One year in college, in the middle of writing a paper (well, watching Netflix) my beloved MacBook broke. It made a terrible noise — one that signaled sure and imminent death — blinked a few times, and shut off forever. For a few moments I was stunned, and then I literally started to cry. What about my class notes? And carefully crafted iTunes playlists? And no, I’m not the type of person who “responsibly backs things up on an external hard drive,” so at this point, I was freaking out. I canceled my plans for the day and hauled ass to the nearest Apple store.
The Apple store, of course, was crowded, stressful, and full of happy people who were click-clacking away on shiny new devices. I looked around quickly — insanely, actually, in retrospect — for help. And then I saw it: the “Genius Bar.”
I tenderly handed her over my machine to a man with a beard whose nametag said he was a “Genius.” I did not doubt him for a moment over the next 30 minutes. After all, his title said it all. He knew what he was doing.
Over the past 10 years, Apple has been an industry leader in branding and design, and it’s not surprising that they were one of the first major companies to re-brand their “customer service representatives” back in 2001.
Since then, other companies have followed Apple’s lead. Creative customer service names are popping up everywhere, particularly in online retail where customer service has become a key differentiator.
Bonobos, a menswear ecommerce site launched in 2007, has its “ninjas” who not only field customer service inquiries but are empowered to go above-and-beyond for customers.
“The ninjas are the lifeblood of the company,” said Jonathan Czaja, Chief Operating Officer at Bonobos. “It brings a spirit to the company that’s irreverent and fun while still inspiring folks to work hard and bring their best everyday.”
Bonobos extends the ninja theme to other staffers (“office ninjas”), and to its 2-week long “white belt training” in the “dojo,” the company’s customer support office.
“Our customers love the ninjas,” Czaja said. “Some customers will email back and forth with us for hours just because they’re having fun. I don’t know many companies who get this type of reaction to their customer service reps. Our ninjas don’t just solve problems, they build relationships.”
I emailed their customer support and Aaron Leven, one of the company’s ninjas, quickly responded to my query.
“I’d love to answer some of your questions,” he began. “The first thing I’m going to do is give you the short answer you can find on our site.” (Indeed, I had already read the description, which is quite easy to find, and paints Ninjas as “adept, fast, and efficient.”)
Leven said that he strives to do his job “with a little big of swag.” Referencing the congenial company culture, he said “It’s a lot of fun to work hard together and support each other, but it’s also important to rock cool titles like ninjas and go out together after work.”
From a company’s perspective, having a quirky name for customer service reps can help attract the types of employees who will deliver great customer experiences.
So, creative customer service rep names: good for companies, good for employees. But what about consumers? Turns out, the approach can help create a memorable experience for shoppers.
“Almost every time I contacted Bodybuilding.com the CSRs had fun, alliterative names,” said a StellaService Analyst, who contacts ecommerce customer support departments on a daily basis. ” ‘Keen Clayton’ was the name I wrote down in my notes when I called Bodybuilding. The email I received from my purchase order email was from ‘Slammin’ Sam.’ I also received an email response from “Trainer Tiff.” Pretty funny!”
Another StellaService Analyst who has also interacted with the Bodybuilding.com team notes, “Upon inspection of my email correspondence with them, I found “Noble Nick” and “Tornado Tyson” to be quite helpful.”
Other sites with creative customer support names include Revzilla’s “Gear Geeks,” Fab.com’s “Crackerjacks” and the Baublebar “SWAT Team.”
This type of internal rally around the customer service department positively impacts company culture, attracting a certain kind of employee that fits into that culture. Enthusiastic employees create successful experiences for shoppers.
While customers likely put the most value on the quality of service provided, not the title, it might not be a coincidence that companies with highly rated customer service teams like Bonobos and Apple have “Ninjas” and “Geniuses.”