March 13, 2012, 10:55 AM

Skullcandy hands over live chat to skateboarders and surfers

Headphone shoppers like to have questions answered by like-minded peers.

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Skullcandy, which sells high-end audio headsets along with apparel for young consumers, has reduced its customer service call volume by 15% since it began working with live chat vendor Needle about two years ago.

Needle’s offering has proven effective because of the vendor’s approach to customer service, says Brett Barlow, the retailer’s director of marketing. Needle and Skullcandy work together to find agents from Skullcandy’s customer base of snowboarders, skateboarders and surfers who can answer shoppers’ questions via online chat. Those agents receive an hourly wage, as well as points they can apply toward merchandise.

Barlow says the service gives its customers a chance to have their questions answered by like-minded agents, who can discuss not only the brands they like, but how they perform.

That personal touch has strengthened Skullcandy’s bottom line as consumers who chat have an average order value nearly 15% higher than do other shoppers.

Needle’s offering, which costs about as much as it would for Skullcandy to employ three customer service representatives annually, enables the retailer to handle a workload equivalent to about 15 agents, says Barlow. Because it outsources its customer service operations, Skullcandy can scale up or down its agents based on its traffic and volume.

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