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Bonobos Gets a Leg Up in Customer Engagement
A men's pants company receives more than it bargained for with Assistly
For the rest of the September 2011 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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For Bonobos, a custom clothing company specializing in men’s pants, the problem seemed to be email management.

“People were kind of stepping on each other’s toes in terms of how to handle all the different volume, and there was just no way to figure out who should work on what and how we should prioritize which customers to get back to,” remembers John Rote, director of operations and customer experience at Bonobos. “We were a rapidly growing team with rapidly growing customer service volumes, and the strategies that we were using when we were a really small company just weren’t working.”

After choosing a CRM system in 2008, Rote was dissatisfied with the results and went back to the drawing board. “That really highlighted to us that these problems were just going to continue and they weren’t going to get easier to solve as we scaled, so we started evaluating a few other services,” he says.
Rote carefully examined several alternative CRM solutions before discovering Assistly. A couple of screenshots later, the Bonobos team was sold. “It really just made us think ‘Well, this at least looks kind of cool and intuitive,’” Rote says. “It looks like something that was built during the modern Web era rather than the ’90s.”

“They came to us with an antiquated system,” explains Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly. “They immediately understood and took one look at Assistly and said this would completely revolutionize the way I deliver customer service.”

Assistly focuses on small to medium-sized businesses (average of 150 employees) that rely on customer service to stand out. “There aren’t so many similar companies in the market right now if you’re looking at cloud-delivered tools that are targeted to small and medium-sized enterprises, and there aren’t too many alternatives for these sized businesses,” Bard says.

Rote’s team quickly got on board with the implementation. “When we got on Assistly, they said, ‘Wow, there actually is a lot of stuff that we can do here,’” he says. “It was fun to be able move things forward that quickly.”

What began as an email management solution quickly became a tool for customer engagement. The team has had two revisions, most recently last August when Assistly integrated Twitter, assigning priority levels to customer tweets. According to Rote, Bonobos can be “as aggressive and as enthusiastic” as possible when engaging with customers without worrying about the logistics. “Once we were able to do that, then we really saw the potential in terms of being able to connect our company with customers across multiple platforms,” he says. “We had ideas of how to interact with people on Twitter, and now we had a way to do it without being afraid of getting so much feedback and not being able to adequately process it.”

Facebook engagement also has been a key development for Bonobos. “Because we’re no longer afraid of letting interactions fall through the cracks, we’ve increased activity on our Facebook page from about one post every week and a half or so to one per day,” Rote explains. “That’s been great for branding, great for creating promotions, and great for sales.” He says Facebook likes have grown by about 25 percent each month, and posted feedback has risen by about 50 percent. “The community is growing in size, and it’s getting more involved.”

Because of an initial negative implementation experience prior to signing on with Assistly, Rote advises companies to be “very deliberate” about their needs and service goals. “There are a lot of things on the market that…sound cool or look interesting but don’t actually really help you hammer out what’s ultimately important for serving your customers,” he warns.


Associate/Web Editor Brittany Farb can be reached at bfarb@destinationcrm.com.


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To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com
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