Surprise and delight. It’s important to surprise your top customers with a gift or a handwritten note. Providing a personal touch has been incredibly beneficial in building relationships.
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 Nathan Kondamuri & Sophia Edelstein. Sophia Edelstein and Nathan Kondamuri are the Co-founders and Co-CEOs of PAIR Eyewear, the eyeglass company reinventing the entire glasses experience to be more empowering and fashionable for kids, while affordable and stress-free for parents. Combining their backgrounds in marketing, healthcare, and engineering, Nathan and Sophia hatched PAIR in their senior year at Stanford University. Since then, they’ve redesigned glasses from a medical device to be more exciting and versatile, and in turn, inspired kids and teens across the country to feel confident and excited about their glasses.
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 for having us! We originally met while studying at Stanford University in our freshman year even though we were placed in rival freshman dorms.
Nathan: I’m originally from Munster, Indiana, a small town outside of Chicago and went out to Stanford to study Mechanical Engineering. When I got glasses at 8 years old, it was daunting. Like most kids, I was self-conscious and embarrassed to wear them to school because of the stigma existing around glasses. I was reminded of this negative experience during our senior year at Stanford when I heard about how my little brother was getting glasses for the first time and was quite upset with his options and the experience.
Sophia: I’m originally from New York City and went out to Stanford to study Human Biology with a focus in healthcare economics and medical devices. When Nathan began telling me about the negative experience his little brother and mother were having buying children’s glasses we wondered, why hadn’t anyone redesigned glasses from a static medical device to be more fun and dynamic? After talking to over 400 families, we discovered (unsurprisingly) that kids don’t enjoy wearing glasses, and parents dreaded the expensive and stressful process. Today, one in every four children wear glasses, and experts estimate that by 2050, it will be one in every two. Compelled by the stories we heard, we decided to reinvent the eyewear experience. We launched PAIR so that kids would be empowered and excited by their glasses and so parents could easily and affordably be able to provide a positive experience to their children.
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?
One story that we love is when we wrote a note to Gayle King expressing to her how we loved how confidently she wore glasses and how she could be a role model for young children that wear glasses. We knew writing this handwritten note and getting her to read it would be a shot in the dark, but connected with someone who worked in Gayle’s office who kindly offered to deliver it along with a PAIR of glasses. We decided to go for it and this experience showed us how impactful an authentic handwritten note could be and how powerful our mission at PAIR was. It turns out that Gayle also hated wearing her glasses as a child and was inspired by PAIRs mission of redesigning glasses and the experience for children. Gayle wrote up a full story and took a photo shoot in PAIR frames to go in her ‘World According to Gayle’ page in Oprah Magazine expressing how difficult her experience wearing glasses as a kid was and how she wished PAIR was around when she was a kid.
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?
We are very grateful every day to be able to work with each other. Not everyone can say that they get to go into work every day and solve important problems with their best friend. Starting a company as a college student out of your dorm room, especially during your last semester, is no easy task and we have been able to keep each other focused and motivated during the very best and worst of times.
We wouldn’t be here today without our incredible investors and advisors who have supported us and believed in us since day 1.
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?
You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression with a customer. If a parent reaches out for help picking frames or with a question about prescription we need to guarantee them a quick response in order to make real-time digital decisions before they decide to exit the site. We have found that having moms run our customer service team enables our customers to create an immediate sense of trust with our customer experience team. We teach our team of “mighty moms” to personalize each conversation and even talk about their personal experience having their own kids wear PAIR when applicable. We have found that a great first order customer service experience gets the customer very excited and likely to return more quickly for a 2nd and 3rd order. 30% of PAIR customers return for a second order within a month and we think a large part of this is due to our great customer 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?
Many companies have not built customer service teams that are trained to personalize the product or experience for customers that fall out of the normal purchasing pattern. Many PAIR customers have told us about their previous negative experiences buying glasses for their kids. Many of these experiences were due to ordering frames online that ended up not fitting their child because there was not a customer service team to help answer questions on fit. Other parents have explained to us that customer service teams in the past have been unable to communicate intelligently with them about prescription and offer a solution if their prescription was out of range. At PAIR, we train our team with deep knowledge of the technical aspects of prescription and sizing. We encourage our reps to have longer conversations with customers to make sure they feel 100% confident about their frame decision for their child.
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 absolutely encourages companies to improve every aspect of their business, especially customer service.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
We are so happy to receive many “Wowed” reviews every day. This is one I particularly loved from a customer, “My daughter is IN LOVE with these glasses, and so am I! The top-notch customer service we received was beyond impressive and ….how cool are these glasses? As a mom who likes “fun” I always hated saying no to the wild frames my daughter liked because I wanted something that “would go with everything” — but I must say these meet both our expectations! I only wish I had these as a kid! Also, The sunglasses are great as well! No need for another prescription pair of glasses to lose! You will not regret getting these! Pair eyewear is Officially Addie approved! ❤️”. What I love about this review is that not only is she sharing that she had a good experience but she is telling us about the trouble they have had in the past purchasing glasses and how PAIR is different. We really value hearing our customer’s stories and using their experience to help us shape our business. We truly value user-centric design and a lot of the learnings come from our customer reviews.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
We reached out to the customer that wrote the review above and ended up featuring the customer in an email. The mom provided us with lots of photos of how her daughter wears PAIR and we did an entire feature on how Addie wears PAIR. These kinds of stories and marketing tools are so effective because it allows other potential non-purchaser email subscribers to see how happy their kids will be after purchasing PAIR.
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.
- Know who your customer is! Before launching PAIR we interviewed over 400 families in person.
- Surprise and delight. It’s important to surprise your top customers with a gift or a handwritten note. Providing a personal touch has been incredibly beneficial in building relationships.
- Create a community within your customers. We created a private PAIR-ents group to foster community between families.
- Communicate constantly. We have bi-weekly emails in addition to drip email series for all potential customers and current PAIR customers.
- Work their hours. Parents are more available in the early hours of the morning and late at night. We tailor our customer service hours to be most available when they need us.
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 try to surprise our best customers with handwritten notes or special gifts. We very often see them posting about these special experiences on social media and sharing with their friends. We also include referral cards inside of every PAIR box. After interviewing our customers we were told that they would love a way to tell their friends about PAIR in real life. These referral cards allow our customers to recommend PAIR and give their friends a discount on their first order.
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. 🙂
We would continue PAIR’s mission of making sure every school-aged child has access to vision care. For every PAIR of glasses purchased, we provide a child with vision care. Vision care is incredibly important for development since 80% of learning occurs through vision. Studies have found that providing someone with glasses is the most effective health intervention and has shows to directly affect someone’s potential earnings. Through our movement, we want to make sure that no child is given less opportunity or held back in their education because they can’t see.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram — @paireyewear
Facebook — Pair Eyewear
Twitter — @PairEyewear