Friday, January 8, 2010

Bespoke Customer Service

I love great customer service. There's nothing better as a customer than receiving great customer service from a company you're dealing with. And in different work roles, from working on the counter at McDonalds during High School, to working in advertising sales at Google, I've always enjoyed giving great customer service too.

A key part of our marketing strategy for Shoes of Prey is to encourage word of mouth. It's one of the reasons we chose custom made women's shoes as a product, and we think offering high quality, bespoke customer service fits nicely with our brand. So how do we plan to offer great customer service?

1. Making all our communications super personalised - I enjoy meeting new people and speaking with Shoes of Prey customers is great for doing that, so I tend to make the emails quite chatty and personal. We use Gmail for our emails which is great as it keeps conversations with a customer in one email thread, so it's easy to see what I've discussed with the customer previously. I also use Google Calendar to remind myself when to contact a customer in the future - if a customer has ordered shoes for their 30th birthday party it's nice to email the customer after the party to see how it went.

2. Quick, tailored responses to emails - We aim to reply to all our customer's emails within 24 hours, and during the day we usually reply within a couple of hours at most.

3. Calling customers - If a customer has a question that is going to require some back and forth between the customer and I, or they have a difficult question, I prefer to call them up and speak over the phone. Customers seem to really appreciate this.

4. Online chat - When Mike or I are on our computers (which is more often than not) we man the Shoes of Prey website chat which allows customers on the website to chat with us. Aside from allowing customers to get immediate responses to their questions it's been great for getting feedback on how to improve our business. On Wednesday I was chatting to a customer who ended up purchasing shoes. She emailed me after her purchase to say our chat is what tipped her over the edge to purchase. She's since emailed to say she's a producer of TV news shows in the US and we're going to have a chat about PR opportunities = customer service success story!

5. Personalised packaging - When we send customers their shoes we include a photo of their shoes with double sided tape on the back so they can attach the photo to their shoe box and see which shoes are inside. Vanessa writes a tailored, hand written letter introducing the customer to their shoes. And we include a few different types of shoe inserts in case the fit isn't exactly right. Customers seem to appreciate this. :)

6. Going above and beyond - a customer recently ordered a pair of shoes that she wanted to wear a week after ordering them. Unfortunately we can't make the shoes that quickly, however her order was exactly the same as a pair of shoes we had made for our Sydney Fashion Weekend display, so we loaned those shoes to her while hers were being made. We asked if she would mind taping the soles of the shoes to protect them and taking care of the shoes which she did. So we have a very happy customer and a pair of display shoes still in perfect condition. :)

I love reading about great customer service stories and I think this one from Zappos takes the cake.

What are your favourite customer service stories? If you offer great customer service in your work how do you do it? Any suggestions for us?


  1. Very nice post, wish you guys all the best. It reminded me also of this story of CDBaby:
    "CD Baby and a shrink-wrapped surprise"

  2. Haha, that's an awesome story. Well done CD Baby!

  3. Great post Michael.....we both worked at google so let me ask you will you scale when you have hundreds of chats and e mails.....? Etienne

  4. Hi Etienne, a very good question! My take is that the Google approach to scaling advertising customer service is different to how we need to approach it. Google is in the enviable position of having strong market position in search advertising. They're still competing with lots of other media options, but search marketing is very effective and how Google provides their customer service doesn't have a huge impact on the success of their product.

    We're in a very different situation. We have tiny market share and are operating in a market, shoe retail, with thousands of players. Customer service in the industry isn't brilliant so it's an area we have an opportunity to differentiate. And it seems to have a strong impact on our sales. One of our big barriers to sales is trust as we are a new company with a new product - custom designed shoes. Great customer service helps build trust with our customers.

    So while we need to take some of the lessons learnt at Google around making customer service processes efficient - like building good tools we can use, I don't think we can, or should be thinking of scaling in the way Google has. Things like automated responses and the use of canned responses are out for us. As our sales increase we're going to have to hire great customer service people, our approach here will need to be more along the line of Zappo's than Google I think.