Gut, or Strict Policy? 🫣

Hey Friends,  

It’s been a week. We launched Mini Miracle Balms at Jones Road as a holiday exclusive, and while we ordered enough to last us through Cyber Monday and then some, they sold out within 36 hours. 🥵

More on our BFCM in a future newsie, and Cody and I will definitely chat about it on Down To Chat.

Before we kick off, I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate CX and Retention teams around the globe that have been SLAYING over the last few weeks prepping for the “Superbowl of DTC”, and will now be cleaning up the mess until the end of the year.

Absolute superstars.

Lastly, Cody and I just dropped episode 4 of Down To Chat. We chatted about DTC vs Retail and Billion Dollar Biz Ideas.

Check it out here: Apple | Spotify 

‘Tis the season for sales, extended sales, final offers, and “oops, I hope my boss doesn’t catch me” emails.

It’s the time of year when we see all of the hacks get whipped out–anything to get another email opened and push another sale.

Do you know what we see a lot less of?

Prioritization of Customer Experience to unlock strong LTV and word of mouth. 

Largest case in point: putting your customers before your fine print. 

What are you talking about, Eli?Let's get into it, I'll explain. 

  1. Policy vs. going with your gut 

  2. How "policy first" pans out:

  3. The perfect medium (IMHO)

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1. Policy vs. Going with your Gut:  

With my wife’s birthday coming up in January, Black Friday/Cyber Monday is a great time to snag a deal on something bougie that I’ve had my eye on for a while.

I have been looking at these boots for the longest time and waiting for them to go on sale for BF. A day before BF, I saw them for close to 50% off the ticket price from a massive well-known luxury retailer, so I grabbed a pair. 

Fast forward 12 hours later, said retailer bumps them down an additional 15%. I reached out to see if they would match the discounted price, and here was their response. 

For context, I’ve spent close to 2k and made multiple purchases over my lifetime with this retailer. I would consider myself a VIP customer. 

I replied, “in that case, would it be easier if I just return it and re-purchase again with the new discount?” 

They responded, “yes, that works.”

Long story short, I ended up returning the boot and purchasing it at Shopbop for the same BF discounted price, and when it went on sale AGAIN a few days later, they adjusted my price without hesitation. 

When I shared this sentiment on Twitter, I was immediately inundated with replies and DM’s.

The gist of it:CEO/Ops folks: “Policy is policy, you suck”

CX folks: “They should have looked at your history and made an exception”

One of my fav operators in the fashion DTC universe, Nate Poulin, came through with a balanced tone. 

Nate, a skilled operator that’s worked at brands like Bonobos, Outdoor Voices, Monica + Andy, and Feat Clothing, has a good point regarding the cost of these generous policies.

This is why many brands go at this with a very “policy-heavy” approach.

They draw a fine line in the sand on whether they should honor these discounts for orders placed before the discount.

Then the CX team carries out those rules. 

If you have ever engaged with smaller DTC/CPG brands, you’ll see that outside of the Zappos and Chewy’s of the world, so many of the non-outsourced CX teams do an amazing job looking at these instances case-by-case. 

How do CX teams at some brands go with their gut, and why does it fail to work at much larger brands?

2. How "policy first" pans out:

From a macro perspective, if a very large brand forgoes refunding thousands of price-match requests from the days before their sales go live, they are potentially saving millions on their P&L.

What’s more?  The person creating those policies is usually super senior, and they get a big old bonus + brownie points when refund numbers go down.

The loss on LTV or churned customers? 

That’s someone else’s problem.

But let’s pause for a second and play out the scenario:

11/24: 69,000 orders at full price11/25: 30% discount goes live

2,000 customers reach out asking for the discount to be matched because you forgot to exclude recent purchasers from your new sale campaign.

You create a policy that’s firm: NO REFUNDS.

Let’s face it. Some of these folks will shrug and say, “oh well, I gave it a shot.”

Others will say, “I’ll return it and buy it again at the discounted price.”

The final group will say, “I hate the experience & I will never purchase from them again”.

Your "one-policy-for-all" saved you some money, created some passives, and then lost some folks for good.

Still a win on today’s P&L, though. 🍿

3. The perfect medium (IMHO):

When thinking through this debacle, I jotted these replies while pacing my living room with Noah hanging onto me for dear life.

When teams get large, brands focus on two things:

  1. Outsourcing CX to scale efficiently

  2. Creating a rigid playbook

While it makes sense, I'm asking myself two entirely different questions at JRB. 

  1. How can we deliver fantastic experiences at scale?

  2. How can we lean on gut and use policy as a railing, not a guiding principle?

So much of this boils down to understanding your customer sentiment and reading between the lines, something that only superstars armed with superpowers do well. 

The perfect medium: going with the gut and leaning on the policy rails. 

For example, price-matching is a tool the same way discounting or fully refunding is. 

When used correctly, these tools can turn someone into a forever fan.

I’ve had two instances with ShopBop over the last year, and both times, they overruled “policy” and went above and beyond. I put them on a pedestal and certainly choose them over others. 

47 people can reach out with the same concern, but depending on their tone, order history, etc, the response and resolution can (and should) be entirely different. 

Create baseline policies, but arm your emotionally-intelligent team with the ability to slide both ways when necessary. 

Read between the lines, and make sure you do what it takes to turn potential superfans into lifelong fans, but don’t let go of your margins to refund folks you’ll never see again regardless. 

That’s it for this week! 

Any topics you’d love to see me cover?

Drop a reply!

Until next time,

Eli 💛

For this week’s CX Chronicles, I’m joined by the fantastic Zoe Rotberg, Customer Success Manager at Uqora, a brand focusing on proactive urinary tract health!

Zoe is a part of our CX Friends discord, a flourishing community of CX and CX-adjacent superstars. Thanks for joining, Zoe!

What is your CX philosophy?

The people matter. The people doing the work matter. The people your people are talking to matter. Everyone talks about taking care of the geese that lay the golden eggs; I believe in that when it comes to CX wholeheartedly. 

Our customer interactions at Uqora are really near and dear to our hearts because we're talking to people whose lives are changing with our products. Our customers often say they can get back to living their lives again with the help of our products, and we take that extremely seriously. They entrust us with their lives, and we don't take that lightly.

Given the impactful & direct relationship that we build with our customers, ensuring the well-being of the CX team is a huge priority for me. At the end of the day, we're humans helping other humans, and making sure that the team is taking care of themselves both while they're "online" and "offline" is super important so they can help our customers directly. 

Enabling them with the resources and tools necessary to excel in their work ensures that they can lead the charge when change needs to happen for our customers. 

We know that oftentimes, CX is the only team at a company hearing actual words from customers, so empowering the CX team to speak out on behalf of our customers to the larger has created an environment where everyone knows they are heard, seen, and valued.

What is your favorite Uqora CX story?

We have a near and dear customer who has been with us almost since the beginning - I'll call her Cheryl. Her sister heard an ad for us on Pandora and told her to look it up and give it a shot. 

Cheryl was hesitant and wanted more info, so she sent an email in with questions and ended up getting on the phone with one of our co-founders, Jenna. This initial conversation led to a long-standing friendship and one of the most inspirational customer stories we have to this day. Cheryl kept in constant contact with each person on the Uqora team once she engaged with them & she soon simply became a friend to everyone here. 

Fast forward a few years, we held a local customer happy hour at our San Diego office to meet some of our customers and get their thoughts on a few new ideas we had in the works. As we're prepping for the event, in walks everyone's favorite customer, Cheryl. A surprise to all of us as Cheryl lives in New Jersey! 

Cheryl was there to meet us all, talk about urinary health, get to know us, and introduce us to her husband, whom we had all heard about through our amazing conversations. It was a real full-circle moment for us to meet one of our most famous customers and hear about how the products have impacted her life right before us. To this day, our CX team fights for who gets to reply to Cheryl's emails!