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Increase in chats since March 2020
With almost 50 years of experience in the industry, Axminster Tools is a family-run business that offers friendly and personal service to thousands of customers ranging from trade professionals and businesses to amateur DIY and hobby enthusiasts. Axminster Tools holds an extensive range of tools, machinery, accessories, and consumables in the UK with over 15,000 product lines and a multitude of brands, sold across eight retail stores and via online channels.
We spoke to Charlie Cross, Chief Sales Manager at Axminster Tools, to understand how the business maximizes the potential of the Freshdesk Omnichannel platform to provide excellent customer service.
“We’re predominantly a mail-order and retail business with around 25% of our sales coming from retail. The remaining 75% comes predominantly from online sales and also includes mail-order, B2B and export sales.” Charlie explained, “We have a pretty varied customer base of over 1 million customer records across the world. The business fluctuates through the year with summers being quiet while festive periods get quite busy.”
The challenge for Axminster Tools was to provide customers with the best service in the fastest possible way. “We didn’t want the process to be too cumbersome and lengthy for either customers or agents. Our strategy is to always put customers first, this means we needed to actually listen to and act on customer feedback. There’s nothing more valuable than your customer telling you what you need to be doing.”
In 2016, Axminster Tools shifted over 90 service agents from functions including contact center, sales, after-sales support, and in-store support onto Freshdesk Omnichannel. “We deal with an average of 10,000 support tickets per month and talk to upwards of 500 customers per day. Since our business offers both pre and post-sales support, transparency becomes key.” Charlie said. “Customers want us to deal with their order or issue in a reasonable and transparent way. Freshdesk really helps make that transparency easy to provide.”
When we discussed the effect of the pandemic on their customer service, Charlie noted, “It’s really convenient how no matter where an agent is, they can pick up an enquiry with the same level of detail as another person could in a different department in a different place. Our agents are really comfortable with the customer service platform. Dealing with the impact and consequences of a worldwide pandemic would be almost impossible without Freshdesk. We would have really struggled to serve our customers the right way, which would have invariably affected our business.”
With the onset of the pandemic, chat has become a critical service channel at Axminster Tools. “The flexibility and freedom that we have with the product has been key, especially with many of our agents working from home or in different locations. I didn’t have to have someone come into the contact center to be able to handle chats, so we could offer the best possible service regardless of where we were.”
“The way customers talk to us has been changing for a while. Each month we typically see an increase of 10-15% in our ticket volumes, but the jump in chat volumes since the pandemic has been massive.” Charlie revealed, “Before, our agents dealt with between 30 to 50 chats per day, but ever since March, we’ve seen on average 100% increase in the number of chats. Now, it can be anywhere between 120-150 chats per day.”
Axminster Tools has also integrated Freshchat (now Freshdesk Messaging) with third-party messaging applications like WhatsApp to provide customers with easier ways to reach customer service on channels of their choice.
“We use customer service software and internal IT systems from the Freshworks ecosystem, and they have played a big role in helping our business cope and succeed through the years, and particularly through the pandemic crisis.”
Chief Sales Manager
The key driver for Axminster Tools to implement multiple Freshworks products was the need for transparency across their functions. For a long time, Axminster Tools used shared inbox for customer service. “People would be looking at the same email from different places, and the customer would end up with multiple responses to a single request. We graduated from a shared inbox to a really basic ticketing system, but we quickly outgrew that as well. That’s when we found Freshdesk. We were already using Freshservice for internal IT at the time, so we knew Freshworks treated their customers well and provided great support when needed.”
Charlie stated that the biggest improvements he’s seen over the years since implementing Freshworks platform are better visibility across functions, increased team productivity, better collaboration, and faster resolutions.
“Internally, we’re trying to build the concept of a single customer view, and typically, the more systems you use, the harder that becomes. With Freshworks, you can dovetail metrics together as if it’s all from a single system, and that’s been really important for us. When we’re looking at a single customer now, we see their activity across multiple systems and we’re able to build a profile on each customer. We’re even able to calculate how much they cost us, so that we can try and build out ROI on each customer.” Charlie said.
Automation has also played a big role in helping streamline processes and get rid of routine tasks across functions. “We have many customers all with different email domains, and we use these to create rules to help with automatic ticket assignment. Aside from this, we also use ticket automation and scenario automation to get rid of routine tasks and streamline processes.”
“The thing people tend to take for granted is the ability to monitor and measure how many tickets, how fast you’re dealing with them, and how many times you reply to the customer before it is resolved. Being able to measure those SLAs helps to keep track of how your business is really performing.” Charlie said. “Despite the pandemic, we’ve managed to keep our teams going in a way that means we get back to customers within the same time frames. Our SLAs haven’t changed. In fact, CSAT has actually gone up a little since the pandemic.”
“We’re a very diverse business that sells a lot of products, and we know our customers often ask a myriad of questions. We need to develop our self-help capabilities further so that we can upgrade our service and get more ROI on each customer.” Charlie said.
His plans for the year ahead include building out the existing support portal, developing the company’s knowledge base, and adding solution articles. “The next step is to help customers do more for themselves and make sure they have the right information at the right place at the right time. We also want to use chat on the support portal to provide answers to FAQs.”
Another area where they’re looking to improve is with regard to phone support. “Cloud telephony would be very useful in the current situation with employees being unable to get to the contact center. Implementing (Freshcaller (now Freshdesk Contact Center)), Freshworks’ cloud telephony platform, would also mean adding to the single customer view, so we are considering it.” Charlie revealed.
Axminster Tools is aiming for an ideal situation where a customer can come into one of their stores, and the clerk there would know he’s been in touch with someone on their team already, via chat or phone, about a product. Freshworks helps them make their vision a reality.
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