Professional Voices

Interview with asgoodasnew - "We are clearly above what was promised to us!"

Interview with Cindy Schmolling about customer service automation at the Rooftop Event 2019

Yasmin Altmann

February 05, 2020 · 10 min read

We know that you’re not supposed to look back. But as this year’s Rooftop Event is getting closer and closer and we can’t wait for it, we looked into our archive and would like to review our last event. This year we have invited the best customer service managers for interviews once again. On 3rd and 4th of March 2020, directly after the customer service fair above the roofs of Berlin! Learn more here.

On 19th of February 2019, we invited Olaf Seliger and have published an article about it already. The next evening we welcomed Cindy Schmolling of the company asgoodasnew. This interview is about the customer service of asgoodasnew, how customer service changed within the past ten years and how OMQ improves it.

Sven Engelmann: We are very happy to welcome you here today! I think customer service is not a new topic for you and think that it would be interesting to get to know something about you and about asgoodasnew?

Cindy Schmolling: We were very happy about your invitation! Asgoodasnew Electronics has been on the E-Commerce market since 2008 and sells reconditioned and used electronics. You can find us in two locations: one is in Frankfurt/Oder and the other one is here in Berlin-Kreuzberg. We now have about a hundred employees with an ascending trend. The idea behind our business model was taking used electronics and put it in a mint condition without a qualitative difference. Via our “WIRKAUFENS”- website we purchase products from international individuals and companies to refurbish them and bring them back on the market. After selling over Ebay and Amazon at the beginning, we have launched our very own online shop in 2013, where we obtain 75% of our sales now. However, of course we still sell on different markets.

Sven Engelmann: You’ve been with asgoodasnew since 2009, right?

Cindy Schmolling: Yes, that’s right. I’ll have my tenth anniversary in 2019. I stumbled into the company by chance, you could say. I was at an Evening Event with our former executive director, we talked and after a while I said: “Yeah, okay, I’ll try!” and didn’t only build up the company and other departments from the beginning, but also the customer service. Meanwhile I’ve got a team consisting of 17 people who support me and we’ve also internationalized. That means I’ve also got the Spanish and the French customer service under my direction. That’s fun!

Sven Engelmann: Ten years, that’s a pretty long time! How has customer service developed since then? Since 2009 was only just the beginning of the digitalization of customer service.

Cindy Schmolling: We actually started to set up our customer service over a simple Gmail account, in order to work off and answer the few requests we got. Most of the time I see myself as a customer, because that’s what I am in my private life and I do have certain expectations. The customer always wants more. The tolerance considering response times is getting lower and lower, which means that you always have to be on the ball and have to observe the market’s development. Customers try to reach you everywhere. Not too long ago our Instagram page went live and there are reactions and comments everywhere. Of course, customers expect a feedback. That wasn’t the case in the beginning. That’s where I used to answer customer requests on Ebay and when it didn’t work after 48h, the customers didn’t mind. Nowadays the customers give me some kind of feedback via every channel when I don’t react over a timespan of 24h, because they want a report.

Sven Engelmann: Okay, so the channels have expanded and the reachability and response times are very large factors when it comes to quality, right?

Cindy Schmolling: I can only talk about our business now. It’s super difficult and a matter of trust. The customers buy an average of 700€ articles from us, pay in advance and if you don’t get any feedback and your money is gone, but you don’t have any goods, then you are somehow anxious. If that’s your first experience, it has to be coherent. At some point you have to automate order and shipping confirmations, otherwise you can’t keep up with all the requests.

“My boss always tells me: ‘Cindy, one request per sold device is way too much!’ - and I reply: ‘Good, alright, we’re working on it.’”

Sven Engelmann: So the automation is a point that helps reaching the quality or a certain quality standard?

Cindy Schmolling: Yes, definitely. It wouldn’t work anymore without automation. I’d probably have fifty persons in the office. On the contrary, it’s always our goal to decrease the contact rate. My boss always tells me: “Cindy, one request per sold device is way too much!” and I reply: “Good, alright, we’re working on it.”. That was the reason we chose to work with OMQ. To manage the request level of 63%, which OMQ does for us, leaving standard requests for the system.

Sven Engelmann: That’s a very provocative statement of your boss, but you have to offer a good service to your customers regarding, for example, trust. Do you think there are limits for customer services?

Cindy Schmolling: Yes, we have actually managed to learn a lot about the systems we work with, based on acknowledgements of receipt. We simply played through what happens all day long after the customer has made a purchase. About order confirmation, shipping confirmation, again a separate e-mail from the service provider to connect to retrieve the tracking information. In fact, we couldn’t tame that with the number of employees we have now if anything should go wrong.

Sven Engelmann: Okay, so you are depending on these systems to a certain degree?

Cindy Schmolling: At the moment, we use OMQ on the purchase side through our purchase platform “wirkaufens”, as well as through our online shop “asgoodasnew”, where the customer can virtually enter his request based on topics that we have identified over time. Then the five most frequent solution suggestions are shown and in the best case no further inquiry is made to us. Of course the customer always has the possibility, if he does not get any further or does not feel picked up enough, to intervene and look for the contact again by e-mail, but of course we always try to shorten this. The personal contact with the customers is already important to us, but on the other hand we can see from the questions that still come through to us, where there are still construction sites, where we have to improve, whether and which new topic should be added to the knowledge database in order to answer these questions as well.

Sven Engelmann: Matthias has mentioned the Chatbot topic earlier. That’s one thing we will focus on this year and also a trending topic at the fair. What is your opinion on that? Did you already make experiences with Chatbots?

Cindy Schmolling: 2016 was the year all of it started, I think. There was a hype and I think that hype has been softened a little bit because Artificial Intelligence had not progressed that much in many things. It is definitely an interesting topic and it will definitely accompany us whether we want it to or not. The fact that we do not use it intensively means that I cannot yet make a precise judgement, but we are definitely open to trials, because in the end it is important for us what the customer actually gets out of it. Does he want to talk to this robot? Of course, he gets to know whether there is a person behind it or whether the standard questions are answered by ready-made texts. I think it is always a little bit dependent on the business model, that we have the used electronics, we have the purchase, we have the sale, whether a product consultation from a chatbot is really possible in the future, are question marks that are still buzzing around in our heads at the moment. But I can imagine that if you have such a direction, for example, if you only sell new products, it will be different again, because you have many more standard processes behind it than if it goes in many different directions.

Sven Engelmann: So I can see that you are rather expectant…

Cindy Schmolling: Expectant… well we are open for everything, like trying things out. It’s not like we only use one system. That’s why I imagine the process of how it could function to be a little difficult. It would be a new challenge and we’re definitely on it.

Sven Engelmann: Alright! What are your personal challenges that you want to strive for in 2019-2020?

Cindy Schmolling: Well, first off, we want to connect our French and our Spanish shop with OMQ. Technically, everything is available, since we’ve already been through it for the German shops. In the end, it’s just a laborious task that we have to depict with the intern resources in order to maintain the knowledge base in the respective language. We also have legal matters that are different internationally than on the German market. However, it’s our goal to launch these and possibly our other purchase pages. In addition, we have installed the OMQ Plug In via the ticket system. This is now more or less in our hands, as we have to invest a little bit of hard work to maintain the database so well that we get automated requests pre-prepared and then extract the paragraphs we need for the customer requests. It’s also the goal to be able to work even better until Q3 in order to reduce our response time even further. That might not sound like much at first, but we definitely have a lot to do. One must not forget that everyone has their daily business and that the customer and answering customer questions are the focus of attention, which of course makes it much easier for us once we have invested the hard work, but these are the main things.

“We currently have a resolution rate of 63%. The promise used to be at 50% - which means that we are clearly above that!”, says Cindy Schmolling

Sven Engelmann: Now you have OMQ in action and what everyone is always very interested in is what the success rates are with that?

Cindy Schmolling: Well, let me put it this way, the system is as good as we maintain it. That’s just the way it is. One cannot expect the solution rates to skyrocket, but we currently have a resolution rate of 63%. The promise used to be at 50% - which means that we are clearly above that. Of course we are trying to improve our solution rate even more. The reports that we regularly receive from you without demanding are of great use to us! They arrive proactively and we see if we need to include one or the other category or if we need to add more questions to improve our resolution rate even further. Converting this into savings, that’s actually two employees, which, of course, pays off in the end.

Sven Engelmann: Of course costs are always relevant when deciding on products. Were there any other decision criteria for choosing our software?

Cindy Schmolling: We had a phase of getting to know each other because nobody likes to buy a pig in a poke. Of course we didn’t know in the end whether it would all happen the way we were promised. But what was just great was that personal contact was there right from the start. We met, you introduced us to everything that is possible and in the end it is of course always up to us how we use the whole thing. Yes, but everything worked out fine. You’ve also been available for us all along. This is always very important and was ultimately the decisive factor in the decision. Economically, of course, the cost factor always plays a role. In the end, we felt we were in good hands and that was also the point why we said that we wanted to try it. We have been using the system for years now!

Sven Engelmann: And regarding the integration, of course we had a learning phase, but can you remember what the whole process was like? And what was the time frame, perhaps?

Cindy Schmolling: Well, the technical part didn’t take longer than our conversation right now. In the end, what was also super convincing was that I can give my workers access to OMQ with a clear conscience and say: “Come and maintain the knowledge database here”. It’s simple, it’s clear and it’s also important for me what I can control for the customer. Unforeseen things happen in every company. We come to work in the morning and see that we have a technical breakdown and that the customer cannot order at the moment. Pow, a new group is created at OMQ, a new question is created and displayed directly to the customer. I can publish this as I wish or save it as a draft and within seconds I can switch things on so that they go live and the customer is picked up immediately. In the end, this always takes away all our requests.

Sven Engelmann: Wow, I would say that we simply leave that as a word for the day and would like to thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with us today. We’d like to thank you very much, Cindy.

We are looking forward to further interesting guests and stories from the world of e-commerce at our Rooftop Event 2020. If you are also interested in AI, chatbots and Co., we would be happy to welcome you. You can find the registration form here. See you soon! :)