At Nosto we are privileged to be in a position where our success is directly aligned to that of our customers. Our business, which works on a success based pricing model, only makes money when retailers do - a decision we made because we believe it encourages excellence and innovation. It also defines our relationship with our customers as a partnership, striving for the same goals.
So it makes sense that we invest a lot of time, money and effort making sure that our customers succeed. In fact, as the title implies, my role as a Customer Success Manager, is focused almost entirely on this endeavor. And I’m not the only one- at Nosto there are eight of us who spend our days helping customers make the most of our product, in order to make the most of their business.
Which is why we we recently approached one of our clients with a proposition…
I would work in their offices, unpaid (by them anyway) for one week and they could put me to use however they saw fit- whether that was helping them further optimize their use of Nosto, packing their deliveries or simply making the coffee!
Because it is important to understand your customers; their priorities, their pain points and their ambitions for the future.
And Babyshop, our client, agreed.
Founded in 2006 with a vision of building the best online store for children’s clothing in the Nordics, Babyshop is now a multi-award winning store with 80,000+ customers located in over 50 countries.
So, what did I learn from my time with them?
An example of Nosto technology on Babyshop
1. Insight is paramount
Ever heard the phrase 'if you want to understand a man, walk a mile in his shoes'? Well, our company is built on this prospect. Founded by an ex-merchant, we believe it takes one to know one.
The insight I gained into the the Babyshop business during my time there has been invaluable in the effect is has had on our ability to help them. Firstly, I saw firsthand just how busy a booming ecommerce business can be- the pace is unrelenting. This is whe I fully realised the benefit of the automation our tool offers - I could see in real terms what it meant for them not to have to manually update their recommendations and where that saved time was then spent. Knowing that time is a priority gives me an idea on where to focus our attention when optimizing for the future.
But there were more specific lessons too; from spending time with their customer support I learned that one of the questions they were asked most often was when certain items were coming in and in what size - so I showed them how to share this information in their recommendations through tagging. It’s a simple feature that I wouldn’t have known to recommend otherwise.
Now, I am aware that as ecommerce merchants, it is not physically possible to go out and meet all of your customers. When you have tens of thousands of people coming to your site every week, even a strong pot of coffee isn’t going to help you with that task. But there are things you can do. Firstly, keep the lines of communication open- if customers are willing to tell you about their likes and dislike then be there to listen. A good support team, like Babyshop’s, is a great start - have that help available on multiple channels and consider real-time chat if you are able to man it.
If you don't ask you dont get- An example of our Content Marketing Manager Lottie, reaching out directly to our target market in LinkedIn groups for customer indight.
Secondly, if you customers aren’t coming to you, go to them. If they’re on social media, then so should you be- listening, learning and engaging. If they use forums and blogs then make sure you are present there too. And finally, embrace user testing - but while services like this are hilarious, I would recommend focusing on your buyer personas.
2. Business is built on relationships
Now you have insight into your customer base what are you going to do with it? Relationship building should always be the aim. As a Customer Service manager I am assigned specific accounts, which means I often speak to the same person regularly and so relationship building is a core focus of my day and something that I am passionate about.
Upon entering the Babyshop offices I was finally able to put a face to a name when I met Josefin the Marketing Coordinator for the first time, as well as quickly adding a host of other name to the list as I was introduced to the rest of the team. It sounds like a small thing but the improvements this type of interaction can bring, although subtle, are of the utmost importance. I am no longer just a voice on the phone - and this allows me to communicate with my client in a way that I wasn’t able to before.
Again, I realise you can’t go and spend a day with each and every one of your customers but you can treat your customer like an individual by leveraging the customer insight we discussed in point one. Personal details, such as the fact that they’ve just had a baby or tha they like red dresses, when used correctly (i.e. to personalize the customer journey) will help you show that your customers aren’t just a number to your business. And there are tools to help you do it. Personalization technology (yes, like us!) allows you to build these oh-so-important little details into complete buyer profiles so that you can greet your customers, if not with a smile and a handshake, then an approach that is relevant to them.
Babyshop make personal recommendations based
on a customer's browsing or buying behavior.
Other relationship building techniques include loyalty, regular ‘love letters’ (ok, I mean emails), even the creation and sharing of interesting and insightful content. Ask yourself, what have you learnt about your customers and then how can you use it to help them?
3. Ban BAU
Last but by no means least, the most important thing I have taken away from this experience is the benefits of business disruption. Taking time out from our key duties is something we all fear and avoid- nevermind being dragged away from your busy desks for a week. We see just costs to the business, lost man-hours and fret about the lines on the chart going the right way. And of course, all these things do matter. But there is something to be said for stepping back, looking at the big picture and trying something different.
Ikea are good example of a company that
spent time on something nobody else was doing.
By stepping away from the keyboard and offering something outside of our contract conditions, we not only improved our relationship and offering to a customer but also learnt something about ourselves. Consider how you might do the same - is it by taking the online offline and creating a pop-up store? Or by offering a service that other members of your vertical don’t?
Remember when Ikea went one step further and allowed people to virtually place furniture into their living rooms? Or when Fat Face announced it was going against the grain by making charitable donations rather than offering discounts on Black Friday? Disruption can take many forms - even if it is only internal. Google famously allowed its software engineers to spend 20% of their time on a project that interested them personally and sat outside of their core duties (which in turn brought some of their best innovation). Whatever you choose - make sure it works for you and your business.
"If you're trying to disrupt the status quo and beat bigger competitors,
you're not going to do it by playing their game."
So there they are, three lessons from my time as a Babyshop intern. I hope the experience will give you as much to think about as it did me! Has your business ever done anything like this? Would you open your doors to a partner or supplier? I would love to hear about your experiences.