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Fatma Collins of Ten Little: “5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience”

Customers are everything. Your company is really a collective journey of all the tiny interactions you and your customers have with each other. 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 Fatma Collins. Fatma Collins is the CEO […]

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Customers are everything. Your company is really a collective journey of all the tiny interactions you and your customers have with each other.

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 Fatma Collins.

Fatma Collins is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ten Little, a predictive recurring e-commerce platform that makes shopping for growing kids easy, starting with healthy shoes designed specifically for little feet. Previously, Fatma led product, design, and data at top ecommerce and marketplace companies, including Artsy, Jet.com, Walmart, and Rakuten. Fatma holds a BA in economics from Grinnell College and the London School of Economics, and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

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?

Thank you for inviting me to share my experience.

For most of my career, I have been designing and developing end-to-end experiences in e-commerce, marketplaces, and retail at companies of various stages, from startups such as Jet.com which I joined while we were in stealth mode to Fortune №1 Walmart. Working on such impactful brands for both consumers and businesses enabled me to gain a deep understanding of key customer pain points as well as backend operations of retail. That said, the real impetus in creating Ten Little came from my personal experience as a mom, going through the frustration of getting the right shoes in the right size for my daughter every few months and seeing other parents go through the same.

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 touched on it a little bit, but as a new mom, I personally found myself struggling to determine which shoes would support healthy development and which sizes were right for my daughter when she started walking. It was a constant guessing game trying multiple sizes and styles — and all of this with an impatient toddler. Then it was hard to tell when she outgrew her shoes — until it was too late. In the beginning, I didn’t necessarily think this was a problem. I had assumed I was the problem — a new mom who hasn’t yet figured it out. One of the first moms I talked to about this, hoping for a solution, was my co-founder Julie. Her experience was no different. Talking to other mom friends, we quickly discovered we weren’t alone.

Looking back, it is funny in more of an ironic way that I thought I was doing it wrong or I didn’t know better because this is exactly why we started Ten Little. We do our best to give them the best but often we don’t feel like we’re enough. Parenting is wonderful but also difficult. At Ten Little, we want to make parents’ lives easier and kids happier and healthier.

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?

I am thankful for so many amazing people who helped me along the way that it is hard to pick. And I have to give a big shout out to our team — Julie, Morgane, Sarah, and all of the talented people we work with day to day to make all of this happen. Without them, Ten Little wouldn’t exist.

One particular person I will share is Michael Mignano, who is one of our earliest angel investors and a founder himself. When I was fundraising for our seed round, he spent many hours coaching me through the ins and outs and introducing me to investors. Most importantly though, he was there for us throughout the entire journey, cheering us on and emotionally supporting us through the raise, which can be stressful at times.

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 everything. Your company is really a collective journey of all the tiny interactions you and your customers have with each other.

And at Ten Little, they are not just our customers. They are parents, like us, who are preoccupied with so many other stressors, so we want to be one point of contact that makes their lives easier. As I mentioned before, this is not only essential for our success, but it is also why we started Ten Little.

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 think there are a few reasons. For starters, there are a lot of companies out there that are not mission-driven. Their business model is really about making that one sale with as many customers as possible. Creating a community and brand loyalty is simply not a priority for them.

Second, some large companies may not even be aware of what their customers experience day-to-day, unless they see a clear bottom line impact, which may take longer to reveal itself.

And last but definitely not least, making sure your customers have a good experience requires a tremendous amount of continuous effort. I think most companies often underestimate the amount of resources and work required to deliver consistent, positive experiences to all customers. We did as well, at first. Ensuring each customer interaction is thoughtful and personalized is difficult to scale, especially for lean and early-stage companies.

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?

Competition definitely encourages companies to improve their customer experience, but change can be tough for larger and older companies who may not have had a customer-driven approach as part of their culture originally. We, at Ten Little, are lucky to have been crafting the kind of company we want to be from the beginning, and for us, that is one that puts our community first.

The pandemic is a great example of an external pressure that can force change. Supply chain disruptions, store closures, and delivery delays affected customer experience in many industries. For example, during COVID, we quickly recognized that we had an opportunity to help customers who normally bought their shoes in-person at a store. Making it easy for parents to find their child’s fit had always been part of our experience, but we expanded that offering during the pandemic. We launched a printable Fit Finder for the countless families at home, that also doubled as a coloring book activity for restless toddlers. Beyond verifying fit, we realized that many of these parents were looking to engage with a real person to affirm that they were making a healthy decision for their little one. We had parents send us pictures of their children’s feet on our printable Fit Finder to get a final recommendation from us and we provided personalized help to each and every one of them.

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

We have a wedding fashion emergency story! We had a customer whose child refused to wear anything except his Ten Little shoes. Of course, he was supposed to wear specific shoes for the customer’s sister’s wedding, which was a bit of a problem.

Luckily, they were able to convince the bride to let him wear a pair of black Ten Little sneakers (Everyday Originals) with his suit. The kicker: the size he needed was sold out! Our next shipment was en route, but wouldn’t make it in time. So, we personally followed the arrival of the shoes to our warehouse and immediately expedited them for free to ensure this little boy looked as dapper as ever on his aunt’s wedding day.

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

We launched only seven months ago, but we have definitely seen many positive reviews, referrals, and repeat purchases within this short time frame and are hopeful that the ripple effects will all continue to be positive. By investing in a strategy that tells our customers that we want to be there for them at every step of their journey, in big and small ways, we set the precedent that we are a company that they can trust will always put their needs first.

To give another example, a few weeks after we launched, a customer reached out saying her boy loves the shoes and the stickers that come with it, but what was even more important was that she felt she was a better mom for getting healthy shoes that she knows fits her son. This feedback lets us know we are making a lasting impact.

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.

  • Think about the customer’s whole journey. Today, many companies do a great job of identifying and improving individual touchpoints, such as customer support, but they do not always understand how each touchpoint progresses and interacts with each other. To be able to deliver a great customer experience, you need to understand the end-to-end journey of each customer. For example, at Ten Little, we want to take the pain out of buying shoes for kids. Instead of only offering free shipping and returns for customers to try different sizes, we help our customers at each step of their shopping journey by offering them our Fit Finder, making it easy to confirm the fit once shoes arrive with our removable insoles and the fitting tool in our boxes, and reminding them when to size up. We also know that kids’ feet grow so quickly, and shoes pile up. In response, we partnered with a non-profit to receive the shoes and send a prepaid shipping label to parents when they size up. This way they can clear up some space and feel good about their purchases, both for the health of their child and for the planet.
  • Sweat the small stuff. While it may be an unpopular opinion at first glance, little means a lot when it comes to customers. When you map your customer’s journey, don’t think about five instances. Think about hundreds of moments your customer experiences, from each feature of your product to every email you send. If you can make each of those moments a little more special, it is a lot more valuable than perfecting over-the-top, inconsistent campaigns and promotions in an effort to create a single ‘wow’ moment for your customers. To give a simple example, our shoes come with insoles printed with Spot the Cheetah as a puzzle piece, so kids can line up their shoes and put their right foot on the right shoe and left on left. The joy this little detail gives to parents and kids means a lot to them and to us.
  • Follow up when not expected. At Ten Little, we individually email each customer and check in to make sure they are happy with their purchase and the shoes fit well. Our customers know we genuinely care about their happiness and they usually reply with fun anecdotes about their kids.
  • Be proactive. You don’t need to wait for customers to reach out to you to identify and solve a problem. Recently, our fulfillment team went to inspect the last pair that was left in a particular size and color that a customer had purchased and noticed that it was below our quality standards. We immediately reached out to the customer to give them other options and they were grateful for that even though we didn’t send them their initial choice.
  • Take it personally. When we get customer feedback, we take it to heart and act on it. We are continuously making improvements to our products and experiences as we learn from our customers.

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?

While it is definitely nice to empower happy customers and make it easy for them to share their experiences, write reviews, and refer others, I don’t think there is much you need to do on that front because once you deliver a wow experience to each and every customer, the rest organically happens.

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. 🙂

It would certainly be focused on families. Parents make up 80% of the workforce in the United States. Children are the future. Yet, there is nowhere near enough investment towards supporting families, from health care to child care and education. We have seen this even more clearly during the pandemic.

While I am grateful to be healthy, have a job, and a support system, having to juggle motherhood and starting a business with no child care has been a challenge. There needs to be reform at the most basic level to better support families. Ultimately, every family deserves to have the support they need and access to resources and education to ensure the best and brightest future for the next generation.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please check us out at @tenlittlekids for all things Ten Little, healthy development and movement, and of course, a little pick-me-up parent humor.

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

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