At a glance
Tickets solved per month
Number of Agents
You’ve probably never received an email from your dry cleaner. Unless, that is, you happen to be a Washio customer. And increasingly, there are more and more Washio customers.
Like Uber and Airbnb, Washio is among a new breed of Internet companies disrupting traditional industries. The Santa Monica, CA.-based company set its sights on laundry and dry cleaning in early 2013, debuting an app that enables users to schedule a pickup for their clothing items in a single tap. The company’s drivers—Washio refers to them as its “ninjas”—then swing by with sustainable bags to collect the items during the customer’s selected 30-minute window. 24 hours later, the clothing is returned clean and ready to put away.
Right idea at the right time? Sure looks that way. Washio is now growing at a double-digit clip. The company, which began operations in the Los Angeles region, has since expanded into the San Francisco bay area, Washington D.C, Chicago, and most recently Boston.
“We’re just trying to provide the best customer experience possible,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Jordan Metzner, who describes how the battle for customer satisfaction gets fought out on a terrain, where daily delivery turnaround times and attention to detail mark the difference between success and failure.
“We want to make the user experience as absolutely seamless as possible,” said Metzner, who, along with co-founder Juan Dulanto, was one of the service’s first two drivers. “I’m hyper-customer-centric. Building a business means going out of your way to offer amazing customer service.”
And that gets expressed in more ways than the locally baked treat that Washio includes with the clean laundry drop off. Behind the scenes, the company has incorporated Zendesk into its tracking and feedback system. The idea is to make sure that customers are satisfied with the entire experience from the initial pickup to the final delivery. What’s more, Washio’s homegrown Zendesk integration allows managers to monitor a myriad of user data—everything from how many times a customer has placed an order to the average order size to someone’s composite loyalty score.
Washio also uses Zendesk as a communication portal to help manage its driver community in each of the markets where it operates.
“We receive so many inbound emails—from `Hey, I didn’t get my paycheck on time,’ or `It looks like I got overpaid,’ or `Hey can you talk to my friend?’ according to Metzner. “With all these different inquiries, we decided to move everything under one umbrella…through Zendesk.”
Washio wants to know as much as possible about its customers and a Zendesk widget inside its backend system offers a deep dive into how many tickets get created as well as the nature and cause of the tickets.
“Through Zendesk, if a customer inbound emails us, we can see the issue, go through our own backend and then pull up any additional information relevant to their Zendesk ticket,” said Metzner.
Washio utilized the Zendesk APIs to integrate their own backend systems.
Having the ability to gauge the speed and accuracy of customer service helps management gauge how well it’s doing or where there’s room to improve. Indeed, even with an enviable two-hour response time, Metzner wants Washio to respond more rapidly and he relies on technology to provide the feedback loop that helps him gauge company performance.
“We’re constantly asking, `What are the top ten tickets?’ and `How many of those can we use technology to improve?’” he said.
Metzner learned valuable lessons surrounding the importance of speedy customer service during his pre-Washio career, as the founder of an Argentina based chain of California burrito outlets. Metzner later sold the business but maintained his sooner-rather-than-later approach to problem solving.
“It’s very important to cultivate a positive energy between customer and agent,” he said. “Once there’s a positive pattern in place, a customer is more likely to repeat their behavior over and over.”
For Metzner, starting a company from scratch allowed him to build the necessary support systems. It also helped avoid the headaches of retrofitting new systems on top of older ones years later. And Metzner knew what he wanted from the outset: He had used Zendesk while running product at Xola and wanted to equip his new team with the same suite of software tools he’d used there.
“We were lucky to have Zendesk early on,” he said. “It allowed us identify and solve small problems before they negatively impacted our growth. Additionally, it gave us a tool to track ticket numbers and scale up our support team accordingly.
The flip side of success is that with more tickets literally “coming down the funnel each day,” scaling support becomes one of the hardest things facing a company, particularly a startup. Washio is now in a race to stay ahead of itself and not fall behind in providing top service to the consumer, according to Metzner.
With Zendesk Insights, Washio had the power to analyze their different customer segments.
But that’s a problem every startup would love to have. With more data at its disposal, management can experiment to see how to better deploy its resources. For example, Washio recently started a pilot program where it assigned an account manager to some 200 customers and then tracked their behavior through Zendesk. The purpose of the segmentation exercise was to better understand how customer behavior might change in reaction to changes in the level of personal support they received.
“So, for instance, do our top customers end up spending more, spending less, or spending the same?” Metzner said. “Do our middle customers end up ordering more, less, or the same?”
From the outside it may look relatively easy but there’s a different view from the trenches.
“It’s definitely getting easier to forecast growth and what we can expect, but at the end of day, any type of particular behavior can cause a huge catastrophe,” Metzner said. “So if it’s snowing tomorrow in Chicago, my support team can get bogged down immediately… and it just makes it more difficult—there’s always the unexpected, from weather to issues in our facilities to cars breaking down—all these can cause a whole chain of events that takes a lot of support time away from our focus on solving tickets.”
But that is what’s making it fun for Metzner, who is inspired by the customer-centric philosophies pioneered by the likes of blue chip companies such as Nordstrom’s, Virgin, and Costco.
“When you use Washio for the first time and press that button and someone comes to your house and 24 hours later the clothing comes back cleaned on your doorstep, you get that magical feeling,” he said. “As we get bigger, the challenges become larger and more widespread… and that’s what makes it exciting and fun and interesting and cool.”
“Using Zendesk, we go and find the most high-touch issues and then try and resolve them completely. Then we can narrow down the focus to what’s really important to our customers.”