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Photobox uses Ada to scale up support for the holiday season and beyond

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.

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.

“The difference with Ada is the usability and flexibility of the tool. We don’t need to recruit a technical resource to manage it. It just needs people who understand the process and are close to the customer experience. And it’s quite easy to train the bot across multiple languages when we only have to work in one.”

Wayne Grimshawe
Group Director of Customer Care

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.

“Ada has made us more available to our customers. Now we have the scale to offer 24/7 support to customers across all of our markets — both on the web and in our mobile app.”

Wayne Grimshawe
Group Director of Customer Care

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.

“Together with the ability to cut system training by half and average handling time by 7%, we now have core quality metrics that are enabling us to really drive customer interactions and retention across our group. We also now have a handle on what is truly happening to our customers and can use that in our coaching to improve our agent capabilities.”

Wayne Grimshawe
Group Director of Customer Care

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.

Looking ahead

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.

“Our partnership with Ada is really focused on outcomes. We’re always talking about our goals and what we’re trying to achieve. I can count on our Ada team to guide us how best we can use the platform to meet our goals.”

Wayne Grimshawe
Group Director of Customer Care

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