Alec Sammann: “Give the customer a voice”

Make it easy — one of our brand values is a “team commitment to easy”. If we don’t make doing business with us seamless and easy, they will shop somewhere else! Period. 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 Alec […]

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Make it easy — one of our brand values is a “team commitment to easy”. If we don’t make doing business with us seamless and easy, they will shop somewhere else! Period.

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 Alec Sammann, President and CEO of Peepers. Peepers is a fourth-generation family-run business providing exceptional eyewear at an affordable price.

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?

Peepers is a fourth-generation family-run business. Sammann Company started out making scissors and cutlery in the early years and through acquisition, we started distributing reading glasses in 1985. It wasn’t until my mom aka “Mz. Peepers” became of age to wear reading glasses and she couldn’t find anything stylish in the market. She started Peepers in 1993 with one frame shape in 6 different colors and the rest is history.

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?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way and I like to think we implore a fail-fast mentality. When I first started working for the family business my family jokingly called me the AOC “Agent of Change”. We are constantly focused on building efficiencies into any process or procedure. A story comes to mind when we were purchasing a new collection of eyewear for a future launch and our current Director of Merchandising and Design asked a very simple question, “what’s your budget for this buy”? We simply looked at her and laughed and said “what’s a budget?”. We had guidelines of how much to purchase but it was clearly an area we needed to improve!

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?

My father shared a story that his father shared with him which seems simple but I’ve taken it to heart: “Take care of the business and the business will take care of you!” I’ve never been shy about making investments in our business whether that is the amazing people who make up our team or anything else that helps create a better, more efficient, AND fun working environment. I want our team to be proud of where they work and be excited about how their contribution really matters to the team and our customers!

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?

We take customer experience very seriously. Our CX team is the front line and voice of our brand when engaging with our customers. We empower each and every CX team member to simply take care of the customer. No matter what the issue is, they have the power to take care of the issue at hand. When I first started here there were many times customers made our team members cry because our team member was trying to protect a silly rule or warranty. I figured out pretty quickly how counterproductive this became for our entire team AND I made a rule “there is no crying at Peepers”. Don’t let a customer make you cry, make that customer smile! You have the power to do what it takes! Don’t ask a manager, just do it! That angry, upset customer will turn into our biggest advocate if we just make them smile!

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?

This is an interesting question and is simply not our philosophy. We have over 5000 retailers who carry our products across the US and Canada. Many of our customers purchase our glasses while they have been traveling or on vacation and can’t get back to the store where they purchased our glasses and have a warranty issue. Our CX team simply asks if they can remember the store they purchased the glasses from and regardless of the issue, we send them a replacement no charge.

Businesses who aren’t flexible or can adapt to the changing customer expectation and landscape will have a tough time competing in the future. There are simply too many options and competitors that will do the right thing and capitalize on businesses who are shortsighted when it comes to taking care of customers.

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?

Absolutely! Amazon and Zappos have reshaped what customers expect and how businesses take care of their customers. In a lot of ways, they have elevated the customer experience and have created more accountability to ensure your offering a quality product and buying experience.

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

A customer, Marie, reached out about her “signature” pair of Peepers [in the] Bright Eyed style which was discontinued. She couldn’t find it anywhere online or at any of her local retailers that carry Peepers, so she reached out to us to see if we could help her find something similar. After searching inventory, we were actually able to track down a few pairs that were still back in DC. We let her know that we found (x) amount left (I can’t remember the exact number, but I think it was 5 or so) so she decided to buy the rest of what we had. She was so grateful that we had taken the time to check on this with our DC Team, rather than trying to find something similar that she most likely would not have loved as much as Bright Eyed.

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

After she received her Peepers, she took the time to send us a photo of her wearing them along with a sweet thank you message. She was so happy that she called back to ask how she could leave us a review and asked for our email so she could email us as soon as she was ready to hear our recommendations on what she could try next.

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.

  1. Empower your team to do the right thing and always take care of the customer!
  2. Training is key! The more your team feels confident in the products and services you offer the more confident the customer will be they are making the right choice!
  3. Create a fun, upbeat, and winning culture! We are constantly focused on rewarding our team for working hard and have created “YAY DAYS”. When our company hits our revenue goals we make a big deal of it….bringing in inflatable obstacle courses to masseuses to lunch to snow cone trucks….you name it, we’ve probably done it! We like to laugh, have fun and all of us like to win!
  4. Give the customer a voice — we ensure they have several ways to offer feedback to our team whether that’s around the product or technology we offer to make their buying experience seamless. We’re constantly innovating how we take care of our customers based on their direct feedback.
  5. Make it easy — one of our brand values is a “team commitment to easy”. If we don’t make doing business with us seamless and easy, they will shop somewhere else! Period.

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 believe that if a customer has a positive experience with us that they will share that with their friends, family, social media, etc. Happy customers can be very influential to bring new people to your brand.

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. 🙂

As we’ve grown we’re understanding we’re making an impact on our team’s families and the surrounding community. We’re now focused on being the best neighbor we can be by simply getting involved. We’ve started our Peepers for Teachers initiative where we donate the much-needed school supplies to the schools and teachers who need it most! We also recently donated over 55,000 readers and sunglasses to charities across the US for the over 30 million people who have recently lost their jobs due to COVID-19. You’re never wrong to do the right thing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram at @alec9935 or LinkedIn, Alec Sammann and you can follow Peepers @peepers.

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

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