Founded in Osaka, Japan, in 1906, Mizuno has since grown into an international brand supplying athletes around the world with exceptional sports equipment, sportsware, and accessories. The brand established a U.S. presence in 1961 when it opened a factory in Los Angeles.
Soon after launching a manufacturing base in the States, Mizuno signed sponsorship deals with some of the most legendary names in the world of sports, including Carl Lewis and Joe Montana. Before he turned pro in 1996, Tiger Woods was a fan of Mizuno’s golf clubs and accessories—he even used Mizuno irons for his Masters Tournament win in 1997.
As part of Zendesk’s CX Moment virtual event series, we spoke with Mizuno’s Director of Customer Support, Whitney Conner, about how Mizuno is building brand loyalty with customers by providing exceptional CX.
A dedicated golfer, Conner joined Mizuno right out of college as a customer service rep almost 20 years ago. She steadily advanced through the company and now leads the department.
Mizuno’s management principle is to “contribute to society through the advancement of sporting goods and the promotion of sports.” Conner and her team—all of whom are enthusiastic athletes—follow that credo every day.
Passion for the game—and Mizuno
Mizuno’s support teams are divided by specific sports, like golf, running, and tennis. Support agents are placed in divisions based on their expertise, so avid golfers work on Mizuno’s golf team. Because golf is Mizuno’s largest division, more than half of Conner’s agents work on that team.
“Golf is its own animal,” said Conner. “It’s a humongous division for us, and it’s very specialized in what our agents need to know. So, they’re their own department.”
Since 2016, Mizuno has been the choice of irons for many players out of contract on the PGA Tour. During this year’s Masters, Conner’s team was flooded with 900 support calls, with one agent handling 200 of those calls.
“The Masters was humongous,” Conner marveled. “It was something like we’ve never seen before—that was the highest volume ever.”
To find CX agents who can not only expertly handle the more esoteric points of the game of golf but also go on to develop long careers at Mizuno, Conner’s number one requirement is passion.
“Anyone who’s passionate about a sport, passionate about the brand—those people stay longer,” she said. “We’ve seen promotions within the last six, seven years to different departments within the organization. I can’t tell you how many people I have hired across this organization that have started in these roles. So, we do look for specialized athletes who are passionate about sports and who are good at customer service—but for longevity’s sake, the athletes are the ones who stay.”
Before implementing Zendesk, Mizuno’s support department divided support calls between consumers and customers. The two teams were siloed, with one team helping consumers with questions about products and warranties, while another team worked with retail customers. Now, those two teams are blended.
“What we were able to do with Zendesk is that we brought our teams together,” Conner explained. “Being able to combine customer and consumer support, it makes for a more well-rounded agent. And a well-rounded agent gets to learn so much about all the different aspects of the business.”
While Conner’s CX department encourages collaboration, they have different tiers for support, starting with level one.
“When you first start, you’re a level one agent,” Conner explained. “We go through training in phases. Once you complete the first phase, then you tier up to customer support level two. Once you’ve developed an expertise and gained seniority, you become a team lead.”
Another team within the customer support department is order management. These supervisors are not on the phones, answering tickets, or chats—instead, they are facilitating order flow. But everyone else on the team is customer- or consumer-facing.
“It’s just a better experience,” said Conner. “Customers and consumers are talking with somebody who knows our product—everyone on our team uses our equipment. Even when a customer calls us just to place an order, having just talked to a consumer, we know how this is going to impact their customer. And that makes for a better experience for everyone.”
Communication between departments is key
Before Zendesk, Mizuno used two standalone CRM platforms for customer support and sales, which did little to provide insight into the customer experience.
“It interacted with nothing—the only thing we did was log in and answer tickets. That’s all we were doing,” lamented Conner. “We collected consumer information and we shared it with the marketing teams, but there was nothing. It was integrated with nothing.”
Now, both sales and customer support are integrated with Mizuno’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which is a type of software used to manage various business activities, like accounting and procurement.
“Before, we were just using them on our own little planets,” laughed Conner. “Now, customer information is flowing back and forth. We’re connecting the organization, we’re connecting our customer information, and even our credit team is using Zendesk support.”
Mizuno’s sales team is often out in the field, so they need to be able to capture and integrate information on the fly and then share that information with different departments.
“With Zendesk, members of the sales team are able to enter a ticket directly from the customer and connect directly to the support team,” said Conner. “So, the connection is there—and we’re also able to interact with the credit team.”
Conner and her team can easily open and close tickets, and the sales team can view activity history as well. Armed with this data, both the CX and sales teams are in a better position to personalize the experience for the customer.
“It’s a better experience for sales, and it’s a better experience for the customer,” Conner explained. “Because the customer knows that we know who their last interaction was with and what it was about.”
Conner and her team are actively tracking customer satisfaction and resolution times. Their service level agreement (SLA) is set up for a 24-hour response, but agents often resolve tickets within an hour or two.
“It depends on the level of the ticket,” Conner said. “We know the agent is notified, the supervisor is notified, and if something does end up breaching, then everyone is notified that the ticket is breached.”