Photobox helps customers turn memories into long-lasting artifacts by personalizing photobooks, mugs, canvasses, and more. Photobox Group is Europe’s largest digital personalized printing business, with five brands including Photobox, Hofmann, and posterXXL. The business is headquartered in London and they ship worldwide.
costs in year 1
Zendesk (Support, Chat, Talk, Guide)
BFCM: The good, the bad, and the expensive
Black Friday Cyber Monday (affectionately known as BFCM) is both a blessing and a curse for ecommerce and retails brands. One one hand, these three months bring in the bulk of their annual revenue. On the other hand, from October to January, customer support teams are severely overwhelmed. Agents are inundated with the kind of low-touch repetitive inquiries that lower morale and job satisfaction — increasing turnover as a result. CX leaders often bring in seasonal agents who are expensive to hire, train and manage on a short-term basis.
Photobox experiences this phenomenon every year. They make 70% of their revenue between October and December, and their support costs skyrocket. In preparation for the busy season, they grow their team from 100 to 340 agents to meet demand for customer support. And while the team triples in size to handle higher volumes, it comes at a steep cost to both their finances and to the customer experience.
Seasonal staff can’t ramp quickly enough to be as effective as permanent employees. This is painfully clear with pre-sale interactions in particular. It’s easy for tenured staff who are familiar with the Photobox portfolio to make recommendations, answer technical product questions, or offer guided purchasing experiences for shoppers. But seasonal agents simply can not deliver the same level of support. CX varies depending on whether a customer is connected with a permanent or seasonal agent, negatively affecting pre-sale conversions as a result.
So Photobox was not only spending more money, they were also leaving money on the table owing to poor service during the busiest (and most profitable) time of the year.
Outside of BFCM and the holiday season, Photobox was generally understaffed. They lacked the resources to offer 24/7 support and scale to service to customers around the world in multiple languages.
Photobox needed a conversational AI platform that:
- Can scale up and down to match seasonal interaction volume spikes and dips
- Is easy to build and maintain by non-technical teams
- Integrates seamlessly with Zendesk to create email tickets and a warm handover to live agents
- Offers multilingual capabilities straight out of the box and with no need to manually write translations for all languages
Ada fit their needs like a glove.
Results and business impact in customer support
Photobox deployed Ada on three brands in 2021 in 7 countries, offering 24/7 support in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The bot was built to address the most common customer inquiries including “where is my order?” (WISMO), product recommendations, and return policies. In the first year, Photobox realized £650k (approximately 732k USD) in savings.
Now that Ada is available to customers on their favorite digital channels (mobile web and in-app), Photobox has seen a shift in their channel mix – specifically, a reduction in phone support. And because Ada never sleeps, Photobox didn’t need to hire additional headcount to operate during extended working hours. As a result, they’ve been able to resolve over hundreds of thousands of customer interactions that would normally have had to wait until business hours for a response — and as we’re all well-aware, if a business doesn’t respond within 5 minutes, you can kiss that cart goodbye.
Based on reduction in contact volumes in 2021, Photobox will hire 70 fewer seasonal agents for the 2022 BFCM season (representing 15% of operating costs). These savings have been reinvested in product innovation to help Photobox remain the market leader in their space.
What’s more, since a higher percentage of support agents are now permanent, customers have a higher chance of speaking with a full-time support agent who is most familiar with Photobox products and services. Plus, tenured staff are benefitting from professional development — they circulate the floor and help newer or temporary staff, which improves agent ramp and productivity.
Impact to conversion
While Photobox’s initial goals were around cost savings and efficiency, they also found that customers who interacted with Ada were much more likely to convert.
"Ada is helping us to drive conversion and retention," Wayne said. "Customers who interact with Ada are more likely to check out and become repeat customers, too. In our app we have seen that customers who engage with our support have a higher conversion rate by 8%."
Ada drives repeat purchases by helping customers learn how to use Photobox’s design tools, recommending features and best practices. This conversational approach makes it easier and more intuitive for customers to use Photobox’s design tools, resulting in them creating products they’re happier with. This, coupled with a great self-service customization experience, makes it more likely that they’ll return.
Ada has also helped reduce cart abandonment rates. Photobox knew that there was a lot of friction at checkout when customers saw the shipping costs, which could be expensive, especially if items are being printed and shipped from various locations. Photobox created a flow in Ada that breaks down the costs and helps customers understand them, building trust and driving conversion.
Agents have been having a bigger impact on conversion too. With Ada handling the low-hanging fruit, agents have more time to focus on high value interactions that drive revenue, such as product recommendations, upsells, or cross-sells — and Photobox now has a higher percentage of tenured support staff that can facilitate those conversations.
Lower support costs, higher conversion, lower abandonment, and a better customer experience — that’s a big win for Photobox and their customers, too.
With Ada’s help, Photobox is no longer worrying about putting out CX fires during BFCM and beyond. Instead, with a year of cost savings in the bank, they’re focusing on ways to use automation that will elevate the experience for shoppers, all the way from first purchase to lifelong customer.
They plan on using Ada to cross-reference expected delivery times in ShipUp with their own back office. This way, they can proactively inform customers of delays and offer them a concession to make them feel valued, driving loyalty and repeat purchase.