Q&A with Luke Todd from Gumtree

We sat down with Luke Todd who’s head of customer operations at Gumtree (http://www.gumtree.com) in the UK, to get a look at where he thinks customer service is heading in the future and the Gumtree approach to leveraging technology to help meet the needs of Gumtree’s growing customer base.

Gumtree has been a customer of Nickelled since we started the project and has been a pioneer of introducing interactive web guides to customer support to help improve user experience and reduce the number of calls and requests to the customers support team. As such, Luke is unusually well placed to talk about how businesses can start to evolve how they think about the totality of the the user experience and the variety of tools that can combine to help users have a great experience.

How do you determine whether to look at a new technology such as Nickelled?

It’s basically a function of potential impact vs costs to get up and running with a trial.

First I look at the problem that the company is proposing to solve and try to get a handle on what the impact could be based on our historic data of customer issues. In Nickelled’s case it was clear that we were spending a lot of time, effort and resources trying to show people how to carry out processes on the site without an effective way to communicate that.

I then look at the times and costs related to get a trial going to see if it’s something we can test out quickly and easily and make the decision based on that. With Nickelled we didn’t even need to change our site so running a free trial was a no-brainer for us. We could create the guides ourselves and place them in our FAQ pages the same day, no need for the development team to get involved.

We’ve been working with you for about a year now and been really impressed with the number and variety of experiments your team runs. Can you explain the why and how you do this?

The ‘how' is definitely not easy. When you’re a company the size of Gumtree (we had over 450,000 visitors a day in December and 19% of the UK population visited the site) you get a lot of support requests and it’s really easy to get sucked into only following the existing process and dealing with the volume.

I think it’s important to set aside time for reflection and looking at the existing processes and asking why are we doing it this way and is there a way we can do it better? After that you need to stay up to date with the latest innovations and best practises.

The ‘why’ is easier to answer. Our customer base is growing and changing continually, and their demands and expectations are evolving as well. Then there is the technology which is constantly changing: both on the user side, where they’re accessing Gumtree with different and increasingly mobile devices; and on our side as new technology becomes available which offers more effective ways of engaging with the customers. This means if we want to offer the best support of tomorrow we need to experiment today.

Looking at some of the changes over the last year what’s the motivation for support channel shift from phone & email to Livechat & Nickelled?

We still have a call centre so our customers can call us if they have a problem, but there’s been a definite shift to live chat and self service resources like Nickelled. This is for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the new channels are more cost effective than the traditional support channels which allows us to scale the impact of our support team so our costs don’t grow as our site and usage grow.

And secondly I believe that online customers prefer to use self-service customer support: having direct access to the answers to their questions. They don’t want to call/email unless it’s an urgent pressing issue or if they are struggling to help themselves and it’s a last resort.

Great, how do you tell if it's all working or not?

We measure contact rates, contact rates through channels, reopen rates and also customer satisfaction. We’re also on the front line with our customers and in constant contact with them so we can quickly get qualitative feedback to support what the quantitative data is showing us.

Specifically with Nickelled, their reporting suite allows us to see how many users are watching the guides and how helpful they found each guide. When users aren’t happy with a guide, they can answer a couple questions which allows us to find out why they aren’t completely satisfied and act appropriately. We’ve also been making Nickelled available in more places to our users and they’ve voluntarily chosen to use Nickelled in increasing volume (I think the first month we did 200 views and now we’re doing around 40,000 views a month).

What lessons have you learned over the last year?

Good question. Probably to do releases in a more controlled way in order to effectively measure the effects to the Customer Service levels. It can be frustrating changing one thing at a time but it’s hard to measure and attribute the impact when you’re running multiple experiments to improve things in parallel.

Where do you see Gumtree support heading in the future?

We are now using our customer insights to drive changes to our site, so we are hoping that the customer contacts will continue in the most effective channels both for ourselves and the users. I also think with the latest technology and data we have at our disposal we will resolve issues a lot more swiftly which will be better for everyone. So watch this space.

A last plug for Nickelled please…

We love this product, our users love this product AND even our sales team are using this product really well for our in-house training now.

From the whole Nickelled team we’d like to thank Luke for his time and the brilliant inside look at the Gumtree CS process.