Customer Service – Strauss Group

Continued Improvement of Customer Service

Available, professional and accessible customer service is an important pillar of building trust and retaining customers. The various Strauss Group companies work with a broad range of customers, from major wholesalers, to local and international retailers, and small stores. In addition, we also serve individual consumers directly, for example, at our coffee kiosks and stores in Israel and around the world, as well as Strauss Water, which supplies products and services directly to the customer. Furthermore, Strauss provides comprehensive service to its customers from our service centers, which handle a wide range of calls. Our aim is to always provide service on the highest level to every one of our end customers. In 2020, over 1.5 million calls were received at Strauss Israel and Strauss Water customer service call centers.

In early 2020, just after the start of the Corona crisis, the customer service centers were faced with many operational challenges. During this complex period, Strauss steadfastly remained committed to continuing to provide its customers with service. Even before the first lockdown, the Group’s customer service representatives started to work from remote, while the phone system, hardware and all the required infrastructures for maintaining a high level of service were being adapted. Additional representatives were recruited at some of the centers in order to guarantee the levels and continuity of service.

We are proud of the commitment and dedication of our employees who managed to improve the level of service and customer satisfaction, in spite of the challenges of Corona and of operating service centers from remote. For example, at the Strauss Israel customer service center, 78% of the calls were answered within 60 seconds, while 65% were answered within 30 seconds. At the Strauss Water customer service center, 85% of the calls were answered within two minutes, and within 20 seconds via chat. Furthermore, the customer service representatives expressed satisfaction with the modifications that were made to the process for the sake of  their work continuity and their health and safety. A survey that was carried out among the Strauss Water customer service representatives, revealed high levels of satisfaction with working at the service center (94%).

Examples of Advances in Customer Service at Strauss Water in 2020:

Strauss Water works directly with hundreds of thousands of households in Israel while providing a level of service typified by the full availability of technicians and service representatives. At the start of the Corona crisis, Strauss Water ensured that our service and technical support staff were available to visit the homes of our customers.  Accordingly, we equipped them with extensive protective measures: masks, gloves, sanitizing gel, and more. In this way, we continued to provide full service to about 700,000 households throughout Israel without interruption, in a period that was marked by the need to protect our employees while coping with the pressure and overload from our customers.  

Continuity of service was provided by our call centers that operated from home, while we immediately set up infrastructures that provided unchanged support.

Improving the Customer Experience: In 2020, Strauss Water continued to improve the level of service to its customers. The improvements included reduced waiting time for calls to service centers and for the arrival of technicians; development of new digital service channels such as What’s App and email; expanding the range of available self service operations; and more. These improvements, among others, shifted the majority of the calls (60% in 2020) to digital channels, compared to 45% in 2019. In addition, we met the goal we set for 2020 to answer 80% of the service calls within two minutes, and 95% of digital enquiries within 20 seconds.

Strauss Water Service Indices 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Customer Satisfaction (survey data) 6.8 8.5 9 9.2 9.3
Average waiting time (minutes) 4.01 1.49 1.56 1.49 1.1
Technician service within 48 hours[1] 51% 79% 74% 77% 84%

[1] Percentage of customer enquiries received by a technician within 48 hours of referral

Total Number of Calls to Strauss Water Service Centers by Type of Enquiry

Telephone Answered by IVR Chat/SMS Mail Total
983,432 251,526 171,728 46,746 1,453,433

Calls answered by IVR: Telephone enquiries where the customer receives the requested information via an automatic reply and/or further browsing on the website, and ends the call at their own initiative. The information in the recorded message includes the time that the technician or installer will arrive, payment options, information about delivery options, etc.

In 2020, Strauss Water launched a new initiative to increase the trust of its customers in the company. Beyond focusing on maintaining short waiting times and high levels of service provided by the service representatives, a number of additional steps were taken to improve the quality of service. These steps included a significant reduction of repeat calls to the service center by improving processes and developing advanced technological tools, as well as defining a cross-company process to deal with customers who have experienced repeat device malfunctions or problems with the supply of parts. These steps helped us close the loop on quick and effective handling of over 60,000 customers.

The results were rapid: There was a drop in repeat calls from 16% in 2019 to 11% in 2020 (eliminating about 40,000 calls throughout the year). The percentage of complaints dropped to under 1%, compared to 1.5% in the previous year. The measures taken to increase customers’ trust also proved themselves on the business side, when Strauss Water succeeded in retaining a much larger number of customers on the service route. Retention percentages jumped from 70% to 80% and the customer base grew considerably.

Examples of Advances in Customer Service at Strauss Israel in 2020:

Support of the “We do Good Together” initiative to assist the economic victims of Corona: As part of Strauss Group’s activities to support the populations that were financially impacted by the Corona crisis, the decision was made to distribute vouchers for the purchase of products to families in need of assistance, for a period of four months. In partnership with the Latet organization and other organizations it works with, over 12,000 families were identified that required assistance (beyond the original target of support for 10,000 families). The vouchers were sent to these families via the Strauss+ app.

However, one of the most common challenges of the “We do Good Together” financial support initiatives was the difficulty of the target populations had in using these benefits. This was most prevalent among the elderly and lower socio-economic groups.

The Strauss Israel customer service center joined the effort to assist with this challenge. As part of the initiative, the center provided support and assistance to families in several ways:

  • General enquiries – for general support of the families following the marketing campaign and partnership with aid organizations
  • Digital literacy – assistance and support of the families in using the Strauss+ app for the vouchers
  • Use of vouchers – support during the actual purchase when families asked for information about Strauss products, how to use the vouchers at the checkout, etc.

These enquiries were typified by very long calls, which the call centers were not accustomed to. Consequently, the center recruited additional representatives to assist the multi-lingual staff of representatives. This vital addition to the workforce at the center helped with the handling of over 8,000 enquiries about the project from September through December 2020.

We hope that the ongoing personal support of this target population will assist them, in the short term, with coping with the economic difficulties of this crisis, as well as in the long term, for example, with increased digital literacy, understanding how to use apps, etc.

Continued support for complex enquiries that require “home visits”: As part of the service provided by the Strauss Israel customer service center, some complex enquiries are allocated  a “home visit” for to the customer, for a discussion to deepen the understanding and familiarity with the event and provide a detailed, direct face-to-face explanation. As part of our commitment to the constant improvement of our levels and quality of service, during the Corona crisis we continued with this practice of personal meetings, in an open atmosphere at the homes of our consumers. In 2020 we held about 600 of these home visits.

Expanding customer service representative training: As part of our commitment to developing and enriching our representatives and ensuring professional and high quality service while expanding our accumulated knowledge, we increased our training hours in 2020. In addition to the 20 minutes of training that take place at the start of each work day at the center, each representative received another approximately 12 hours of training during the year. This training was done by remote, due to the limitations of the Corona period, and dealt with general topics such as environment, product quality, the product labeling process, allergens, and more. We see this activity as a way to promote upskilling and as a response to our customers’ changing preferences. 

This decision to further invest in the professional training of our representatives proved vital, especially during the time of Corona. The constraints of the lockdowns and social distancing meant that our customers were spending a lot more time at home than usual. Household food consumption increased accordingly, and with it, a sharp increase in the number of customer calls to the service center with questions and suggestions. In addition, 2020 began as the year we implemented the Health Ministry directives to add labels to food products. The new labeling led to additional questions about the initiative itself as well as about specific Strauss products. Consumers who encountered the new labeling for the first time sought an in depth understanding of the changes that were made. As part of our commitment to transparency and to assist our consumers in making their food choices, the customer service center provided relevant answers to all questions on this topic.

Personal Updates about a Recall: In spite of our uncompromising commitment to the quality and safety of the food we manufacture, a small number of voluntary recalls still takes place. In these cases, the company removes a particular product from the shelves, mainly because of a malfunction that (on the rare occasion) was discovered only after distribution. Traditionally, an update about the recall is published in newspaper ads, on the Health Ministry website and in news article on news websites. Still, Strauss’ comprehensive approach to its responsibility for its products has led to a voluntary adoption of an additional step to increase transparency. In 2020, the Strauss Israel customer service center began the widespread implementation of personal updates of customers who purchased products that were being recalled. The appeal took place based on information that was found on the Strauss+ app. Customers who purchased the product in question now receive a personal message about the recall via email or SMS. The responses to this voluntary initiative were excellent, and many customers expressed their appreciation for the high level of responsibility and transparency that Strauss demonstrated.

Customer-initiated returns to the shelves: As part of the process of handling customer calls, we receive many requests to bring beloved products back to the shelves or to increase the production of selected products. These requests are recorded over the years. When a decision is made to return a product to the shelves, we locate the customers who submitted these requests and update them. They are often surprised by the company’s high level of commitment and regularly express their satisfaction with the level of attention paid to their requests. In 2020 we contacted 800 customers with news about how we have fulfilled their requests. For example, we were delighted to provide a solution to our vegan customers who requested high quality, plant-based candy products. 

Constant improvement in customer service: Over the years, we have provided our customers with convenient and available communications channels through which they can convey their questions, concerns or complaints. These channels include telephone, email, direct chat, text messages to customer service representatives, and social media. As part of our commitment to constant improvement, we regularly measure the satisfaction of those who contact the service center via customer satisfaction surveys.

Highlights of the 2020 survey results:

  • 87% of customers were very satisfied with the service they received (continuing the improvement trend from previous years)
  • 92% of customers noted that they would continue to consume the products they had complained about (same as 2019)
  • 91% of customers noted that their attitude toward Strauss is positive or very positive (improvement trend)

Increased use of digital customer service site on the Strauss website: In 2019, we launched a dedicated customer service site the contains extensive and meaningful contact for customers, and enables them to conveniently and easily receive information. The site has over 500 frequently asked questions about our products and activities, accessible and immediate information about important topics such as product labeling, allergens, and others, locating products at points of sale, and forms for customer service center enquiries.

In 2020, over 145,000 dedicated users entered this site and viewed about 170,000 pages.

About 62,000 dedicated users opened the page for submitting an enquiry to the service center, with about 96,5000 entries.

For more on this and to see the site: https://www.strauss-group.co.il/service/

This activity supports 1 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Zero Hunger (2)