How PacSun Stays On Script for Strong CX

Lisa Johnston
Editor-in-Chief, CGT
a person smiling for the camera

PacSun’s investments in its customer service capabilities are paying off as the apparel brand and retailer leverages the benefits of natural language processing (NLP).  

Like many consumer goods companies, the company had to quickly rethink its customer service approach when COVID forced the closure of its call center in the Philippines. As e-commerce sales skyrocketed, its reduced workforce was unable to handle the volume of demand, often resulting in less-than-stellar customer experiences, Michael Relich, co-CEO of PacSun, tells CGT.

The company had earlier partnered with customer experience automation provider Linc for its returns management, and it expanded the relationship to include chatbots using NLP.

Using chatbots to automate customer service is not a new tactic; however, while they can bring strong efficiency benefits, interactions gone awry are often detrimental to customer service experiences and can have long-term ramifications. This often occurs when the dialogue flow goes off-script as a result of consumers’ follow-up questions, says Fang Cheng, Linc founder and CEO.

[See also: Pacsun Joins ComplexLand Metaverse Event, Marries Virtual and Physical Shopping]

Linc’s technology instead takes things a step further by connecting data feeds that include such information as catalog and shipment intelligence. Doing so enables them to expand use case results by tapping into the source of the event, tracking the context, and then optimizing results.

About 57% of PacSun’s chats occur off hours when its call centers are closed. As a result of the upgrades, the company is able to offload 83% of calls through the chatbot so that only 17% result in going to an agent — resulting in significant efficiency savings during growing volumes, says Relich.

They’re now also able to fund the onboarding of agents who can provide a higher level of customer service for more complicated requests.  What’s more, the agents work in tandem with the automation, he says, which is indicative of the customer service model of the future.  

The technology also aligns perfectly with the DNA of the digitally native PacSun consumer, notes Relich, who have no qualms about communicating digitally. Through continuous learning and NLP, the bots can understand about 98% of consumer comments, reducing the need for consumers to repeat information for related and follow-up questions (such as a store location for inventory).

Even as consumers return to stores in greater numbers, PacSun will continue to invest in this type of digital customer service in order to continuing identifying the lower-value interactions. Relich gave the example of automating promotions and coupon codes to work more seamlessly: “We're attacking one thing at a time, so it's iterative.”

The data they receive is also informing other areas of their business by providing greater visibility into their fulfillment operations and a more granular understanding of the various reasons a shipment might not make it to its destination. This in turn has enabled them to automate their chargebacks for quicker resolutions and happier customers.    

[See also: PacSun's Live Shopping Event]

In choosing the technology, Relich notes the importance of selecting a technology and partner that could be scalable, especially across communication channels that include social media. Similarly, having a partner with the ability to be iterative has also been important — especially given the myriad global challenges impacting brands today.

Cheng echoed this, noting that obstacles can be far-reaching, with brands often unable to quickly solve the root cause of the issue despite its impact on customer service.   

“But if you actually do the right thing on the customer experience front — you make the help readily available to your customer, around the clock, around the channels that they like to use, and actually help them solve the issue as much as possible, give them transparency — you really can manage … damage of those fundamental challenges.”  

What’s more, Relich notes, the brands that are able to quickly solve customer service issues through strong communication can even record an increase in loyalty,

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