Pier 1 Cozies Up To Effortless Customer Engagement

Retailer Pier 1 Imports, has been around for 56 years and knows a thing or two about evolving within a competitive retail market. The importer of home goods and seasonal products also knows about catering to the changing and diverse tastes of their customers.

Shifting Buyer Behavior

Pier 1, as well as all other retailers, are experiencing growth in mobile shopping and purchasing as customers continue to look for ways to buy that are more convenient for them. The company made it a top priority to make their customer experience “easy and effortless”, so that she could shop when, where, and however she liked. The retailer launched its eCommerce channel in July of 2012 and has seen rapid growth in the online sales.

“As the business model became more complex, we realized that a lot of our systems were outdated legacy systems and we needed to upgrade our technology to make our associates more efficient.”

Laurie Simpter, Senior Manager, Customer Relations, Pier 1 Imports

During the first three years after implementing their eCommerce site, their contact center struggled to keep up with the new volume.

Pier 1 decided to implement Quiq’s messaging software as consumer traffic to the pier1.com site continued to grow. The shift to more digital channels proved to be, once again, an evolution to serve their customers better that allowed the company to have a more efficient conversation with their customer.

Motivated by Mobile

Phone with messaging services

The leadership team recognized that email and phone weren’t the most effective or preferred ways for customers to ask questions. It was also suspected that the inability to quickly answer these simple questions in-line negatively impacted website conversions and sales.

Many retailers are experiencing similar issues with email and phone as consumers’ contact preferences have changed. Research shows that 66% of consumers rank mobile messaging as their first or second choice to contact a company.

The company started with chat as a contact channel. The channel was readily accepted, and volume grew rapidly while positively impacting website conversion.

With the effectiveness of chat and an increase in mobile traffic to the website, Pier 1 looked at SMS/text messaging for their mobile site as the next obvious channel. While the retailer normally targets the 35 – 55 age group, they realized that their customer could be any age and that a younger buyer generally uses SMS and text messaging as their preferred channel over phone and email.

Contact Us

Q: What made you look at SMS as a contact channel?

A:  SMS combines the efficiency of chat with the convenience of email – which is not an immediate response channel.

The ability to easily share pictures was another customer-driven requirement. Whether it’s a space they are trying to decorate, an item they are trying to match, or a damaged product they received, the ability for customers to easily share photos and videos from their mobile device directly supports the “effortless experience” Pier 1 seeks to deliver.

Implementing with Efficiency

Prior to launching the eCommerce channel, the contact center had about 25 agents and supported 2 contact channels – phone and email. Contacts were heavily skewed towards supporting stores. The company used a legacy CRM and had over 25 siloed systems & applications that contact center agents accessed for data.

Man holding a phone taking a picture

The company has integrated many of their siloed systems into just a handful, and grown its contact center to over 150 agents with over 85% of

the contact center conversations driven by website and eCommerce purchases. The company also invested in a new CRM solution. Streamlining and efficiency have been top priority over the past few years.  The addition of the messaging channel had to complement the company’s efforts.

Quiq Messaging did not disappoint. Once Pier 1 decided to add SMS as a channel, implementation took about 2 weeks and went live in December 2017. In fact, Chris Thompson, CX Manager at Pier 1 feels it was “one of the easiest implementations we have ever done.” Quiq’s messaging platform also seamlessly integrates into Pier 1’s new CRM system, right inside the agent UI, both ensuring the messaging channel wasn’t siloed and that the agents could easily handle inquiries from multiple channels from one interface.

“Every company wants efficiency. For us, chat and SMS interactions take about half of the total time of a phone call. We are gaining payroll efficiency by shifting contacts away from phone and email to chat and SMS.”

Chris Thompson, Pier 1 Imports

Pier1 ImportsLessons Learned

Pier 1 learned 2 really important lessons about the SMS channel, right from the start:

     1. Phone and email decreased; chat and SMS increased

     2. Customers LOVED the convenience of directly messaging Pier 1

The retailer saw a measurable channel shift. Customers shifted away from phone and email to chat and SMS.

Q: How have customers responded to the SMS channel? 

A:  Our customers loved the convenience of SMS. Within the first 30 minutes of going live, one of our customers said, “Wow, I had no idea that Pier 1 had a texting option and it was so easy. I am using this from now on. Thank You!”

What’s Next

Pier 1 feels that they’ve reached a state of proficiency with SMS, and seeks to expand its presence in their short and long-term roadmap. For the short term, Pier 1 will add a ‘Text Us’ option within the phone channel (IVR) for when hold times reach a pre-determined threshold. They will also be limiting phone hours with an IVR message encouraging customers to reach out to the company through text messaging.

With the continued focus to create an effortless experience for their customer, Pier 1 plans to add a messaging option to social media channels, while expanding messaging options to the desktop and tablet website instances.

Customer Spotlight: Aura Building Trust with Lines of Credit and Communication

To Aura, being customer-obsessed means placing trust at the center of the relationship between its customers and its services. The company was founded in 2014 with a mission to provide economic justice for Americans who have little to no credit history but need access to capital for both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.

Now its white label lending platform, Lendify, which was recently distinguished by the U.S. Treasury Department as one of the few for-profits with CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) certification, can be found at seven hundred locations across four states. If not for Aura, hundreds of thousands of borrowers would not be able to access affordable and responsibly underwritten capital. Many of Lendify’s borrowers do not qualify for credit cards and are forced to resort to predatory and costly payday or auto title loans.

Trust as a Two-way Street

Aura views trust as a two-way street. Borrowers prove their trustworthiness by providing evidence of their ability to repay their loans while Aura demonstrates trust by opening up free, ubiquitous access to loan repayment locations, offering transparency of its loan terms in easy-to-understand language, providing credit education together with a free credit score, honoring consumer protections at the core of its policies – like reporting on-time repayment to the credit bureaus – so that each and every borrower is set-up for success at repayment. That’s why Aura looked to Quiq to open the text messaging channel – the trusted, preferred, and convenient way to engage with their target audience.

Aura’s retail network business model is strategically designed to meet customers where they already engage in financial services – at the grocery store, money transfer businesses, and now, on their mobile devices. When the company implemented text messaging in 2017, it had a vision of reaching and engaging prospects and customers more effectively. The text messaging channel has allowed Aura to provide personalized communication through a channel that customers feel comfortable using, and on their own time. In addition to opening up a new channel to drive growth and deepen relationships, Quiq Messaging has helped Aura’s borrowers stay on track with on-time payments by providing an easy solution to payment reminders.

“We want to provide our customers with a seamless application and borrowing experience on the channel that is most preferred to them.”

David Schwartz – Senior Manager, Operations Strategy and Workforce Management, Aura

Before implementing Quiq Messaging, Aura engaged mainly by voice, verifying applications over the phone, so they knew their customer base used their mobile device. Outreach efforts were not as effective over the phone and many voicemails left by agents weren’t being returned. Using SMS messaging was a new concept, but it gave customers a way to engage without feeling invaded, especially if expecting a tough conversation.

Aura viewed engagement with customers as key to helping borrowers improve their financial health by making sure their loans remained in good standing. Aura used collections as their pilot program with Quiq, using outbound text messaging to help customers get their loan payments back on track. Collection agents love using the SMS messaging channel because they are connecting more than ever before and the more people they reach, the more effective they are.

The company has been happy to see that borrowers like to engage via SMS/text messaging even if it is for collections. In fact, Aura has seen more engagements than anticipated. Aura is also happy that many customers are proactive and come to them to look for guidance by texting questions like “When’s my next payment?” or “What do I need to do to get my loan into good standing?”.

What’s Next

The company plans to continue growing and using text messaging to support its commitment to make life better for their customers. Aura will soon be launching a financial health platform to help prospects, borrowers and those who are declined deepen their knowledge of personal finance in support of a more financially healthy future.

Aura is also looking for new ways to bring the messaging channel into their customers’ journey, with an eye towards the loan application process. The company anticipates the application process will be similar to collections in that an Aura agent will walk through loan applications via text messaging to make sure potential borrowers know what the qualifications are and what paperwork is required.

Quiq makes it easy for customers to contact a business via Messaging, the preferred channel already in use with friends and family.  With Quiq, customers can engage with companies via SMS/text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Web Chat, In-App, and Kik for help with their pre-sales and post-sales questions. In return, companies get a digital engagement platform to communicate with customers. Try it out yourself today with a free demo!