Is Customer Service Dead?

You can get your groceries delivered to your door with the click of a button. You can shop hundreds of styles of clothes in less than a minute. You can connect with your friend visiting a town on the other side of the globe in an instant. All of this is possible behind a screen. With that, actual physical interaction with someone is slipping away. With the limited physical touches and conversations going on – has customer service taken a hit? When’s the last time a company went above and beyond for you?

The art of customer service

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
– Walt Disney

Funny how one of the most valued commodities – if not the most – nowadays is time. You do whatever you can to save nanoseconds. You’d think businesses would see this and increase employees or response times to potential customers. However, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone with enough knowledge to actually answer the questions you need to be answered – whether it’s in-store or online.

In order to make your business stand out – try doing one step more. If you can answer one question – see if you can elaborate and suggest something more. My dad is amazing at this. He’s an upholsterer and every time he’s on a sales call – he always gets asked about the type / colour of the fabric his potential client should use. He answers the question by giving a few options and then BANG! He mentions pillows, and how a contrasting colour will make everything pop. It’s the classic up-sell, but it’s so much more than that. It’s providing value, suggesting something the potential client didn’t even think about, and increasing his profits at the same time.

Customer service quote

What can you do to add that extra touch?

My wife and I’s online shop – EverRose.com is similar. We try to add personal touches everywhere to ensure our fans know we care about them. After all, without them we wouldn’t be in business. My wife writes personal notes to each and every fan who orders. We also take it one step further than most online clothing stores by measuring each piece of clothing. This gives a comprehensive outline on whether or not it’s going to fit you. It’s all about taking it one-step further. It’s a pain in the ass on our end, but the end result is SALES. Plus, our fans love it. How do we know – they tell us in reviews and in personal emails they send us.

This is what makes your business a brand. It makes the person on the other end (customer) feel something for you, and your product / service.

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking ad.”
– James C. Penney, Founder, J.C. Penney

You want to know how to limit your advertising spend? Make your experience so memorable to a customer they’ll have no choice, but to recommend you to their friends and family. If that’s not enough – encourage them to do so by following up with requests for reviews (my wife and I do this for every sale by sending a personalized email to each fan). Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising, and nothing creates more word-of-mouth than outstanding customer service.

It’s not that hard

With the majority of corporations pulling back on their customer service channels, and personnel it’s very easy to stand out. Even being present and engaging in conversation with your potential customer can put you over the top. At the very least give the customer what you’d expect to receive from a company. Then try and out do yourself. Make a suggestion above and beyond the question asked of you. Personalize everything. Respond as quickly as you can, and as honestly as you can.

A few of these will go along way in your customers mind, and will ensure success down the road.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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You’ve launched an online business – How do you get your first sale?

The advantage of a bricks-and-mortar location is foot traffic. That’s why you pay a premium for real estate. In the online world – web traffic is difficult to come by. And don’t bother going down the rabbit hole of trying to trick Google or search sites into sending traffic your way. It just won’t work when you’re starting out. ‘Build it, and they will come’ just doesn’t work online, and it rarely works in bricks-and-mortar locations unless you’re in a small town.

If you’re launching online, and you don’t have a following already. That’s a problem. You need to go back to the start, and focus on what I wrote about here. It’s so important to research, and test your assumptions BEFORE you launch. My wife, and I went straight to our family and friends when it came to the research. We sent numerous surveys (using Survey Monkey) to friends and family to gauge interest, and price points for certain objects we were interested in carrying for our online dress shop (Ever Rose). It also helped having this blog, but YOU don’t need a blog to get feedback from friends and family.

The First Sale

Ramit Sethi always preaches getting your first sale as it’s the most challenging one to get. If you don’t know Ramit – check him out here. I’ve learned a ton from him.

Then after you get your first sale you can optimize that, and scale. Your first sale will most likely come from a friend or family member, and that’s okay. It’s what you do after that first sale that counts. Yes, my wife and I posted on our social media pages, and our first fan liked, retweeted, etc…That’s another bonus by having a friend or family member purchase your first item, they’re more willing to share with their friends through their social channels. This is how you can build organically.

On top of that, you should reward your first few customers with incentives to review your products, and share your online store to their friends (stay tuned Kate – you’ll be receiving a gift from us soon!). Kate was our first fan, and she will be rewarded with not only a dress that’s going to look amazing on her, but also with future incentives.

Ever Rose Order Payment, Shopify

First sale!

Building organically

This is how you create a following without spending too much on marketing, and customer acquisition costs out of the gate. You also can figure out your processes to see if they’re working as effectively as you thought. Then you start turning the crank encouraging your first few customers to come back (through incentives / customer service), and share with their friends. All this from simply involving friends, and family in the process from the beginning. Then you can start hammering out the marketing. More on that to come.

Things to watch for

It took less than 12-hours for my wife and I to get our first sale. It may be different for you, and that’s okay, but if you build a strong following through family and friends from the beginning you will see a quicker return. And that’s why I write this. I want to give you some insight into launching your own store as it’s very humbling, and time consuming up front. At the same time – when you make that first sale – it’s exhilarating. It’s also frightening because then you’re like, “Now what?” You actually have to fulfill this order, and sometimes things pop up that are unexpected.

With any online store shipping is a HUGE expense. My wife and I didn’t realize how much of an expense until we got our first order. Having said that, you have to understand there is always going to be costs associated with business whether you like it or not. You have to spend money to make it, and we now have a firm grasp on what our shipping entails, and we will continue to tweak it as much as possible to ensure we’re not adding costs to our fans. We’re trying to make it as affordable as possible. There are some brands who have beautiful packaging, and boxes, and displays when they ship. And that’s okay. You can do that too, but you have to realize someone has to pay for these costs, and usually it’s the consumer. My wife and I are trying to be as affordable as possible while maintaining a solid service, and experience aka we’re trying to limit the costs we pass on to the customer.

At the end of the day – it’s all about your customers (aka fans), and whatever you can do FOR them. You aren’t going to be making thousands of dollars within your first week of launching your business, but if you make a solid plan from the start, and get friends and family involved – you can jump over the largest barrier to your success…and that’s getting your first sale.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. I mentioned Kate above as she is a former colleague of mine who reads this blog often. She was involved in the process early, and it just so happens she was our first fan. Thank you Kate!!!!

Pps. Case and point – the process works.

Journey of the Do – Stage 5 – The Website

dresses, e-commerce, dress

A little product preview

If you’ve been following the journey for over a month now, I’d like to reiterate…You do not have to follow this step-by-step (ooooo baby). This is to serve as a guideline on building an e-commerce biz from scratch. And it’s the actual steps my wife, and I are taking.

This week – the website. It’s your store front, your moneymaker, and your driver of profits. It’s one of the most important parts of your e-commerce biz. That’s why it’s taken some time for my wife, and I to get this going. We’ve trial tested a couple different platforms from Bigcommerce to Shopify (you can find a good breakdown here). We’ve also spoken with a couple web designers to see if building a site from scratch was an option.

The site really comes down to whether or not you want proprietary control over your platforms, and algorithms. To develop something like this is very expensive, but you own it. You can make it do whatever you want, and you have full-on control. One of the downsides (aside from upfront cost) is the ability to evolve. When you’ve developed your e-commerce platform from scratch, you’re pretty much stuck with it. You can try, and evolve, but it can be quite complicated. We’re starting to see this with some of the e-commerce companies we’ve researched. At the time, their technology was cutting edge…now it’s old, and tired, and difficult to change.

That’s why my wife, and I have decided to go the ‘plug-and-play’ route. The technology can evolve as new algorithms, tech, etc… come to market, and the expense isn’t too much to evolve, and to start up. We’re giving up control for something that can grow with the business. Having said that, we understand we may need to develop something on our own if we outgrow the Shopify option we’ve chosen.

Shopify

The one thing my wife, and I really like about Shopify is the customizable themes. You can also pay to have one developed for you. Every site comes with a monthly fee depending on what options you want to have available to you. We’ve chosen the most expensive route, which gives us the most options. It also helps that Shopify is Canadian (although you have to pay in US dollars), and their customer service is phenomenal.

You can secure a domain through Shopify or you might have to find it somewhere else. For our store – we had to go through a GoDaddy auction to secure the domain we wanted (it’s a somewhat simple process to link your URL to your Shopify store, and Shopify gives you step-by-step directions on how to do this). My wife, and I also secured a couple other names similar to ours, so we can point those URL’s to our store.

I could go on and on about the options of Shopify, and other e-commerce sites, but it’s best if you go, and explore on your own. Most e-commerce sites give you free trials, so you can experiment. I highly advise you do this. As I mentioned before – this is your store front, and your money maker. Take time to invest in the different options available to you. Reach out to the customer service folks at these companies, and speak with web developers. You owe it to yourself, and your business.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. The design, and template through Shopify cost a couple hundred bucks, plus the $100+ US monthly fee. With this expense we’ve spent close to $2500 including some product.

The Journey of the Do – Stage 4 – The Brand

This week it’s all about the brand. A brand is what your customers think, feel and say about you. Having said that, you can craft your message(s) to make people think, feel and say certain things about you.

In our research phase – my wife, and I checked out the numerous e-commerce fashion sites, and dissected the look of the logo, the style of their website, tested their customer service, ordered products from them, returned products to them, etc… From that we saw what we liked, and didn’t like. In doing this – we’re able to figure out a few differentiating factors for us.

#1 – we’re only going to ship in Canada (sorry, US)
#2 – we’re going to support as many Canadian wholesalers as we can
#3 – we’re going to have a different twist on shipping
#4 – the price is the price is the price (don’t have to worry about paying duty, etc…)
#5 – return policy will be nothing like our Canadian competitors

You also have to factor in what you’re going to do about customer service, and how you respond over the phone, online, social media, etc… It should all be consistent. If you use certain words over the phone, you should also use them online, and vice versa.

bow tie, man

You will rarely see me without a bow tie. Go personal brand!

The above points help out in the feel, and say portion of our brand. For the look – there are numerous sites to go to for logos:

Withoomph
Hipster Logo Generator
GraphicSprings Logo Creator
Logoshi
Logaster

And many more. A simple Google search can also help. If you want someone else to do it for you – I wouldn’t spend more than $500 on a logo design. Yes, a logo is important, but it’s not worth a HUGE investment. Plus, a good one, by a talented designer at most should cost you $500.

The logo is only a portion of the look, as we’ll be ensuring our colour schemes, and looks go across the entire e-commerce site, packaging, etc…

For the logo – we’ve hired a designer who’s done a few other things for us, but you can use any of the sites above. My biggest thing – is you have to be different from your competitors. Just because you like blue – doesn’t mean that’s going to be a core colour of your brand. Five of your competitors could be using blue as a colour.

In our case – we’ve found a couple colours that aren’t being used and we’re going with that as our colour scheme. We’re also using a handwritten script as a font, which is somewhat similar to a few other logos in our space, but our colours are what’s going to set us apart.

From there – we can start building our website. Again, none of this would have happened without the first few steps I wrote about in previous weeks. Some people go out and make logos, print business cards, and all this shit without doing their research, and testing to see whether or not their product / service will sell. My wife, and I have already done this, so now we can spend the extra expense for the ‘professional’ look and feel.

The brand is your baby. Take care of it, but also allow it to evolve with time. As people change, and markets change, and customers change, your brand changes. Never stop testing, and experimenting with new things.

Next week – the website.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft