At lingerie retailer BareNecessities.com, customer service agents do more than just answer shopper questions; they also bring in incremental revenue for the Walmart-owned merchant.

Tracy Freno headshot

Tracy Freno, manager of customer service at Bare Necessities

In 2015, when Bare Necessities first launched its chat feature, sales attributed to this channel were just less than $1 million. It had steady growth in the first couple of years and then “exploded exponentially” in the past two years, says Tracy Freno, manager of customer service at Bare Necessities. By the end of 2019, live chat sales are projected to be around $4.5 million, Freno says. The retailer attributes sales to live chat if a shopper chats with an agent and makes a purchase within the next 30 days.

Even better news for Bare Necessities is that the retailer has not substantially increased the team who handles those chats. The agents have become more efficient, and more shoppers are opting to chat instead of call the retailer, which takes more time. In total, about 60% of customer service inquires are made via live chat and the rest is via phone calls.

While BareNecessities.com has five in-house agents who talk with shoppers via live chat, it also works with 22 agents via customer service software Needle Inc.

Freno attributes the success of live chat to several factors, including its agents’ focus on fit and more consumers shopping on smartphones versus desktops and tablets.

Bare Necessities agents help with fit

Bare Necessities and Needle agents handle typical customer service inquiries, such as questions about shipping and order tracking. The agents, however, also are trained to have product knowledge and can help guide shoppers to the right product and direct them on bra fit, Freno says.

With 55% of BareNecessities.com’s sales volume coming from bras, finding the right fit is key to its value proposition. The retailer sells 281 bra sizes, ranging from band sizes 28-58 and cup sizes AA-O, from 90 intimate apparel brands. This is a much larger selection than the standard sizes found in most retail stores. And, of course, Freno says, a store associate is going to match a shopper to the best size with the available inventory in the store to get the sale. But for an online store, Bare Necessities has a much wider selection and can get a more accurate fit, she says.

Screenshot of bare necessities website with live chat pop-up featuring sizing questionsBecause the retailer offers such a wide breadth of sizes, its chat agents encourage shoppers to measure themselves. If shoppers don’t have a soft tape measure, it will send them one in the mail. The agents then guide shoppers on how to measure themselves, interpret the measurements into a size and answer any questions a shopper may have.

The agents also are trained to dive deeper into a shopper’s needs. For example, if a shopper says she needs a bra, agents are trained to ask what type, such as a sports bra, or the fabric she typically likes, such as a T-shirt bra.

Needles’ agents also are unique because Needle only hires repeat shoppers, which it calls “brand advocates,” and not everyday people looking for jobs, the vendors says. This ensures the live chat agents are passionate about the Bare Necessities brand, the vendor says.

Another key is making sure the retailer has agents available to chat with shoppers. Bare Necessities will only showcase a live chat window to shoppers if it has an agent available. This is a better customer experience, Freno says, than offering live chat, the shopper typing in the box and then receiving a message that no agents are available and to try later.

It also relies on Needle to staff the contact center on nights and weekends. Bare Necessities’ in-house agents don’t work on Sundays, and so it relies on Needle to ensure that its employees are committed to working on those days.

“Sundays have been tremendous boost to our business, really all due to the Needle advocates,” Freno says.

Live chat’s contribution to Bare Necessities’ bottom line

In the last few years, Bare Necessities has had a surge in consumers using live chat, which has lead to positive business results, Freno says.

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