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


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 where a customer orcompany is look at their sales, if you want to know where they're going to belook at their service, I believe in that and my my entire career hasreinforced that you're. Listening to the customerexperience podcast a podcast dedicated to helping today's growing businessesrestore a personal human touch throughout the customer life cycle, getready to hear how sales marketing and customer success experts surprise anddelight and never lose sign of their customers. Humanity here is your hostEfen Beaute! Hey! Thank you. So much for clickingplay on this episode of the Customer Experience Podcast. I'm really glad tohave you, along with us, and I'm very excited for today's guest RachelOstrander, who spent four and a half years, is the customer experiencemanager with footwear and Apparel Brand Zomis and is now the director of runnerexperience at Brooks Running Rachel. Welcome to the customer experiencepodcast. Thank you. I'm glad to be heare yeah. I'm really excited to getinto the kind of the analog nature of what you're doing, because so many ofour listeners, and so many of our guests are exclusively digital withsoftware products that can be measured and monitor differently, but I'm goingto start with you wher. I start with everyone which you know customerexperience. I think a lot of people know what it means if you ask them, buteveryone has a different answer: It s Ho. I like to know what your answer is.How do you define customer experience? How do you think about it? What aresome of its characteristics? Yeah? I know that, especially in the world ofsoftware and digital products, the idea of CX an sometimes overlaps with us,but when I think of Sance, as far as my job and my role, it's looking at everyplace, a customer could possibly interact with our company, so it mightbe the experience of buying the product, which could be a direct interactionbetween between Brooks and the customer. It could be an interaction between thecustomer ND, one of our retail partners, so those processes are really importantto me. It's how to use our products it's how they receive our products whenthey open a box when they first try on the shoe ob the intering for their website, how they interact with our customerservice team. Everything should be, it should communicate the core of what weare, which is a company, is trying to get you out running and being activeand 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'tknow Brooks I've been running in Brooks for years since Ghos seven- I don'tknow what year that was, but I've been through at least five pairs you know is a scene setter, yourcompany's generating more than six hundred million in revenue, or at leastdid in two thousand and eighteen really good global growth. The number onebrandon specialty running shoe stores the second most popular she with theBoston Marathon for several years, running no punintended. But but beyondthat, can you tell folks a little bit about Brooks if they're not familiarwith the company Yeah borks has been around for over a hundred years, butfor the last, almost twenty we've been completely focused on the run onperformance, running shoes and peril, and really just digging as deeply as wepossibly can into making the best running gear in the world and makingsure that our mission, which is to inspire everybody, to run and be active,that we can facilitate that in people's lives. Books is absolutely a pioneerand the reason where number one in specialty run is really twofold. One iswe really do make the best gear in the world? We work tirelessly obsessivelyabout the details, to make sure that we can. Let youexperience the run. You want to experience. You also really believe inthe emotional connection, between a...

...runner and the run and what thatprovides to them and their lives, and then we also are just known for havingthe very best service in the world, because, while in a broad sense my customers arerunners, ils have a ton of customers who have business owners, and so it'smy job to make sure that we can facilitate them being able to get ourproduct and sell our product to the easiest way that they can that'sawesome, and I will attest to that. You know the Ghost elevens I love muchbetter than the ghost tens. I like the Tenzo as well, but you're constantly,improving and- and I have a story that will get to shortly, but I want to stayfocused on how of your role and how this is structured. You know againgoing through this idea that you know we're typically serving and talking tosoftware people on this podcast, where user, like in using the product. Youhave live real time feedback on the other side. Is the company providingthe service with you, of course, you've already defined, and I want to get intoit even more. You know some of the touchpoints that you have in some ofthe relationships that you want to manage, but in so many cases thatfeedback has 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 myrun and myself, there has to be something to produce that back. So talka little bit about how you collect and manage feedback for a physical product.Well E, the goodnews is some of the the feeback can be fairly fast. The badersis it's still after we've manufactured the shoe. We have an enormous databaseof fict test were test runners who take our product when it's still in thedevelopment dayse and take it out Ofer, run and see how it performs for themand give us really clear feetback. So that's a part of our developmentprocess, and then we have really amazing partnerships with our retailersso fairly quickly when a she gets delivered. We can tell you know ifthere's a fit problem if shoelaces are going to be too short and it for somereason you know a manufacturing problem like that happens, we do know prettyquickly because they know that we will make it right and that we want to makeit right very quickly. So we have a great food feedback OUP from them. Wehave a runner insights team who spends a ton of time having one on oneconversations withrunners in their living rooms, sometimes on the run.They'll just go out and take around with a runner and ask questions abouthow the shes performing for them. What are they looking for and really justgathering as much data from as much different sources as we can find tomake sure that we're continuing to develop the very best gear, thefootwere development process isn't short you're, not putting out a shoe insix months. It takes a couple of years from the beginning to end ind, thescience that goes into. It is incredible, but at the end of the day,it's runners who choose our shoe and whol, put it on and take it out for aran, so we want to listen to them as much as we can. I love all the directcustomer connection that you do you describe there. What does that looklike on the other side, so people are collecting this stuff, they're,organizing it in some way. Is there? Is it in an Internet? Do you have? Howdoes this customer feedback make its way into the organization and to thepeople who needed the most yeah? So from our end, when we receive feedback,I lead both the direct consumer service and the Wholesale Service teams that bebet comes in in different ways and we keep track of what we were placed andwe replace shoes that are maybe truly defective. We also replace shoes thathave a a customer perception that there's a defect because, whatever 'sgoing on with the shoe, we want to make sure that you're outrunning in ourproduct with confidence in it. So sometimes we replace yeis because of aperceived defect and not a real defect, but in any case we keep track of thatinformation to the best orrability pass...

...that on an recording to our footwereteams. The wholesale side does the same thing: The feedback they get fromretailers. If there is a a true problem with a product, it comes up reallyquickly because we have an enormous piece market share in that specialtyrun channel the minute that a new shoe arrives in a short store, they'repalling them off the shelvs and they're putting them on customers and if theysee a problet af, they let us know very fast. There are a number of differentsystems involved in that communication process and I'm sure the same as everyother company in the world ar trying to figure out exactly what that looks likeand how to make that as automated as possible as accurate aspossible, and then our ware test team. We have a a full team of people, whichis a growing team, our ware test team and then our runner insihts team thatreceive the feedback from people who are are specifically wearing ourproduct to. Let us know what they think, that's great. So how are you asdirector of runner experience? How are you structured in the organizationspecifically, what I'm wondering is, how do you interface with salesmarketing, is a traditional customer service? Customer support functionwithin your teams. You know what is it wher? Are The handoffs here like tomanage the full experience? How are you structured and how do you manage thehandoffs with the people that are adjacent to you, yeah one of the one of my favoritethings about Brooks and kind of one of the things that sold me on moving intothis role and moving into this, this company is that I don't report toanyone in operations if this isn't an operational function. As far as Brooksis concerned, service is a part of sales, and I report to the vicepresident of sales, an North America, and that tells me, I think, that'sincredibly telling it tells me that they believe that serves drive salesand then providing great service is a competitive advantage for a company,and that means a lot to me. I've always been a person who believes in greatservice because it's the right thing to do, but I also believe in great serviceas being great business and a company can't get behind that. I don't I don'twant to be a part of that was very telling for me. I work very closelywith our ECOM team, so I spend a lot of time with the director and the vicepresident of the ECOM team to make sure our rodmaps are kind of an alignment tomake sure that I'm providing them the feedback lik that they need. Then ourodigital products team that handles the technology on the website to make surethe bugs are reported appropriately and that were really just kind ofobsessively finding all of the areas of friction where a customer interactswith US- and I have about half of my team- is on the direct side and abouthalf my team is on the wholesale side and then I also have a small group ofpeople who are in kind of support roles, and this I feel like I'm, sharing a secret here.This is a a thing I think is absolutely brilliant. Is I have technical minds onmy team in the runner experience team? So they are it level, knowledge on ourEurop Systems and the wayer technology close together and how inventory worksand they are able to really really participate in enterprise wy projectsinvolving our technology and really advocating for the needs of thecustomer from that side and how those systems interact with with ourcustomers themselves and that can be really really challenging in anorganization to make sure that that the it team is connected to what a customerneeds and how that actually all flows downhell, and so that has just been anincredible experience for me to have those people on my team yeah. I loveboth of those Stane, both those big ideas. You share there this idea ofthat by by putting you and your team within sales, you're kind of prebaking,the repeat and referral business that...

...every business wants. I know I mayrepeat: 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 think you're exactly rightabout that. I can see why it's a positive sign for the type of companythat you would like to work for and then having Thi sitpes I've been on.You know this kind of two track mind on getting more of our own team members,including it people and other people that are maybe a little bit unattachedfrom the product itself, as well as a stronger customer empathy and moredirect customer exposure. So you're exactly right. It does feel like a bigseacreak, and I bet it's not common to have that level of it expertise soimmediately adjacent to such a customer informed team, so thi. The story I tellis about so I had a mine was neither a real nor perceived defect. It wassomewhore in this weird gray zone. I bought a pair of shoes and I did itmostly because I really love your company and the brand and as someonywho works in software. I know that there are. You know every time oneperson sends a support ticket in with a problem, the a defect that there areprobably a hundred and fifty or a thousand more people out. Thereexperiences same thing that are just not annoyed enough to pick up the phoneor to send in a ticket or whatever. So I was like well, you know if this issomething other people are experiencing. I just want to corroborate it so thatthey know so. I thought I was doing my part as like a a loyal customer, so Isent in a ticket about this minor kind of fraying on you know the rim kind oflike where your foot goes into the shoe, and I wrote it up in my personal blog,which is how you and I connected. I got a lot more than I ever expected, so Ido fit probably into your into your perceived problem category here howthat I'm tacking it out. You know I got immediate response andthe first one felt like maybe it was like the system generated one, but thenwithin some very short period of time, a couple hours, a real person it feltlike it was coming from a real person who spoke specifically to my problemand specifically to the opportunity. You know the the automated one was hey.We got your ticket and then give me a choice of picking out a brand new pairof shoes, and so here I am with a pair of shoes with a minor defect thatdoesn't affect the run per se. It's not per se. It doesn't affect a on period,and now I have a second pair of shoes and you're, like hundred and twentydollar retail, like a significant investment in making sure that you feellike you've done right by me and that I feel like I was done right by thecompany, and so it's something I felt compelled enough to write. T A wrightup share on my personal social stuff got some really horrible stories inresponse and got a very night about with other brands right, like otherbrands that underserve their customers and- and I got a really really niceemail from you and you essentially J. I anchored in and brand- and I have up onthe screen here like of the beliefs that are stated on the website. We do.One 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 to that.Can you can you tell me a little bit on your side of you know, seeing the post,someone on your team sought and shared it? What you were so positive andreinforcing to me was this was helpful to have an outside person express someof the same things. You try to share talk a little bit about this. The levelof promise that you're making and the commitment to fulfill it and to make it practical for people who arestruggling with this in their own companies talk about the struggle ofgetting everyone on the team up to speed with what this promise is and howimportant it is to fulfil it, because I feel you're very, very sincere in it yeah this is, I'm might get up on myselfbox a little bit.Her least do this is my favorite part, so, first of all, I've always been veryfortunate to work for really wonderful companies. My time at Zoomis, when Iwas there for a total of close to eight years, O wow gay. My time there was amazing and- and Iloved working there- and I really love...

...working here too- and I've always beenempowered to really provide the kind of service I believe in and when you had that interaction with my team, Iwas fairly new to brooks and I was working to overcome, something that isso incredibly common and, I think, is a constant struggle for anyone in theservice industry, and that is that you have a team of people who only dealswith the negative. They consistently hear things that arewrong all day long and it's it can be very, very hard to keep that inperspective. It's it's kind of a constant communication challenge of yes,the customers you're hearing from are having challenges that is antinyfraction of the customers who are outrunning in our shoes, and so whenyou bran down a specific problem to how many calls we get and what percentagethat is of total shoes and what percentage of cause is about this oneproblem. It is such a tiny, tiny, tiny problem, but it feels really big andespecially when you have a great company that people love to work forand feel passionate about now, you've added this layer of protection, so theysay listen! This fre caller is not a big deal. This doesn't impact the runyou're complaining about a product. I feel amazing about and you now I don't like you very much yeah,it's just this instinct to protent this thing that you feel so passionate about,and so I was in the process of really communicating a change to just say. Yes, it doesn't matter ifit's a real problem or not a real problem, educate the customer on what the life expectancy of a runningshoe is it's not the same as other shoes they're made specifically to belight weight, and so the materials are not going to last as long as a heaviershoe so show that you by you know, kicking around the snake or might lastfor a long time. But if you're running thirty miles a week in a running shoe,that's made specifically to be light weight and provide a really specificperformance. It's not going to last as well so educate them on that and then make surethey have a new pair of brocks to go running it get them out in our shoes again changethat experience for them. It doesn't matter if they're, right or wrong itmatters if they feel great about running in our product, because that'sour mission is to get you out running and being active, and we want you to dothat in our shoes. If you can so, I was really in the meet of this project to really get themto start, to feel confident in empower to say yes, all the time and so you'reright up really reinforced the things that I was saying to them, that it isnot too expensive to replace a pair of shoes, because how many pairs of shoeswho you've been through in the last year, if you're running twenty orthirty miles a week, you might go through three or four pairs of shoes ayear, and if you buy one more pain shoes from us, my work is done right, so it was thetining of it was perfect to be able to say, look, look at what happens whenyou say yes, when you give the customer the education, they need to make greatdecisions in the future and then get them out on the run again. This is theresult, and it's been really really successful. An my team is really kindof got told of it and I am just so excited to see them move forward. Inthat way, that's great, I think just say yes, is an easy Montra and you knowwhen you get the by in, and I love the... side of it to I mean everyone of these, because obviously any software company person, especially inCS listening, is like Yep. My team does the same thing they. Eighty fivepercent of the calls are negative. Fifteen percent, our neutral and so whecan let people feel heard they immediately turn around typically andjust say yes and educate people. I mean as much as I run and have run over theyears, I'm still relatively ignorant and part of that email exchange. I hadwith one of your team members was very helpful to me. What are you? Is We kindof wind down a little bit? What are one or two things that you now know about?Customer experience you've been with a couple footwear and apparel brands. YouEre, I believe, with banks or financial institutions, mire of a great deal andsome variety of experience, kind of around customer support and customersuccess and customer experience. What are a couple things that you know nowthat you wish you knew you know fifteen twenty years ago, when Youwere a muchyounger, professional yeah. I did that my my kind of call centerlife started in banks, and I H D just moved into a ror and it wasgoing to be taking escalated, calls kind of a at a management level, notmanaging actually actual people, but taking usplate calls- and I said when,like what do you want me to do what you know? How do I decide whether I say yesor no or what I do and my boss at that time said be nice and do the rightthing for the customer, and I think I wish it hadn't takenquite so long to know unequivocally that that was the reg answer, but it is every single time I've done that, eventhough it feels like the more expensive choice, it is always always alwayssuccessful. We always improve our service and it always cost less moneyin the end, and then revenues go up because I do not have a name to Efebet to thisquote. It is not me if you want to know wher a customer or company is look attheir sales. If you want to know where they're going to be look at theirservice. I believe in that and my my entire career has reinforced that Iwish I knew for sure way back then there's so good. It's the unequivocallyright thing to do. It's the medium to long play when you know so many of usare under short term pressure, but you're absolutely right about that, andthat's a great great lesson among several that you've provided hey atbombamb and here on the customer experience podcast were heavily focusedon relationships and human connection, so I always like to end with giving youthe chance o to thank or mention someone who's had a really positiveimpact on your life for career and to give a mention to company. That's doingcustomer experience right in your opinion. Well, I found about this a lot and I'vebeen very lucky. It' had some really amazing leaders and some people whoinvested in me a long time ago in my my banking year old again, I had a very,very big decision moment in my life, where I hade been laid off. The Bank Iwas working for was making some substantial changes. Itdidn't end well, spoiler alert and I had a decision whether I needed to wherther. I was 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 happening in my lifeand I spoke to our call center director at the time and I I don't know what todo and she's like Rachel. I know one thing about you: it's that you need torespect your leaders and boy. She was right and I kept her voice in my head as I madefuture decisions, I said earlier, I've been I've been lucky to work for greatcompanies, but I have ' have a friend who said I've been very careful aboutchoosing, and I think maybe that's it.

I've been very careful about choosingwhere I work, and I think that that was the impetus for that. So thank you.Penny Geret awesome an is there a company that, in your experiencesyou've transacted with them in the past, it could be a local shop. It could bean international brand like Brooks give a shout out to one or two companiesthat you really appreciate and respect the way they approach stuff. You know Isaw a e interaction and it wasn't when I had, but a friend of mine uses the company stitchfix and she had written to their customer service team and said Hey. Canyou not send me shoes for a little bit? She had fallen and broken her ankle andhad just gotten out of surgery and they sent her flowers just sounded nowhere.They didn't send her shoes and they sent her some flowers, and I thoughtthat was just really really lovely. Just in extra touch, and you know Ihate to say it. I think that while there are a millionother things I could say about Amazon, they do work really really hard to maketheir the buying process with them frictionless they have the resources to do it, butthey really work hard at it and, for the most part, fairly successful, andso obviously their resources are not attainable for most of us, but it's a anice place to look to say what does it look like to make it that easy, Yep one touch and Goshit's on the wayand you've already charged me Rachel? This has been awesome. I reallyreally appreciate your time in your insights. I'm glad to spend some timewith you, especially after our email exchange several months ago, it's niceto put a face with it and and to learn so much more about what you're doingwith the great company. If people want to connect with you or with Brooks,what's the best way to do that well, brooks is available on all of thedifferent social media channels. We have an instagram account. We haveLimin at Brooks in sturing account, which is a lovely place to be facebook.All of those places I'm on Linkon- I don't check it that often, but ourcustomer service team, if ever anyone needs anything relating to brooks. Iwill say one lovely thing about this team is that the number one call theytake is how do I choose the best shoe and all day long they give people thisamazingly expert level advice on how to choose the right shoe to get the fit offiel and theride. You want on your own, so they're always available thereexcellent, take them up on it. Rachel ostrander brooks running. Thank you somuch for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you. You are listening to the customerexperience podcast, no matter your role in delivering value and servingcustomers. Youre intrusting, some of your most important and valuablemessages to faceless digital communication. You can do betterrehumonize. The experience by getting face to face through simple personalvideos, learn more and get started. Free at Bom, Bomcom you've beenlistening to the customer experience podcast to ensure that you never missan episode subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visitVom Bomcom. Thank you. So much for listening until next time.

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