Obsessive-customer focus disorder: How customer focus leads to growth

Maintaining a repeat customer base, especially online, is no easy task.

Consumers have a world of shopping at the touch of their finger tips and generating loyalty just isn’t as simple as providing subsidised shipping.

Online retailers must now look for ways to encourage customers to come back to their sites time and time again – a challenge understood only all too well by smaller companies.

Speaking at a recent eCommerce expo in Melbourne, co-founder of children’s clothing retailer and manufacturer Tinyme, Mike Wilson, explained how “obsessive customer-focus disorder” is a bug worth catching.

Get to know your customer

Wilson says he knew nothing when he began, but admits his “secret weapon” which helped him succeed was instilling an obsessive need for knowing the customer.

Rather than targeting children, he recognised his real target audience was their mothers.

Developing this knowledge of the customer from the outset quickly informed Tinyme’s strategic direction, and the constant questioning of what the customer wanted influenced what products the team manufactured.

“Unwittingly, this allowed us to create an experience for our customers and a product which they actually liked. We kept asking questions and things took off.”

Wilson says it’s important to maintain this customer research even when the business is established.

One way to achieve this is through constant surveys.

“We made a long survey and got a lot of product feedback,” he says.

“It was also a marketing coup for us as we gave them a 10% discount off the next order for doing the survey and we made over $50,000 just from people doing the survey. We did it because we wanted the data, but this was a nice positive.”

Instil customer focus within the organisation

Natural progression led Wilson and his two co-founders to place customer focus at the core of the company’s values, making it an inherent part of everything Tinyme does.

The process of making customer focus an inherent part of the company starts each morning with a 9.03am meeting.

“Every day we discuss core values. We review the core values and identify examples to demonstrate the value is alive and working. The first one we discuss is customer focus.”

“Every single day we’ll have opportunities which are on the agenda where people can talk about seeing customer focus in action in the business,” he says.

Wilson says it’s important to discuss customer focus in action deliberately.

“We have collective intelligence sessions which form quite a systematic approach. We’ll talk about who is our customer; we’ll bring along a bunch of stats and then describe them on a high level.”

“We describe all sorts of things about them and a bunch of metrics. Then we consider how the customer came into contact with us. It’s a basic brain-storming sessions and then we talk about what we can do to improve the customer experience and add value,” he says.

Think outside the box

At Tinyme, Wilson says the company is always looking for new ways to enhance the shopping experience for the customer.

“We’ll often stop and think about ideas which aren’t normal best practice,” he says.

Over time, the business has developed a live chat customer service response online, better packaging, an office dedicated to customer service in the UK for its British customers, bettered product dispatch time and started adding videos to its product pages.

In March, 90% of Tinyme’s orders were shipped out within 0.8 of a business day. But it’s not just about quick shipping times, the Tinyme team are always thinking about new ways to surprise their customers.

During the eCommerce presentation, Wilson played Tinyme’s own Harlem Shake video, made during the height of the popular dance craze. The monkey suit used in this video, Wilson says, was originally used as part of one of Tinyme’s customer-focused marketing tactics.

When a Tinyme customer ordered five personalised items in a session, one hour later one of the Tinyme team would personally deliver the items dressed in a monkey suit.

Measure the results

Wilson says throughout the year the team also develop measurable customer service goals, which in turn have driven profitable growth and competitive advantage.

“For us, it’s things such as dispatch time, answering emails within 15 minutes and time customers are on hold, but a lot of our traditional metrics are also linked integrally with customer experience as well.

Measurability, Wilson says, is fundamentally important and allows for better group discussions.

“These customer service metrics we look at daily. We have a whole wall full of KPIs which we can look at and see how they’re going.

Once something goes wrong, put yourself in the customers’ shoes

As with all businesses, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing at Tinyme, but Wilson says thinking about the customer at a time of a crisis helps the company respond in a way which prevents them from losing valuable business.

Earlier this year, Wilson describes what could have been a potential disaster for Tinyme.

“In January we added bag tags to our products, we usually don’t sell that many, but it just went ballistic and we actually sold more than we had stock for.”

“We realised we’d sell a little over 10,000 more of these and we wouldn’t have any stock.”

Tinyme sent out notes to all of the customers which hadn’t received their orders with the story ‘How Glen ruined everything’.

The note said:

“Hi I’m Glen, aka the Tinyme bag tag monkey, I’m in charge of ordering the bag tags and re-stocking the fridge with cool beverages for the staff.”

“Unfortunately, I have a thing for daytime summer television and got distracted watching re-runs of 90s American sitcoms and forgot to order more bag tags in time, my bad. I’ve now ordered a zillion and they’re arriving in late January. We’ll be sending the bag tags out as soon as they arrive. Sorry for the inconvenience. “

In addition to the note, Tinyme emailed all of the customers and when the products arrived later that month they sent out the products with a follow up note and a 10% off discount voucher, which resulted in an influx of sales.

“It was a great opportunity to get more sales through the 10% off coupon. Turning this negative into a positive worked really well for us.”

“Having a customer focus gives us a systematic way of doing things and seeing things through the customers’ eyes, this just inherently breeds continuous improvement,” Wilson says.

Hire your staff wisely

Wilson says it doesn’t matter how well the business systems foster a “customer-centric” culture, at the end of the day it comes down to the staff.

“It’s part of our hiring criteria and induction process. When staff start we go through all the OH&S and the privacy policy, but we also spend a lot of time on the core values of the business, why they matter and how we want to see them in action.

“Once they’re employed, we also have performance reviews where we look at how they’re going in relation to the core values,” he says.

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