Birchbox tests Snapchat for customer service

Juliette Dallas-Feeney and Lorelei Orfeo are inviting followers to do a voice chat.
U up? Juliette Dallas-Feeney and Lorelei Orfeo are down to chat.

Some of Snapchat’s best marketing features are hidden. While most companies started experimenting on the platform with geo-filters or branded lenses, Birchbox is turning to the revamped video and voice calling features that are ignored by many.

Birchbox tested them on Monday, when two marketers from the company — Juliette Dallas-Feeney, senior social media manager, and Lorelei Orfeo, senior manager of trends and content development – posted a Snapchat story inviting Birchbox’s Snapchat followers to call them from 2 p.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET. There wasn’t a reason given for people to contact them; it was just a test. Within an hour, they received around 30 calls from a wide spectrum of age groups ranging from teens to mothers of teens. On average, each of the seven calls they took lasted around five minutes.

Some callers didn’t have real questions — they were just curious to know if a phone conversation would actually take place — while some asked Dallas-Feeney and Orfeo for tips and product recommendations as well as showed off the samples they got in their latest Birchbox, said Dallas-Feeney.

“We also noticed that some callers are following us on Snapchat but they haven’t yet subscribed to Birchbox, so we explained to them the benefits of becoming a subscriber,” she explained. “The calling features can help us bridge the gap between just engaging on Snapchat and actually signing up for our service.”

Snapchat has had phone and video chat features since 2014. But they were clunky at the time, requiring both users to have the chat screen open. So the platform updated one-on-one chat features in late May of this year, allowing the user to initiate calls directly from chats even if the recipient isn’t currently in the chat.

Birchbox received around 100 screenshots.
Birchbox received around 100 screenshots.

Dallas-Feeney said that she received many video messages and around 100 screenshots suggesting that Birchbox host a chat again. “Since the initial response was so good, we plan to live chat with our Snapchat followers once a week,” said Dallas-Feeney, adding that she and Orfeo will also do this on Birchbox’s Customer Appreciation Day in September, when they will ask more team members to take shifts every hour.

They’re not the only ones who have seen an upside to Snapchat calls. Gary Vaynerchuk — a Birchbox investor – is already using Snapchat’s calling features to give other entrepreneurs business tips.

While Jason Parks, owner of agency The Media Captain, hasn’t seen any brands taking advantage of the video and voice calling features yet, he plans on trying it out soon if he sees more similar experiments like Birchbox. But the challenge a brand may face is not having the proper customer service support behind a campaign similar to the one Birchbox launched, said Parks. “If 30 calls come in within an hour, you better make sure you are staffed for this; otherwise the campaign will be a massive fail,” he explained.

For brands that already have social customer service teams in place, these newly added features might allow that support to be more effective on Snapchat if fans are able to have a live video or audio conversation when troubleshooting, added Stephen Boidock, director of social media for agency Drumroll.

“It could also pave the way for more Periscope- and Facebook Live-type of brand experiences, where fans can tune in at a given time to see or hear live broadcasts,” he said.

But at the same time, Boidock thinks that Snapchat is running the risk of watering down their primary value proposition because Skype and FaceTime already allow for video conferencing. “It will be interesting to see if Snapchat becomes known for doing many things well versus a few things exceptionally well,” he said.

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