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The Great Re-engagement

How Schwan’s Home Delivery retains its human connections during a digital transformation

The right tools and people make all the difference.

Schwan’s Home Delivery brings high-quality frozen foods to millions of people daily, and personalized experiences have been at the heart of the brand’s success. But as demand continues to rise and customer preferences become increasingly digital, the company is embracing more digital tools to better deliver seamless experiences – without sacrificing human connection along the way. 
Here Karalyn Sartor, director of consumer care at Schwan’s Home Delivery, discusses how the company is retaining the personal connections it’s so well-known for, even amid a digital transformation. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Customer Strategist: Why is customer experience so important?

Karalyn Sartor: We are a family-owned company that takes great pride in delivering not only high-quality food, but that personalized connection to our customers' doorstep. 
I am lucky; I have the pleasure of seeing the compliments from our customers, and they share positive things about their experiences – at their door, and also over phone and chat too. We so value that.
But we also learn when things go wrong, because things do go wrong and that allows us to adjust the root cause. And I think that's really important to keeping the customers' trust; listening to our customers and following up with our customers, not only when things go well but also when things go wrong so that they have that trust in our brand, in our food, in our relationships.
We want our customers to view us as a trusted neighbor – that we're going to treat every customer, every team member, with care and appreciation, and that we're going to fix (any problem). We're going to fix it in the moment. That means we listen, resolve, and we're there. The customer really feels we're there to lend a helping hand to them. 
We want to create enjoyable experiences. That means showing that we know our customers, and that helps make sure that every interaction, even if it's a problem, can be easy to resolve, enjoyable, and full of goodness. Whether it's about placing their order or resolving an issue, we're focused on making that interaction as easy for the customer as possible.
CS: So much of Schwan’s Home Delivery centers on personal interactions. How is the digital transformation process going?

KS:: It starts with listening to our customers and just being aware. Because we value those personal relationships between our people and our customers. 
By changing and using digital tools, it’s just a way to enhance that relationship. Our customers expect us to change as the world around us changes, and we want to really make sure that we are connecting with our customers in a way that works for them.
One of the key pieces is making sure that everyone in our company understands the vision, what it means for our customers, and how we're getting to our vision. By sharing the roadmap, we’re helping all of our team members understand “why” when we make a change and what their role is in making that change successful. If it's only about implementing a technology or some tactical piece, it's not meaningful. It doesn't build on that relationship. 
It's also important to realize this isn't a once-and-done action. We have it really embedded in how we do our work, we're talking about it in our meetings and as we work with our customers. We're rewarding (employees) for keeping that personal connection, even though the way that we may make that connection might be different.
Our employees are very committed to their customers. And we're trying to just fill their sack up with all sorts of tools that enhance and make it easier to have that experience.
CS: What digital tools are you using?

KS: When we communicate with our customers, we really want to try to make that as personable as possible and have it connected. Our customers do love connecting with their delivery person at the door, but they also can hear about specials or new products from email, text, our app or 
Whether it's a digital tool or a person, the customer feels like the message is tailored for them and helps them feel connected to how Schwan's Home Delivery can help them with what they're trying to achieve. [Our digital tools] keep evolving, and we keep looking. We're doing some tests around what we would call a “digital door knock,” where we're able to connect with the customer about their next delivery and they can respond back.
CS: How is TTEC helping during this process?

KS: We partner with TTEC to handle our phone and chat messaging. Some of it is done internally, and some with TTEC. 
From the start, our TTEC team understood the importance of the customer experience and knows we really, really value when they share their ideas with us on how to make the experience better. And that two-way conversation has really helped us find when we find, “Oh, that didn't work quite as expected. Now we can make it better.” We've always been really focused on that customer experience, including measuring it. You measure what matters. 
CS: What advice would you give brands considering a similar journey, striving to maintain human connection amid digital transformation?

KS: We need to just always remember not to let perfection get in the way of progress. There may be a bump or two along the road, but the customers count on us to evolve. And if we worry about getting it perfect, we may not be able to get it to our customers quickly enough. Progress over perfection is something that I truly believe in, and working from that customer backwards about what we need to do has really helped us.
And I've learned that accepting feedback graciously is so important. Feedback is a gift that makes us stronger. And so really hearing that feedback – be it a compliment, but even more so when we can do things differently or there's a question on something – really strengthens the relationships, from our customers to our field team to our teams serving the customer through consumer care.
Remember that progress is really what counts. Schwan's Home Delivery has pioneered new possibilities in food delivery and we’ve have done that with an independent spirit and dedication to reinvention. Having that as part of who we are allows us to know that we keep re-inventing and we’ll learn as we go along the way and adjust. That can give confidence to make that change.