Season 3 Episode 3
November 18, 2020

[Step by Step] How Does CX Drive Lifetime Value?

How do you scale truly personal customer experiences? One-to-one CX takes time, talent, and experience. But when you train your customers to be your frontline CX team, that's where the magic happens. In this episode of Step by Step, CEO and Founder of women's swimwear brand, Andie, unpacks how they use technology to scale their brand promise while making every interaction personal.

this episode sponsored by

How do you differentiate a brand in a crowded market like swimwear? Melanie Travis, Founder and CEO at Andie has found the answer: make every interaction personal.

High quality interactions are the basis of great CX

Andie has built their brand on creating higher-quality interactions and more radically personal service. By mixing technology and ingenuity with human support, they've found a way to capture the magic into their automated interactions, while creating a massive fan base of customers that have become frontline support for newcomers to the brand. Combine this with an AI-powered custom fit quiz, and you've got a powerful CX engine that can scale exponentially.

...and before one of our in-house experts can respond to the question on our ad ... our community is just piling on and engaging in a positive way, really engaging with other women who are curious about the brand and they're becoming evangelists, active advocates. And that, to me, is another indicator that we're really doing something right -Melanie Travis, CEO - Andie

Key Takeaways

  • Support is reactive. Experience is proactive because it focuses on everything not post-purchase.
  • Customer Experience expertise has the ability to speak into every part of an organization, making it tied directly into Lifetime Value.
  • Think about solving people’s problems. Helping customers help themselves - if you give them the tools, they will use them.
  • Waiting is a bad experience. Don't make customers wait. Help them to self-service. LTV impact can be mapped directly to bad experiences.
  • Swimwear is intimate, and very personal. Deliver support that is as intimate as the product you sell.
  • Generational relationships are the ultimate goal for any brand. Being radically personal with a customer provides the framework for building lifelong, even generations-long, customer loyalty.
  • Stop looking at CLV as a LTV metric in your BI tool. People are more than numbers.
  • Product expertise teams are key to delivering voice of the customer to the broader organization. Don't neglect key metrics like NPS, but invest in and empower these specialist teams.

Questions answered in this episode

  • What metrics do you look at to qualify success in experience? How are those different from a traditional support channel model?
  • What do you do differently to connect with your customers? How do you build lasting relationships?
  • How do you measure relationships? What metrics do you use with your team members to help incentivize improvement?
  • Where do you prioritize customer experience in the “pecking order” of your organization? Do you spend more on CX than other tech and people investments?
Customer experience is proactive and I think support is very reactive, really transactional. Someone reaches out because they want to return something or have a question, whereas the customer experience is a much more, it takes a whole view of the customer journey and is proactive. -Melanie Travis, CEO - Andie

Thanks for listening to Episode 3 of our Season 3 of Step by Step! Drop us a line at hello@futurecommerce.fm or Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify so you don't miss the next episode!

Phillip: [00:00:50] Hello and welcome to Step by Step, a podcast by Future Commerce presented by Gladly. This is Season 3 of Step by Step, and you are listening to episode three of five. If you're just jumping into the series midway through, might I suggest just go back and listen from the very beginning. We don't want you to miss a single thing. This season of Step by Step is all about customer experience. And today we are sitting down with Melanie Travis, the Founder and CEO of Andie Swim. Today, we asked Melanie the question, how does focusing on experience drive lifetime value? How does Melanie differentiate Andie in a crowded world of swimwear? And how does customer service play a role in delivering exceptional experience that keeps their customers coming back for more? There's a moment in this interview that blows mine and Brian's collective minds. Melanie is an operator like none other. She is full of wisdom and she doesn't stop delivering. This is the most dense minds blown per minute episode I think we've ever recorded in four years of podcasting at Future Commerce. I'm so proud to bring you this episode. So let's join Melanie now as she teaches us how to evolve from customer support to customer experience Step by Step.

Brian: [00:02:16] Today, we are talking with Melanie Travis, Founder and CEO of Andie. Welcome to Step by Step.

Melanie: [00:02:23] Thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Phillip: [00:02:26] What an awesome brand. And we've had you on the show once before where we covered in depth... You and Brian talked about sort of the journey and the story and what Andie represents and the promise that you have to a customer, but maybe just not to take anything for granted, could you give us a little high level about yourself and the brand?

Melanie: [00:02:46] Yeah, sure. So I'm Melanie. I'm the Founder and CEO of Andie. Andie is a global eCommerce swimwear brand for women. We were founded in 2017, so that makes us about three and a half years old now. We've experienced just tremendous growth over the last three and a half years. And we serve women really all over the world, but obviously based in the United States. This is our biggest market. And I guess on the business side, we've raised about 8 million, a little over 8 million dollars to date. And like many Founders, we don't disclose revenue numbers. But we are in double digit millions. So it's been quite a ride over the last three years.

Phillip: [00:03:31] Wow.

Brian: [00:03:31] Congratulations. What a story. And I think back to our conversation. I'm just always blown away with what you've built. And today we're going to get a little bit further into the weeds about some of the things that we kind of touched on at a high level earlier. And I really want to talk to you about where we're headed with customer service. So maybe we could just start by sort of like give us your view of what the difference between customer experience and customer support is.

Melanie: [00:04:03] Yeah, so we call it customer experience, and it's incredibly important to Andie. And for me, I think, there are a couple of the key differences between experience and support. One is that [00:04:16] customer experience is proactive and I think support is very reactive, really transactional. Someone reaches out because they want to return something or have a question, whereas the customer experience is a much more, it takes a whole view of the customer journey and is proactive.  [00:04:36]I think that another point but related to that, or difference between support and experience is that, kind of like I said before, experience takes a holistic view of all interactions that a customer may have with a brand versus, like I said, just a transactional back and forth that someone might have with a customer support agent. And then in thinking from an experience lens, I think that a brand that sort of approaches support from this lens of experience can take feedback from customers or anything that they hear or see through the rest of the company and make sure that that sort of spreads through to improve the entire lifecycle, whether that's someone just hearing about Andie for the first time or making their tenth purchase.

Phillip: [00:05:29] What's the kind of thing that a typical customer might reach out for and get support for? What is something that is a challenge that needs to be overcome when you're buying swimwear online? I can only think of so many things. It must be a challenge.

Melanie: [00:05:48] Yeah, well, you know, it's interesting, I think obviously pre COVID swimwear actually lagged behind other categories of apparel in terms of online penetration. And I think it's sort of exactly because of what you just hinted at. Right? Like shopping for swimwear is really, really hard. I mean, when a woman is wearing a swimsuit, it's the most naked she'll ever be in public. And so the shopping experience is really fraught with psychological issues. And then, of course, fit is crazy important. It's not like a baggy t shirt. It has to be a really well fitted and fitting garment. And so shopping for one online is a challenge for many women. During COVID shopping for swimwear online truly exploded and we began quickly investing more and more in customer experience precisely for that reason. Make sure that these people who have never done that before have a good experience and then will stay with us once the stores reopen. And so the typical things that people will write is how do I know if this will fit me? We invest a lot in the customer experience and we have a pretty big in-house support team. But we also have invested in digital tools in order to improve that experience. And so, for example, for this, we invested in our Fit Quiz, which is constantly being iterated on as we learn more from our customers about what kind of questions that they have about fit and what they're looking for. And it's a smart AI powered tool and it leads women to what we believe will be their best fitting suit, style, color, fabric, all of that. So that's a really common one. And we've solved that both by speaking with women directly, but by investing in digital tools that can help with that experience. To things like, I mean, it can really be anything. I'm going to the Bahamas with my in-laws and I want something that's not so skimpy, or going back to the idea of it being so vulnerable, we often get women saying, hey, you know, I had a baby and I don't love my tummy right now. What do you recommend for that? It can get pretty personal pretty quickly.

Brian: [00:08:07] Something really interesting that I hear you saying, and this is a theme that I think that our listeners are going to hear throughout this entire show is that the line between support and sales is blurring. You talked about like a Fit Quiz. And oftentimes when a merchant goes out there to put together a Fit Quiz, they're thinking about it in terms of sales. Right? They're thinking about it in terms of I am going to provide automated recommendations to customers so that I can give them better options. But you're actually talking about, you're relating it back to, customer experience. These two things are tied together in a way that I think we've not seen at this level in years past. Talk to me a little bit about how sales and customer experience and support are tied together and what metrics you look to qualify as a success in the customer experience.

Melanie: [00:09:07] Yeah, definitely. So sales for us, we call that our marketing team, and we call our customer experience our CX team. If you hear me ever say CX that's what I'm referring to, or what we've been trying to make a push to even more is to sort of rebrand our CX team to be called the Fit Expert Team. What I said before about the importance of fit and how often that comes up when people reach out to us. So we have our team of Fit Experts, and we have our marketing team and they are very synched up. So internally there are weekly meetings, but then they also, well, pre COVID times, would sit next to each other so that there was a really tight feedback loop between what people are writing in about or calling us about and what we're putting out there. And then and then, yes, the Fit Quiz is a perfect example of that. The Fit Quiz is an incredible conversion tool for us. It was developed because of customer inquiries, so it was sort of born out of the customer experience team. They're the ones who said, you know, I think we should do this because these are the questions people have and we now know the logic, the best suits for these different types of questions. And the marketing team was like, great, let's put this together and see how it goes. And as it turns out, if a woman lands on our Fit Quiz, she's more likely to purchase than if she lands on any random product page. So now that's stretches all the way to Facebook advertising, and we spend a lot of money on Facebook and the majority of our Facebook ads dropped a woman right into the Fit Quiz because we just know she's more likely to purchase. So I think that's a prime example of what you just said for customer experience and marketing, working hand in hand to lift the whole business.

Phillip: [00:10:50] Oh, gosh, there's so much to unpack there. What is sort of like... Purchasing and being happy with the purchase is definitely one measure of success. But I think we would all be kidding ourselves to say that there are people like everybody's happy all the time with what they've bought. Like what is the Andie like methodology or ideology around making a customer happy and sort of making her feel like she's having a better experience with you than she would anywhere else?

Melanie: [00:11:26] Yeah, so there's a few different things that we do there. I think, in terms of just straight sort of metrics. I mean, we do look at things like NPS score, how fast we responded, what the volume of responses are, the sort of quantitative "standard metrics" that one might look at. But we go quite a bit beyond that, too. And I think one of the things that we do that I really like, that I think is a way of sort of quasi measuring is every Tuesday we have our company, all hands, and a member of our Fit Expert Team rotates to share what we call a customer spotlight, and they'll share either it's a phone call or email interaction or an SMS interaction, you know, whatever channel the person reaches out to us on and they'll highlight why this one is worth sharing with the team and what happened and ways that we can either make that experience better or learn from that experience or something like that. And I think that's the way that we reward our internal team to really invest in these relationships and learn from them. But what we don't do is things just like incentives, like cash based incentives based on like volume or speed. We don't do that because we really want our Fit Experts to build relationships, lasting relationships with our customers. And if it takes someone weeks to work with the same woman, that's great. And that's what we like to see. And when we're training new Experts who join our team, we give them a lot of agency and a lot of trust to really make a call because there's ambiguous situations. And what we really don't want to see answer and close this thread as fast as you can type of thing.

Phillip: [00:14:41] Let me ask you a question point blank, and I apologize if it's too blunt, you've been in business for a few years. You've had some success. How would you measure that success out over a longer horizon than the few years you've been in business? Repurchase, I think is one. But how do you sort of build this into a generational business? I'm the wrong person to be talking about buying swimsuits. I have one swimsuit that I've owned for 10 years, but I'm sure that's not how everybody shops. Right?

Melanie: [00:15:11] Right. It's a very different category for men and women, too.

Phillip: [00:15:15] Yeah. How do you build that over, in the future? What's the strategy from customer retention perspective?

Melanie: [00:15:25] Oh I see. I see, I see also I think what you were getting at in the last question. So you mentioned one of them repeat rate, and we call that customer loyalty. And so we've seen sort of quarter over quarter and season over season our customer repeat rate go up quite significantly. The cohorts are coming back stronger and faster as we grow. And I would say that's one of the key metrics. Our women having a good experience when they shop at Andie. Do they like the online shopping experience? Do they like the product that they're receiving, et cetera? And so the repeat rate really is key. But also we're in such a digital age, as a vast understatement of the year, and people talk online. And I think one thing that has surprised me that is an indicator that we're doing a good job here is like I said before, you know, we advertise quite a lot on Facebook and Instagram. And [00:16:26] oftentimes women will see an ad and will ask some sort of random question about it, like, "Ladies, what do you think?" Or, "Can't decide between these two styles," and what has started happening... This really started about a year ago, is before one of our in-house experts can respond to the question on our ad a woman from our community will respond completely unprompted and say, "I three Amalfi's, and I love it." And they pile on and we're at the point where our community is just piling on and engaging in a positive way, really engaging with other women who are curious about the brand and they're becoming evangelists, active advocates. And that, to me, is another indicator that we're really doing something right when it comes to how we work with our customers. [00:17:18] And then the third thing obviously is, is just a word of mouth growth. Swim is a category that women really ask, where did you get that swimsuit? Or where are you buying a swimsuit for this upcoming trip? And that has increased dramatically as we've grown. And I would say that's a third sort of metric that we're watching sort of what we call organic orders to know that women are having a good time and sharing their experience with their friend. We did add a sort of digital tool to this and recently launched our loyalty program, which is called the Andie Swim Club, where you can get points and discounts and stuff as you share the brands with others.

Phillip: [00:18:03] Ok, the minds blown per minute is at an all time high of this show.

Melanie: [00:18:10] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:18:10] That was incredible. And you answered things that I hadn't even thought to ask, which was really just there's something to be said about doing things that don't scale because they teach others how to do them for you. And it looks like, [00:18:29] from what you said, your customers are teaching other customers how to behave in a community and how to help and support each other. And that turns them from advocate into evangelist. And that's something that, you can't really scale CX infinitely, but you can when your customers become your CX team.  [00:18:48]

Melanie: [00:18:48] Oh for sure.

Brian: [00:18:48] Community driven CX. That's what I took away from that. And my mind, is literally just blown. It's like, I'm freaking out over here.

Melanie: [00:19:02] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:19:02] {laughter}

Brian: [00:19:02] Talk to us a little bit, practically like give us some stories about this. What does this actually mean. We've got kind of at a high level about it and I would love to hear, so that our audience can sort of see a good example of someone that has built that relationship over several weeks with the customer, and you've given them the space to do that. What does that look like?

Melanie: [00:19:29] Yeah, like let me make sure I'm answering what you're looking for. There are women who have purchased from us, and this is going to sound shocking. It is shocking to me, but over 40 times and who owns something like 70 plus swimsuits. Are you referring to women who are what we call our, well, it's common marketing term. Maybe it's not the best term to use, but they're called whales because they just they keep coming back and buying a lot. Or are you referring more to like the type of customer that is answering other customers online?

Brian: [00:20:05] I think I'd be curious to hear stories from both those examples, actually.

Melanie: [00:20:11] Yeah. I mean, so the latter one. I could certainly pull probably screenshots and stuff to show you. I'm not sure how interesting oral stories are to tell. It's really more of like a oh my God, this is really working. And it sort of is creating this flywheel where women are helping other women, which is especially great in peak when we don't see all the comments right away in peak season. But I don't know that I have specific anecdotes from that other than the internal, you know, utter glee that we have built this community that is so vocal for us. And then in terms of the customers that come back to us. Yeah, I mean, every Monday we look at the top people who have purchased in the previous week, top repeat purchases. And we're up to the forties with some people. And so we reach out to them and ask them how life is going, just try to become sort of really friendly with them. We'll send them swag, t shirts, hats. We have an Andie Swim pennant. It's sort of like a flag you can put on your wall for the really big fans. So it's been really fruitful to create those relationships with our really big buyers. Those aren't great stories.

Phillip: [00:21:25] I think it really just underscores the point that you're something to be said about the way that your prioritized CX in your organization to make it not just core, because I think everybody wants to believe that it's core to what they do. I mean, show me a sexy eCommerce brand that doesn't believe they have differentiating CX. But when you think about, like, the effect of it... And you said, flywheel, that I think is an incredible example of it takes a lot of momentum to get going, but it takes very little effort to keep it going once it is going.

Melanie: [00:22:03] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:22:04] You had shared on at least one other podcast I'd heard this incredible story of someone who had been diagnosed with cancer as that kind of like personal touch and sort of the vulnerability of being in the CX role and the things that you come across. Maybe you could touch on some of that and you are having different kinds of conversations than what other brands might be having with their customers.

Melanie: [00:22:29] Oh, yeah, definitely. And that's been really magnified during COVID. The story you just referenced was a woman on my Fit Expert Team was having a dialog with a customer and just sort of going back and forth. And it was pleasant. And again, shopping for swim can be really vulnerable. So these conversations can quickly go into kind of personal territories. And then a response, I don't know if this was maybe the fifth or sixth email in the chain, from this customer went on to tell our Fit Expert that she had recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and she hadn't told anyone yet, not even her family, and having this conversation with our Expert was a sort of moment of levity for her. And she enjoyed the dialog and she felt like she trusted her. And then it felt so good for to share the news with her. And I think that that says a lot about the types of relationships that we're building with customers in the way that we engage with them. And then, and that was pre COVID. During COVID, we opened phone lines. It was the first time that we decided to open phone lines. But first we knew that there would be a big demographic shift of women who had never shopped online before who were probably more comfortable being able to speak with someone versus just clicking around on a website. So we did it, again, really from a marketing perspective. But that was an idea born out of one of those marketing and experience team meetings. And so we opened phone lines and very quickly they would be completely booked. I think we allowed something like, I don't know, maybe 15 calls a day or something. Then we capped it, because obviously we have other things that we're also doing and servicing customers who are emailing or texting or chatting on the site. And they would book up immediately, basically as soon as they opened. But then we never put a limit on the time. And what we started finding during the depths of COVID and call it April, May. These women were spending in some cases over an hour on the phone chatting with our Fit Experts. And we found that people were really craving a human connection during that time. And we were here and ready and able to give it. And I think my team of Fit Experts, you know, they're trained in swimwear sizing and how to fit a swimsuit on different types of bodies. And what they ended up doing really was becoming basically therapists for people. So it was definitely really intense. And I think we made a lot of relationships that will last for the life of the company. And so that was a really a really big one.

Brian: [00:25:16] Yeah, I think this is really on point. And that is that right now digital and physical in many ways have flip flopped.

Melanie: [00:25:24] Yeah.

Brian: [00:25:24] We used to get physical interaction with people when we go into stores and we go see our friends, we go out to eat, and now we're really contained to our homes in many ways and to our bubbles. And so we're looking for any opportunity that we can to interact with real people in real ways. And I think this is the sticky behavior coming out of COVID, where we're going to continue to see people look to digital, but they're going to look to it in a much more personal way than we've seen before. And I think that you're perfectly highlighting how we have to evolve in order to not just make a sale, but build like a lifetime customer. And so looking at ahead to maybe someday when we can get over COVID, what do you see as sort of the next evolution in building lifetime customer value?

Melanie: [00:26:27] Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think the basic principle is pretty simple and will stay constant. Meet her where she is. By the way, keep using her as she because we only sell women's swimwear for now, but meet the customer where she is and that can and does take on different forms as the world continues to shift and evolve. And maybe when all the dust has settled on these COVID times, we'll open up stores and be there for women. I think there's also a lot of interesting tech tools and platforms that are sort of layering onto the Facebook business manager that enables you to interact with and in actually very interesting ways with people on Facebook. And so I think we're continuing to try to stay at the cutting edge of that. And so I think we'll just follow everything as it's evolving and make sure that we're there wherever our customer is.

Brian: [00:27:30] That's the perfect place to leave it. Melanie, thank you so much for all of your advice and wisdom. This has been another incredible look deep into what customer experience looks like on Step by Step. And I just love talking with you. Every time I talk with you, I have just learned something new. So thank you so much for your insight.

Melanie: [00:27:51] Oh, sure thing. Well, thanks for having me back on the show. It's always a pleasure to chat about the business.

Brian: [00:27:56] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:27:57] Awesome. And we wish you the best of luck and great success. It sounds like just such an amazing story. I can't wait to see what you do in the future.

Melanie: [00:28:04] Thank you. Thank you so much.

Phillip: [00:28:07] Thanks, Melanie. OK, I don't know if I'm alone here, but I had to sort of regroup after that interview. Melanie blew our minds there. I hope she blew your mind as well. If she did, I want to hear about it. Drop us a line at hello@FutureCommerce.fm. Do you also want to take experience to the next level? Do you want to make every conversation radically personal with your customer? I bet your customer wants that. You can do that with Gladly. Gladly can help you to do that. To stop focusing on tickets, but to start putting people at the center and making service more personal, just focusing on delivering people-centered customer service. You can do that. You can do it. Find out why brands like Samsonite and Warby Parker and Rothy's and Tumi and Eddie Bauer and Joanne and Tory Burch and Crate & Barrel all trust Gladly. Go get a demo right now. Go to Gladly.com/FutureCommerce and find out how you can drive a lifelong conversation that averages about a 20 percent increase in your service professional's efficiency. Yes, you heard me. Go get a Gladly demo right now, Gladly.com/FutureCommerce and start driving 10 percent average increase in your contact center generated revenue. You can do that right now. Tell him Phillip from Future Commerce sent you. Thank you so much for listening. Tomorrow on the show, Rebecca Boxall, the VP of Marketing, Channels, and Customer Experience at Native Shoes, is going to join us to talk about how they are prioritizing their brand mission and putting that first to deliver exceptional experiences. I hope you join us for that episode.

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