Julie Fox: “Listen to your customers”

Create a positive customer culture. Share your mission of customer care with everyone on your team. Every member of your team, either directly or indirectly, has an impact on the customers’ experience and everyone should be on the same page. A good example of this is our Brand Ambassadors who sample our products for customers […]

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Create a positive customer culture. Share your mission of customer care with everyone on your team. Every member of your team, either directly or indirectly, has an impact on the customers’ experience and everyone should be on the same page. A good example of this is our Brand Ambassadors who sample our products for customers in stores. We share this mission with our BA’s so that initial experience they provide to potential customers when sharing our products is a positive one!

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 Julie Fox. Julie founded Julie’s Real in December of 2015. Julie has been passionate about good food and good health for two decades, but when her husband Mike was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus in 2015, it caused her to re-evaluate what those words really mean. While Julie was committed to helping her husband heal with good health, she also made a commitment to help him heal with good food. REAL good food. Julie began making tasty Paleo snacks for him like almond butters, cashew butters and grain-free granolas with only REAL, good-for-you ingredients…Julie’s Real was born.

Prior to founding Julie’s Real, Julie spent 15 years as a Speech Pathologist in New York City and Dallas, TX providing speech and language therapy to children with special needs. She received an MS from Columbia University in New York, NY in 2002, and a BS from Saint Louis University in 2000. Cooking and creating her own recipes has always been her passion.

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 started Julie’s Real in December of 2015 after my husband Mike was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous condition. Mike was really young to be diagnosed with something like this, only 38 years old, so we said to each other, “What can we do on a daily basis to make sure this doesn’t turn into something worse?” We read about what causes Barrett’s and we immediately changed our diet, omitting grains, dairy, processed foods, and refined sugars, adopting the Paleo diet. I didn’t want Mike to feel like he was on a diet for the rest of his life so I started making him yummy Paleo snacks and I started with almond butter and cashew butter. One day Mike said, “Julie, these are REAL-ly good…you should start selling these!” …Julie’s Real was born!

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?

Most of my “mistakes” very early on happened while making our products at 3 am in our commercial kitchen…when I had either just gotten to work or had been at work for the past 20 hours. Needless to say, it is difficult to focus at that hour, and throwing away products is never fun! Back then I was working around the clock just to fulfill orders…it was just something I had to do to get the business off the ground. What I have learned over time is it is important to maintain balance in order to maintain productivity.

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 would not have been able to create what I have created, or do what I have done without my husband, Mike. While it is my name that is on all of our products, it could just as easily be his! From the beginning he has been the person pushing me forward every day, encouraging me on the days when I feel like everything seems to be going wrong, and cheering the loudest on the days when everything seems to be going right. Also, we complement each other well as business partners as we have different talents that have helped grow our business in different ways. Early on, Mike and I used to do product demos together at grocery stores, sharing samples of our products with customers. We each use different strategies that are both effective in making sales, but Mike’s energy and enthusiasm for our products always stand out. At our first demo at Whole Foods, we sold out of every product on the shelf in just a couple hours, and from that point on we made that our goal at every demo we did. Teamwork makes the dream work!

In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Great customer experience is essential for success for one simple reason — without our customers, we would not exist! Our customers are the reason we get up and go to work every day to make our products as great as they are. Without them, we don’t have a business. Anything and everything we can do to make the customer experience as great as possible is our #1 priority. Customer service can present itself in different ways but it always involves making sure the customer has a positive 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?

At Julie’s Real we have made it a priority to create an amazing customer experience both through our products and our focus on customer care. It has become a part of the culture of our company. In order to truly have a customer-focused culture, it has to be a shared mission within the company. If I myself make it a mission to focus on the customer, but I don’t share that mission with anyone else on my team, it simply would not work. You need to listen to your customers and provide the best experience possible both with your product itself and with the service you provide. These two things go hand in hand.

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?

Increased competition always benefits the consumer, and the food industry is a highly competitive industry. First and foremost, to create a great customer experience you need to create a great product. In addition to great products, you also need to build a relationship with your customer and gain their trust. Companies that can do all of this, and do it well, are the companies that will survive and thrive in a highly competitive industry.

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

We get a lot of “wow!” reactions when people taste our products, and that always makes my day! The reason behind why I created our products was because I wanted my family to have truly healthy foods they could eat, and feel good about eating. There are so many people out there, many of them our customers, who want the same thing for their families. They want to take care of each other and also enjoy wonderful food together…and that is part of the positive customer experience we aim to provide. I recently received a message from a customer who had purchased our Paleo Brownie Mix, looking for a healthy treat to make for her family. She shared that her family didn’t know they were eating something that was actually good for them — they just loved having a delicious treat! She was “wowed” that she could trust our products to be both good for you and yummy at the same time!

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

Every time a customer expresses they had a “wow!” experience it reminds you why you do what you do and who you are doing it for! We love hearing positive feedback from people who love our products or who had a great experience with our company. “Wow!” messages from our customers continuously remind me why I started this company and they inspire me to continue to create products that are truly good for you and are truly enjoyable to eat. After I created our Paleo Brownie Mix and Paleo Blondie Mix I started receiving a lot of these “wow!” messages, and they inspired me to expand my Paleo Baking line. A “wow!” customer experience doesn’t only affect that one customer, but can have long-lasting ripple effects that inspire others!

9. 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.

Be the BEST. Create the tastiest products. Use the cleanest ingredients. Provide the best customer service. Do what it takes to be the best and create a “wow!” experience every time your customer picks up your products. If your product tastes just ok, no one is going to say “wow!”. If your ingredient panel has fake ingredients or “natural flavorings” no one is going to say “wow!” When a customer like Alana says, “I never thought almond butter could be this good! My boyfriend was skeptical too, but when I caught him eating it by the spoonful at midnight, I knew it was the best. You can’t go back to other butter!” …we say “wow! we really created a “wow” product and a “wow experience”. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it! “Wow!” is why people come back for more!

Customer care means caring for your customer. We do this every day through our commitment to using the highest quality, cleanest ingredients, and our customers appreciate this commitment. We care for our customers by certifying our products Gluten-Free and non-GMO. As a food company, the best customer experience we can provide is creating products our customers feel good about eating! Providing great tasting, truly healthy products is the ultimate in customer care!

Listen to your customers. They are the driving force behind what your company makes or the services you provide. In fact, we have made changes to our products based on customer feedback in order to create a more “wow!” customer experience. Years ago, we received customer feedback that our almond butter were a bit messy when they tried to mix them in the jar. Since we don’t use palm oil in our nut butter they can naturally separate and need to be mixed. We listened, and made a positive change, packaging our almond butter in slightly taller jars, providing more room for mixing and less mess! We added a message on the label that says “Room to stir!” This small change has created a more positive customer experience…simply because we listened! Better yet, our customers let us know how much they appreciated this change!

Create a positive customer culture. Share your mission of customer care with everyone on your team. Every member of your team, either directly or indirectly, has an impact on the customers’ experience and everyone should be on the same page. A good example of this is our Brand Ambassadors who sample our products for customers in stores. We share this mission with our BA’s so that initial experience they provide to potential customers when sharing our products is a positive one!

Create trust in your brand. There are many ways to create trust. At Julie’s Real, it is important to us that when our customers see our products on the shelf they know they can trust what is inside the package! Our ingredients are simple, clean …and trustworthy. Once our customers experience our products they know they taste great too! We receive reviews from customers telling us they love our products because “they taste great and I know they are good for me!” Developing a relationship with your customer and earning their trust is imperative to creating a “wow!” 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?

Word of mouth is a very powerful thing. When we provide a positive customer experience that may turn into a “Wow!” experience for that person we simply ask them to spread the word and share the love! Share products with their family, gift a product to a friend, or simply share their “wow!” experience with others. We have customers reach out to tell us they are inspired by what we are doing at Julie’s Real by making products with such clean ingredients, and we ask them to share our story. Word of mouth has proven to be very powerful for our 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.

If I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be a movement toward educating consumers at a young age about what they are putting in their bodies. I became a “label reader” later in life and wish I had been one all along! If we begin young, I believe there would be much less disease in the world, far fewer pre-mature deaths, less money spent on health care and medications, and an overall healthier and happier society. This begins with education. We teach our children about world history and geometry but it would be challenging to find a curriculum out there that includes Nutrition every step of the way. This is something that affects every person’s daily life. We all eat food, every day, multiple times a day. Why wouldn’t we begin to educate our children at a young age, and throughout their life, about how different foods affect our bodies, good and bad? Kids learn about heart disease in Biology class, but why wouldn’t we also teach them how to prevent heart disease in Nutrition class? Prevention is more powerful than prescriptions, and that simply begins with education.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @juliesreal

Facebook: /juliesrealfoods

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