Be open minded and value the opinions and suggestions of your staff. I have learned that some of the best ideas often come from employees. After all, they are the “frontline” to our customers. There are many procedures and tools that have been put in place simply from listening to our employees share what would help them.
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 Brenda Feldman.
In 2004, while busy raising her toddler girl and baby boy, Brenda Feldman struggled with labeling their baby bottles and sippy cups. She and other parents utilized non-ideal options such as writing on masking tape that would fall off and peel, or markers with ink that would fade away.
While arriving at a birthday party with her two little ones in tow, she had an idea that she can only describe as “once in a lifetime.” Brenda called her husband and informed him of her light bulb moment of creating a non-adhesive, reusable, transferable, and incredibly durable label that would solve a problem for parents everywhere.
With the support of her family and friends, Brenda researched, designed, created and brought to market The Original Orbit Label in 2005. She then launched her company (Inchbug.com) which originated from her first warehouse, her kitchen table in her home in Texas! Since then, her business has exploded. She has made appearances on shows such as Shark Tank and has maintained partnerships with many industry leaders, Parents Magazine to name one.
While Brenda’s “little ones” and first Orbit Label package models are now off to college soon, she has been fortunate to be able to give back to the community in roles such as a Board Member for The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central & South Texas and a serves as a member of the Friends of The First Tee of Greater Austin.
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?
Thanks so much for having me! My upbringing has definitely modeled entrepreneurship and hard work from a very young age. My father, the son of a Chinese immigrant and shop owner, established a tool and die making company that he operated for 22 years. My mother, born and raised in Spain, exemplified how to arrive in a different country not knowing the culture and challenging herself to learn the language and customs. I have three older brothers and ultimately feel this also helped me in my journey. Entrepreneurship requires a person to be tough and resilient and that is something you need growing up the only girl of the group. My parents’ motto was “hard work pays off” and I’ve lived my life to this day with that simple, impactful phrase.
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?
The most memorable mistake was grossly underestimating the spatial size of our first shipment. It’s funny now, but at the time it was horrifying! Let me set the scene, my husband and I were anxiously awaiting this first shipment. Everything was set to be delivered to our home, after all, our entire operation was in the kitchen and garage! The truck driver arrives and looks at me with a puzzled look and proceeds to ask where he should drop the freight. With a giddy smile, I responded, “Right here on the driveway!” His eyes widened and he slowly walked back to the roll-up door of his truck and unloaded a sea of pallets piled high with boxes. Then, an unexpected downpour of rain arrived. We worked swiftly removing boxes from pallets and our garage quickly filled up with damp boxes. We ran out of room and had to rent a storage unit and a trailer. Drenched, we loaded up the remaining boxes in several loads and moved them to the warehouse. After this mishap, I put far more thought into cubic space!
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?
Absolutely! I could name a list of people that were pivotal to my success, but I must say that my husband has been my supportive confidant. Keith and I have very different cultural differences, but our work ethic is the same. He has encouraged me, worked alongside me after his long day at his job, and has grounded me when challenges seemed unsurmountable.
Yes, I have many stories but one that resonates with partnership and perseverance the most happened the first year of launching my business. Orbit Labels had been featured in Parents Magazine as being a “parent must-have” and a steady flow of orders flooded our platform. It was just the two of us and the alarm clock! We had to run the machines that personalized our product throughout the night. Every 30 minutes we would have to switch out products to be personalized. We alternated getting up so one of us could get 30 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. This was a restless time, but a pivotal moment in the business; at that point I knew that my invention, Orbit Labels, were going to be wildly popular amongst parents.
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?
Of course! Customer service and a great customer experience is what grows repeat business and referrals. We have all had experiences with bad and good customer service in our lifetimes. I think we can also concur that if you have experienced poor service, regardless of how good the product or service, the first intrinsic thought one has is to not repeat that mistake. The product or service, coupled with how it is delivered or the experience in purchasing it, if extraordinary, will guarantee repeat customers. The first disappointing customer experience will bring doubt to your customer and that is when they begin to look elsewhere. This is why it is essential that businesses pay attention to delivering an exceptional customer service experience.
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?
Folks on the frontline of your customer service experience intuitively know what is expected, but it can be easy to forget what it is like to be on the receiving end or perhaps the monotony of life has clouded their objectives for the day. It is important to start each day with a clean slate, positive outlook and leave any dismissive assumptions and worries at the door. Customers shop to find joy or the necessities. We need to constantly remind ourselves that our words and actions make an impact. We want our customers to walk away with a smile.
I think many companies either get too comfortable, fail to innovate or forget the underlying reason they exist. If not for our customers, there would be no customer service experience.
Also, there has never been a more important motto to live by today than the Golden Rule — treat others how you wish to be treated. Although, today we need to add whether you are seeing them in person or digitally!
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?
Yes, no doubt that competition forces companies to not only raise the bar in customer service, but to continue to bring innovative products to market. The external pressures that force companies to continuously work on their customer service experience is the digital age of our society. There has never been a time in history where customers can voice their opinions so publicly via a multitude of social media platforms. The customer service experience, whether good or bad, can be quickly shared with screenshots, testimonials and ratings. These external pressures require companies to regularly revisit their customer experience and continually assess their processes .
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Yes! We had a customer that made an unusual request in the comments of their order. They asked if we could draw Yoda on a skateboard? One of our production folks, who is an incredibly talented cartoonist, read the comment and quickly drew a smiling Yoda cruising on a skateboard. The order and the doodled packing slip arrived at the customer’s home and much to their surprise, they quickly saw that we had accommodated their request. The customer was so enamored with the drawing and how much joy it brought to their Star Wars infatuated son, that they followed up with an email to our general inbox. They had made the request in jest and wasn’t expecting anyone to even read the comment, much less respond. The picture brought pure happiness to this customer and their son. They proclaimed that we had gained a customer for life!
Sometimes the littlest of things can make such an incredible impact on the customer experience. Customers want to know they matter and will be heard.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Yes, it definitely had a ripple effect amongst our staff. It was such a trivial request that the customer assumed would go unnoticed. It was reassurance to our staff that the little things do make a difference. This small gesture that created such joy made us think collectively as to what we could do to put a more personal spin to our personalized products. One of our designers created a sticker that reads, “Personalized with 💗” and it is adhered to any handmade item being sent out. Our teams’ hope is that it would exemplify that we care and love what we do.
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.
The most important thing is to bring the customers a product that makes their life a little easier and solves a problem. This is what makes our Orbit Label product such a winner. Most parents need to find a solution to labeling at some point, and when they learn about InchBug labels, the product sells itself and the customer is extremely satisfied.
Hire great people and treat them like family. I have been blessed to have many employees with me for over a decade, including my first hire when she would come to work at our kitchen table soon after we launched. Having competent and happy employees with low turn-over is the key to great customer service.
3. Be open minded and value the opinions and suggestions of your staff. I have learned that some of the best ideas often come from employees. After all, they are the “frontline” to our customers. There are many procedures and tools that have been put in place simply from listening to our employees share what would help them.
4. Simulate being the customer from start to finish. Be a mystery shopper at your own company. Place an order, engage in live chat online, call in to the office and listen for enthusiasm, upon receiving the order review how it’s packaged, look for the small details, and reflect on how the experience was from start to finish. Couple this with shopping at a brand that you perceive as having superb customer service. What were the details in that shopping experience that brought you joy and satisfaction.
5. Lastly, understand your customer base and remain relevant by continually innovating and bringing new products to market that resonate with your client base. Stay in touch with what is pertinent for your customer base. Seek out their opinions. This has become increasingly challenging for me simply because my once small children are now entering adulthood. Therefore, I solicit the input of younger moms and often ask our employees that are parents for their feedback and input on new products, designs, Etc. This practice ultimately impacts the customer experience.
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! We often reward our best customers with VIP discount codes and encourage them to tag us on social media and share with friends. We often do promotions to include giveaways to highlight testimonials. In the beginning, fifteen years ago, we didn’t have the budget to support aggressive ad campaigns. We relied on word of mouth recommendations from moms and dads that loved our product.
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. 🙂
Wow! This is a tough question. If I could start a movement it would be to become a more altruistic society. My motto would be: Listen, Be Kind, Be Empathetic. This is something that I see is waning in our society. The technological age has brought us so many remarkable advancements, but it has also eliminated some of the most basic in-person connections. The human experience is changing and I would hope to have a world where we can truly be “connected” with others, not just digitally. Also, pause before you speak, write, text or post — and think of whether of your words, will they be kind? Make the effort to talk to people rather than staring blankly into your technology. There is no replacement for the true human connection. It was so great to meet you and thanks again for having me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I can be followed on Instagram @brendaleefeld and Twitter @brenda_feldman
Of course we want your readers to also follow InchBug for the latest news and promotions! Instagram and Twitter @inchbug
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
It was a pleasure, thanks for having me!