B2B Customer Service via Messaging App: How Transgourmet helps its clients via 1:1 Chat on WhatsApp
B2B Customer Service via Messenger? Transgourmet, a supply specialist for large-scale consumers in hotel industry, gastronomy, company catering and social institutions, does excatly that. As part of their customer service, the B2B company offers its clients the ability to ask questions via WhatsApp 1: 1 chat requests, which are processed and answered on the spot.
The most exciting part: customers responded very positively to the offers and were able to use it intuitively, as Lukas Ratschke, Head of Project & Innovation Management at Transgourmet, explains in an interview.
Social media channels – and above all messengers – will replace the telephone as the strongest channel in the next few years, if they manage to make the process of contacting a company or problem solving easier and, above all, faster for the customer.
Please briefly introduce your company. Who are you and what do you do?
Transgourmet is a supply specialist for large-scale customers in the hotel industry, gastronomy, company catering and social institutions. As a provider for all supplies, we offer a comprehensive assortment of food, consumer goods and kitchen equipment, all from one single source. The Transgourmet Contact Center is the central contact point for all topics regarding customer service.
Lukas, we would like to know a bit more about you personally. Can you tell us about yourself in just a few sentences and about how you got to your current position?
Actually, I am a trained chef, sailed in the navy for some time and then gained experience in various positionsin retail, direct sales and, among others, as purchasing manager in wholesale software before I joined the Transgourmet Contact Center customer care team 10 years ago.
There I set up the field of training & quality management, managed various strategic projects, and led various administrative teams. For the past one and a half years I have been responsible for project and innovation management with a focus on “digitization.”
B2B Customer Service: Messaging Apps will replace telephones, if …
Let’s start: How do you see the development of social media towards messenger communication, especially with your background of working for a company in the B2B sector?
In fact, I rarely distinguish between B2B and B2C anymore. Borders are becoming more and more blurred and expectations, demands and competitors are increasingly overlapping.
A chef in a restaurant may be privately supplying his food and comparing the benefits of the private environment with those in his professional environment.
Social media channels and especially messaging apps will replace the telephone as the strongest channel in the next few years, if they manage to make the process of contacting a company or problem solving easier and, above all, faster for the customer.
How does a B2B company reach the decision to offer customer service via WhatsApp and offer 1:1 chats for customer inquiries?
It was not only us who made this decision, but also primarily our customers. Constant inquiries and contact over our employees’ private mobile phone lines were a main factor in why we have put “more pressure” on this topic.
Our use cases, such as sending images in the event of a complaint, are also ideal for the use of a messenger like WhatsApp.
With what expectations did you start using WhatsApp and how is your 1: 1 customer service chat developing?
Our expectation is an increase in customer care efficiency and productivity through asynchronous communication with customers, as well as the possibility that we can manage two to three customers at the same time with one employee in customer service – without quality losses!
We deliberately did not set concrete expectations for “user counts” or the like as we plan to gradually expand the channel and grow with it and its requirements.
As far as the development of the chat is concerned, we can confirm our prediction that the exact same questiosn are being asked in the 1:1 Chat as on the phone.
In our case, this means product information, availability requests, small re-orders, cancellations or even general service issues such as address changes or the like.
Hint: In our article Messenger as a Customer Service Solution you will learn about best practice examples from Volkswagen, Brille24, Commerzbank and more.
B2B Customer Service via WhatsApp: how do the clients feel about it?
How have your clients reacted to this new form of personal and fast customer service?
Very positively, because they only use it if they want and need to and do not “have to” use WhatsApp as a channel.
So far, we have only placed one banner ad in our shop and are seeing constantly increasing numbers of users.
Most customers do not ask “what could I use WhatsApp for”, but simply do so intuitively. There is no shyness, as the “medium” WhatsApp is already known to all users. The tone is rather relaxed and we get a lot of positive feedback that we were able to help quickly and easily.
Hint: The fact that most customers immediately understand and use WhatsApp customer service is partially due to the fact that they spend a significant amount of their daily time on the app. This simply reflects the reality of modern life. Companies are increasingly responding to this trend: around 40% of companies in Germany already communicate via messenger, as Bitkom has recently published.
Did you think in advance about opening times or reaction times and if so, what were your expectations?
Yes, of course. When introducing new communication channels, one should take statistics and customer experiences into account, but in the end such a project always has a bit of uncertainty and so you won’t know everything in advance.
So far, there is no comparison I know from the industry. We started with rather restricted times (Mon-Fri 8:30 am to 5:30 pm) and will gradually expand them.
The Contact Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. In the long run, this is the goal for customer service via messenger as well.
For response times, the goal is to send a response within three to five minutes.
We have been able to consistently achieve this goal. Judging from the reactions, this is absolutely sufficient for our customers.
Who takes care of your WhatsApp channel and how time-consuming is it?
Currently, we have one central team of reclamation and service specialists. All of them have experience in customer service, which makes them an ideal team to work directly on a variety of topics. Issues that cannot directly be handled are passed internally to other areas.
We are planning to extend support in various customer-specific teams, so that we can process certain customer inquiries directly. The “effort” or “work” based on the employees’ estimation is lower than compared to the telephone.
To understand the comparison, you just have to imagine that you either spontaneously get ten seconds to answer a specific question, or you have a minute and can think about your answer in peace. I believe the consideration of the “load”to be more exciting than the effort.
How did you alert your customers that you added WhatsApp to your customer service?
We divided this into several steps. First, the information and communication was done exclusively with a personal touch, through telephone customer service or via our sales consultants in the field. We did this only for a specific region.
Then we extended the service to all customers in Germany and placed the banner ad in our online shop. The next steps will be an extension to the homepage, opening up the service for potential new customers or for general questions and further marketing measures, which will make the service more familiar. One step at a time.
Thank you so much for your answers, Lukas.
You are welcome!
Read more about the topic of customer service via messenger and best practices in our six-part series, starting with the article Customer Service & Messenger: WhatsApp & Co. preferred to E-Mail and Social Media!
Have a great idea for customer service via messaging apps and want to talk about it? Message us!