Background and Challenges
Arealink, established in 1995, is primarily engaged in acquiring office buildings and converting them into rental space, mostly “trunk room” spaces for commercial, or residential customers. These buildings are conveniently located near major traffic hubs, like train stations, city centers, or built-up commercial areas. The self-storage market is one of the few remaining growth areas of the Japan real-estate market but is growing fast. With over 1900 locations around Japan, Arealink is a leader in this market.
Arealink has also teamed up with Sanrio company, the “Hello Kitty” owner, to create the Hello Storage service. The concept of this service is to provide customers with a more welcoming introduction to the idea of using self-storage. In addition to renting storage space, the company offers rental meeting rooms and office space.
Arealink, explains. “The storage business is the only growth area in the real estate industry. Although more competitors and properties are entering the market, this field has not yet matured in Japan. Up until now, we haven’t had a hard time getting customers. However, it will become saturated as the number of properties continues to increase. To maintain our competitive advantage, we need to shift to a ‘customer-oriented organization.’”
The slogan “Customer First” was born of this desire to improve the customer experience.
Based on this premise, the company is promoting significant changes in customer support. Arealink has 1,900 properties all over Japan and receives a wide variety of inquiries from contract-related questions, to cleaning, maintenance, and security requests, to name a few. There are about 5,000 incoming calls in one month – nobody knows who responds, how they responded, or whether the problem is resolved after they hand off those calls. There is a potential to mishandle the issue between teams, causing unsatisfactory customer support and, potentially, customer loss.
“We didn’t even know the number of inquiries in the first place. There is no way to improve the situation and solve problems if you don’t know what kind of inquiries there are and how long it takes to solve them” States Marketing Development Department.
The company aims to achieve data-driven decision making and differentiate itself through customer experience. To improve the current situation, they need a system that centralizes the disparate applications used to service the customers. Self-storage operations involve various tasks and vendors, including helpdesk, cleaning, maintenance, and security. Centralizing these different functions’ control and analysis would clarify business decision-making by standardizing data formats and leveraging common data points.
“In the real estate industry, a ticketing system is not standard. The value of the system depends on how you use it. When we saw ourselves using a new system in our business, we thought Zendesk was the very system we needed – simple and easy to use, scalable, and cost-effective,” explained why they chose Zendesk Support.
Centralizing reporting, knowledge sharing, and task assignments improve the speed of service to customers. Correlating cause and effect between different data sources uncover opportunities to improve service further and create new business processes. This is “Customer First” in practice, and that is where Arealink finds value in Zendesk Support.
Benefits of Zendesk Implementation
Shortly after the implementation, the company recognized some significant benefits. They had eleven customer support operators before the migration, but the team was reduced to five afterward. They were able to reduce the support team due to greater visibility into the business, implementing efficiencies that reduced the number of issues. These improvements caused customer issues to drop by 20%.
Previously, using the decentralized systems with different reporting methods and standards, it was hard to identify trends in issues. With Zendesk, common issue root causes were identified and corrected. Not only were issues resolved easier but quicker. The response time for ticket handling and resolution decreased.
“First of all, we were surprised that there were about 2,000 inquiries in one month that couldn’t be solved in one touch. If we didn’t solve this fundamentally, our customer support would always be makeshift – always firefighting and never getting rid of the root cause. For example, in the first month after implementation, there were 140 tickets with key issues. After investigating the cause and response details, the number of tickets was reduced in half within two months”, Fujita explained. “The fact that there are so many issues means that there are many points we can improve. Improvement will lead to higher customer satisfaction and sales increase. It’s great to see the potential for further growth.”
They also said, “The fact that we have aggregated the information in Zendesk also affects information sharing. For example, employees started to review the history of the interactions and use such information to analyze what kind of inquiries they frequently receive and how to handle such cases. Also, with queue management, the team is proactive in handling open tickets. Our staff has become more conscious of their customers, more hungry for further improvement, leading to the idea of ‘Customer First’”.
Arealink originally had high expectations for “using Zendesk in a variety of ways,” but it was “much easier than we had expected, so usage has been expanded,” they said.
Zendesk Support contributes with visibility into project progress across the organization. It works with marketing automation tools to submit ticket inquiries via campaigns. They are building a method to change the assignee for inquiries from each campaign and landing pages. This will assist in further analysis. In the future, they expect to apply it to accounting and human resources and to implement multi-brand support with business units other than self-storage.
Arealink is pursuing a company-wide effort to commit to “Customer First” principles thoroughly. They want to “impress” the customer by providing a higher quality of service than their competitors. As a leading company in the storage industry, Arealink aims to continue to be an indispensable company for customers and the community. One of the pillars of this strategy is to make full use of Zendesk Support’s rich features.
Company website EN: Arealink Co., Ltd.
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