Eliminate Communication Silos with Automation, Insights, and Omnichannel Support


The customer experience and the customer journey are hot topics, but not all companies have figured out how to identify places for improvement. I started my career as a customer service agent, and that boots-on-the-ground experience gave me a unique perspective of the friction points and obstacles to customer care. That exposure put me in the perfect position to lead the charge of change at Bodybuilding.com.

Bodybuilding.com is one of the internet’s most-trafficked health and fitness websites, with more than a million visitors each month. We sell a variety of products, including various types of protein, pre- and post-workout supplements, vitamins, clothing, and accessories. 

I’ve been with the company since its inception 13 years ago. I started out as a customer service agent, and as the company grew, I also had the opportunity to grow within the organization. I moved into business processing and then became a manager, and now I’m the Senior Director of Customer Service. This journey exposed me to customer-centric tools that have evolved over the years to create a better experience. 

My role encompasses all the components of the customer experience, including social media and inbound contacts. Over the years, I’ve seen multiple channels explode as the preferred points of contact for customers to engage, from phone and email to chat and social media. I’ve also seen how having so many channels can cause friction for customers and service agents alike.

Our Archaic Environment Became Unworkable During the Pandemic

Our customer service environment used to be archaic. It was very difficult to get effective reporting and insights, and as a result, we took a very reactive stance. In addition, we had no tagging or ways to track inquiries by conversation. Every point of contact was treated like a separate issue, meaning our agents couldn’t see the full picture or understand the main drivers that caused friction for the customer. That made a simple question like, “Where’s my order?” a difficult one for my team to resolve. As a result, our average handle time (AHT) was pretty high.  

Our difficulties compounded over time. It felt like our technology had been stapled together bit by bit, and was being held together by those few staples. Clearly, this situation was unsustainable. 

When communication methods are siloed, it’s hard for managers to effectively quarterback a team.

Then COVID-19 threw us for a loop, and our shift to a work-from-home environment exacerbated our issues. Email, phone, and chat communications were all siloed, and it was hard for managers to effectively quarterback the team and position people where they were most needed based on ticket volume. I knew we needed to find something that would allow the team to be more agile and relay insights back into the business. 

A Tool That Allowed Us to Be Self-Sufficient and Proactive

At the time we discovered Kustomer, we were using Oracle Service Cloud. It's an older platform that's hard to scale and difficult for users to navigate. The biggest draw of Kustomer was that it would allow my team to be more self-sufficient. Instead of relying on engineering or another department to add chat code or make policy updates to the help center, we could do it all ourselves on the fly in Kustomer. Especially during the pandemic, as deliveries everywhere were delayed, being able to display a message in the help center alerting customers of those delays would go a long way to mitigate customer concerns. With Kustomer, we could be more proactive and upfront with our messaging, which was one of the factors that made the platform stand out from its competitors.  

We switched from Oracle Service Cloud to Kustomer because we wanted to simplify our operations. Nothing in our existing system utilized the latest technology, and we wanted to be proud to provide best-in-class support for our customers. Luckily, we had the support of the leadership team, so there was never any pushback on moving away from Oracle. When we agreed we needed a new solution, it was simply a matter of evaluating the solutions out there. To be honest, it was an easy choice—Kustomer checked all the boxes for our business needs.

We started using Kustomer in November 2020, with the aim of ramping up before the holiday rush of orders. We were pleasantly surprised with how easy Kustomer made the rollout. During our initial evaluations, some other solutions involved two or three different vendors, which complicated matters. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the horizon, I couldn’t afford to add any more complexity into the mix. With Kustomer, I had a single point of contact, and that made for an efficient process and a quick rollout. 

Kustomer directly addressed the mission-critical tasks my team needed. The platform is user-friendly and the functions are self-explanatory, which helped accelerate the onboarding and training process. The Kustomer team understood the urgency of our tight deadline, and I don’t think we would have received the same quality of support from anyone else. 

Saying Goodbye to the Ticket Backlog

We started to see benefits immediately after the launch of Kustomer. We had a backlog of requests, and many customers were trying to reach us through multiple channels regarding the same issue. Previously, if someone contacted us through email, chat, and Facebook, for example, we could have had up to three separate agents working on the same customer issue. This was confusing, and it also increased the risk of agents not being aligned in their messaging. 

Kustomer’s omnichannel support allows us to merge those accounts into one, meaning one agent can close all of a customer’s issues more efficiently. Not only did we clear our backlog of customer requests, we gained more insights and reporting capabilities. Going forward, we started to resolve a customer’s issues on first contact. 

Having a holistic view of the customer provides a better overall customer experience.

Using Chatbots and Knowledge Base Deflection

Six months after rolling out Kustomer, we chopped our AHT in half. This was partly due to our increased automation and use of Kustomer's chatbots. Often, we have to glean information from a customer before we can help them. We need their email address or their order number, for example, or we want to know the nature of the question, so we can route the customer properly. 

Our agents would previously ask those questions at the beginning of their conversation with a customer, which takes time. As part of our BodyFit subscription benefits, we highlight dedicated customer support. With Kustomer, we can distinguish members upfront through the Conversational Assistant and route appropriately to an agent. If a member comes through chat, a different conversational flow is presented to the customer and prioritized to be first in line for help. We value all customers, member or non-member, but this allows us to provide a high level of service to our most loyal customers.

The chatbot suggests help articles based on the end user's inquiry—this is known as knowledge base deflection. Because of this feature, Bodybuilding.com has reached an automation rate of 15%—meaning we can fully resolve 15% of inquiries without any agent involvement. That's a huge value-add to our business, as the insights of the deflection success rate and article performance has given us visibility into which articles are offered the most to fine tune our policies.  

This not only provides a better experience for our customers, but the agents are also happier. The simplicity and efficacy of Kustomer makes their day-to-day lives easier. The agent experience often gets lost when selecting a tool—I want that buy-in from my team, so the agent experience needs to be positive, too. 

Third-Party Integrations and Customizing Builds

The ability to customize forms for internal and external use has been a great feature. Internally, we have plans to build out more custom forms and move away from Excel documents. This will keep all customer information in one place to run reports and consume data. 

Prior to Kustomer, it was difficult to get resources, and any changes required prioritization with time sensitive updates. Most recently, as an example, the announcement banner was used when we transitioned to Shopify to communicate that the site would be offline. The configuration experience was smooth and easy to follow. This process is well documented in the Kustomer knowledge base for anyone who wants to self-serve and roll out forms.

Forms also allow for specified fields and pre-set drop-down options so a customer can select from common issues and/or indicate their order number before speaking with an agent. That means we can get straight to the issue and resolve it that much quicker, reducing average handle times. Being able to pull data from Convey and Shopify provides our agents with an even greater holistic view of the customer. Our agents are now well versed on a customer before even speaking to them. 

Overall, the knowledge base is a critical piece to provide clear and accurate communication around policies. The organization and branding capabilities within the knowledge base has given us all the tools to manage updates without pulling in other resources to complete. 

Automation Can’t Solve Everything, but it Can Make Processes Better

Kustomer helped us increase efficiency and customer satisfaction across the board. Before Kustomer, our CSAT scores were relatively low. Since the switch, especially as we’ve become more familiar with the reporting and provided staffing to fill in some gaps, our CSAT rating has improved. 

AI doesn’t exist to isolate the customer. It helps streamline the workflow and enhance the experience for everyone.

We are at a point where customer experience and customer service are melding together, and Kustomer has helped us with that transition. We now use automation to get more customer information upfront, which removes friction and enhances the customer experience. The quality of service has also improved, and addressing customer concerns has become more efficient.

With that said, automation can’t solve everything or replace human interaction—nor should it. Customers want to engage with your brand. Some brands may be more transactional, but for Bodybuilding.com, we want to connect with our customers to show them that we live the brand and lifestyle. AI doesn’t exist to isolate the customer. Rather, it helps streamline the workflow and enhance the experience for everyone. 

In the middle of a global pandemic, we underwent a digital transformation. Kustomer allowed Bodybuilding.com to better understand our business, address negative trends, and home in on how we can improve, ultimately giving us back control of our business and customer experience.