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Spoonflower Scales Automation with Human-Centered AI


Creativity, Customer-Focus and Authenticity

Spoonflower is an eCommerce wallpaper, home decor, and fabric marketplace featuring print-on-demand products sustainably printed with over 1 million designs created by independent artists all over the world. The platform makes it possible for individuals to create, sell and shop for top quality goods for every room in homes and commercial spaces. With 3.3 million creatives featured on the Spoonflower website and nearly 4,000 designs being uploaded every day, Spoonflower is a leading marketplace for surface pattern design and premium textiles.

At Spoonflower, creativity, customer-focus and authenticity are central to everything the company does — especially when it comes to customer support. The customer support organization’s vision is for everyone who contacts the support team to feel they are connecting with a fellow creative and friend in the community. 

Jennifer Spanos, Sr. Business Operations and Strategy Manager for the Customer Support Team, helps stand up and create new support models at Spoonflower and with its third-party marketplace partners. To Jennifer, it is critical to balance human touch with an AI experience. 

When using AI technology, we don’t want customers to feel like robots are talking to them. We also genuinely care about our agents’ experience and preventing burnout. Forethought allows our agents to focus on complex issues by allowing the technology to automate triaging and handle inquiries that Forethought can solve confidently. We have the bandwidth to grow our agents’ knowledge and improve the customer experience overall.

– Jennifer Spanos, Sr. Business Operations and Strategy Manager, Customer Support Team

Manual Processes

Before using Forethought, Spoonflower’s support department operated manually. Every ticket in the queue was manually tagged, which was an arduous process. The ticket categorization process needed refining to help reduce agents’ lift. Whether a ticket was marked as high, medium or low priority was per the discretion of the agent, which sometimes led to a backlog of tickets across all priority levels, leading to slower response times. 

Spoonflower needed more accuracy in prioritizing these tickets so that the most urgent tickets could be resolved within the hour, instead of the following day. 

Spoonflower offered a few different support channels including email, voice message and live chat. However, the live chat option was run inconsistently due to staffing restraints. There were times when the live chat options would have to be shut off due to a lack of available agents. These staffing shortcomings made it difficult for Spoonflower to reach their customers on the channel of their choice.

Previously, Spoonflower agents were also challenged with surfacing knowledge articles, past cases or any other customer information into third-party sites when resolving tickets. This forced them to toggle back and forth between screens to help customers get the information they needed.

Adding to the challenge, in April 2020, ticket volume surged from a few hundred tickets per day to a few thousand with the start of the coronavirus pandemic. With many crafters turning to Spoonflower to make homemade masks, the company needed a way to help their customers resolve tickets quickly. Spoonflower sought out a partner to help them triage and tag tickets more accurately to reduce the time it took agents to resolve cases.

Although tagging and triaging were the main focuses when vetting a viable technology that would suit our needs, we realized more was available. With Forethought able to deflect tickets, our agents have had more time to spend on high-priority issues without feeling so weighed down. We’ve been able to create a more robust organization and hierarchy within our department.

– Jennifer Spanos, Sr. Business Operations and Strategy Manager, Customer Support Team

Removing Friction for Customers and Agents

Today, Spoonflower uses Forethought’s Solve, Triage and Assist products to provide a well-rounded experience for customers and agents alike.

Providing Self-Service

Spoonflower uses Solve on two different channels: email and as a chat widget. Within email, Solve surfaces relevant help articles to customers by instantly identifying the intent of their messages. On the website, the Solve widget has allowed customers to chat about their support issues and receive a response at any time of the day. 

With Solve’s Workflow Builder, the support team builds automated workflows based on the intent of their customers’ chat messages. The chat widget now stays up-to-date with promotions, discounts or other relevant content by recommending workflows based on frequent customer inquiries. The Workflow configuration allows the support team to edit the greeting customers receive within the chat widget in real time. For example, if the site is experiencing slowness or there is a longer turnaround time to ship orders, Workflow Builder allows the team to pre-set the chat widget to surface that information before customers have to ask about it.

Auto-Triaging Tickets

Instead of manually tagging and triaging tickets, Spoonflower uses Triage to proactively predict ticket characteristics, properly prioritize and route to the right team. Spoonflower uses Triage to easily understand the sentiment of a ticket. The technology detects patterns in text and automatically classifies a customer’s overall emotions as positive, negative or neutral. With this new information, Spoonflower has overhauled their support team’s key performance indicators to understand which agents have handled negative support tickets more quickly. 

Triage predicts the reason why a support ticket was submitted, allowing support teams to get to the root of the problem quickly. This knowledge helps the support team prioritize which tickets to respond to first. 

Agent Productivity

Customer support agents at Spoonflower not only work on cases on, but also on cases received through third-party marketplaces, like Etsy. Assist can integrate with and be surfaced within other marketplaces ensuring all agents are supported wherever the questions originate.

While we did evaluate competitors, we loved Forethought’s comprehensive intuition. The idea of having three separate offerings and the option to not be forced to choose all three (even though we did) was very beneficial. No other company provides expertise in all three of these areas. In addition, Forethought was always willing to share the vision and technology with us, whereas other competitors were not as forthcoming.

– Jennifer Spanos, Sr. Business Operations and Strategy Manager, Customer Support Team

Reducing Manual Support Functions

With Forethought, Spoonflower creates a frictionless experience for both customers and agents. A seamless integration between Zendesk and Forethought helped the company enhance its customer support with more efficient ticketing, a bot to increase ticket deflection, and better data reporting. 

The Solve chat function has achieved a 59% self-service rate by interacting with +90K customers. By enabling customers to find answers to their questions quickly through chat, agents have been freed up to focus on more complicated customer inquiries. Now that manual tasks have been removed from their day-to-day roles, agents spend more time learning and upskilling. New skills have enabled team members to delve deeper into their specialties within the support team.

  • +90K customers interacted via Forethought chat widget
  • +53K chat tickets resolved and automated
  • 59% self-service rate achieved
  • +69K emails deflected

With Triage, Spoonflower accurately auto-predicts and tags support tickets. Predicting and tagging of tickets allows agents to respond to customer inquiries faster.

  • 90% accuracy in auto-predicting and tagging tickets
  • 98% coverage with auto-predicting and tagging tickets

Assist empowers agents by surfacing relevant help articles and resources, including agents working across different marketplaces.

  • 90+ average CSAT from Forethought products

Providing Human-Centered Experiences

With Forethought, Spoonflower plans to continue to reduce the manual effort required for support agents. They plan to iterate on and improve the reporting they’ve been able to track. Evaluating CSAT scores and sentiment to understand which cases are best suited for agents to handle versus an automation with Forethought is also a priority.

Spoonflower takes advantage of the breadth of Forethought’s offerings to provide human-centered experiences for its customers and agents. Customer Support leadership hopes to continue providing personal and professional growth opportunities for support agents by reducing manual tasks with AI. 

With Forethought, it’s not all AI buzzwords or simply a chatbot surfacing help articles. This machine learning technology has natural language understanding (NLU), and it truly works. Forethought is helping our customers and our whole support organization.

– Jennifer Spanos, Sr. Business Operations and Strategy Manager, Customer Support Team

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