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Helena Mueller

· 10 minute read

This post is part of Inside Support, a new blog series featuring customer happiness leads from companies that have outstanding experiences in customer success to share. We go into detail on how their support team works, share their dedication to customers, and a way for everyone else to learn how big players do it.
You can read the first interview in this series here, where we talked to Martin from Pipedrive.

Shinesty is all about embracing the weird and celebrating the unique. We first came across this awesome brand of clothing when Shinesty received an honourable mention for ‘most effortless experience’ in the Nicereply Customer Happiness Awards 2016. Shinesty ranked 1st in Customer Effort Score, receiving the highest score among all companies using CES.

It wasn’t just their new take on adult clothing that made us want to interview them, but also their amazing view on customer support. So we had a chat with Antonio King, Shinesty’s Director of Experience, about what their brand is out to do, how to build lasting relationships with people, and how they make sure they’ll continue to deliver great support that makes customers happy.

Tell us a bit about your background and how Shinesty came about.

I started working in support when I was 18. I worked for a company headquartered in Europe that moderated children’s virtual worlds for inappropriate behavior. Working from home on a few moderation and child safety contracts for different companies, I figured it was time to move to an office setting. Before my current role, I worked for one of the biggest online retailers for halloween costumes in the world as their Supervisor of Customer Support. Currently, I’m Shinesty’s Director of Experience. Originally when I joined in May of 2016, I was Shinesty’s Director of Customer Experience. My role has since expanded to the Director of Experience, overseeing the customer as well as the employee experience.

Shinesty started in 2014 when Chris (CEO/Co-Founder) and Jens (CMO/Co-Founder) were buddies at CU who originally wanted to rid the world of boring clothing. The idea birthed when it came time for both Chris and Jens to graduate to go to the “real world”, where they figured they might as well sell their closet full of ridiculous clothing curated for theme parties and events since they were going to the boring adult world. They realized that people arguably partied more after college because people their age actually had money to buy ridiculous clothes (the adult world brings jobs and dollar bills, y’all).

Fast forward to today, where we’ve grown 1400% and did over $5M in sales the first year. We’re out to change the way people dress around the world. We created Shinesty to bring the world the most outlandish collection of clothing it has ever seen while turning heads and starting conversations. Our name comes from part of our slogan, “Stay Weird & Shine On,” and the word “dynasty”; together, they make Shinesty.

Talking about customer support – what were some of the most memorable and outstanding lessons you’ve learned over the years? Can you share a story (or two)?

I’ve learned a ton of things over the years I’ve worked in customer support. One of my favorites, however, has to be the power of empowering your team to solve problems. Often times, you’ll reach out to a lot of big companies that have tons of tiers of agents, yet the front line, or the people that come in contact first with the customer, aren’t empowered to actually solve the problem.

If you’re talking to an agent that doesn’t have the authority to solve your problem, then why waste your time? Connect the customer with someone who can solve the problem. It’s as simple as cutting out the middleman.

In a personal experience, I remember being super annoyed with a certain airline that I called and immediately said, “Can I speak with someone who has the authority to solve my problem?” I made it clear to the first agent I spoke to that my frustration was not with them, because naturally, it sucks to be on the receiving end of a heated customer. I wanted to be sure that the agent knew that they were not the ones at fault. I was immediately transferred to a supervisor, and was off the phone in 10 minutes, situation resolved, and very happy. For those who may not be that lucky, imagine how long they would sit on the phone, or sit in limbo without any shred of progress to show for it.

This is why, at Shinesty, I encourage my team to solve the problem however they see fit. I of course share my opinion or rationale behind my thought process, should they ask for my opinion, but they ultimately know they can come up with the solution they think is best. One of the benefits of this approach is it adds accountability for their decisions on their own. If your name is tied to a decision, and a final one at that, you’re likely going to evaluate the best options for both you as the company, and for the customer.

What are your top tips for building amazing relationships with people? (Both with customers, internally, and across other companies)

Interestingly, I just shared this in another interview:

Be Authentic in your interactions. People have emotions, and it’s okay to share those emotions with your customers. People are usually put at ease knowing that their problem is being taken care of by someone who cares, someone who relates, or someone who understands what they’re going through. Often times, we’ll throw in our own experiences while dealing with the customer, especially if our experiences share similar frustrations. Our brand at Shinesty runs on authenticity, so naturally, we want our interactions with our customers to be authentic. Echo their frustration, echo their happiness, and echo their weirdness. An authentic customer service reaction helps separate humans from bots, and everyone loves talking to real people.”

What do you believe is a sure bet in customer support to make customers happy?

There’s a couple different things that play into that end goal, I think:

1) Timely responses: No one likes to wait forever to have a problem solved. Typically, they’re trying to do something now. Having to wait beyond a point of what’s expected gets super frustrating because you can’t continue to do what it is you’re trying to do!

2) Empathetic: I touched on it above, but it absolutely holds true. People like knowing that they’re being understood in the moment of high frustration or anger. What better way to show that other than to agree. Better yet, like we do here, share an instance where you’ve experienced the same instance and similar emotions. Instead of alienating the emotions, embrace them with the customer.

  1. Solve the problem: Don’t forget to do what you’re trained to do; solve the problem! Eliminate the back and forths, the phone tag, and solve the problem. This is what we refer to as a Big Preference. Everyone has a Big Preference and a Small Preference. Small preferences can be what channel the customer decides to use to contact you (e.g “I prefer to use chat to interact with customer service”). However, the ultimate preference, the Big Preference, is getting their problem solved. People are much more willing to sacrifice their preferred channel of contact if that means they get their problem solved faster.

How do you measure the ROI of customer service, as well as customer happiness?

We measure customer satisfaction of course, but we take it a step further and measure customer effort pretty diligently as well. For those that aren’t familiar with the Customer Effort Score system, it’s a survey that asks, “How much do you agree/disagree with the following question: [company name] made it easy for me to solve my problem?” The survey is on a scale offering answers from Extremely Disagree to Extremely Agree. Our customer effort score since implementation in June of 2016 is a 6.6/7 with over 2,000 ratings.

Our support strategy revolves around a strategy called Low Effort. Our 90 NPS score, 9.9 CSAT, and 6.6 CES score has helped me understand that effort is really the biggest driver of customer loyalty; not CSAT.

I’m fortunate to be at a company that is super customer-centric in every decision we make: from UI design, marketing messaging, product decisions, etc. Having to tie what we do, and how we contribute to the company’s success, doesn’t need to be in dollars. The rest of the executive team understands how valuable our customers and their opinions are. Quantitative data and qualitative data hold the same weight here at Shinesty, and that makes it extremely easy to push powerful initiatives through to completion.

You just recently ranked first in Customer Effort Score – what do you think played a part in this and how might your support be different from other companies?

Solid question. We’re all about making things easy for our customers since we understand how big customer effort plays into retention. Bottom line: people don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get their problems solved.

In addition to making a very conscious effort to keep things easy, we play into our brand personality. On top of taking care of the priority when it comes to helping people – helping solve their problems – we have fun also. We use a lot of colloquials that resonate with people of our brand, as well as joke around with you while helping solve issues. We’ll make fun of you (lightly and often complementary; e.g: if something you ordered doesn’t fit, we’ll often reply with something similar to “then maybe you should stop spending so much damn time at the gym” while helping them exchange/return), swear in conversations (tastefully, and tactfully), because we want you to feel like you’re interacting with a true friend of yours. Authenticity to our brand, in addition to making sure everything we do remains easy for the customer, is our key to our continued success as the Customer Experience team.

How do you think customer success/experience/service relates to other areas in business (e.g. sales, growth, marketing)?

I’ve made a big effort to forgo the title of “Support” for our team, because we’re much more than that. We’re the Customer Experience team. We affect changes to our products, to our marketing, to our advertising, to our packaging, to our unboxing experiences. We’re so much more than just support that I don’t even consider that to be our sole wheelhouse. We’re involved in every aspect of the business because ultimately, every aspect of the business rolls up into the customer’s overall experience.

How do you make sure you continue to provide an amazing customer experience?

At the support department level through lots of coaching. Everyone needs feedback, even leadership. Foster the culture of open and honest communication (upward and downward) and you’ll form a conducive environment for improving. Fortunately, I’m lucky to have a team that gets it, so I don’t have to do much. In addition, the team is very good at challenging our processes and looking for avenues to make the customer’s experiences even more seamless. When you have a team that has the attitude to want to do better consistently and through all realms, it makes your job as a manager super easy.

At the company level, I consider it to be fairly simple: keep the customer at the forefront of every decision. In order to accomplish that, you need to have someone from the support or experience team involved. I think a lot of companies would be surprised as to how much professionals in that support department can contribute to an overall idea, strategy.

What’s next for you?

Continuing to help our team continue on the path of success. You’re probably wondering what the path of success looks like, and I’m happy to explain: it’s ridding the world of boring clothing, and I’d like to think we’re off to a damn good start.

Thanks Antonio!

If you think you’d be a great fit for our Inside Support series or can think of a company that would be, get in touch.

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