AJ Cartas: “Ensure satisfaction to increase loyalty”

It’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to dealing with your customers. If you want to be a customer-first company, you need to understand who they truly are, what they need, and what they want. Only then can you set approaches that would connect with your customers: by putting yourselves in their shoes. […]

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It’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to dealing with your customers. If you want to be a customer-first company, you need to understand who they truly are, what they need, and what they want. Only then can you set approaches that would connect with your customers: by putting yourselves in their shoes.

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 AJ Cartas. After dropping out of his third year of college, he moved to Silicon Valley and started social media consulting for companies. He eventually held director-level positions at ByteDance, the parent company of Tik Tok, and Calm, the #1 sleep & meditation app. He’s currently the Founder & CEO of a social media agency, Syzygy Social, specializing in global influencer marketing for Western brands to amplify in China. AJ is also the author of Startups and Downs, where he recounts his misfortunes working in Silicon Valley and gives tips on how to survive in a competitive space as well as discussing topics that weren’t taught in school like emotional intelligence.

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?

I was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States at age 7. I lived in Chicago for 14 years and started creating content on social media in 2013. By the end of 2015, I had over 1 million total followers across Vine, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. After realizing I can make a career out of this, I dropped out of my third year of college and moved to Silicon Valley.

I used my social media as a resume to land my first few clients and eventually led to influencer marketing and social media for a small company. I ran one of the biggest YouTube campaigns in 2016 and was headhunted by Bytedance, a 78 billion dollars company that owns Tik Tok.

As Director of Social Media, I ran social media and influencer campaigns in the North American regions as well as launching Bytedance’s first offline event in the U.S.

I was also the Director of Influencer Marketing for Calm and utilized meme marketing to launch hundreds of campaigns.

Now, I established my own social media agency, and work with brands to help them with their social media, form their online community, and/or launch influencer marketing campaigns in domestic and international markets.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

OI wouldn’t say it was a mistake but during the biggest YouTube campaign I launched back in 2016, I stumbled upon the skeptic community.

The skeptic community is a group of people who discusses conspiracy theories and whatnot. The product I was marketing was similar to Reddit but anonymous. What made it unique was it used artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing to determine “bad” posts.

If the A.I. determined it was a “bad” post, then it would automatically hide it.

The skeptics thought this was a tool that was being groomed to censor people online and implement it on Google due to the fact that the company’s CEO was an ex-Googler.

The skeptic community created numerous videos about the app and its spew theories as well as taking a deep-dive into the history of the CEO, a colleague, as well as myself!

The key takeaway from this is that anything you say on the internet can be misconstrued and may backfire, which made me more careful with what I say online about anything.

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! One of my mentors that I would like to talk about and give credit to is Sumant Pendharkar.

He’s always looked out for my best interest and he’s truly a genuine individual.

I can literally talk to him about anything whether it’s personal or professional. When I moved to the Bay Area, he’s the one who I actually consulted about the contracts I’m getting as well as financial advice since that’s one of his expertise.

I appreciate the fact that he tells me directly what he thinks and allows me to see situations from different angles. In fact, he’s the one who encouraged me to write my book, Startups, and Downs!

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 a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Customers are the lifeline of a business. If you don’t have them, you won’t be around for too long. If you retain your customers through an effective loyalty program, it will cost less than to acquire new customers. Additionally, your existing loyalists will also purchase more than new customers and will increase the existing customers’ lifetime value.

Companies that have great customer service and great customer experience stick around for a while. These are the loyalists who post on social media and refer their friends through word-of-mouth. This is the best form of marketing because it doesn’t cost the company anything and they may be able to repurpose user-generated content if the company has an effective call-to-action.

An example who has these two is Apple. There are multiple ways to get in touch with a live agent and they make it so easy. You can call them, email them, or even text them right from your device. On top of that, Apple provides great customer experience right from the beginning of entering the store to opening their products.

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 a 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 would say that the disconnect is having tunnel vision.

I’ve noticed this with a lot of founders that they think they know their customers because of a gut feeling and this is how they should do certain things, but they have to realize that not everyone in them. Not everyone is the founder & CEO of a company.

Companies need to be data-driven, but equally, as social-first as possible, meaning, companies should be people-first, and that means being service-first followed by relevant, interactive engagement and content.

Everything on social should ladder up to creating shared value for the customer and the company.

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?

Definitely! People should welcome the competition. Competition helps companies make better products and pushes out-of-the-box thinking.

Other stakeholders’ expectations are also external pressures that can force a company to improve its customer experience. If they have investors, for example, they will need to hit a certain amount of sales and will need to increase that. They can do so by looking at the customer journey and see where people drop off. From there, the company can optimize wherever they see fit to increase more sales.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

One time, this customer was confused with a Facebook ad that was launched by the user acquisition team. She reached out to me via social media and had the opportunity to discuss her product questions.

After realizing that the copy of the ad may seem confusing, I alerted our team to change it, especially with the people they are targeting — those who are not too tech-savvy. I explained to her what the product did, what it doesn’t, if it complies with privacy laws, and my personal take on it.

It was a great experience because she learned something, I learned something, and our user acquisition team learned something. After optimizing our ad, our return on ad spend (ROAS) was 3.7x!

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

We ended up surprising & delighting her with the products we offered. After that, she liked, commented, and shared literally on every post on our social.

She told her close friends & family and they bought their own. One of her close family friends actually bought it to give to her daughter and she turned out to be a huge influencer with over 1 million followers and gave us a free shoutout!

It was a crazy story because we ended up selling our whole inventory and had to pause orders for the next two weeks to restock. We also gained a few thousand followers on social media.

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.

Have a clear understanding of the customer journey

You need to have a clear understanding of the customer journey. If you don’t know the journey as a customer, then you may have a blindspot that can create big problems for you down the road.

Create an emotional connection with your customers

Remember that your customers are not just data points. They’re real humans and humans make most decisions based on emotions.

Remove bad UX designs right away

Look at heat maps and see where your customers are clicking and dropping off. What do they think about certain placements of buttons? How about the colors? Does the copy make sense along with the design? These are just some variables to look into.

Ensure satisfaction to increase loyalty

If the customer experiences positive multi-touchpoint in their journey and it meets (or exceeds) their expectation, there’s a high chance that they will become loyalists. You want these loyalists and you want to turn as many of your customers into loyalists.

Understand who your customers are

It’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to dealing with your customers. If you want to be a customer-first company, you need to understand who they truly are, what they need, and what they want. Only then can you set approaches that would connect with your customers: by putting yourselves in their shoes.

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?

Yes, always ask for feedback! Gathering feedback from your customers is an extremely important step to make sure that the customer experience is kept to a high standard and it allows you to make quick improvements if needed when a problem is encountered.

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. 🙂

I would love to start a movement or amplify current movements if there’s any, that would bring diverse upbringing into discourse. Everyone comes from different backgrounds. If we’re able to have a discussion about it and learn from each other, I truly believe that we would be a more empathetic society and see diversity as a strength and not a threat.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram: @aj.cartas, Twitter: @ajcartas or literally just Google me “AJ Cartas” 😊

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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