Be aware of your customers’ changing needs. As technology changes your customers’ needs and expectations change. In the past 40 years, we have seen the evolution of business from mail-order catalogs and phone orders to internet searches, social media, and instant redemption. Take advantage of changing technology to improve customer satisfaction and add products and services tailored to your customers’ changing needs.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rocky Mosele.
Rocky Mosele is the owner of the International Star Registry, an innovative company that started in 1979 for the purpose of naming stars. Since pioneering the concept of naming stars for loved ones, the International Star Registry at starregistry.com has named millions of stars for celebrities, royalty, dignitaries, and individuals worldwide. Each star named is unique and all of the stars are recorded in the only permanent, published catalog of named stars in the world. 10 volumes of the catalog “Your Place in the Cosmos” have been registered in the United States Copyright Office. Customer service is a cornerstone of the business. The company is a member of the BBB with an A+ rating.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Our company origin is unique! It was started by my parents, John and Phyllis Mosele, with the help of their 12 children. My mother was the president of the company and my parents made a great team. International Star Registry® was created in 1979 as a gift item, allowing people to name previously numbered stars in the sky after someone special.
They felt the magic and appeal of the stars goes beyond scientific study. The stars have been the source of stories, songs, religion, and mythology in virtually every language and culture. Up until that time there had been dozens of catalogs of the stars created by different astronomers. These pre-existing compendiums listed the same stars numerically and by location for scientific use.
We’ve created our own alphanumeric listing which enables us to assign a name to each individual star. In return for purchasing our service, we supply our customers with a beautiful gift package which includes a full-color 12” x 16” parchment certificate with the new name of the star, the telescopic coordinates, and the date of dedication, plus a star chart with the star’s location indicated and encircled, and a booklet about astronomy written exclusively for Star Registry customers by a professional astronomer.
Our catalog is the only permanent, published listing of named stars in the world and each star we name is unique. One day our great grandchildren can use this catalog to locate the records of each star named.
International Star Registry became an international phenomenon within just a few short years because it’s the perfect gift for the person who has everything. Some of our earliest recipients and customers were celebrities like Stephen Spielberg, Jamie Lee Curtis, Winona Ryder, Nicole Kidman, and others who heard of our service or received a star and then named numerous stars for their friends and family. By the 1981 holiday season, the product was advertised coast-to-coast. In 1985, the first edition of our star catalog Your Place in the Cosmos containing over 200,000 star names was published and copyrighted in the United States.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Early on we did not understand the finer points of astronomy well and we were doing our best to identify the major stars designated in a constellation. Looking at the star atlas for Lyra, the major stars showed “Vega” and “Var” so we frequently referred to them as identifiable objects. It was several months later that we learned “Var” meant “Variable” and was not the name of a major star at all.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, of course. That would be my parents. They began International Star Registry in their kitchen and grew it to an international company in just a few years. They were innovative, hardworking, dedicated to customer service and they were not afraid to take chances. After all, creating a new industry takes a real pioneering spirit and the self-confidence to believe in your mission regardless of the people who tell you it’s not possible.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and great customer experience is essential for success in business?
We began as a direct response business and we spoke to all of our customers personally by phone. We evolved through the years with technology but never lost that personal touch. We have heard from many customers lately who are grieving the loss of a friend or family member during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although families cannot gather together, it’s extremely comforting to know that we are all under the same stars and that the star named will shine overhead forever. People are also sending gifts for weddings, graduations, and other special events they cannot attend in person.
We encourage all of our customers to contact us directly with questions and we strive to give real-time answers. Because we speak to our customers, we’ve learned what inspires people to name stars and what was most desirable and beneficial to the customer. We have called on this knowledge to be responsive to the customer and give the best service possible. Their desire for new products has inspired us to expand our offerings to new items like myskymoment.com where customers can create a personalized map of the night sky.
We also get calls and emails daily from past star recipients who had stars named 30 or more years ago looking for a record of their star name, which we are able to provide. Naming a star with us has now become a part of many family traditions, for weddings, new babies, birthdays, anniversaries, proposals, and memorials. We are always glad to put family groups of stars together.
We have all had times either in a store or online when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I think so much is automated or scripted that the personal touch is missing. From automated answering systems that require menu choices to reach an operator, to online forms that do not allow open-ended comments, many businesses curtail communications and make the customer service experience impersonal. When you call us you will always get a knowledgeable employee of the company with a name. Emails are answered personally rather than with an automated response as well. This helps us to continue learning from our customers and we appreciate the many decades-long relationships we have built with them.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
That may be the case with many businesses, but we are unique in that we still create the only permanent published catalog of named stars in the world. There are impostor firms, mostly located overseas, that attempt to use our trademarks to look like us, but we stand alone. Customer service is second nature to us and I think our clients understand that. It’s the ethical standards we follow, however, that really makes us stand out from the competition. Many unhappy consumers who have ordered from these firms call us because these firms do not offer phone support. They cannot find a permanent record of the star, or the item was not received, or the item that they received was not the classic International Star Registry package we have offered all these years.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you had provided?
I would say this happens daily here! Sometimes it’s the person who receives a call from us because we review each order for errors before processing and we’ve identified a mistake they made. Sometimes it’s one of the many Make-A-Wish foundation chapters we work with wanting to send a special order to a specific address. Sometimes it’s a call to get a package delivered for a 100th birthday celebration the next day. Sometimes it’s about finding an unnamed star next to one that was named 40 years ago. Sometimes it’s a happy grandmother continuing the family tradition of naming a star for each baby. Those interactions are the most gratifying part of the business.
Did that “Wow!” experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
I would have to say yes. Many of our orders are repeat customers or people who have been referred to us by past customers. We have been receiving numerous orders lately as memorials for pets. There is a veterinarian that has been so delighted with the service that she has referred dozens of friends to our company. The loss of a pet is unique because they are a special family member but there is so little that is done to recognize the loss and mark their life.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Be aware of your customers’ changing needs.
As technology changes your customers’ needs and expectations change. In the past 40 years, we have seen the evolution of business from mail-order catalogs and phone orders to internet searches, social media, and instant redemptions. Take advantage of changing technology to improve customer satisfaction and add products and services tailored to your customers’ changing needs.
- Listen to your staff and customers.
We try to be flexible, and we learn from all of our customers. This allows us to anticipate needs or identify shipping issues as we saw during the first months of the Covid-19 crisis and figure out workaround options to provide the best service and experience possible. Nearly every new customer that calls tells us that they require some help because they have never named a star before, and each customer has a unique story and experience. Our regular customers share with us the stories of how the stars they have named have been given and received. By listening to the stories of each customer we know better how to suggest packages, choose a constellation, or suggest creating a group of stars together.
- Be compassionate when necessary.
We name a large number of stars as memorials and each order is very meaningful. Our phone staff is always tuned in to the voice on the other end of the phone. This level of compassion is also important when there is a customer complaint. An empathetic response, timely action, and a clear effort to help is the right of every customer.
- Have Integrity
A promise made should be a promise kept. Maintain high standards of quality and do what you can to ensure customer satisfaction. Always be honest when working with a client and resolve problems in a positive and prompt manner.
- Stay in touch.
We have named millions of stars and we try to keep our customers engaged via email. We have experimented with text messaging as well.Follow up periodically with emails and offers, but don’t over-saturate. Customers appreciate the savings and it keeps your business at the forefront.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
We have hundreds of positive Google reviews and we also receive calls from others who have seen the package. The famous International Star Registry certificate is hanging in homes all over the world and people are usually excited to share why they have a star named for them. We get many referrals this way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Kindness. I believe that a simple act of kindness can be contagious. We see this every day here because naming a star after someone is a good representation of how a person can show their kindness to another.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!