Until earlier this year, fabric and crafting supplies retailer Joann Stores LLC (No. 395 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000) had a big customer service problem.

A customer who emailed the company for help might wait days for a response. Customers who called Joann’s toll-free number had to wait 12 to 15 minutes to reach a customer service representative. And there was no guarantee a consumer would reach the team member best able to help with the issue. Worse yet, a customer who contacted the retailer numerous times could generate several “tickets” related to the same problem.

The result was a weekly backlog of about 4,000 or more customer service emails—many of them duplicates—and dissatisfied customers. In surveys following their contacts with the customer service staff, Joann customers gave the company an average score of six out of 10.

“For years, we saw customers reaching out across a variety of channels, but the technology made overall visibility a struggle, increasing wait times and risking customer drop-off,” says Drew Chamberlain, Joann’s director of store operations and customer experience. But that changed about six months ago when Joann started using software from customer service technology vendor Gladly Software Inc.

The Gladly software puts all communications from individual consumers, regardless of channel—voice, email, chat, text and social messaging—into one interface. Putting all channels in one place allows customer service agents to follow an entire online conversation easily. And because the software sorts incoming messages based on the phone numbers and email addresses customers provide when they set up accounts, the technology eliminates duplication, which significantly reduces the backlog of customer service requests.

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