At EVELO, we do the majority of our interactions online. Since we work with clients all over the country, we’ve built our infrastructure to be able to accommodate customers no matter where they live.
When you do the majority of your business online, you have access to a lot of data that can help make business decisions which is good. However, precisely because we do so much of our business online, there is a downside as well – that is we don’t have as much of a face-to-face interaction with customers.
This type of interaction is so important that in late 2014, I decided to do an experiment:
I wanted to invite every one of our new clients from the past 6 months for a 10-15 minute phone conversation. The objective would be to learn more about our clients needs, motivations and problems – in an open, unstructured, conversational format.
Would it work? Would people say yes?
I’ve sent out an email to a batch of our clients, introducing myself, and asked them if they have 10-15 minutes over the next few weeks to connect with me over the phone.
This is the copy of the email that I used:
Greetings,As CEO & Co-Founder of EVELO, there’s nothing that keeps me up at night more than thinking about how we can make a better product and deliver better service for you.But one of the most important lessons we’ve learned over the years is that what WE think is best doesn’t really matter. What matters most is what our customers — that’s you — are thinking, what problems you are trying to solve, and how this product fits within your lifestyle.We’ve always worked hard to get to know our customers, but I want to go deeper than we ever have before.I know that in many companies out there, there is oftentimes a disconnect between the customers and the management of the company. I’d like to remove that barriers, so I can have a direct conversation with you – via phone – to learn more about your experience with EVELO.How did you make the decision to go with the bike that you chose. How do you use your bike in your day to day life. What you like. What you love. What you hate. What you feel we can do better.If you’re willing to give me 10-15 minutes of your time, it would mean a lot to me. And you’ll get to be a big part of helping us make EVELO improve in the future.If you’re available for a quick chat, does some time next week work for you? Just let me know what’s the best time for you and the number that I could reach you.Thanks so much for making the decision to go with EVELO.With optimism,Boris Mordkovich
EVELO, Co-Founder & CEO
The response to this email was great. A number of customers responded within hours and agreed to set a time to chat.
Why they decided to go with us
I have learned why our customers decided to go with EVELO, how they chose to get the bike that they did, have heard numerous stories about what problems it is solving for them.
These are things that our team may have has assumptions or ideas about, but these conversations really helped to narrow down the specifics.
Identify problems (and fix them)
This has also given me an opportunity to learn about the problems our clients have experienced with our product.
In many instances, it was something that we can easily resolve – sometimes, a client may not be as comfortable on the bike because they don’t know about a particular adjustment or they have been wanting to use the bike for grocery shopping but didn’t know what cargo carrying options are available to them.
In many of these instances, the client never reported these issues themselves but happily shared them during a phone call. With that information, we now had the opportunity to fix the problem and really improve the client’s experience.
At the end of every call, I always made sure to tell our clients that they now had my personal email address (which I provided), so if there have any issues down the line, they can always escalate them to me if needed.
Most people don’t end up doing that – especially since we have a phenomenal customer service team that resolves all issues quickly – but just having that information on hand puts a lot of our customers at ease and lets them know that their business is truly valued.
Our products are not the cheapest ones on the market – and we don’t strive for them to be – but we do want to “wow” every single customer and feel that this is just one of those elements that contributes towards that goal.
Is it scaleable?
Frequently, clients write me back saying that they are surprised that the CEO is reaching out to them. It’s not a very common experience at most companies, but I think it should be – regardless of whether you have 5,000 or 50,000 clients.
The reality is that I can’t think of a more important task for management of a company that talking to their customers on a regular basis. It’s the most effective way of knowing what your product and company’s strengths and weaknesses are, catching problems early and helping define the strategy for the company as a whole.
As a company continues to grow, it may not be scaleable to talk to every single customer – but it’ll always be possible to make yourself accessible and still reach out to a segment of your userbase.
The way that I’ve currently set up the process is by sending out an email to our clients about 30 days after they received the bike. I want them to have some experience with it, so we can include that in the conversation.
To keep things organized, I allocate my Tuesdays afternoons from 12pm onwards for these conversations.
In the email, I ask the clients if they’d be open to chatting with me for 10-15 minutes sometime the following Tuesday after 12pm EST.
Of course, not everyone responds – a lot of people actually just prefer to send in their thoughts via email than to schedule a call – but there are always a number of people who are open to chat. Those few hours every Tuesday are well worth this.
Although this started up as an experiment, in order to connect better with our customers, we decided to make it an ongoing process of our business.
- It gives us insight into our clients.
- It helps to keep all levels of the organization connected to the actual needs and experiences of the customers.
- It helps us to reassure the clients that our promise of excellent customer service goes beyond the rhetoric. I always provide them with my personal email address, so that they can reach out as needed.
If you’re a leader of another company, I’d love to hear if you tried something similar and what your experience has been. And if you’re an EVELO customer, then I hope to chat with you sometime soon!