Great CX on a budget 💰

Hi CX Gurus,

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It’s been a good week.

The weather is a perfect 69 degrees, leaves are falling, PSL is pouring, and we’ve already started seeing the “no tricks, just treats” email subject lines.

‘Tis the szn. 🎃 👻

Cuddled up in a corner writing this week’s newsie.

Topic: Great CX on a tiny budget 💰

Before we dive in, huge thank you 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.

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.

Okay, let’s do it.

For those that have been following along for a bit, I talk loads about surprise and delight, investing in great experiences, and consistently putting the customer first.

Almost every consulting call I do revolves around a simple question: is there a way to do this without spending a ton of cash?

Pull up a chair, let’s talk about it.

  1. Zappos and Chewy vs. Mom & Pop shop

  2. Small budget and big heart

  3. Tactical and practical

1. Zappos and Chewy vs. Mom and Pop shop:

You can’t mention the words “Customer Experience” without someone telling you a Zappos story, or mentioning the viral linkedin post about Chewy sending gifts to folks who’ve lost a pet.

Tony Hsieh certainly built Zappos on an idea that CX is enough of a brand differentiator to pull substantial market share, but Zappos spends a ton of cash on their CX. Chewy has hundreds of folks manually writing cards from their Florida office, and they are a publicly traded company. (Ex-Chewy people even go on to head wildly successful companies like Gamestop, but I digress.)

“But Eli, that’s expensive asf. How can our small business put the customer first and create these moments without raising millions?”.

When thinking about creating great customer experiences, the #1 commandment is “break the script” and do the unexpected.

Theoretically, that costs $0.00.

The more process and workflows you set up, the more difficult it becomes to give your team the ability to do something out of the ordinary and break the script. Zappos and Chewy are some of the only large corporations doing fantastic work here because it’s in their DNA and they never cease to invest in and educate around it.

Most SMB’s are focused purely on cash and growth and view CX as a cost center. They’d rather focus on the cheapest way to solve customer problems like outsourcing CX and leveraging shipping insurance, instead of thinking about the ways to use it as a brand-building tool.

Just to get your gears turning, consider this. As a small team, most founders are looking at every single complaint that comes in and every customer question that is asked. What if, instead of setting up a million automations, founders or small CX teams took 30 minutes a day to authentically engage with their customers and community?

2. Small budget and big heart:

If you’ve been on Linkedin at all this week, you’ve surely seen the Allbirds saga, but if you haven’t, take a peek.

A customer orders a pair of $120 shoes. Dog eats shoes the day after it arrives. Allbirds allows customer to return shoes. Story goes viral.

Perspective: The replacement shoes probably cost Allbirds $20 and they earned media value of hundreds of thousands from this story going mega-viral.

TBH, I’m shocked they even asked for the shoe back…?

Lesson here: It does not take much to blow the mind of today’s customer. Bad CX is way more prevalent than good CX, and, as I do not stop saying around here, the bar is lower than ever.

Putting the ROI on the side for a second, Allbirds is all over the timeline for a single thing; they broke the script. They went above and beyond what would generally be “expected.”

Now, obviously the service recovery paradox is real as hell, but it does not necessarily have to be righting wrongs. It can also be taking some time to genuinely engage with your customers, no strings attached.

Huron, one of my favorite men’s personal care brands, does this incredibly well. Matt (CEO) takes some time each week to hop into their gorgias inbox and reach out to customers who recently placed their first order and does his best to connect with them on their local weather, sports team etc.

In the words of Matt:

“The opportunity to humanize your brand costs $0. Sure, it takes time. But developing a true connection with your customers will increase your odds of winning on the margin.

We scan CX tickets and assign to team members where there might be a connection point. Everyone on the team is involved. If you want to be a ‘customer-first’ brand, then you have to practice what you preach.”

When I think about smaller brands putting the customer first, it’s pretty straightforward. Workflows, tactics, and strategies are always great, but that should never come before doing what you feel is right.

Being a person is first and foremost. Humans buy from other humans, not AI chatbots with SuPeR sPeEdY response times.

3. Tactical and practical:

Most people here know me from my time at OLIPOP and JRB, but I started my career as a one-person CX team at a luggage brand 2 years late on delivering a kickstarter product. I then spent some time at Simulate as their only CX associate, answering thousands of tickets a week.

I struggled to get through the hundreds of emails a day coming through our gmail inbox. (I wish I had the macros and automations Gorgias offers, it would have saved me lots of anxiety.) Here are some steps I took to put a strong focus on CX, even with no budget and a team of one:

1. Listen and empathize:This sounds like a no-brainer, but allow me to explain. At the luggage startup, we took funds from thousands of people on Kickstarter and used that towards production, so we were unable to refund folks who waited a long while for their orders. I needed to get creative on de-escalation of furious folks who were fed up with the delay and wanted a refund.

I learned this. Most folks want to be listened to, understood, and validated.

Think through the last 3 frustrating interactions you have had with customer support. It’s almost always you arguing back and forth and not quite getting an apology or being understood.

An apology does not mean a refund or replacement, it can mean you deeply feeling for the frustration of the customer and getting creative to find a resolution that works for everyone.

Most customers understand that small startups might not have the budget of the heavyweights, but hey, empathizing is free.

2. Use canned responses, but always add a personal touch:Especially with a tiny team, macros and automations are key to keeping up. Leveraging tools like Gorgias to get through tickets quickly is key, but I’d always leave some space to add a personal touch on tickets. It can be as simple as spelling out their name and highlighting a recent product they purchased.

3. Be open to doing things differently:When your CX team is lean and mean, the biggest buzzkill is pushing too hard on process. If you are a one-person show, it’s a great opportunity to break the script and do things differently. Of all the folks I talk to on Mentorpass, the smallest startups are always the most inspiring when it comes to the cool stuff they do. Handwritten cards, personalized outreach, breaking protocol to overnight a package etc. take advantage of the lack of corporate red tape.

4. Consistently audit your own “brand experience”:As a small brand, you often won’t have customers calling out every weird issue you have. Auditing your own brand experience by going through your entire customer journey is important. I advise doing this quarterly, twice a year at minimum.

That’s it for this week!

Any topics you’d love to see me cover? Drop a reply!

Appreciate you more than you know,

Eli 💛

For this week’s CX Chronicles, I’m chatting with Elizabeth Sochko, Senior Director of CX and Ops at Baboon to the Moon!

Elizabeth and I connected in the CX Friends Discord, and she’s been such an amazing part of our CX community.

Thrilled you are here, Elizabeth!

What is your CX Philosophy?

I think CX should be supremely kind and unfussy. Our brand can be pretty irreverent, but at our core we really care about people living their lives and hope that we’re part of—or inspire some of—their adventures. When someone reaches out for support, I want them to feel more valued, more excited, or more informed than they did before. And then get on with their life!

This might be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think having overly generous policies equates to good CX, though it doesn’t hurt. It’s more important to listen well and show someone that there’s a person on the other side who really hears them and wants to help. Empathy is everything.

Working in CX, when you’re so familiar with the behind-the-scenes (policies, logistics, product, tech, etc.), it’s easy to fall into a mindset that someone just doesn’t understand how something really works. I try to remind myself that I don’t know everything. I don’t know what someone’s day has been like or what challenges they might be going through (which are, I’m gonna guess, probably much bigger than a Fannypack lost in the mail). You have to give the benefit of the doubt and keep your perspectives and assumptions in check.

Your favorite Baboon to the Moon CX story?

We drop limited-run collections every few months and once they’re gone, they’re gone. It can be disappointing for someone to learn that we sold their favorite-color-ever last year and it’s no longer available. One of my favorite things is when someone reaches out asking if we’d ever make [x color] and we have one coming soon. We’ll tag customers and follow up on launch day with the good news— people get so excited that we remembered them.

Two very recent examples: Someone emailed us with the subject line “Seeking Fluorescent Yellow Backpack!” before we launched our Sub Marine collection which includes… a fluorescent yellow! Another person responded to a post-purchase email sharing they’re a fish biologist and excited to take their Go-Bag to work on boats. We reached out to both of them once the Sub Marine collection was live. Super fun, simple way to build connections when someone isn’t expecting it.

On a different note— our TikTok Manager, Sarah, recently did a series of mean videos calling out “dumb” questions in our comments. Very on brand for our TikTok (and lovingly received!), but might physically hurt some people who are subscribed to this newsletter.

Brought to you by Gorgias