The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

7. Superior Customer Experience Starts Before There’s a Customer w/ Rachel Ostrander

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Customer experience touches every place a customer could possibly interact with your company, even before they buy the product.

Rachel Ostrander is the director of runner experience at Brooks Running.

“I heard a quote, ‘If you want to know where a customer or a company is, look at their sales. If you want to know where they're gonna be, look at their service.’ I believe in that, and my entire career has reinforced that.”

If you want to know our customeror a company as look at their sales. If you want to know where they'regoing to be, look at their service. I believe in that andmy my entire career, has reinforced that. You're listening to the customer experience podcast, a podcast dedicated to helping today's growing businesses restore a personal human touchthroughout the customer life cycle. Get ready to hear how sales, marketing andcustomers success experts surprise and delight and never lose sign of their customers humanity.Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Hey, thank you so much for clicking playon this episode of the Customer Experience Podcast. I'm really glad to haveyou along with us and I'm very excited for today's guest, Rachel Ostrander,who spent four and a half years as the customer experience manager with footwear andApparel Brand Zoomi's and is now the director of runner experience at Brooks running.Rachel, welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thank you. I'm glad to behere. Yeah, I'm really excited to get into the kind of theanalog nature of what you're doing, because so many of our listeners in somany of our guests are exclusively digital with software products that can be measured inmonitor differently. But I'm going to start with you, or I start witheveryone which you know customer experience. I think a lot of people know whatit means if you ask them, but everyone has a different answer. SoI like to know what your answers how do you define customer experience? Howdo you think about it? What are some of its characteristics? Yeah,I know that, especially in the world of software and digital products, theidea of CX and sometimes overlaps with UX. But when I think of CS asfar as my job and my role, it's looking at every place a customercould possibly interact with our company. So it might be the experience ofbuying the product, which could be a direct interaction between between Brooks on thecustomer. It could be an interaction between the customer and one of our retailpartners. So those processes are really important to me. Until they use ourproducts, it's how they receive our products, when they open a box, whenthey first try on the shoe, how they interact with our website,how they interact with our customer service team. Everything should be. It should communicatethe core of what we are, which is a company is trying toget you out running and being active and using that to improve your life.Awesome. That sounds very broad ranging. I'm excited to break that down.But let's start for folks that don't know Brooks. I've been running in Brooksfor years since it go seven. I don't know what year that was,but I've been through at least five pairs. You know, as a scene setter, your companies generating more than six hundred million in revenue, at leastdid in two thousand and eighteen. Really good global growth, the number oneand in specialty running shoe stores, the second most popular shoe with the BostonMarathon for several years running, no pun intended. But but beyond that,can you tell folks a little bit about Brooks if they're not familiar with thecompany? Yeah, Brooks has been around for over a hundred years, butfor the last almost twenty we've been completely focused on the run, on performancerunning shoes and apparel and really just digging as deeply as we possibly can intomaking the best running gear in the world and making sure that our mission,which is to inspire everybody to run and be active, that we can facilitatethat in people's lives. Brooks is absolutely a pioneer and the reason we're numberone in specialty run is really twofold one is we really do make the bestgear in the world. We work tirelessly obsessively about the details to make surethat we can let you experience the run you want to experience. We alsoreally believe in in the emotional connection between...

...a runner and the run and whatthat provides to them in their lives. And then we also are just knownfor having the very best service in the world because while at a broad sensemy customers are runners, I also have a ton of customers who are businessowners, and so it's my job to make sure that we can facilitate thembeing able to get our product and sell our product to the easiest way thatthey can. That's awesome and I will attest to that. You know,the ghost of Levens, I love much better than the ghost tens. Ilike the tens as well, but you're constantly improving and and I have astory that will get to shortly, but I don't stay focused on kind ofyour role and how this is structured. You know, again going to thisidea that you know we're typically serving and talking to software people on this podcast, where user like in using the product, you have live, real time feedback. On the other side. Is the company providing the service with you. Of course you've already defined, and I want to get into it evenmore. You know some of the touch points that you have and some ofthe relationships that you want to manage. But in so many cases that feedbackhas some kind of delay in it to some degree because you know, onceit's sold and I'm out experiencing my relationship with my equipment in my run andmyself, there has to be something to produce that back. So talk alittle bit about how you collect and manage feedback for a physical product. Well, the good news is some of the feedback can be fairly fast. Thebad news is it's still after we've manufacture the shoe. We have an enormousdatabase of fit test where tests runners who take our product when it's still inthe development phase and take it out of her run and see how it performsfor them and give us really clear feet back. So that's a part ofour development process. And then we have really amazing partnerships with our retailers.So fairly quickly when a shoe gets delivered, we can tell. We can knowif there's fit problem, if shoelaces are going to be too short andif, for some reason, you know, a manufacturing problem like that happens,we do know pretty quickly because they know that we will make it rightand that we want to make it right very quickly. So we have agreat food feedback loop from them. We have a runner insights team who spendsa ton of time having one on one conversations with runners in their living rooms. Sometimes on the run. They'll just go out and take a run witha runner and ask questions about how the shoes performing for them, what arethey looking for, and really just gathering as much data from as much differentsources as we can find to make sure that we're continuing to develop the verybest gear. The footweard development process isn't short. You're not putting out ashoe in six months. It takes a couple of years from beginning to endand the science that goes into it as incredible. But at the end ofthe day it's runners who choose our shoe and who put it on and takeit out for a run. So we want to listen to them as muchas we can. I love all the direct customer connection that you do describethere. What does it look like on the other side? So people arecollecting this stuff, they're organizing it in some ways. They're is it inan intranet do you have? How does this customer feed back make its wayinto the organization to the people who needed the most? Yeah, so fromour end, when we receive feedback, I lead both the direct consumer serviceand the wholesale service teams. That feedback comes in in different ways and wekeep track of what we replaced and we replace shoes that are maybe truly defective. We also replace shoes that have a customer perception that there's a defect becausewhatever is going on with a shoe, we want to make sure that you'reout running in our product with confidence in it. So sometimes we replace shoesbecause of a perceived defect and not a real defect, but in any casewe keep track of that information to the best or ability pass that on inreporting to our footwear teams. The wholesale...

...side does the same thing. Thefeedback they get from retailers. If there is a true problem with a product, it comes up really quickly because we have an enormous piece of market sharein that specialty run channel. The minute that a new shoe arrives in ashow store, they're falling them off the shelves and they're putting them on customersand if they see a problem, they let us know very fast. Thereare a number of different systems involved in that communication process and I'm sure,the same as every other company in the world, you're trying to figure outexactly what that looks like and how to make that as automated as possible asaccurate as possible. And then our where test team, we have a fullteam of people, which is a growing team. Are where test team andthen our runner insights team that receive the feedback from people who are are specificallywearing our product to let us know what they think. That's great. Sohow are you as director of runner experience? How are you structured in the organization? Specifically, what I'm wondering is how do you interface with sales marketing? Is a traditional customer service, customer support function within your team's you knowwhat is it were the handoffs you're like to manage the full experience? Howare you structured and how do you manage the handoffs with the people that areadjacent to you? Yeah, one of the one of my favorite things aboutBrooks and kind of one of the things that sold me on moving into thisrole and moving into this this company, is that I don't report to beanyone in operations. This isn't an operational function. As far as brooks isconcerned. Service is a part of sales and I report to the vice presidentof sales and North America, and that tells me. I think that's incrediblytelling. It tells me that they believe that service drive sales and that providinggreat service is a competitive advantage for a company, and that means a lotto me. I've always been a person who believes in great rate service becauseit's the right thing to do, but I also believe in great service asbeing great business and a company can't get behind that. I don't. Idon't want to be a part of that was very telling for me. Iwork very closely with our ECOMM team, so I spend a lot of timewith the director and the vice president of the ECOMM team to make sure ourroad maps are kind of an alignment to make sure that I'm providing them thefeedback loop that they need. Then our digital products team that handles the technologyon the website to make sure the bugs are reported appropriately and that we're reallyjust kind of obsessively finding all of the areas of friction where a customer interactswith us. I have about half of my team is on the direct sideand about half of my team is on the wholesale side, and then Ialso have a small group of people who are in kind of support roles,and this I feel like I'm sharing a secret here. This is a thingI think is absolutely brilliant, is I have technical minds on my team inthe runner experienced team, so they are it level knowledge on our EARP systemsand the way of technology flows together and how inventory works, and they're ableto really really participate in enterprise why projects involving our technology and really advocating forthe needs of the customer from that side and how those systems interact with withour customers themselves, and that can be really they're really challenging in an organizationto make sure that that the it team is connected to what a customer needsand how that actually all flows down hell, and so that has just been anincredible experience for me to have those people on my team. Yeah,I love both of those things, both of those big ideas you share,the this idea that by putting you and your team within sales, you're kindof pre baking the repeat and referral business...

...that every business wants. I knowI may repeat customer. I've shared my experience and we'll get into a storythat I tell in a minute. So that I love that and I thinkyou're exactly right about that. I can see why it's a positive sign forthe type of company that you would like to work for. And then havingthis I t piece I've been on, you know, this kind of twotrack mind on getting more of our own team members, including it people andother people that are maybe a little bit unattached from the product itself, aswell as a stronger customer empathy and more direct customer exposure. So I you'reexactly right. It does feel like a big secret and I bet it's notcommon to have that level of it expertise so immediately adjacent to such a acustomer informed team. So the story I tell is about. So I hada mind was neither a real nor perceived defect. It was somewhere in thisweird gray zone. I bought a pair of shoes and I did it mostlybecause I really love your company and the brand and as someone who works insoftware, I know that there are you know, every time one person sendsa support ticket in with a problem, a defect, that there are probablya hundred and fifty or a thousand more people out there experiences same thing thatare just not annoyed enough to pick up the phone or to send in aticket or whatever. So I was like, well, you know, if thisis something other people are experiencing, I just want to corroborate it sothat they know. So I thought I was doing my part as like aloyal customer. So I sent in a ticket about this minor kind of frayingon, you know, the rim, kind of like where your foot goesinto the shoe, and I wrote it up in my personal blog, whichis how you and I connected. I got a lot more than I everexpected. So I do fit probably into your into your perceived problem category here, and now that I'm talking it out, you know, I got immediate responsein in the first one felt like maybe it was like the system generatedone, but then within some very short period of time, a couple hours, a real person. It felt like it was coming from a real personwho spoke specifically to my problem and specifically to the opportunity. You know,the the automated one was hey, we got your ticket and then gave mea choice of picking on a brand new pair of shoes. And so hereI am with a pair of shoes with a minor defect that doesn't affect therun per se. It's not per se, it doesn't affect the run period,and now I have a second pair of shoes and you're like hundred andtwenty dollar retail like a significant investment in making sure that you feel like you'vedone right by me and that I feel like I was done right by thecompany. And so was something I felt compelled enough to write a write upshare on my personal social stuff. Got Some really horrible stories in response andgot a very night about with other brands right, like other brands that underserve their customers and and I got a really, really nice email from youand you essentially I anchored in in brand and I have up on the screenhere, like of the beliefs that are stated on the website. We doone thing at Brooks is one of the beliefs and it's we make the bestrunning year in the world. Nothing more, nothing less, and you spoke tothat. Can you can you tell me a little bit on your sideof, you know, seeing the post? Someone on your team saw it andshared it. What you were so positive and reinforcing to me was thiswas helpful to have an outside person express some of the same things you tryto share. Talk a little bit about this, the level of promise thatyou're making, in the commitment to fulfill it and to make it practical forpeople who are struggling with this in their own companies. Talk about the struggleof getting everyone on the team up to speed with what this promise is andhow important it is to fulfill it, because I feel you're very, verysincere in it. Yeah, this is I might get up on myself walkfor a little bit here. Please do. This is my favorite part. So, first of all, I've always been very fortunate to work for reallywonderful companies. My time at Zoomi is and I was there for a totalof close to eight years. Oh Wow. Okay, my time there was amazingand I loved working there and I...

...really love working here too, andI've always been empowered to really provide the kind of service I believe it.And when you had that interaction with my team, I was fairly new tobrooks and I was working to overcome something that is so incredibly common and Ithink is a constant struggle for anyone in the service industry, and that isthat you have a team of people who only deals with the negative. Theyconsistently hear things that are wrong all day long and it's it can be very, very hard to keep that in perspective. It's kind of a constant communication challenge. Of Yes, the customers you're hearing from are having challenges, thatis a tiny fraction of the customers who are out running in our shoes.And so when you break down a specific problem to how many calls we getand what percentage said is of total shoes and what percentage of calls is aboutthis one problem, it is such a tiny, tiny, tiny problem,but it feels really big and especially when you have a great company that peoplelove to work for and feel passionate about. Now you've added this layer of protection. So they say, listen, this free call or is not abig deal, this doesn't impact the run. You're complaining about a product I feelamazing about, and you now I don't like you very much. Yeah, it's just this instinct to protect this thing that you feel so passionate about, and so I was in the process of really communicating a change to justsay yes, it doesn't matter if it's a real problem or not a realproblem. Educate the customer on what the life expectancy of a running shoe is. It's not the same as other shoes. They're made specifically to be lightweight andso the materials are not going to last as long as a heavier shoe. So a shoe that you buy, you know, a kicking around sneakor might last for a long time, but if you're running thirty miles aweek in a running shoe that's made specifically to be lightweight and provide a reallyspecific performance, it's not going to last as long. So educate them onthat and then make sure they have a new pair of books to go runningit. Get them out on our shoes again, change that experience for them. It doesn't matter if they're right or wrong. It matters if they feelgreat about running in our product, because that's our mission, is to getyou out running and being active and we want you to do that in ourshoes if you can. So I was really in the meat of this projectto really get them to start to feel confident and empowered to say yes allthe time, and so you are right up really reinforced the things that Iwas saying to them, that it is not too expensive to replace a pairof shoes, because how many pairs of shoes have you been through in thelast year? If you're running twenty or thirty miles a week, you mightgo through three or four pairs of shoes a year and if you buy onemore pair of shoes from us, my work is done right. So itwas the timing of it was perfect to be able to say look, lookat what happens when you say yes, when you give the customer the educationthey need to make great decisions in the future and then get them out onthe run again. This is the result and it's been really, really successfuland my team is really a kind of carp told of it and I'm justso excited to see them move forward in that way. That's great. Ithink just say yes is an easy mantra and you know when you get thebuy in. And I love the education...

...side of it too. I meanevery one of these because obviously any software company person, especially in Cus,listening is like. Yep, my team does the same thing. They eightyfive percent of the calls are negative, fifteen percent our neutral, and sowe can let people feel heard, they immediately turn around to typically and justsay yes and educate people. I mean, as much as I run and haverun over the years, I'm still relatively ignorant and part of that emailexchange I had with one of your team members was very helpful to me.What are you as we kind of wind down a little bit, what areone or two things that you now know about customer experience? You've been witha couple footwear and apparel brands. You were, I believe, with banksor financial institutions, priory of a great deal in some variety of experience kindof around customer support and customer success and customer experience. What are a couplethings that you know now that you wish you knew? You Know Fifteen,twenty years ago when you're much younger professional. Yeah, I did my kind ofcall center life. Started in banks and I just moved into a rolewhere, and it's going to be taking escalated calls, kind of at ata management level, not managing actually actual people, but taking escalated calls.And I said what, what do you want me to do? What youknow? How do I decide whether I say yes or no or what Ido? And My boss at that time said be nice and do the rightthing for the customer, and I think I wish it hadn't taken quite solong to know unequivocally that that was the right answer, but it is.Every single time I've done that, even though it feels like the more expensivechoice, it is always, always, is always successful. We always improveour service and it always cost less money in the end and then revenues goup. Because I do not have a name to retribute to this quote,it is not me. If you want to know where a customer or wherea company is, look at their sales. If you want to know where they'regoing to be, look at their service. I believe in that andmy my entire career has reinforced that. I wish I knew for sure wayback then. That is so good. It's the unequivocally right thing to do. It's the medium to long play when you know so many of us areunder short term pressure. But you're absolutely right about that and that's a great, great lesson among several that you've provided. Hey, at bombomb and here onthe customer experience podcast, we're heavily focused on relationships and human connection.So I always like to end with giving you the chance to to thank ormention someone who's had a really positive impact on your life or career and togive a mention to a company that's doing customer experience right in your opinion.Well, I found out this a lot and I've been very lucky. I'vehad some really amazing leaders and some people who invested in me. A longtime ago, in my my banking world again, I had a very,very big decision moment in my life where I had been laid off. TheBank I was working for was making some substantial changes. It didn't end well, spoiler alert, and I had a decision whether I needed to where therewas going to move to keep the job. I had move across the country andI was a young mother at the time and there was a lot happeningin my life and I spoke to our call center director at the time andI don't know what to do, and she said, Rachel's I know onething about you, it's that you need to respect your leaders. And boyshe was right and I kept her voice in my head as I made futuredecisions. I said earlier, I've been I've been lucky to work for greatcompanies, but I have a friend who said I've been very careful about choosingand I think maybe that's it. I've...

...been very careful about choosing where Iwork and I think that that was the impetus for that. So thank you, Penny Garrett. Awesome. It is your a company that in your experiences, you've transacted with them in the past. It could be a local shop,it could be an international brand like Brooks. Give a shout out toone or two companies that you really appreciate and respect the way they approach stuff. You know, I saw an interaction and it wasn't one I had,but a friend of mine that uses the company stitch fix, and she hadwritten to their customer service team and said, Hey, can you not send meshoes for a little bit. She had fallen and broken her ankle andhad just gotten out of surgery and they sent her flowers just out of nowhere. They didn't send her shoes and they sent her some flowers and I thoughtthat was just really, really lovely, just an extra touch. And youknow, I hate to say it, I think that, while there area million other things I could say about Amazon, they do work really,really hard to make their the buying process with them, frictionless. They havethe resources to do it, but they really work hard at it and forthe most part, fairly successful. And so obviously their resources are not attainablefor most of us, but it's a nice place to look to say,what does it look like to make it that easy? Yep, one touchin Gosh, it's on the way and you've already charged me. Rachel,This has been awesome. I really, really appreciate your time and your insights. I'm glad to spend some time with you, especially after our email exchangeseveral months ago. It's nice to put a face with it and and tolearn so much more about what you're doing with a great company. If peoplewant to connect with you or with Brooks what's the best way to do that? Well, Brooks is available on all of the different social media channels.They have an instagram account, we have limited books, instagram account, whichis a lovely place to be, facebook, all of those places I'm on linkhim and don't check it that often, but our customer service team, ifever anyone needs anything relating to brooks. I will say one lovely thing aboutthis team is that the number one call they take is how do Ichoose the best shoe? And all day long they give people this amazingly expertlevel advice on how to choose the right shoe to get the fit, thefield variety you want on your run. So they are always available there.Excellent. Take them up on it. Rachel Ostrander, Brooks running. Thankyou so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you.You're listening to the customer experience podcast. No matter your role in delivering valueand serving customers, you're entrusting some of your most important and valuable messages tofaceless digital communication. You can do better. rehumanize the experience by getting face toface through simple personal videos. Learn more and get started free at bombbombcom. You've been listening to the customer experience podcast. To ensure that younever miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player orvisit bombombcom. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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