College storage company opts for Zendesk to power a growing startup
The founders of Storage Scholars saw their college student moving company go from dorm room startup to media sensation following a $250,000 investment from Mark Cuban on the television show Shark Tank. To centralize support and handle seasonal spikes in moving volume, the team chose Zendesk’s customer service software to power their growing business. Leveraging live chat with custom API enables more personalized customer conversations and helps drive customer loyalty.
“The app integration is probably our strongest use of Zendesk. Being able to text back and forth with customers makes the business feel super personal. I am absolutely positive that enhances our sales conversion rate dramatically.”
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer - Storage Scholars
“Planning for surges from a customer service perspective is a huge challenge, but we’ve benefited greatly from looking at the previous year’s analytics in Zendesk and staffing up based on that.”
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer - Storage Scholars
3,500+ reviews in 2022
As university tuition and housing costs continue rising each year, students across the U.S. are looking for ways to earn extra money and make a dent in their educational expenses. With that goal in mind, Storage Scholars founders Sam Chason and Matt Gronberg launched a college storage and moving company from their dorm room at Wake Forest University in 2017.
The enterprising duo charged a fee to pack, move, and provide student storage for their classmates between school years, adding more staff as needed. What began as a two-man operation has grown into a thriving startup that serves 23 different U.S. campuses.
“Our mission is to empower talented college students and provide meaningful job opportunities for them to serve their peers on campus, while getting real world business experience,” Gronberg says. That business model caught the attention of Mark Cuban on ‘Shark Tank’ when Gronberg and Chason pitched it on air in November 2022. Storage Scholars landed a $250,000 business deal and the founders now exchange regular emails with Cuban. “He loves business, he loves being involved, and he wants to hear the updates on schools to see how he can help us grow,” says Gronberg.
Scalable CX to handle surging seasonal volume
In addition to securing a game-changing investment, Storage Scholars was bolstered by finding the right CX solution to fit their business. The company sees two major spikes in volume during May and August, dubbed ‘hot weeks.’ “We need to be able to add or subtract agents and have all of our macros prepared ahead of time, because we go from 10 tickets per week in the off season, to 300 or 400 per day,” notes Gronberg.
The team was hitting roadblocks with the company’s homegrown system, including a shared Gmail account, a Google Voice phone number, and Intercom for chat. According to Gronberg, “Things were getting lost in translation due to the seasonal nature of our business, bringing on so many agents, scaling them up quickly, and sharing multiple logins.”
There are usually 10 full-time staff in development and customer service, and 75 part-time student employees that handle marketing and on-campus moving operations. During peak volume periods, everyone scales up their hours and another 400 student movers are hired.
In March 2021, Gronberg started researching ticketing systems and followed a colleague’s recommendation of Zendesk. Seeing that it was capable of consolidating support channels, providing individual logins, and tracking employee workloads and performance, switching to Zendesk “seemed like a no brainer.”
Today, the team’s support tools include Zendesk email, chat, phone, SMS, webform, and integrations with Instagram and Facebook. “Planning for surges from a customer service perspective is a huge challenge,” says Gronberg, “but we’ve benefited greatly from looking at the previous year’s analytics in Zendesk and staffing up based on that.”
Optimizing CX with a custom API
Storage Scholars found it easy to add and customize Zendesk features, too. Over the last six years, the team developed an app that keeps customer moves on track, shows progress, and handles the signup workflow for bookings on the platform.
“Our custom-built web app is integrated with Zendesk, so it syncs all the information on prospective customers and existing accounts. Everything gets updated asynchronously through the API,” explains Gronberg. “The app integration is probably our strongest use of Zendesk. Being able to text back and forth with customers makes the business feel super personal. I am absolutely positive that personal touch enhances our sales conversion rate dramatically every spring.”
Working with a Zendesk account manager also helps Storage Scholars improve their CX capabilities. Gronberg plans to leverage that partnership to implement SLAs, start Zendesk bot tracking and optimization, and “maximize the potential of the software.” In his experience, “Zendesk is a tool with amazing capabilities, and every Zendesk customer is going to get out of it as much as they put into it.”
Real-time personalized support elevates the brand
Building a great CX system and building customer relationships go hand in hand. “Customer service is of the utmost importance and I think it’s one thing that differentiates us,” Gronberg says. “People will not trust a service business that doesn’t have exceptional customer service long term.”
For Storage Scholars, that means building trust with a customer base split 50/50 between parents and students, where students ask more logistical questions around account setup, insurance, and packing, and parents focus on pricing and administration. “Moving ranks as one of the three most stressful life experiences, especially for students taking final exams or freshmen moving for the first time,” adds Gronberg.
Given those stressors, making personalized connections with customers is particularly important in the moving industry. “It’s a service business that involves handling people’s personal belongings, so customers want the touch of a human being, to talk to someone on the other side,” says Gronberg. “The Zendesk bot definitely helps deflect basic questions, but a lot of people use the live chat feature in Messenger to connect with an agent.”
Positive interactions can go a long way to keep customers satisfied and sharing their experience with others. “Parents raving about a business in Facebook groups or online forums, that’s what actually elevates our brand,” adds Gronberg. “As a seasonal company, it may cost a lot to bring on so many agents, but it’s worth it to see the brand value go up each year.”
Investing in CX to increase long-term agility and ROI
Gronberg sees many reasons to be proud of the Storage Scholars team. “We stuck to our mission and found a way to unlock students’ potential–pairing them with a full-time team and taking them through the training process.”
Supporting that vision with a flexible CX solution was key, so Gronberg advises, “Of all the platforms out there, going with Zendesk is one of the first decisions I would tell a founder to make. It’s a very good investment.”
Zendesk enabled Storage Scholars to deliver great customer experiences and stay agile as the business scaled.
For Gronberg, that demonstrates Zendesk’s total cost of ownership. “If you’re using cheaper, simpler software, you’re actually accumulating time debt and technical debt because you’ll need to rip it all out later. Go with the right product at the beginning, and you’ll book more business, miss fewer tickets, and see your reviews improve long term.”