Outdoor gear and apparel retailer evo receives about 20 customer service texts a day, and SMS now represents 3% of its customer contact volume.

Outdoor gear and apparel retailer evo wants to ensure that its customer service team communicates with shoppers in whichever format they prefer.

Often, that’s not calling on the phone, says Justin Courtney, evo’s customer care manager. The retailer decided to expand its customer service options to include texting in July 2017, in addition to phone calls, chat, email and Facebook Messenger.

“Phone calls can be a barrier,” he says. “Some people don’t want to talk on the phone.”

With a growing number of shoppers on their smartphones, offering the ability to send a text message to seek assistance is a convenient option, Courtney says. Plus, text lends itself to quick questions, such as “How do I return this?” that shoppers may not want to wait for an email response or risk being put on hold if they call, he says.

“The expectation on email is different,” Courtney says. “People are more understanding when you send an email—within a couple hours or so you get a response. With phone or text or live chat, you kind of expect someone at the other end to be able to respond to you.”

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Text messages also make it simple for a consumer to send a photo because the camera is on a shopper’s smartphone, he adds. For example, if a shopper says she is disappointed about the condition of her product, it’s easier for the retailer to evaluate if and how much of a discount it should offer the shopper by looking at a photo.

The link to send evo an SMS message only appears on the contact customer care page when a shopper is visiting the site from a mobile device. The shopper is given the option to call, text, chat or email evo.

When a shopper taps on the text link, the shopper’s default messaging app opens, and evo’s customer service number is automatically filled in. A customer service agent will reply to the message if it is during business hours; otherwise, the shopper will receive an automatic reply to which an agent will respond when available.

On evo’s side, a customer service agent receives on-site chats, text messages and Facebook messages in the same online portal—via messaging vendor Quiq—so it makes no difference to the agent how the shopper sends the message.

The retailer decided to see how shoppers responded to having the SMS option and did not promote it in any special way, Courtney says. Within the last five months since the retailer offered the service, evo receives about 18 to 20 text messages per day, he says.

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About 27% of the retailer’s contact column that comes in via Quiq (text, on-site chat and Facebook) is from text messages, and text messages represent 3% of its overall customer service contact volume, Courtney says.

Phone calls are still the primary way shoppers contact evo and generate up to 70% of the retailer’s contact volume on average. However, since using the Quiq platform, the call volume decreases to about 50% of the contact volume.

This is important because customer service agents are more efficient when handling texts and chats compared to phone calls, Courtney says. When an agent is on a phone call, he can only help one shopper, whereas agents can usually handle a handful of text or chat inquiries.

Evo has 18 agents in total, however, they don’t all work at the same time, Courtney says. On average, only one to four agents are working within the Quiq platform. In the peak selling season of December, evo’s customer service agents will receive 1,100 contacts via Quiq in a week, he says.

Since July, evo’s sales have increased 30% year over year, however, Courtney says he cannot attribute that to this new feature. Revenue generated by the customer service team has increased 39% year over year, Courtney says, although he again can’t directly tie the increase to the new text feature. Sales via the customer service team are roughly $3 million a year and represent a small percentage of evo’s overall sales, Courtney says. In 2016, evo generated an Internet Retailer-estimated $41.1 million in web sales.

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Because the retailer already used Quiq as its on-site chat vendor, it took little effort to set up the SMS feature, Courtney says.

“Basically it seemed like kind of an easy step and an easy win all around,” Courtney says.

Evo has a one year contract with Quiq and unlimited messages within the platform. He would not comment on the cost, only that it was competitive with other vendors.

Evo is No. 467 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500.

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