At Bark & Co., Customer Service Goes to the Dogs

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Just in time for the 2016 holiday season, Bark & Co.—which sends subscribers a monthly BarkBox containing dog toys, treats, and other canine goodies—unleashed its dog bot for Twitter’s Direct Message in December. Curious humans can get answers to frequently asked questions about the company’s service in private messages with a digital doggy.

As some questions are beyond the dog bot’s expertise, a team of more than 100 “puppy pros” (a.k.a. human agents based in Columbus, Ohio) can step in and answer questions when needed.

Bark & Co. handles thousands of inquiries each month via Twitter and other social media channels and has more than 5 million followers across its BarkBox, BarkShop, and BarkPost social media channels. It has consolidated all of those channels, including the recent Twitter addition, onto the Zendesk customer service and support software platform.

In addition, the Zendesk support center used by Bark & Co. brings messages, live chat, and email into one customer service application, with customer service representatives able to take questions across those channels.

The Zendesk Twitter Direct Message bot is in beta testing; Bark & Co. is the first beta user. The dog bot, built for Bark & Co. by Reply.ai, should be fully rolled out later this year.

Zendesk and Bark & Co. are two of the first industry partners testing the two Direct Message features (Twitter Quick Replies and Twitter Welcome) that Twitter released last fall. Twitter Quick Replies allows companies to reply in Direct Message and makes it easier for businesses to use a combination of automation and human services to guide customers to their desired outcomes. Twitter Welcome allows businesses to greet customers as they enter Direct Message.

To engage with Bark & Co., Twitter users open the company’s Direct Message option on Twitter. That’s when the bot kicks in. The initial window opens to reveal answers to questions about what’s included in each subscription, where treats are made, how much the service costs, and what kinds of options are available for dogs with allergies. From there, customers can also request a daily dose of cute animated dog images.

“That’s the favorite use case among customers,” says Royston Tay, general manager of messaging at Zendesk.

Customers can also call the company and request to hear dogs barking in the background.

“This keeps customers entertained and engaged,” Tay says.

By pressing a button within the messaging application, customers are transferred to a human agent, who has access to the dog bot message streams between the company and customers, including the dog images they’ve received.

Customers themselves also have access to the stream of messages.

Though the Twitter application is still in its very early stages, Bark & Co. has seen the average response time decrease from 60 minutes to four minutes after implementing Zendesk for Facebook Messenger earlier in 2016.

Bark & Co. is using its Facebook Messenger and Twitter Direct Message applications differently than other businesses with a presence on those messaging applications, Tay says.

“Today’s messaging world is still fast developing, and oftentimes when we see companies using them, you’re still led to the company’s web page to close the loop on transactions,” he explains. “But on Facebook and Twitter, messaging is used to close the loop within the app itself.

“And once that happens, conversion rates become a lot higher.”

In the future, Zendesk expects to add other popular messaging platforms, including WeChat and WhatsApp, to its platform, according to Tay. “In the past year, messaging app providers have been innovating like crazy,” he states. “When Facebook launched shipping notifications by Messenger, for example, we built in that support.” 

The Payoff

Since adding the Zendesk customer service and support software platform, Bark & Co. has seen:

  • the average response time for posts through Facebook Messenger decrease from 60 minutes to four minutes;
  • thousands of customer inquiries handled each month via its Twitter and other social media channels; and
  • the number of followers across its BarkBox, BarkShop, and BarkPost social media channels grow to more than 5 million.

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