had a proven customer service system in place," says Ben. "The issue was removing a bottleneck - me. I was the only one chatting, answering emails, and talking to customers on the phone. If I left my desk - which I did frequently to visit the warehouse, check in with a store, or manage an event at a local soccer match - there was no one available to talk to customers. That’s not a position any business wants to be in.”

After careful consideration, Ben made the recommendation to hire a full-time person to help manage the customer service channels. But he knew that hiring someone wasn't going to be an easy decision.

“When you’re a smaller company it’s tough to know when another piece should be added. I knew I needed someone to help me manage the day-to-day customer service so I could focus my time on bigger projects. At the same time, a new hire costs a lot of money, especially if they’re full time, and I knew I couldn’t justify the spend just to free up my own time—the new team member would have to add measurable business value."

An screen capture of the Upper 90 Soccer website - Here an Olark automated chat rule has proactively started a live chat with a customer.

More Chats Lead to an Increase in Sales

The new team member joined in June 2016, and the results were almost immediate.

For context, Upper 90’s website averaged 40 chats a month in 2015. Once Ben hired someone to help him with customer service, Upper 90's chat volume went up to 215 chats a month. This year (2017), Upper 90 is averaging 460 chats a month. (FYI - these chat increases happened while number of users and sessions on the site remained constant.)

Why did this uptick occur? Two reasons:

First - When Ben was handling customer service by himself, he often didn't have time even to turn on chat. In November and December 2015, he had 76 chats total. Compare that to November and December 2016, after he added a new team member who staffed chat from 10am - 6pm, Monday through Friday - 859 conversations

An extra team member meant chat was available more often, and customers took advantage of that.

The uptick in chats represented a very real increase in business. Ben's data shows that approximately 11-12% of visitors who chat make a purchase. Compare that to the 1-2% conversion rate of visitors who do not chat. Also, visitors who chat before making a purchase have a 20% higher average order value than those who do not.

Second - To tap into more opportunities to impact revenue, Ben asked the new hire to do more than just respond to chats reactively. The two developed a plan for using Targeted Chat rules to initiate proactive chats with visitors on certain website pages. They created two simple Targeted Chat Rules:

  1. If a customer is on the site for more than 90 seconds, send a message that says, "Hi! Looking for anything specific today or just browsing?"
  2. If a customer visits their Customized Soccer Jerseys page, send a message that says, "Welcome to our new customized jerseys section! Looking for a specific player?"

Since Ben and his team started using Targeted Chat, pageviews per session have doubled and average session duration quadrupled. (according to Google Analytics)

All-in-all, Ben estimates that in a six month period the new full-time team member helped convert $40,000 in sales from chat.

via GIPHY (Not a picture of Ben)

More Time for Bigger Projects

“Once I had a full-time customer care specialist in the office, I could travel to our four retail locations and the warehouse, collect feedback, and jump into new projects,” Ben says. “It gave me the opportunity to make our ecommerce business far more efficient and streamline a lot of our processes and procedures.”

One of Ben’s primary projects was reorganizing the warehouse.

“When I first came to Upper 90, we had one warehouse manager who knew where everything was. He was able to run around and grab things quickly on his own, but none of the other staff members could do the same. Their pick-list and our shipping program arranged items alphabetically by SKU. So if a customer ordered two soccer balls, one from Nike and one from adidas, he would go pick the adidas ball with all the “A’s”, jump around to a bunch of other products, then go back to the same spot to pick the Nike ball when he got to the “N’s”. It made no sense.”

Ben collaborated with Upper 90’s new shipping manager and reorganized the entire warehouse, dividing the space into specific sections so that pickers could start from the back and finish in the front, never visiting the same area twice. He then assigned all of Upper 90’s existing products a new warehouse attribute in Magento so that when a pick-list was generated, it would sort items according to its location. That, along with a complete visual redesign, streamlined the process, so that anyone, no matter their job title or experience level, could easily find any product in the warehouse.

After the revamp, gathering a hundred-item list went from being a two hour job, to just 30 minutes.

Continued Focus on Great Service

In every passion project there comes a time when you have to decide to work smarter, not harder. If Ben hadn’t advocated for hiring a full-time chat specialist, he wouldn’t have had time to tackle efficiency-boosting projects. His decision improved Upper 90’s customer service, increased conversion rates, and gave him the opportunity to think big.

He has no intention of slowing down. With World Cup 2018 right around the corner, Ben continues to work on optimizing the customer experience. "We have a huge opportunity in front of us with the World Cup just 10 months away. While there are no immediate plans to expand our current support team, we continue to look for ways to maximize efficiency and improve customer satisfaction. We're currently working on a few projects that will help give us the ability to deliver a true omni-channel experience for all of our customers. It's a very exciting time for Upper 90!"

For Ben though, it's always about putting his love for the game into his passion for great service. When he first came to New York, Ben coached children from the ages of two all the way to 18. “With little kids, you cheer them on, help them have a good time. When they get older, in middle school and high school, you try to mentor them. To have a good impact on their day and on their life.”

Now, Ben delivers soccer gear to kids who love the sport as much as he does. And he makes sure that, from the minute they’re on Upper 90’s site until the second they bring their products onto the field, their experience is never less than exceptional.

Ted Carmichael

Ted Carmichael

Ted Carmichael writes about eCommerce and everything else. He lives on a hill in LA and battles wild peacocks with a water gun.