A taste for reviews: Panel discussion
Below you will find the video and transcript to the Customer Panel presented during Trustpilot's most recent customer event, "A Taste For Reviews."
Panelists included Matt Sand, VP of Marketing from ThriftBooks, Drew Stadler, Head of Happiness at BOMBAS, Henry Posner, Director of Communication at B&H Photo, Ian MacDonald, Director of eCommerce at Silver Star Brands and the infamous Jordan Garner, Director of Customer Success. Together these companies represent over 250K reviews on Trustpilot and over 700K Facebook likes.
The discussion features a lively and insightful discussion you definitely don't want to miss out on, including:
- Online reviews & brand building
- Developing a customer success strategy
- Getting the most from customer service
- Why trust is so important to a brand's future
- Using reviews in social media
- Making negative reviews into a positive
- Having engaging conversations with your customers
- Much more!
To go along with the video above, below you will find the full transcript from the panel discussion:
Jonathan Hinz: We have some incredible panelists here for you guys to speak to today. What we're going to do is ask a bunch of questions and then leave it open for everybody to ask them questions about their businesses. Combined the people on this stage have, let's see, over 250 thousand Trustpilot reviews and over 700 thousand Facebook likes. Some great businesses across the united States of America. First, I would like to introduce Ian Macdonald. Ian is the Director of E-Commerce at Silverstar Brands. They're now actually celebrating your 8th brand you just acquired?
Ian Macdonald: Yeah.
Jonathan Hinz: Fantastic. Next, we have Drew from Bombas, a great New York start up that we'll get a little bit to talk about. A fantastic business that has been not only giving to us, but also giving back to charity with when you purchase a pair of socks they'll give 1 out to somebody in need. Then of courses we have Mike Sand, Mike has been, or sorry Matt Sand. We've been working with Matt for quite some time now. Thrift Books has over 7 million books in inventory. They've recycled 323, I think I got that right, million books from the trash. They've either A) Donated 4 million books to charity or sold them out to people on their website, thriftbooks.com, which is brand new. They just re-did the website.
We're joined by Jordan Garner, our amazing customer service director.
Ian Macdonald: Who just punched a customer.
Jonathan Hinz: You can't punch people, Jordan. Thank you Henry. Thank you for inaudible 00:01:49 I appreciate that.
I'm sure almost all of you had a chance to talk to Jordan, she is the heart and soul of our company. She's been fantastic and she's been with us for quite a long time now. If you haven't had a moment to speak with her about customer service success at Trustpilot, you'll be amazed at what you hear. Henry from B&H Photo. You guys are the largest non-chain electronic video store in the United States. It's fantastic. 588 thousand Facebook likes. You have 86 thousand Trustpilot reviews and almost a near perfect score, 5 stars congratulations. 9.8 out of 10, that's fantastic.
So that, let's get in. A couple just quick comments I want to talk to you about. Ian, you have been managing these 8 brands for quite some time now, well sorry 7, and then you just joined 8. Tell us about how you've been juggling that experience, especially given that inaudible 00:02:57 come from a catalog environment.
Ian Macdonald: So we're an old school catalog, probably been around for a hundred years. We invented product personalization. So everyone does personalization now, but we invented the Christmas card with your name on it. About 85 years ago our founder, Miles Kimball sent out a Christmas card to every Johnson in the Minneapolis phone book, and of course they re-ordered, their friends wanted to know where it came from, and a business was born, but over time that's not really what E-commerce is. So, what reviews and brand-building has done for us is understand that different customers are different. A customer who is ordering through the mail sending in a check ordering a personalized Christmas card, is very different than a customer who is now buying straight from us on Amazon. For us, the journey's been about understanding these different segments and that they are very different, different needs, different expectations and it's been hard, yeah. But Trustpilot has helped us zero in on different segments, so we know that our customers who order by mail, they get a catalog, they tear out that order form, they actually fill it out, send in a check. They actually have the highest expectations of any customer group. So out customers who order online have different expectations from those who are by mail and that's weird. We did not expect that, so the data that we get helps us zero in on those different groups and respond to them differently.
Jonathan Hinz: Henry, you guys have obviously the biggest store on 9 and 38th. If you guys haven't been to B&H Photo experience, it's quite amazing. They have, you know, all the way down to I pods to the most highest end audio video equipment that you can buy in the industry, but it's also just an experience to go. You also have an incredible online site where you obviously have been selling for quite some time. Ian talked about managing experiences offline and offline, can you talk a little bit about that for B&H Photo?
Henry Posner: We started with a mail order catalog that we sent out every month and people would fill it out in an illegible scroll that would make your gynecologist look like Shakespeare. I can say this because my dad, may he rest in peace, used to be an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and he used to hand write letters to me when I was in college, and I knew they were from him because they always came "Postage due", and I knew there would be 2 things in them; number 1) Some kind of diatribe against the evils of marijuana and a letter that I couldn't read a single word of except for "Dear Henry Love, Dad".
Ian Macdonald: I feel like your father probably purchased from us.
Henry Posner: It's not impossible, but the reason the customers who do that are your most loyal and high expectation customer, is because of the tactile involvement in the order process. They're closer to touching the product when they're filling out the order form by hand with a ball-point pen than the person who's clicking on their screen. Because you can go on your screen and you can click on a camera and then click on a pair of socks, and then click on a dozen cupcakes and it's all stuff on the screen. If I could lick the cupcakes on the screen life would be different, but I can.
Jonathan Hinz: You can, I mean, technically. inaudible 00:06:23
Henry Posner: What we're trying to do with our social media environment is, number 1, find an individual customer who may not be satisfied and see whether or not we can make that customer satisfied. The second thing we try to do with every single one of those interactions is dig down 1 layer, 2 layers, 3 layers. Why is that customer dissatisfied, what did we do either to contribute to the customer's dissatisfaction, or what did we fail to do to avoid the customer becoming dissatisfied. And is, as a result of answering those questions, is there a policy or a procedure, or a something or other that we should consider altering or changing, or editing or modifying in some mystical way so that the next customer who comes down the pike doesn't have the same unhappiness. My philosophy is not that we're not going to make any mistakes, my philosophy is that tomorrow I want to make new and different mistakes. Because repeating the same old ones from yesterday is boring.
Jordan Garner: I think this is the only meeting I've ever been to, most customer meetings that we go to we talk about the 1 and 2 star reviews and how to improve those. This is the only one where you guys say no no, let's focus on the 4 stars. Why weren't they 5? And it's such an interesting look at-
Henry Posner: It's the same philosophy as when you came home from school with an A minus on your Biology test and Dad's going "An A minus? An A minus"
Jonathan Hinz: I believe you guys have talked about reviews in your executive meetings and then you work to address those throughout the business. Can you just talk a little bit about that?
Matt Sand: Yeah, the reviews are also a really big part of our executive meetings. Just so everyone knows, what we do really is, we go out and we're the biggest online seller of books. Of used books that's out there on the internet. So, and used books can be, you know, a lot of people have a perception of them that they can be kind of gross. Going back to that tactile thing, what's more tactile than picking up a book and smelling it and sometimes-
Ian Macdonald: inaudible 00:08:34
Matt Sand: Yeah, so and we're buying our books from places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, different library systems, so they've gone through lots of different hands and we really want people who- We need for people to be able to trust us that the books that they're getting are actually books that they want to be able to pick up and smell or whatever. We use reviews, not only do we go through and we look at our 1 star and our 2 star reviews, which we do get some of and that tells us where either we have some training issues or things along those lines. Really, to your point, Henry those 4 star reviews are the ones that, things that, well you know we have some really satisfied customers but these are some things that we really need to start tweaking. It's a great point that you brought up.
Jonathan Hinz: Do you hope that that, do you think that that helps rally some advocates to use reviews like hey you know, going to the product team or going to the marketing team and saying "Hey guys, we need to fix this because here's all these voices talking about this problem instead of you voicing that problem.
Matt Sand: Definitely, actually having the customer's words right in front of you are key. You can't really dispute it. Especially when you have a number of them, you can write down exactly what the numbers are saying. It's very useful and it really helps us prioritize what we, the processes that we have in place. Do we need to spend more attention to the labels that we put on the books so that they don't tear the cover when you pull them off, things like that.
Jonathan Hinz: You know, it's funny how the small things, there's always a customer success story that we tend to share where somebody was shipping out mugs that the picture came to light when you put hot liquid in it and all these customers were complaining saying that the mug doesn't work, it's broken. Come to realize they weren't putting hot liquid in it first, so the reviews lead them to the solution which is simply put a little note in the box that said "By the way, hot liquid has to be in there." It's the simple things sometimes that really drive that extra level of customer experience. Drew, you know, I love your title, I think you've probably gotten a lot of good comments. You're the head of happiness, can you just talk about that a little bit? I think it's awesome.
Drew Stadler: Yeah, sure. Just a little bit about Bombas in case nobody knows who we are. Bombas is a line of athletic leisure socks that are design to look better, feel better, with the mission to help those in need. We started our company in the Fall of 2013 and Indy Go go raised, based on the fact that we heard there was a quote that sock are the number 1 most requested item at homeless shelters. Our founders, our 2 co-founders got together and thought that that needs to change and there's an opportunity there. We started this Indy Go go raise to, obviously to prove a concept and to get our product out there, but also because we wanted that one-on-one interaction with our customers, with our potential customers I guess. Indy Go go was great because there's a level of intimacy that just, launching a site and doing all the right press around it that you don't have, so there's a different kind of sense of ownership from the people that are interacting with you through an Indy Go go raise. My job, it's a very unique one, and it's one that's on Instagram, It's not Instagram. Definitely Instagram, but also LinkedIn. It's definitely something that not too many people have and not too many companies think that's important to have someone like that in all the management meetings and driving decisions and listening to customers and advocating for them. And that's what I do. Within the company I also handle happiness internally, but externally as well. I guess you can compare it to the head of customer service, and I've go at happiness team that we work with and we respond to customers and listen to them through phone, through chat, through email, through our social; channels. Pretty much any way possible. Of course through 3rd party places like Trustpilot. That's my job, my job is to advocate for our customers and make sure that they're being heard because any changes that we needed to make. We hear almost first from our customers.
They're the ones that they're trying to make a purchase and it's not going through, we're going to hear from them and we encourage that and we encourage the dialog because just like Erica was saying, we love our customers and the more we interact with them, the deeper the connection. That's incredibly important to us, and that's what I do at Bombas.
Jonathan Hinz: I always give the example that there's a couple, I love dessert and everybody in the office knows that I'm like the dessert freak, so you and I should places to go. I have Levine's, for those that know, Levine's bakery one of, some of the best cookies in the city. So I wear that shirt a lot as, not a symbol of pride, but as a brand advocate. I want others to know that this is the place I go to shop and experience because it means something to me and I help promote those businesses. I always find that brand advocates are really kind of 2 people. Either they're the ones that voice their opinion to encourage people to go places and of course help those businesses, or warn others that they're going to experience something negative. That ability to capture a vast array of reviews and feedback and opinion through multiple social channels, including reviews, is important because you need to get the whole view of everything. Not just the loudest people that are voicing their opinions on either sides of the scales. Do you guys, and this is kind of an open question, we talked a little bit Peter about moral and how reviews sometimes are used to build morale. We obviously read some of the reviews that we get on Trustpilot.com, there's about 13 million now and some of them are amazingly well written and some are very very very funny as you can imagine. Do you use reviews to encourage some of the employees and some of the teams internally, and if so, how?
Matt Sand: If I can just jump in and say, one of the things I was not expecting when we started with Trustpilot was what a positive impact it was going to have on our customer service team. It's, our customer service team spends day in day out, they're working with the customers who aren't necessarily satisfied with our work. So, being able to see just the overwhelming positive response we have about our site really was validating for the work that they were doing. It was really really a positive thing for our customer service folks to see how much our customers really do love us.
Ian Macdonald: I think we're in the same boat. We have a 500 seat call center and the majority of the call volume is negative, something went wrong. But our Trustpilot reviews, and all reviews are disproportionately positive and when they're positive they also happen to reference the customer service agent's name. So we've noticed that when it's a negative, they tend not to call out the employee that they feel has harmed them, but when it's a positive experience they do. They make a concerted effort to mention the employee who's done great work. So we have a team of about 10 people who are specifically on social reviews, E-commerce type of stuff and if there's a positive review that mentions an employee, they immediately send it. I mean within like an hour, to that employee and their team leader. It gets escalated up to the president just as fast as if someone dies, you know. It's pretty fast. Our customers are old, so them dying between crosstalk 00:16:29 is not that weird. It's great for morale. You asked about morale, and what do we do with it, it's a great morale booster because wee know that the positive reviews disproportionately mention customers, or employees more so than the negative ones, and so we want to share it, it's great.
Drew Stadler: I think we use it too. We use it for morale formally and informally. So we go through reviews, I go through. We have a Monday morning touch base with the heads of the departments and it sounds goofy after hearing the 500 seat call center because there's 12 people that work at our company, a lot of departments in one. I'll go through some reviews to see if something's working particularly on the site or if there's a string of problems that all seem to be the same, we'll make an adjustment, we'll figure out what we need to do, but the positive ones we're all day long shouting them out. We're fortunate enough to be able to work in 1 big office and it's really fun and we all get along really well-
Henry Posner: So your company is like this size?
Drew Stadler: This is a few of our companies. It's nice and it's totally start-up, we've got the ping pong table, and in fact we had to make a decision. We had a budget to paint the office or we could have gotten a great pop-in ping pong table and you better believe we put the painting clothes on. All day long we're chirping out "This review came in. This is positive, this is great." We have a unique thing and it's our mission and everything we do is our mission.. I may have mentioned before, but I don't know if I did, we've been able to donate almost 400 thousand pairs of socks and people really connect with that. Through Trustpilot and through various other reviews our community manager lets us know through the social stuff, people absolutely love it. It's good for morale and it's good to validate what we're doing, it's good to keep us driving and re-center us toward our mission, which it's everything that we do and we would need, we'd have no identity without it, so absolutely it's good for morale.
Jonathan Hinz: So most of the common themes that we hear are, you know the customer service and then building morale with reviews. I do find it interesting that almost everybody on this panel has some philanthropic activity that they do or that they're really invested in, foundation for your company, community support, giving back textbooks. It's something that is very encouraging but also, part of your culture and company which is super powerful. Henry, one question I wanted to ask you was, in relation to managing such a large social experience, your Facebook, your Twitter, and then of course your Trustpilot, how are you, what kind of tips and advice would you give to the audience about what's the best way to go and grow that experience and then manage it as well?
Henry Posner: I think the first thing that I had to learn back when I was the only person doing it and was swamped with 100 emails a day and just discovered that I couldn't answer them all, was that the negative comments had nothing to do with me. The people who are sending in negative feedback, whether it's Twitter or email or a use net news group, or a forum "B&H Photo is the worst blankety blankety blank company in history and this is the worst customer experience I've ever had in my whole entire life." And I'm thinking, wow, sheltered and naïve? But the fact is, it's got nothing to do with me. It's got nothing to do with whether my socks match or I had a fight with my wife before I walked out the front door. You're not even wearing any dude.
Drew Stadler: I am.
Henry Posner: Those are like half size things? Those are like sock-o-litos.
Drew Stadler: inaudible 00:20:00 You're going to change your tune, I promise. They're very comfortable, you're going to love.
Henry Posner: Okay, I'm open to the experience. But any case, it's got nothing to do with me and the customers who are the most vehemently outrageously vituperatively 00:20:18 enraged crosstalk 00:20:23 are often just wrong. When a customer sends me an email "You lousy stinking bastards, I placed an order at 4:30 on Friday and I didn't get my merchandise delivered before I sat down for dinner that night." Maybe I made a mistake not managing your expectations properly sir, but get real. A lot of what we try to do, is we try to explain to customers how we got to the place we got, and then what we're going to do to fix it. I'm in the middle of a conversation with a customer now who ordered a product that the manufacturer has 2 of and the difference is 1 letter in the product code and the difference in the design and the performance is something that this is the only guy in the planet whom it would effect. And he ordered the wrong one, but we shipped him what he ordered, but we didn't ship him what he needed. That's our fault, and we're bad, and we deserve to be punished, and he wants a 500 dollar gift card as compensation for our shipping him the 60 dollar product that he actually ordered from us and he's not going to get it. He's not going to get it. Trust me he's not going to get it. But it's not me, it's not me. I'm not going to get any taller if I fix this guy's problems and Angelina's not going to leave Brad for me.
It's nothing personal, and the other thing that we do now that we've got a million people talking to us from a million different avenues is we divvy up the technical problems from the more mundane shipping and handling and return authorization problems, from the guy from Canada with the 60 dollar inaudible 00:22:18.
Speaker 7: Hey, nothing wrong with Canada.
Henry Posner: I love Canada. You go back home to this guy and you smack him upside the head because he was wrongcrosstalk 00:22:27. We are obliged by the volume of the business that we're doing to compartmentalize to one degree or another. When I first started at B&H there were 60 employees all together and it was like this. I handled all of it and there was a lot less of it, so I'm very very gratified that somebody said to me, you know here cultivate this little tiny seedling and now I've got a forest, but I absolutely could not do this by myself and anybody in my company who thinks that I can is going to be about as disappointed as this guy with the 60 dollar product.
Drew Stadler: So how are you going to resolve it with that person with that thing? You're going to send them ...
Henry Posner: We have sent this guy return authorization for the product that he didn't want-
Drew Stadler: And he won't send it?
Henry Posner: He will send it. We sent this guy a gift card that we thought was commensurate with the level of- more than commensurate with the level of the situation. We paid the guy's return shipping to us, which we rarely do because our company policy is we'll pay the return shipping if we screwed up or if it's our fault or if it's an initial out of the box defect or something that could be laid on us, 1 percent. My boss' philosophy is- It's raining over we're fertilizing the forest. My boss' philosophy is, if we're 1 percent wrong, we're wrong. And I look for that 1 percent as hard as I can in every single 1 of these conversations and when I find that 1 percent I jump through hoops to make the customer understand that we regret the 1 percent as much as we would have regretted the 99 percent. This is not the case in this case, but we are doing for this guy over and above. We're paying his return shipping, we've already issued him the refund even though we haven't gotten the product back, we've already sent him a gift card of a value that we think is commensurate with the situation, we've offered to overnight the product that he actually wanted for free overnight shipping which is not an inexpensive proposition as I'm sure you know, and the guy's answer is, and I don't even have to turn my head to say this out loud.
Here's the other thing that I've learned. I read this in Harvard Business review a long time ago and it is carved into my heart. There are customers you cannot retrieve. There are customers that you cannot make satisfied. There are customers who do not want to be made satisfied. They want to revel in and enjoy their anger and their ire and they're looking forward to going to the family labor day Bar-b-Que and spewing that all over the room.
My job is to minimize that possibility and my job is to take everyone of those customers who has a 1 percent chance of being pulled back from the dark side, but I know full well there are customer who cannot be pulled back from the dark side. Who don't want to be pulled back from the dark side. Who if I threw them the life raft and the rope, would fight me tooth and nail every inch of the way, and then when I got them back to the shore, jump back in and I can't do anything about it. Harvard Business Review says there are customers that you want to say goodbye to because it's at your benefit for them to shop with your competitor and give him that crap.
Drew Stadler: I think being New York start-ups I think we have a disproportionate amount of those in the city, but yeah absolutely. Henry Posner: I'm a New Yorker and Drew is the head of happiness, I'm the sultan of sarcasm.
Speaker 8: inaudible 00:26:01
Henry Posner: I'm sorry, say that again.
Speaker 8: Do you go that full length for your full 1 percent of your customers?
Henry Posner: I go that full length for every single customer. In all honesty, more than half the time the amount of energy and resources and, from a dollar and cents point of view, my time has some value. They pay me a pittance, but they pay me. It is almost always out of proportion and we would, half the time or more, save money if we said to the customer "You know, inaudible 00:26:34 down the block. Have a nice day, give him my regards, goodbye." But we don't do that. Number one, because we would like to be able to pull these customers back from the dark side if possible. Number 2, I take a certain amount of personal satisfaction when I pull one of these off and get to walk into my boss' office and go "Fixed this one." And I don't want these customers going to the labor day family Bar-b-Que and saying "Shopping at B&H is like diving head first into a pool of diarrhea." Because when they say this to their friends and neighbors and relatives, some of them are likely to think "Wow, that Tom, he was right about about my getting the bowling ball with the finger holes drilled a little bit further apart, he's right about B&H too."
Jonathan Hinz: Let's talk a little bit about negative reviews because, I mean it's obviously, I'm not going to use the diarrhea again, but it's a hot topic. So negative reviews, I think there's 2 things to talk about, number 1 is trying to proactively address people that are leaving negative reviews. Then, obviously re-actively address negative reviews. The example I like to give here is, if you haven't experienced this and this little bit of brand advocacy, there's a company out there called Museum Hacks in the city and they offer little micro specialized tours of some of the museums within the city. They're really fun, they're engaging, and at the end of the experience, which I had a fantastic time, they tell you "Please rate us. If you're not going to give us 5 starts we're going to give you 110 percent of your money back." It's that kind of commitment to customer satisfaction that creates the 5 stars and avoids the 1 star, so that's the proactive approach. But then, B&H Photo, and I'd like to hear from you guys as well on this one. For the negative reviews, they go all the way to the top. Your Sea level team addresses those personally and gives that extra level of support to make sure that that customer's satisfied. That's fantastic.
Henry Posner: 20 years ago when I started doing this I'd go to the use net news groups which were a zoo. I don't know if any of you have been online that long, but the use net news groups were really like hunting bear with your hands tied behind your back. I would print these long strings of comment. They're bad they're good, they're bad they're good, they were bad to me, they were good to me, and I would cross reference every comment with a customer code if I could find one, or an order number if I could find one and I would highlight the parts that I thought were important. I would collate them and I would bring them into my boss' boss' boss' office and 2 months later he would call meup and he would say "What'd you do about this?" And I would say "Oh, I fixed it, it's okay." He'd say "How?" I said "Let me come down to your office." I'd come down to his office and I re-read the whole thing really quickly, then I'd remember how it happened. It always caught me off guard that no matter how much time passed between the event of the complaint and between the complaint and my finding it, responding to it, printing it. There were people way up at the top of the mountain where the air is thin and there's snow 12 months a year who were reading these things and taking them to heart and consider them important and I personally believe that we wouldn't be involved with all of the different customer input methods that we're using today including Trustpilot. We wouldn't be involved in those if we hadn't started with the boss' boss' boss reading these things that I had scrolled margins, notes in the margins in and highlighted and so forth and so on. The other thing that I do, and I don't do this with Trustpilot because it's not really that kind of an environment, but we Free-front a lot of photography related forums, DP Review, Fredmiranda.com, I don't need to mention them all.
When a customer is unhappy and posts 'B&H, they're the worst things in the world, they're awful. You know, vomit sandwiches would be better." I usually, I usually wait a couple of hours. I will do my research and my homework and figure out who the customer is and what the transaction was and the problem the customer's perceiving is, but if I don't think the customer is right or if I think the customer is really over reacting, which is more often then not the case, I'll wait and other people who I consider our advocates will speak for me. "Gee, they never did this to me this way. Maybe you should call them. I think you're over-reacting. Maybe you didn't see this place on their website where they said that orders have to go through verification over a certain dollar amount to make sure that you're not being ripped off." And so forth and so on. By the time I get there, the guy who started the conversation by saying so many terrible bad things about us has been countered by several if not many other people who either chime in with their good positive experience or opinion in general. Or specifically address this guy's situation in a way that I sometimes can't because of privacy concerns.
Then I jump in and I say "Gee, thanks to all you guys who spoke nicely of us and Mr. Thread Starter, I really feel very badly about this and I can say this about this in public and for the rest of it look for my email.
Jonathan Hinz: I do the same exact thing with corporate email. I just let that problem fizzle out itself.
Drew Stadler: I have a question for you. So, do you find that customers coming to your defense is more prevalent on those more niche sites like the photography sites than it is on Facebook? Because sometimes it happens with us on Facebook and it's great when it's organic and people come to our defense and it's awesome and it just means our community's strong and people are passionate about it. Do you find that happens as much on Facebook-
Henry Posner: No. It doesn't happen as much on Facebook. I have a lot of issues with Facebook and we don't need to get into all of them tonight because I assume you guys want to go home at some point. There are more, in my opinion and I don't know whether or not this is true for your company or your industry, but my experience with B&H, the only company I've ever worked for on the retail end, is that you get more dilettantes. You get more people flying by, you get more people who really aren't invested in the product or the conversation or photography in general. They're just, they're in the neighborhood. And then they drop their little load and they're not in the neighborhood anymore. All you people who laughed at that have dirty minds. That was just inaudible 00:33:06
Jonathan Hinz: What other approaches have you guys used? I mean you've clearly faced some challenges with bad reviews. What actions do you take?
Drew Stadler: Well we react to them pretty quickly. We've got a community manager, sort of a third party company that we kind of out source it to. Monitors our account at all time because, again personnel's an issue for us as far as we're just trying to grow and build a a little bit. But we want to find out what's going on. I look at them as opportunities each time that someone has a problem. Our product isn't as complicated as electronics or even textbooks. When there's so many different, I mean you have an insane amount of skus I would imagine. We have socks. We do 1 thing and that's our core inaudible 00:33:47. We think that we do it well, but the issues are pretty similar. When someone's really upset and someone's really angry, first of all I have this thing where it's a little weird that I'm actually happy that they're upset with us. They could be upset with inaudible 00:34:02 or Nike or something. So they're interacting with us and so I see it as an opportunity to come over center just like you said and having them being advocates for us.
We'll try to figure out what's going on, so even in the example of the person that was really difficult you were just explaining, I find that yes people want to hear themselves be angry and people do want to be angry, but we try to level with everyone. We try to solve it, actually on Facebook first because we found that people enjoy, like that one touch resolution, I've got an issue with my shipping here. We won't divulge any information on Facebook but we'll try to do all the research, even if we have to do some little assumptions and we do some detective work. We try to solve it all there and we find that that makes people really happy. That they don't, that they can actually use Facebook for what Facebook wants it to be used as. As like a forum, as a place to interact and not somewhere to take it offline.
We have to take a lot of things offline of course. So we see these negative things as opportunities to pick up yardage so to speak, so we're pretty active with it.
Jonathan Hinz: It's interesting, we've probably all been there where we voiced out opinion about a product or service that we've been upset about and it just goes into the void and never comes back. I feel the a lot of ways, I come from a telecom background where we use net promoter scores a pretty positive or pretty heavy means of indicating our business and you've probably taken those surveys as well where you tell them how you feel about the product and service and nobody ever gets back to you, never talks to you. Having that instant response back on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media it is, for me 2 weeks ago I was pissed at an ice cream company for not having enough chocolate covered pretzels. Being that they responded the next day, that's resolved that issue for me. It's so important to have that communication.
Drew Stadler: Yeah, and you're talking about it now in front of everyone, so that's' it right there.
Henry Posner: Does your experience dealing with customers from this side of the line change the way you behave when you're the customer on the other side of the line?
Drew Stadler: I don't know. I think I'm uniquely suited for what I do because I have a certain amount of empathy. I don't know to be honest with you I guess because I'm too close to it but that's a good question. But I always try to think, how would I react to this and how ... Because I just feel like whatever they're talking about whether it's a hole in the sock or if it's like USPS' issue, those are the most frustrating ones because obviously it's out of your hands but the notice is on us until they get their socks on their feet even after.. I think that it's important to, you know I lost my train of thought. To answer your question, no, I try to ... I think I'm nice to people that I deal with.
Henry Posner: My wife is always on my case "What would you do if it was B&H?" And my first answer is always "Well we wouldn't have screwed up like this if it was B&H." She looks at me like, yeah because you're perfect. I wanted to replace a pair of running shoes because I run. Shut up. Yeah you don't run either. I went to the website and I went to Zappos and I couldn't find the model and I went to Amazon and they only had 3 sizes, none of which were my size remotely. So I went to the manufacturer's website and the model isn't there anymore. So I found them on Twitter and I tweeted "Is this in such model discontinued, and if it is what's the closest model that's the closest analogy?" Nothing, dead silence. 3 days later I post the same tweet again. Nothing, dead silence. I go to their Facebook page and post the same thing on Facebook, nothing. Dead silence. This morning I went back to Twitter and I said "Really disappointing that I can't get an answer from this particular brand about this particular product." I know that there are companies on Twitter that it's definitely a one way street. They Tweet out, they never listen, they never respond but this company wasn't like that. Because I'm following their Twitter feed, so this morning I say that I'm really disappointed and they come back to me 10 minutes later like "Oh we answered you on Facebook." Why are you so bent out of shape. Well I'm bent out of shape because your answer didn't pop up on my Facebook feed so I don't know how the hell you went about answering me, but number 2, it was the 3rd time I'd asked. Now yes, I over reacted and I was wrong and I'm going to have to apologize to them and have to buy their damn shoes, probably from you. Probably not with a 20 percent discount because I forgot to write down the damn email address.
I was wrong. I blew up, I lost my temper. I do that a lot. I blow up, I lose my temper, and then I'm over it.
Jonathan Hinz: The fact is that most companies, the larger they grow, the more typical it is that they do this where they use the social media outlet as a way to broadcast a message and consumers don't want that. They don't want to be spammed. They want to be engaged, they want dialog. So I strongly urge people to start rethinking their approach to social media and engaging their customers a little bit more that just, oh hashtag at number at sign here, it gets frustrating. We've done that too internally here a bit and we've changed our model and approach just from a corporate culture communications perspective.
Henry Posner: Tech reps come into our store to do product training for our sales guys and I sit down with them and I beg them on my knees to be more responsive and make it more of a 2 way street. They look at me and they say "You know, I sing this song until I'm voiceless and htere's just no progress. The people upstairs won't listen." And I say "Then get the hell off of Twitter." The answer is "well we're not going to do that either." I say "Okay, glad I had this conversation, see you again on Monday."
Matt Sand: The thing is you really can't even get off Twitter.
Henry Posner: I don't want to get off Twitter. Twitter should be interactive. It should be a 2 way street.
Matt Sand: The customer chooses how we interact with us now. We don't tell them how to interact with us, so we ave to be on all those channels and listening to them and responding as soon as it makes sense.
Jonathan Hinz: You know a question I wanted to ask you Matt, so you just re-launched the website, how are you growing the Thrift Books brand and I want to ask you that question too because you also have such a large amount of brands to manage.
Matt Sand: Yeah, well I think one of the things I mentioned before is one of the things we found out through Trustpilot through our reviews, a lot of the people who loved us would write glowing reviews about us but then they would mention kind of how tacky our website was. Our company was started by a bunch of engineers who never put any creative design into things at all, so it was nice to finally get validation. Everyone knew that it didn't look good, but to hear from the customers that even though they loved the site itself and the functionality and the prices and everything that we just really needed to put more resources there, so that was one thing we learned and so we went through a whole re-branding-
Henry Posner: inaudible 00:40:58 Ping pong table.
Matt Sand: Yeah, so we went with the paint.
Henry Posner: So you guys went with the coat of paint.
Matt Sand: Yeah. As part of that we also were able to focus on what the important, on the real selling points that our customers were looking for. That trust in the product because, you know, buying used product you reallly have to trust who you're buying from, so being able to get all of that information on the home page for example and also on the product detail pages where the majority of our customers actually land because they're looking for specific books. That clarity that the reviews focused us on really helped us in our redesign and showed us where we needed to focus.
Jonathan Hinz: Trust is no longer assumed online, it's earned right? It's something that you all displayed characteristics of your companies and your experiences and the way that you treat customers and you've earned that respect of them by going that extra mile and then really building that brand advocacy with them. Ian, can you talk a little bit about of the juggling of the brands and that dynamic that you experience?
Ian Macdonald: Well I think you are also asking about how does trust build the brand, right?
Jonathan Hinz: Yeah.
Ian Macdonald: So we look at trust as before the customer ever finds us. So we use trust building as kind of a competitive advantage in the Google results. So we do a great job of getting the trustpilot reviews, product reviews, reviews from anywhere that show up in the Google results and paid and search. So we get those nice star ratings that our competitors don't. So that's the competitive advantage for us. We sell a lot of general merchandise, kitchen spatulas, towels. Stuff that Amazon and Wal-mart sell, so if we can get some nice star ratings in the search results that other companies don't have or maybe we have it, it makes us stand out a little bit more than Amazon, that's the competitive advantage for us. That's what helps grow the brand.
Jonathan Hinz: Time check. Okay cool. Just checking to see how much time we have left, sorry guys. I'll credit our VP of sales, JP over here if you haven't met him with this line, I think of reviews, that's the one credit you're ever going to get just FYI. We think of reviews as micro-interviews. So you're getting a broad data set for your consumers telling you what's wrong with your business that's anything that they want to voice and so there's a lot of data within that paragraph that they'll give you. Have you guys, in an open question, has anybody taken that information either aggregated or individually used it to alter what of your business? Either your brand or we talked a little bit about the textbooks, but I know you've had a little more experience here.
Ian Macdonald: I think we've had great experience with that. So, one thing that Trustpilot has done for us is become a system of record for all of our reviews, so we had reviews coming everywhere. Google, Bizread 00:44:07, product reviews, turnedto 00:44:12, we had a Survey Monkey survey on our confirmation email. If you call the customer service center and you just want to bitch about whatever it is that went wrong, that was a great anecdotal complaint. We had no storage of feedback but with Trustpilot we get into one spot that could be structured. So we actually went through an exercise where we essentially read, a human read every single review and then categorized it. Is it delivery, is it product, okay is it positive is it negative, and then we could lump all that together and slice it and dice it by positive, negative, the category, product, experience, customer service.
Henry Posner: Bucketing.
Ian Macdonald: Bucketing it, yeah. Is the experience part our fault, is it UPS' fault, is it your credit card declined you? I mean it could be anything right? So we try to structure it all and that was the key for us is we had so much data. I mean we ship 18 thousand orders a pay and if you get a 1 percent response rate on whatever feedback you're asking for that's a ton of feedback, what do you do with it, right? So our problem was what do you do with it? So Trustpilot helped us bucket it and one really cool thing that we learned from all that was, I think essentially our biggest problem was expectations. So customers had a different expectation, which you mentioned, than what we did. One clear example we saw earlier this year was in Long Beach when the laundry industry went on strike, I think a lot of us probably had problems with that, when the laundry industry went on strike back orders were extended. So we had product coming in from China, we knew it wasn't going to get here in time because the Laundry industry went on strike. We thought we communicated that well to customers. We told them it was back ordered, it said it on the website, we were sending them Back order confirmation when they ordered something that was out of stock, but the number one feedback we were getting in that time frame was "Where is my order?" When we did a root cause analysis and got into it it was just we did not communicate it well enough to the customer. So we thought we were doing a fine job. We knew their order was going to be delayed. We knew it. There was no reason they shouldn't know it, but they didn't, we just did not communicate that.
Getting the structured data where we could consolidate all these comments into one spot, Bucket it, analyze it, and we knew the root cause was we just didn't communicate well and that's been our biggest learning going forward.
Jordan Garner: I would say just, having heard a lot of these conversations with a lot of partners and I remember I heard it in that meeting that I was at when you guys realized that was expectations. That is the number 1 undoubtedly across all the businesses we talk to, route cause is expectation setting. When people are within a company you know it so well, you know it like the back of your hand, it is so easy to overlook those things that are obviously missing to people that are shopping with you. That's been a really big learning for me is now I try to take that into the way that Trustpilot does business is zero assumptions. It's kind of back to that user experience mantra. You are not your user. Expectation setting is such a huge thing that people often take for granted and I think don't evaluate on a continuous basis because the expectations that are set could change over time as well with changing demographics and audiences and whatever else is out there.
Jonathan Hinz: You know Jordan, you've seen thousands of brands now in the US under Trustpilot. What are some of the key things like you just mentioned that you've noticed, some trends, some information that you could share with everybody as they're building their own or they're managing their existing.
Jordan Garner: Sure. I guess a few commonalities. The first thing is when people start proactively asking for feedback the first time, most people are pretty nervous because up until that time the only stuff they heard was negative stuff and most people are just absolutely thrilled to a point that I would have never expected when they do start proactively asking for that feedback and getting overwhelmingly positive responses. We actually had one voice mail or something that was left from one customer, the CEO of a company and it started of sounding like it was going to be a negative thing. Kind of like, hey Katie, there's a problem. All of our reviews are 5 stars, there must be something wrong, the invitations aren't going out right, or something like that and of course everything was right, but just people don't know about this stuff. It's sad. I want to tell everyone. Ask people, I swear they're happy, I know they are. You just need to ask them. That's been a really cool thing. In conjunction with that, the length of the responses people get when you ask them an open question is incredible. People are expecting a few words like good, maybe come again. Like robot talk or something, like a Tweet and they get essays and they're just overwhelmed by it. It's like creative writing too. It's fun to read, it's not just actually about the service. So that's just been so cool because our review forms are simple, they're just a rating and an open text box and that's all you need because people are going to share with you everything they want to share. Everything that was important and some stuff that wasn't important. That's been really neat.
I just think working with people on turning reviews around to when they've been unsatisfied the first time. People recognize, we're all sitting here as a consumer. I'm sure most people have read reviews before and you read a review with context. You don't just look at the one star, you read it and you say "Well, this person sounds a little bit off their rocker." Or this person sounds like they're really high maintenance or whatever but then when you're in that business everything is personal. It's really hard to put context around that. You read it and we work with a lot of mom and pop shops up to bigger businesses and people take everything personally, every sized company. To take yourself out of that and talking people through that, people read reviews with context. Bad reviews are there for a reason and people aren't just seeing the one star and reacting.
It's an important conversation to have and it's one of the hardest things to convince people of because they are emotionally connected to their business. So if anyone has a better way of having that conversation please let me know, because it's the number one thing we talk to customers out of a hole. That first negative review they get. This isn't about you, this probably isn't even about your company. It's probably they were having a bad day or whatever it is and people read that when they read that review. I just think that's a really important point and an important conversation to have.
Henry Posner: The bottom line on that list of points that you just raised in my opinion is, it's great to get all those 4 and 5 star reviews, but they do tend to be paragraphs, essays. You've got to read the whole thing. When I first started doing this, if it was a 5 star review it was, oh they love us thank you, oh they love us thank you, oh they love us thank you because I was looking for the ones that were real barn burners because I knew those were fires I had to put out. The guy who writes the 5 star review, there's a sentence in the second to last paragraph that is the distant early warning. The tip of that iceberg of some nascent, quietly lurking dissatisfaction that you need to pay attention to. So you need to not only read the 5 star review and the 4 star reviews, as gratifying as most of them may be, in addition to the one star reviews that make you want to lose your lunch. But you have to read the whole review. You've got to find that sentence in the second to last paragraph that lets you know that his next review might not be so good because he doesn't even know he said something critical, but he has.
Jordan Garner: Good point.
Jonathan Hinz: I think we probably have a couple more minutes to open up to questions. Anything you'd want, preferably not Trustpilot related. Just raise your hand, ask away, pretty informal crowd here. And I'll warn you, the more questions we ask the long it's going to take to get tipsy, so ...
Jordan Garner: I'll ask a question to Drew. I think reading your reviews and I don't get surprised a lot reading reviews anymore because we work with all kinds of companies, so talk to me about that later. I was most surprised by reading your reviews and not because they were good but because they were about socks but it sounded like people had won the lottery. I've never seen such brand advocacy for something that's such a low price point, good prices, good job. I was saying earlier to you, to me it sounded like Harley Davidson level of these people might start bars and show up wearing your socks and hang out together. Were you guys surprised?
Henry Posner: So he needs tee shirts that say I'm wearing yada yada socks. Look at my ankles.
Drew Stadler: The only other product we do have is a tee shirt with our mantra "Be Better on it.
Jordan Garner: That's why, I'm sorry but were you guys surprised?
Drew Stadler: It's not that we were surprised. I think, and I'm to one of the co-founders. I came on a bit later on, but the whole thing with our company is about a sense of community and so our name's Bombas and it's derived from the Latin word for Bumble bee. So the bee is kind of our spirit animal and we like the way that bees have to work together to get things done and we have the hive is really what our supporters are and it's what we are and so that thread shows up in social channels. In the reviews. I think we make it the barrier to entry to be involved and to, you know, you buy a pair of sock and we'll donate one. You don't have to think about it. People enjoy interacting with us and joining our mission because it's like A) we took almost 2 years in research and development to create what we think are the best socks on the market and B) we have the mission. So it's very easy for me to be talking about this all day and I think that comes through in the reviews and the people want to get involved and they're very proactive. More so than other companies that also have good socks. I think that if we just made good socks that would be good. You'd sell good socks, that's fantastic. Or on the other side if we just had the mission and the socks were just okay, that would be fine too because the mission's important. The fact that the socks happen to be pretty good and the fact that we have the mission I think it's an easy thing to latch on to and I think that comes through in the reviews. We're very lucky, we're very conscientious about making sure that people feel welcome and it's an inclusive company.
Jordan Garner: Has anyone ever gotten a Bombas tattoo?
Drew Stadler: It's funny you mention that.
Jonathan Hinz: We've got a tattoo artist coming later.
Drew Stadler: We have had any Bombas tattoos from any fans yet, but our founder Dave Heath has promised that on our millionth pair that we're able to donate he's going to be getting a Bombas tattoo no matter what his mom says.
Jonathan Hinz: Wasn't Peter supposed to get a tattoo when he came to New York?
Jordan Garner: That sounds right.
Jonathan Hinz: Tonight we'll take some shots, we'll go out, we'll get you some tattoos.
Speaker 9: Some?
Drew Stadler: Also, one thing I wanted to mention. We were talking about negative reviews and I've been talking about branding and making sure that that thread is there through the whole way, so we don't really have a stated return policy and we don't have a stated exchange policy. We have what we call a happiness guarantee and it says no matter what is going on, no matter what the issue is, whether we have to exchange the socks, replace the socks, send you new ones. If you make a sock puppet out of one of the socks and you don't like the way it looked, we'll take it back and we'll pay for shipping. So the negative reviews that we see on Trustpilot and other places, we see those as obviously like I said before opportunities to pick up yardage and to make the experience positive, but we also see that as an opportunity to brand that guarantee. So we'll pivot to that at all times and do whatever we have to do to make it right. It's an easy thing to do. It's sock, we have to replace them, whatever it is, but we see those negative reviews as absolute opportunities to reiterate that happiness guarantee is of the utmost importance to us. I was thinking about that when you guys were talking about it.
Jonathan Hinz: That's an absolutely. They are an opportuniity and turning that negative situation into a positive is really what helps businesses, so thanks for sharing that. Any other questions from the group? All right guys, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.
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