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Brainery | | How Fantastic Sports Store Reduced Response Times by 83% & Improved Customer Feedback

How Fantastic Sports Store Reduced Response Times by 83% & Improved Customer Feedback

How Fantastic Sports Store Reduced Response Times by 83% - Replyco Helpdesk Software for eCommerce

Discover how Fantastic Sports Store founder Ira Cohen reduced response times and improved customer feedback while spending more time with his family.

Fantastic Sports Store Company Profile

  • Selling on: 4 BigCommerce sites, 1 Shopify site, 2 Amazon stores, 1 eBay store, Walmart.com & Etsy
  • Annual sales: $4 Million
  • Previous helpdesk: Used eDesk briefly
  • Messages per month: 3,000 to 6,000
  • Support team: 1 to 4 (seasonal)

Fantastic Sports Store owner / founder Ira Cohen believes the keys to eCommerce success are responsiveness and great customer support (along with selling the right products). And given that he’s grown his online business to $4 million in annual sales over the course of 10 years, this formula is working for him! 

Cohen often runs his customer service department alone (only employing a few workers during busy seasons) and responds to anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 customer messages per month. So we were amazed to learn that he recently cut response times by 83%. Not only that, but Cohen says he improved customer feedback while also reclaiming more quality time with family. 

So how did he reduce response times so dramatically while spending less time at work? And what’s his advice to other online entrepreneurs? We got the answers to these questions and more in an illuminating interview. Read on to discover the fascinating story behind Fantastic Sports Store, Cohen’s unique-yet-satisfying journey with helpdesk software and a few real-world strategies you can emulate in your own business. 

A Business Closure Leads to Selling Online

Cohen’s “how I got started selling online” story will probably sound familiar and relatable to a great number of sales pros. It all started when his previous company went out of business. With a family to support (Cohen is married with children), he had to figure out a way to keep money coming in, and he had no time to waste.

This was just over 10 years ago, when eBay was THE place to buy and sell products online. Having always been an entrepreneurial type of person who had sold miscellaneous items on eBay in the past, Cohen began brainstorming on what types of products he could begin selling online in the most profitable way. He explains: 

“I just did some research and tried to figure out what was unique. I asked myself: ‘What can I get at a good price and what do I not have a lot of competition for?’ And that’s how I fell into licensed sports products.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Fantastic Sports Store: From Humble Beginnings to $4 Million Annually

From Humble Beginnings to $4 Million Annually - How Fantastic Sports Store Reduced Response Times by 83% - Replyco Helpdesk Software for eCommerce

The main product that Cohen sells through Fantastic Sports Store is fabric by the yard that is officially licensed by colleges. These fabrics, in the styles, colors and logos of your favorite sports teams come in cotton, fleece and flannel varieties. And customers who purchase them can create anything they’d like with the fabric, from blankets and quilts to face masks. 

Cohen started with the launch of CollegeFabricStore.com, and was simply selling inventory out of his basement. Then, as the business started to grow, his children began helping to pick and pack orders. Today, the company is almost 10 years old and Cohen says: 

“Now I’m in 15,000 square feet in Long Island, New York. I have several employees; my kids still work for me on and off. But it’s been a fun ride.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Cohen currently sells items on 4 BigCommerce websites, 1 Shopify site, 2 different Amazon stores, 1 eBay store, Walmart.com and Etsy. He’s also expanded his merchandise to include licensed NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA fabrics and other items in addition to NCAA. His main websites are FantasticSportsStore.com, CollegeFabricStore.com and MyTeamScrubs.com. And as we’ve already mentioned, he’s averaging around $4 million in annual sales. 

“Back then it started just with fabric, and now I have about 3,000 SKUs of fabric and about 7,000 SKUs of other miscellaneous items geared toward the same college fan. I now also carry NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA products.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Discovering the Convenience of Helpdesk Software

Cohen also says that 2020, for unfortunate reasons, was his biggest year to date in terms of sales. That’s because customers were buying his fabrics in droves to make face masks for COVID. But during busy times like these, Fantastic Sports Store, like any other eCommerce shop, gets inundated with customer messages. 

Then, Cohen spotted some chatter on social media that piqued his interest and curiosity. He had joined the Linnworks Facebook group, which is geared towards online sellers who use Linnworks. And while reading posts on the group’s page, he saw where someone asked for “helpdesk software” recommendations. While Cohen had never heard of helpdesk software for eCommerce, he says: 

“9 out of 10 people who commented all recommended Replyco.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Interested in exploring exactly what helpdesk software was and learning more about this company, Cohen visited the Replyco website. And he says he was thrilled to discover that there was a way to consolidate all the messaging from his selling channels and email providers into one single inbox. 

So he quickly booked a demo and received a full product walkthrough. 

Easy Onboarding + Excellent Customer Support

Upon seeing a live demo, Cohen immediately decided to sign up with Replyco. When asked how the onboarding process went, he said, “I got a fantastic account manager, Alex. He walked me through everything step by step. Although I sell on the internet, I’m not the most technologically savvy person. I’m the kind of person who needs to be shown how to do something once and then I’ll grasp it.” 

Cohen went on to say: 

“So I was shown in an hour how to navigate the software. And then within just 2 hours, we were able to integrate every one of my websites, marketplaces and email channels — and I was up and running. I was thrilled and just couldn’t believe it. So, I shared it with my family; I shared it with my employees, like, ‘Look at this!’”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Trying a Different Helpdesk & Returning to Replyco

But as we said, Cohen’s journey with helpdesk software was a unique one. Being as excited as he was about the existence of helpdesk solutions, Cohen was understandably curious about all the different options on the market. 

One day, about 3 weeks after having joined Replyco, he saw another comment online. This time, it was someone recommending eDesk. And even though Cohen reports that, “Replyco was absolutely perfect,” he did wind up switching over shortly to eDesk after having been told by a salesperson for the company that they offered an Etsy integration (NOTE: Replyco is currently working on a full Etsy integration that will be available very soon). 

However, Cohen shares that his brief experience with eDesk was quite negative. He explains: 

“Within 2 weeks of switching over to eDesk, I knew it was absolutely the wrong decision. Although their program worked, there was absolutely no customer support. The account manager did not support my needs. No one was able to fix the glitches that I had. They claimed that the Etsy integration was working. But the Etsy integration was not working. It was just a really, really, really bad experience. So I made the easy decision at that point to switch back to Replyco.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

A Triumphant Return to Replyco

So, Cohen quickly returned to Replyco. And he reports that, once again, onboarding was an absolute breeze and customer support was excellent. His account manager now is Anna, who he says carries on the wonderful tradition of making sure he gets everything he needs, when he needs it. 

“My first account manager was Alex, who was unbelievable. Again, I told him up front that I was someone who was going to need a lot of help. And Alex was there non stop helping me. When Alex wasn’t there, Herman or someone else from the Replyco team was there to take care of my needs. And now my new account manager Anna is beyond good. She’s made life super easy for me and answers me 24/7 and makes sure everything is correct, which is just wonderful.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Upon returning, Cohen says switching back and getting things set up only took a couple of hours just like the first time. He is also happy to report that Etsy is integrated in manually right now, and Replyco is hard at work on a full integration. According to Cohen:

“Once Replyco is up and done, you can kind of set it and forget it and it just works perfectly.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Reducing Response Times, Improving Feedback & Reclaiming Quality Time

Having been a happy Replyco customer for quite some time now, Cohen has had the opportunity to use Replyco’s robust set of features and tools to his (and his company’s) advantage. 

For starters, Cohen says templates are his favorite Replyco feature by far.

“I love the templates. I’ve created about 15 templates so I can just click a button and an automatic template populates and answers the question. Out of 100 emails, 85 of them are asking very similar questions. So now, in 3 seconds, I can just click and send, and that question is answered.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Cohen also enjoys the ability to use custom tags in order to automatically fill in a customer’s first name when replying to them. 

And Replyco’s automation features have been a huge help. He uses auto-responders during after-hours, weekends and other away times to automatically message customers and let them know their query has been received. And he loves having the ability to have messages that he doesn’t need to see (such as system notifications) automatically marked as “read.” Finally, the “Block Customer” feature enables him to block messages from spammers and avoid having any of his time or space wasted by them.

And when it comes to managing his employees, Cohen says he hires the same handful of people each year to help during busy times. With Replyco, when he needs to assign them certain messages (or when they need to assign one back to him), it’s easy to do so. This means he doesn’t have to call, Skype or text the employee to let them know their assistance is needed. As a Replyco user, they can automatically see what’s been assigned to them, and even share internal notes about anything happening with a particular ticket. 

These features all work together to help Cohen develop the most successful and effective approach to his customer service and communications management. He says he has not only reduced response times by a stunning 83% thanks to Replyco, but that he’s also seen improvement in customer feedback and has been able to spend more time with his family. 

“Response time went from an average of 6 hours to an average of under 1 hour, which is just phenomenal. And I would say that I’m getting more positive feedback now than ever before on all of my selling channels. Replyco has also given me a lot more time with my family and a lot less stress. It’s been a game changer.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

Ira Cohen’s Final Advice for eCommerce Sellers

Ira Cohen - Fantastic Sports Store Owner / Founder - How Fantastic Sports Store Reduced Response Times by 83% - Replyco Helpdesk Software for eCommerce

When asked if he would recommend Replyco to others, Cohen answered with: 

“I already have. And I will continue to do so. Again, I’ve worked in this industry for 9 years and had no idea that helpdesk software even existed. For a low monthly payment, you can have something that funnels all of your customer service into one place. You can click and go directly to the channel. You can click and track a package. It’s just amazing. Replyco is really one of the best things that have happened to me in several years.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

And on his final pieces of advice for other online sellers, he says: 

“For eCommerce sellers, it’s all about finding the right product and being great with your customers. Don’t over-promise. Instead, you need to over-deliver. And then you’ll get repeat customers. Also remember, unfortunately things do sometimes go wrong with orders. Just be sure to fix it as soon as you can. This way, your customers know that if something is wrong, you’re going to make it right.”
– Ira Cohen, Fantastic Sports Owner / Founder

To browse Cohen’s wide range of product offerings, check out his main website at Fantastic Sports Store (you can also view two of his other sites from there: College Fabric Store and My Team Scrubs). 

Ready to save time on your own customer messaging, reclaim your personal time and receive the same full-service onboarding and customer support that Cohen did?

Start your 7-day free trial with Replyco today! There’s no credit card required, so giving us a try is truly risk free. 

Or book a live demo to learn more about how Replyco works. 

Happy selling!

Sheena Ingle - Content Writer for Replyco eCommerce

About the author: Sheena Ingle

Sheena Ingle is a copywriter and marketer with more than 10 years of experience. She studied communications at Southern New Hampshire University and specializes in educating consumers in the eCommerce, technology, customer service and SaaS industries. Sheena's work has been published in major outlets such as USA Today and LIVESTRONG.com, and she truly enjoys helping SMBs and online sellers achieve their goals.

To inquire about guest blog posting and other media opportunities, contact Sheena at sheena@replyco.com. You can also follow her on LinkedIn.

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