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Should store associates manage customer service chats?

Sep 13, 2022

At Bonobos, store associates respond to certain customer service discussions to help reduce wait times.

According to a report by The Wall Street JournalBonobos allowed associates to manage customer chats starting in a pilot in 2019 at the suggestion of an employee and they now do so across all of its 62 stores.

Associates are advised that in-store shoppers remain the first priority and are only permitted to answer chat questions during downtime and when at least one other store associate is on the sales floor.

Beyond lowering customer expectations, store associates would be better able to answer style questions, such as fit, which account for about 20% of customer discussions, leaving non-store staff to answer. questions about shipping and payment.

The Log The article revealed that some Bonobos associates were apprehensive about ending chat calls when a customer walks in. Angry online messages can also take a toll on their mental health, although associates aren’t required to help chats.

High turnover rates among customer service representatives in recent years have been attributed to negative interactions, as complaints have increased during the pandemic amid late deliveries. The annual turnover rate in contact centers has increased from 30-45% to 80% during the pandemic, according to Cresta.

A recent investigation business leaders across industries explore contact center engagement software provider Five9 found that 86% reported a massive increase in call volumes, 53% reported the need for more emotional intelligence and empathy when interacting with customers, and 43% reported agent calls were longer and more complex. Half of respondents were focused on reducing agent turnover, with 44% implementing artificial intelligence and automation to help contact center agents.

Peter Fader, professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Log it might work better if Bonobos in-store associates only focused on online interactions during certain shifts. However, he thinks the practice could support a consistent omnichannel approach. Professor Fader said: “Once we hit 2.0 or 3.0 we’ll look back and say, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?'”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more advantages than disadvantages of in-store associates handling certain customer service chat requests? What protocols should be in place to ensure the in-store experience is not impaired?


“We’ve all seen floor sales situations lately that are a waste. Requiring store associates to act as call center personnel takes away from what they were hired to do.”