For online retailer Shinesty, providing a positive customer experience is at the heart of every brand decision. By making the support team a key component of the business, Shinesty provides an effortless shopping experience that creates repeat customers. We recently caught up with Antonio King, Director of Experience at Shinesty, to find out how he empowers his support team to optimize customer experience and drive revenue.
Shinesty is an apparel company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, and we create outrageous clothing for themed parties and events. Our ultimate mission is to help the world not take itself too seriously. By helping people change their wardrobe and embrace their inner weird, we aim to help the world do the same.
I am the Director of Experience and have been with Shinesty for just over two years. I oversee both the customer experience and the employee experience, owning all aspects of the customer journey in addition to internal HR processes.
Antonio King, Director of Experience at Shinesty
The best support people are naturally and inherently curious. I harnessed my own curiosity and got into support during the early stages of my career and naturally fell into this current path. My previous role was with the biggest online retailer for Halloween costumes, which involved a high level of seasonality that prepared me for the seasonality we see at Shinesty.
Being a Director of Experience, what are some of the challenges that seasonality has presented? How do you approach ramping up new employees and arming them with the information they need to be successful during periods of intense demand?
Shinesty’s seasonality spans all of Q4, which is different from the intense and brief seasonality of a Halloween retailer. Coming from a company that recruits 2,700 people for the Halloween season alone allowed me to see what explosive scale looks like, and I learned a lot from that experience. It’s challenging to have such a short time frame to train new employees to understand not only the basics of the business, but also understand the tools they’re going to need to solve problems. Addressing those obstacles head on and implementing processes that help new hires onboard quickly is crucial in scaling up for a busy season.
Fortunately, a lot of companies have begun moving away from the mindset of customer support as a cost center. That archaic way of thinking is what stirs up a lot of the negative connotations people have about customer support. As an industry, we are gradually moving in the right direction as more companies buy in to the understanding that it’s important to have customer support fully engaged and fully thought out.
When I interviewed at Shinesty, I looked directly at the CMO and CEO and I told them both: you can have all the aspirations of what you want Customer Support to be, but unless you’re prepared to back this department emotionally, financially, and technologically, we’re wasting our time. I made it clear that support will not be looked at as a cost center – we’re better than that. Taking that stance up front set the tone for the organization that support is equally as important as any other department, and as a result of that, we are now at the forefront of a lot of discussions. It has been a journey of gradual changes in training and internal behavior to get the support team to where we are today.
There are areas in which support has made a positive impact on revenue – such as increased average lifetime value and increased average order value – but you really have to have the right strategy in place first in order to stake out what value support can bring from a financial point of view.
Shinesty focuses a lot on customer effort as a metric of success. Can you tell us what customer effort is and how it impacts your business objectives?
Customer effort score is our main driver. It measures the ease of a user’s experience. It’s important that we think about customer experience and loyalty not just in terms of solving problems, but in terms of reducing the amount of effort that people have to go through to solve a problem. We’ve all been through effortful experiences, and they often leave bad tastes in our mouths about those companies. Effort is really ⅓ do and ⅔ feel. If you feel like you had to go through a lot of effort to get your problem handled, that’s the impression that lasts. Not so much what you actually had to do.
Shinesty has been measuring customer effort for about two years now and the results have been pretty interesting. Out of 6,200 survey respondents, 90% agreed or strongly agreed that Shinesty made it easy for them to solve their issues. Of the 75% who strongly agreed, we found there to be a 26% repeat purchase rate and an 8% increase in lifetime value. Seeing on paper how working to minimize customer effort effected purchase value solidified our support-first strategy.
Many organizations still have legacy ways of thinking about support and support leaders often struggle to articulate the value of their department.
What’s your advice to someone struggling to elevate support internally?
Have confidence in your experience. Set the expectation that your organization needs to trust you to do what you do best right from the get-go. Setting that tone early will mitigate a lot of future uphill battles. You can also rely on the numbers to promote or debunk a strategy. Newer metrics like customer effort are helping point out that some legacy metrics may not be the best indicators of success.
We interact with everybody because we are the voice of the Shinesty brand; the ear on the ground. One way I make sure that voice stays consistent is by empowering my team to own the feedback loop internally. That feedback loop is composed of monthly sessions with stakeholders from every department in which our team shares meaningful insights collected from customer experiences. The goal is to facilitate discussion around the issues we are hearing about. We then brainstorm solutions, work through concerns, and come up with action items that can be relayed to the appropriate department.
Support is often at the bottom of the communication totem pole. For many organizations, support is the last team to hear when something goes right, but the first team to hear when something goes wrong. By getting ahead of that trend, we at Shinesty are able to deal with issues before they become problems.
We couldn’t agree more! Giving support a prominent seat at the table empowers all customer-facing components of the Revenue team to work smarter together.
Thanks for your time, Antonio. How can people get in touch with you for advice or professional networking?
You can Slack me at @Tones in the Support Driven Slack team, or find me on LinkedIn.
If you enjoyed this post, check out our interview with Mark Bangerter of ClickFunnels to find out how he empowers his support team to drive revenue.