Gabriela Mekler and Maribel Moreno of Mumi: “People are always looking for pleasant experiences”

Gabriela: My first recommendation would be to show empathy and compassion. Listening to what the customer is going through. When you put yourself in other people’s shoes, understanding that they might be having difficulties with something such as placing an order, you will be better prepared to offer the best customer service experience possible. I […]

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Gabriela: My first recommendation would be to show empathy and compassion. Listening to what the customer is going through. When you put yourself in other people’s shoes, understanding that they might be having difficulties with something such as placing an order, you will be better prepared to offer the best customer service experience possible.

I would also highlight the importance of being patient. Just being available to your customers If they write at a time when you might not be ready to assist them. Understanding that in the end, it’s not about you but about your customer.

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 Gabriela Mekler and Maribel Moreno.

As a former elementary school teacher, Gabriela Mekler knows a thing or two about organizing and keeping things tidy. The Mexican-born NYU graduate has a double major in Education and Psychology and a master’s degree in School Psychology from Nova Southeastern University.

Maribel Moreno grew up in a fairly traditional Mexican household together with ten siblings, something that taught her about order and keeping her belongings in place in a busy environment. She has a background in Business Administration.

The moment they met, the two became instantly inseparable, taking wellness classes together and spending vacations as one big combined family. It was during one of those trips with their children that they discovered that they shared a common interest for tidiness and an obsession for order. That moment sparked the 2014 foundation of mumi, a company born with a simple yet monumental mission: to share with the world the liberating feeling of being well organized by offering products that deliver an efficient and practical way to stay organized at home, school, the office or when traveling.

They officially launched mumi with only two products, toiletry cubes and packing cubes. They started out small, presenting their products in school bazaars with limited inventory, and quickly developed a strong following and loyal customer. Today, mumi gets orders from every continent, having leveraged the power of social media to reach unexpected audiences around the world and leveraging their unique qualities to take the brand to new heights.

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?

Gabriela: I am a child psychologist and teacher by training but, after working many years in that realm, I realized I still had an opportunity to do something different. When I met my business partner Maribel, we were both going through the same with two young kids and feeling like we needed to start a new business that would allow us to have more control of our time. We both wanted to spend more quality time with our children, and we felt that applying for a 9 to 5 job would go against the lifestyle that we were looking for, so we felt that it would be the right time to start a business of our own.

Maribel: I have a background in Business Administration and, as is the case with most people who chose that career path, my entrepreneurial drive has defined everything I’ve done. Since my first job at a bank at only 17, I have learned something valuable from every work experience. I then nurtured my interest in marketing while working at GlaxoSmithKline for three years, but that entrepreneurial drive kept calling. In 1999, I started a holistic, mind and body brand In Mexico until I moved to the United States with my family to start a new life. After becoming a real estate agent and starting a course to work as a health coach, I met Gabriela, my current business partner.

Gabriela: Basically the first thing that led us to start mumi, the idea behind it, was inspired by the fact that we are both moms and we realized how important it is to be organized in order to be more efficient with your time, with your kids and everything that you do in your life.

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?

Gabriela: There was this bazaar at our kids school and it was the first time that we were launching the line for business. We only had the sample that had come in from the factory given that our shipment had been delayed due to issues with customs. The product had arrived in Miami but given that it was the first time that we were importing something from an overseas factory, we didn’t know that it would take that long to get it out of customs.

We actually introduced mumi at the bazaar with this beautiful booth that we had set up, with all the brochures and everything you can think of from a visual perspective. It all looked so perfect, but we didn’t have any merchandise to sell! Basically, instead of backing out of the opportunity to show our product and brand to the public for the first time, we communicated to everyone that we had sold out for the day but gave them the opportunity to place preorders for the new shipment. We closed sales for 1,000 dollars in one day with no products to offer, just the samples.

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?

Gabriela: I would have to say that person is Lilaj Segal, she is a branding specialist and also one of my best friends. She has been incredibly supportive since the beginning. She actually is the one who did our brand book and sat down with us to try to understand what’s the personality that we wanted to have behind the brand and everything we did. She is the one that believed in us since day one and has provided us with incredible foundations. She highlighted the importance of having brand standards from the get go, so that we could always present ourselves seriously. I think that our branding today is what sets us apart from many of the other companies out there, and we are very proud of that. We couldn’t have done it without her… She is also a very loyal customer!

Maribel: I really think that Gaby and I have incredible angels that guided us along the way. Things just aligned from the beginning. We also learned a lot from one another. Gaby has a completely different set of skills so we complement each other, and we both share the same work ethic. We inspire each other and help each other when dealing with the different challenges that keep presenting on a daily basis. When we started many people, even those who clearly loved us, were not sure about the path we had decided to take. But when things started moving forward, we started earning their respect and admiration, they also felt inspired by our own story. But that took some time, like everything in life.

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?

Gabriela: I think that one of the most popular stories you hear in business school is the one on Mr. Nordstrom and how he had a very clear customer service policy: this was that the customer is always right. There was this one time when a customer walked into his department store looking to return a tire. Immediately one of his sales associates replied that they didn’t sell tires at Nordstrom. This made the customer feel disappointed, and that’s when Mr. Nordstrom came down to the sales room to assure this person that they would take the return and reimburse the money. When the lady left, the sales associate was perplexed given the fact that they actually didn’t sell any tires. Nordstrom replied “we sell happy customers.”

That has always been an inspiration to me. You know, I would much rather have customers speaking wonders of our brand and of who Maribel and I are as people, than all the sales in the world. For us, our customers and their happiness come first. We had situations where they could be misusing the product or even coming back after five years of use wanting to exchange our products. We just don’t ask any questions, we exchange it. We’d rather have people who are truly satisfied with the way that they are treated than make more sales. If they are so happy and they love your brand, they will come back.

Maribel: People are always looking for pleasant experiences. If they decide to purchase from you, they expect positive experiences throughout the whole journey and under different circumstances. A happy customer will bring three new ones, but a disappointed customer will scare away ten new potential new customers. It is super important to provide this positive experience in every way possible. If you can lead your employees to love what they do, love your brand and the products they sell, they will show this through the 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?

Gabriela: I feel like good customer service is time consuming and it requires a lot of patience. I know this because I personally take care of the customer service in our company. No matter what you are doing at that time, or how busy you are, the customer always has to come first. You have to be able to completely separate yourself from what the customer is experiencing and I don’t know if companies in general spend enough time or money investing in their customer service team. They are always going to be the ones receiving the angry calls and emails because as human beings we tend to get frustrated and it is easier to take it out on whoever is on the other side of the line for being disappointed with something that you purchased.

Maribel: When a customer service representative fails to offer a personalized, uninterrupted positive experience, one that makes you feel like an actual person and not a ticket that needs to be resolved, that is when the disconnect starts. There is always a solution to provide and you need to be flexible, you have to dive into the problem and offer a solution. This helps build brand loyalty and go beyond the mere product.

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?

Gabriela: Today one bad review can absolutely ruin you. There will always be people ready to call or send an email to complain if something went wrong. The first thing they do without thinking any further is writing down that angry, disappointing review. And unfortunately we rely on those reviews to attract new customers. In Amazon, we enforce the same policies that we apply to people buying from our website. Amazon customers can return anything they bought anytime, but we still make sure that we always treat all of them with compassion and understanding. In the end, they are calling us because they have a problem and we need to be their problem solvers.

We don’t offer the lowest prices, but we do offer the best experience. I do think that our customers relate to the brand, to the standards that we have for the design, the products and the customer service.

Maribel: Competition in the end, is always good. But when you as a company have principles, that is what will set you apart. The way you treat your customers is what will separate you from others. We are a happy brand that connects with our consumers from a position of deep empathy. We are fully coherent in what we are selling, what we project as a brand and in what we do.

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

Gabriela: We had this senior customer, she was really struggling with the website and didn’t really understand how to place the order. I could see that she was under a lot of stress because the first thing she wrote on the chat was “your website sucks!” Then she sent an email saying how angry she was, that she wanted to buy a present but wasn’t sure if she had been able to do it or not. She kept sending email after email while simultaneously reaching out via the chat. She shared her phone number and I immediately called her. The first thing I did was apologize for her bad experience and the difficult time she was having. Just by listening to the tone of my voice, she immediately calmed down. I also assured her that I was on the line to help her with anything she might need. I finally ended up placing the order for her and she wrote a wonderful review about her customer service experience and highlighted how patient I had been by guiding her.

Maribel: We had once a brick-and-mortar client from the Middle East that was visiting Miami and wanted to place an order at the last minute, just hours before leaving for the airport to head back home. She already knew the brand through her mother-in-law and was absolutely in love with our products, she wouldn’t take no for an answer! Our sales associate gave her my number and she called me. She explained that she had the place an online order and that she would need to get it delivered within three hours before flying. I told her that it would be impossible to get everything shipped in time but quickly started to think of ways to find a solution. I ended up sending her order to the airport with an Uber! She was so pleased with how we handled the situation that she did not cancel the online order and also took the products we shipped directly to her. These customers always repeat and come back. They really value when you look for solutions to their problems, even when these are completely unorthodox! If you can’t give them their A option, you should be prepared to offer a B and C alternative.

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

Gabriela: Of course! This customer actually purchased again on seven different occasions after that. She got to know the human side of the brand, and I think she felt a personal connection with mumi as a result of that interaction. She knows that there is somebody out there ready to assist, to listen and to help her. We know that she will be a life-long client.

Maribel: Our customers come to us for the products we have to offer, but they always appreciate the connection we create. They come back because they felt happy, they felt at home, cared for. This has definitely had ripple effects for our company, and it is a fundamental part of who we are.

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.

Gabriela: My first recommendation would be to show empathy and compassion. Listening to what the customer is going through. When you put yourself in other people’s shoes, understanding that they might be having difficulties with something such as placing an order, you will be better prepared to offer the best customer service experience possible.

I would also highlight the importance of being patient. Just being available to your customers If they write at a time when you might not be ready to assist them. Understanding that in the end, it’s not about you but about your customer.

Responsiveness is also key. In today’s world, people are not used to waiting for a reply, so there shouldn’t be any lag in these interactions.

Being friendly and approachable is also fundamental. Using the right tone, trying to calm people down if you sense that they are frustrated. Letting them know that you are there to help them and solve their problems. When we do the online chat, I use a lot of emojis to convey the tone of the message. You want your customers to see they have a friend on the other side.

Maribel: Flexibility and adaptability are a must. You can’t apply the same manual of operations for everyone; we are all very unique individuals and should be treated accordingly.

Communication is also important, not only what you say but how you transmit it. The response time is key when communicating with your clients as is following up. It is very important to finish what you started. If you started dealing with a customer issue, you need to go all the way until you end up providing a solution. Every issue should be solved with a solution.

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?

Gabriela: I think that leaving a good review is the best thing that a customer can do for you when looking to inspire other people to reach out as well. Word of mouth is also crucial, having them talk to their friends and family about a great customer experience also helps to spread the word in a more organic way. We are so used to sharing bad stories and people not spreading the good ones, how good something was for them.

Maribel: Our customers tend to always bring up their friends and family’s good customer experiences with mumi, looking to get a similar treatment. We are really proud of that and make sure that they are all treated with the same respect and dedication. That person that probably bought just one product but received the best treatment possible, might bring you five additional new clients who will place high orders! It 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. 🙂

Gabriela: My dream is to live in a world of kindness and compassion, with human beings caring for each other. If I could start a movement and inspire others, it would be to bring more awareness on the importance of understanding each other. That would be my goal as the leader of my movement.

Maribel: I would like to create a movement to teach women, who might be on their own, to value themselves and what they can offer to the world. We as women make a lot of sacrifices and most of the time are not recognized for them. We feel unrewarded, so I would look for ways to create awareness in the community to value things such as raising the kids in taking care of their homes.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow mumi on Instagram:@mumidesign

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

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