With Pete Franco, VP of E-commerce at Living Spaces
At a glance
As a leader in the home furnishings industry, Living Spaces has long prided itself on providing best-in-class shopping experiences for its customers. Now with the accelerated move towards a digital-first economy, the team is using Intercom to bring the in-store experience they’ve carefully cultivated over the course of almost two decades, online.
Amid the changes the retail industry has experienced as a result of COVID-19, the increasing demand for online shopping has also resulted in a rise and shift in customer expectations. When shopping online, customers expect the same personal experience they’re used to receiving in stores. In order to meet – and exceed – these growing expectations, the Living Spaces team decided to go all in on a conversational approach to supporting and engaging their customers, which is why they use Intercom across their marketing, sales, and support to create a unified customer experience.
Having traditionally fostered a culture among their 2,000-strong team of building in-person relationships with customers, the Living Spaces team wanted to find a way of replicating that online.
“Intercom has allowed us to finally unite our e-commerce and in-store experiences,” says Pete Franco, VP of E-commerce at Living Spaces, explaining that his team is committed to ensuring their customers receive the same level of care and attention, whether they’re shopping in a physical store or browsing the Living Spaces website.
Balancing efficiency with a personal touch
Pete explains that the team leverages the full power of Intercom to balance efficient, automated support and engagement with a personal touch. Using proactive support to get ahead of known issues and frequently asked questions, sophisticated automation to create a seamless user journey, and a Business Messenger that allows them to have personal, real-time conversations with their website visitors and customers, they’re truly embodying Intercom’s mission of making internet business personal.
“Our sales, support, and e-commerce teams are now on a single platform, greatly improving our overall customer experience and team efficiency,” Pete says. In having one platform for all customer communications, the team can get a clear picture of their end-to-end customer journey, giving them the freedom and flexibility to experiment with their outbound messaging and optimize based on what best suits their customers.
Understanding customer needs
Given the wide selection of products Living Spaces offers, Pete explains that both their customers and their needs are incredibly broad-ranging. It’s important that the team understands what those needs are, and which stage of the buying journey customers are at when they’re speaking with them.
Much like Intercom, Living Spaces sees relationships with their customers as ongoing conversations – not as once-off interactions that begin and end with a purchase. The Living Spaces team is focused on helping their customers throughout their lifecycle journey with the company, from the moment they first visit the website, through to delivery, and beyond. As Pete says:
“We’re very focused on the experience of our customers. Naturally, buying bigger-ticket items is a big decision, and it can be complicated. A lot of our customers are buying before they move, trying to time things with moving out and moving in – there’s a lot that goes into the buying experience, and we want to make that as stress-free as possible.”
When shopping in one of Living Spaces’ stores, customers have the option to speak with a member of their team and get expert advice to help them along their buying journey. Pete explains, “The relationships customers have with our associates in the stores are great, but when you go online, you’re left to do it on your own. When customers ask for help in the store, someone’s there 15 seconds later, and with Intercom, we’re trying to provide that same experience online.”
Adopting a messenger-based approach to customer support
Thinking about the team’s journey with customer support, Pete nods to the culture shift they’ve undergone since going all in on a messenger-based approach, saying, “Since switching to Intercom, we’ve gone from saying ‘We hope they don’t need to contact us’ and ‘We hope that everything works out,’ to ‘Let’s get out there and send them messages,’ and we know we can efficiently respond to their replies, which is something we couldn’t do with phone calls. We much prefer chat.”
Pete explains that the team’s average first response time through Intercom is under one minute – something that would not previously have been possible using phone and email support. This huge culture shift and move towards proactively supporting and engaging their customers is something the team is focused on building out even further in the months and years ahead.
Offering help before it’s needed
By leveraging proactive support to get ahead of known issues and frequently asked questions, support teams are afforded more time to deal with more sensitive or urgent customer queries. At Living Spaces, proactive support is a big focus for the team – they want to be able to help customers and resolve their problems before they ever need to contact support. When it comes to deliveries, for example, Pete explains that by collecting information such as the dimensions of a customer’s front door, the team can be proactive in letting them know which products will and won’t fit through it – and avoid a situation where that’s discovered at the point of delivery.
In addition to making the team more efficient, Pete speaks to the positive impact proactive support has on their customers’ satisfaction levels, noting that the sooner in advance that they can help their customers, the better their experience is going to be. “Proactive support is really the big thing, and we’re only getting started. We’re going down that path and it’s not something small – it’s a complete culture change,” says Pete.
Answering questions in-context
Using one of Intercom’s Custom Bots – which the team calls “Triage Bot” – Living Spaces can collect valuable information about their customers’ queries to have to hand when they’re speaking with them.
By collecting details such as order numbers, they can ensure that customers are routed to the best person or team to help them with their question based on the products they’ve purchased or the status of their order, in order to be able to provide more efficient, in-context support.
Championing customer and employee satisfaction
Of the many benefits the team has seen since they started using Intercom, one that stands out to Pete is the reaction their employees have had to being able to chat with customers through the Messenger. Having implemented in-store kiosks where staff members can jump into conversations in the Intercom Inbox, Pete notes that it’s had a very positive effect on employee satisfaction and engagement.
“With Intercom, our retail team feels like they’re more ingrained in the broader company. For half of their day they can be selling on the floor, and the other half they’re helping customers online through Intercom,” Pete explains. This gives Living Spaces’ staff the opportunity to learn more about what their customers really need, and build relationships with them through the Messenger that they can then continue in their stores. Managing close to 8,000 weekly conversations, Pete explains that anywhere from 50 to 100 members of staff are on hand every day to handle inbound chats.
Internally, the widespread adoption of Intercom means that teams are able to easily and seamlessly collaborate. Pete explains that teams from across the organization have gotten a great deal of value from being able to interact with customers and really understand their needs and pain points, with the product team regularly searching conversations for product feedback and being able to act quickly on those insights.
Looking ahead, the Living Spaces team has plans to further scale their use of the Intercom platform to support their fast-growing business across sales, support, and marketing. “Intercom is a powerful tool for companies focused on growth and efficiency," Pete says.