The CX Middle Ground: Balancing Efficiency and Empathy

Hi CX Friends!

I’d love to start with a huge thank you to those who made it out to the IRL CX roundtable in NYC last week.

It was a blast meeting you all and talking shop. Thanks for coming out!

In other news, Cody and I dropped our most recent episode of Down To Chat–a conversation with the legendary social strategist and consultant Kendall Dickieson.

Kendall is the brains behind many brands you know and love in this space, such as Graza, Canopy, and so many more!

Check it out here.

At the roundtable this week, I chatted with quite a few founders and operators, and these two questions kept coming up:

1. When do I hire my first CX’er?
2. Should I think differently about the CX function at $100k in revenue vs. $1m vs. $10M vs. $100m?

These are both great questions worth taking a few minutes to chat about.

  • Hiring: The Right Time to Bring On Your First Customer Experience Hire

  • Scaling: How to Approach Customer Experience at Different Revenue Stages

Before we dive in, a huge shout to Gorgias, our sponsor for this week’s newsie.

Gorgias is my CX helpdesk of choice and what I’ve used at both OLIPOP and JRB. If you have been here for a bit, you know how much I love Gorgias and why I think it’s an absolute must-have for any Shopify business. More on my fav Gorgias use cases here.

I’ve seen brands at all revenue stages use and love Gorgias, and I highly recommend you check it out.

It’s our one-stop-shop for all things customer. If you have any questions about how we use Gorgias or why we chose Gorgias, feel free to email me anytime.

Hiring: The Right Time to Bring On Your First Customer Experience Hire

I’ve seen two kinds of founder attitudes when it comes to CX.

1. The Efficiency Kings and Queens:

They consistently tweet about how ChatGPT saves them hundreds of hours a week. They OBSESS about efficiency and love talking about “$10 an hour vs. $100 vs. $1000 an hour work.”

They are consumed by their “new-age” beverage brand that’s “revolutionizing energy,” and they spent two years on R&D before raising a thiccc round of capital.

Launch day is a national holiday, and they share their kind pieces of customer feedback in inspirational LinkedIn posts.

As soon as they get more than five customer emails a day, they take it to the interwebs to find an outsourcing agency that can help them “buy back their time to focus on the important things.”

Before you know it, CX has been outsourced before they even hit 5k in monthly revenue, and we won’t even talk about profitability.

2. The “My Customer is the Most Important Thing” founders:

These founders always have “Delivering Happiness” and “Setting the Table” on their desks. They have a sign on the wall that says, “There’s No Business Without Customers.”

They end meetings with quotes like: “Our customers aren’t just numbers on a balance sheet but real people with real needs. We've already won if we can make their day a little brighter."

Ironically, they usually sell SaaS at a blood-sucking price that doesn’t do much for the greater universe but just gets them closer to a nine-figure exit and retirement in Puerto Rico.

They spend multiple hours daily talking to customers while their product, team, operations, and morale slowly decline.

Ugh, these both sound oddly specific. Promise I’ve got no one in particular in mind.

The point I am getting here is simple.

There is a middle ground that most founders don’t find.

At the beginning of your venture, you must spend time as close to the customer as possible.

Keeping the feedback loop as tight as you can gives the flexibility to iterate based on feedback, and being an early-stage startup, you have the malleability to do so.

Here’s my non-negotiable rule for founders. I call it “The 30-Minute Rule.”

Take 30 minutes a day to talk to customers and resolve customer issues. If it takes more than that to get through your daily tickets and inquiries, you need to start hunting for help.

Like every rule, there are exceptions, but this is the gist of it.

Pro tip:

When you do decide to hire, here’s what I recommend.

It’s hard to find incredible CX hires excited about working at a brand with a small budget unless you are changing the world, and most early brands are not looking to pay large salaries.

Instead of finding a very junior employee and hiring them full-time to fit into your SMB budget, do this:

Find an experienced CX person that works full-time at a brand you love.

Ask them if they’d be down to put in a few hours to help your brand and pay them a fair hourly rate.

It will be far more affordable and much better quality.

The best CX’ers will get a ton done while keeping quality high. They won’t need handholding or excessive training.

P.S. If you want to get in front of hundreds of great CX’ers, I am always happy to pass along a JD to our CX discord of ~800 CX operators.

Scaling: How to Approach Customer Experience at Different Revenue Stages

A few months back, I had Sean Frank, CEO of The Ridge, on the podcast.

We chatted about the evolution of CX as brands grow, and I loved how he framed it.

The conversation we had inspired some of the following:

$0 - $10M Annual Revenue:

Early on, you are a small lean team trying to maximize conversations, cultivate superfans, and create special customer moments.

As a small shop, you take the time to learn about customers and leverage the learnings to iterate quickly as you scale.

A great example is Huron, where Matt reached out to tens of customers weekly with a personal message based on where they were from and what they ordered.

$10M - $50M Annual Revenue:

As you advance above ten million, efficiency is more critical than ever. You need to minimize tickets and gain efficiency.

This is when your team goes from a lean CX team of two or three folks to a larger squad. Hiring for culture is important as ever when you grow the team this rapidly.

You need to be looking for folks who help create a safe, exciting, and rewarding workplace.

  • Focus on culture adders, not subtractors.

  • Create a team that pulls one another up, not puts folks down.

  • Cultivate a space where wins are shared publicly and losses privately.

  • Bring in as much kindness and empathy to the CX team as you could; you’ll need it.

Focus on the quality of work and their addition to culture. Everything else is noise.

From my experience, this is the hardest growth spurt. You go from obsession over every detail to a relentless focus on scaling efficiently.

You lean on macros and automation and look to “cut corners” while still delivering the same magic you did early on.

$50M - $100M Annual Revenue:

As you get closer to 50-100 million plus, you are again looking to increase conversations and learn more from customers.

Companies of this size start thinking about doing everything they did when they were tiny, but instead, doing it at scale this time.

Chewy writing handwritten cards is an extreme example of brands creating a surprise and delight program that is more mainstream and scalable.

So many brands stay in the “efficiency lane” when nearing nine figures and forget where they started.

Take the magic you had on day one; now is your chance to do it at scale.

Any topics you'd like to see me cover in the future?

Just shoot me a DM or an email!

See you next week,

Eli 💛