We know great customer service when we see or hear about it, but putting it into practice ourselves isn’t as easy. Whether it be how we communicate with angry customers, fix issues with messed-up orders, or build community between those who love our products, there’s a lot to keep in mind when keeping our customers happy. So, how do the best Shopify entrepreneurs stay in the good graces of their customers? Let’s dive in.

A Lost Shipment and an Angry Mob

Aaron Marino is a men’s lifestyle influencer and the Founder of Pete & Pedro, a men’s grooming brand. He’s a big advocate for stellar customer service, even if it means taking a loss. In his head, it’s always best to do the right thing. So it’s no surprise that he told me this story when I spoke to him back in January 2019.

“DHL lost a whole pallet of our orders,” Aaron told me. “It was like 900 orders and they still, [at the time of this interview], have not found them.” 

Pete & Pedro suddenly had a crisis on its hands. Hundreds of customers were wondering where their orders were. To say the least, it was a tight spot for the fledgling men's grooming brand, and they had a decision to make. Should they wait and see if the products would be found or take the loss and ship out new products?

“Not to mention, we also sell on Amazon,” Aaron told me, “and Amazon is very particular about your late shipment rate. So there was this whole domino effect as a result of those 900 packages. But I thought, ‘Okay, I don’t know how this is going to be resolved, but the one thing I can’t do is let my customers suffer.’”

When it comes to these types of decisions, we have to weigh the risk of lost revenue against lost reputation. To Aaron, this decision was a no-brainer.

After waiting 24 hours for DHL to find the missing products, Aaron decided to ship all 900 orders again, at Pete & Pedro’s expense.

"Customers loved it, and they understood," Aaron said, "but yes, some people were pissed off. You just have to manage it the best that you can. And the only way to do that is to do the right thing for your customers."

Since we know that DHL never located the product, it seems clear that Aaron made the right call, mitigating a blow to Pete & Pedro’s reputation and keeping his customers happy.

Lessons:

  • Your reputation is often more important than a loss on the books.
  • Keep an open dialogue with customers when mishaps occur. They expect it and love the transparency.

Chocolate Cake, Community, and Customer Loyalty

Raghav Somani is the Founder and CEO at Headphone Zone, one of the largest and most successful Shopify stores in India. When you hear Raghav speak, his love for great audio is evident, but so is his passion for fantastic customer experiences. And it all starts with chocolate cake.

“If you read mention of chocolate cake in one of our reviews,” Raghav said, “you’ll probably wonder what that means. Well, if something goes wrong and a customer isn’t happy, we send them a chocolate cake. That gesture usually goes a long way towards keeping the customer happy and loyal.”

This silly, kind, and unexpected gesture is akin to the legendary stories of Zappos customer service employees ordering pizza for customers, even when they didn’t buy any shoes on the site.

But it doesn't stop at tasty desserts. That's just the icing on the cake. 

Raghav also created several different customer service policies that are unmatched by other retailers. Here are a few of them:

A Priority on Product Education

Headphone Zone has put together a team of dedicated “headphone gurus” who help customers decide between the many headphone options available. Their sole mission is to educate potential customers about the features and benefits of the dozens of various headphone brands available at Headphone Zone. 

But it doesn’t stop there. 

Headphone Zone has also created many incredibly detailed video reviews of their products, often with Raghav himself as the host. These content pieces provide a simple way for prospective customers to learn about Raghav’s products on their own time.

This two-pronged approach–quality educational content plus headphone gurus–has helped Headphone Zone secure a top position in India's audiophile market.

The Trade Up Program

This is probably my favorite customer service tactic that I learned from Raghav. 

We typically think of headphones as a one-time purchase. And once we've bought them, we don't usually need a new pair for quite some time. That means repeat purchases from the same customer are relatively low in frequency. But Raghav found a way to increase the rate of repeat purchases while keeping customers happy in the process.

Headphone Zone's Trade-Up Program allows customers to resell their used headphones on Headphone Zone website. In turn, they're able to upgrade their headphones for a different, and usually more expensive model. In fact, 10% of all Headphone Zone sales are a result of this program.

The Home Audition Program

The last and incredibly surprising program that Headphone Zone offers its customers is the Home Audition Program. 

“Headphones are a sensory product,” Raghav said. “It’s hard to know if you have the right headphones unless you try them. We let our customers try out headphones for as long as a couple of weeks at a time. Once someone knows which headphones they want, they return the borrowed ones, and we send them a brand-new unit.”

It's an astonishing feat to provide such a program. After all, there's a lot of risks involved. What if you never get the products back? What if they come back damaged? What if they get lost in transit? 

All great questions to consider, but Headphone Zone’s try-before-you-buy approach isn’t an isolated example. The modern ecommerce world is quickly embracing this model. Brands like Trunk Club send customers a set of clothing items which customers can keep or return based on their personal taste.

A Community of Audiophiles

The last and most impressive thing that Headphone Zone has done has been constructing a community framework around their customers' primary interest: fantastic audio.

Headphone Zone hosts regular meetup events in major cities around India, called Headphone Connect. They’ve also created a private Facebook group, The Indian Audiophile Forum, where thousands of members talk about their favorite headphones, accessories, and music, at all hours. 

Lessons:

  • When a customer is angry, get creative and surprise them with something wonderful like cake.
  • Take responsibility for your customers’ experiences, before and after they buy.
  • What innovative programs can you implement to make the buying experience better, add status to your customers, plus increase sales?
  • Think of your customers as a community. After all, they share an interest. How can you bring them together?

Listen to Customer Feedback and Challenge Yourself to Do Something About It

Jan Sapper is the Founder and CEO at Paperlike, a screen protector for the iPad that feels just like paper for users of the Apple Pencil. To Jan, it's of paramount importance to gather customer feedback to provide the best experience possible. And that's a belief which Jan has embodied from the start of Paperlike through to today.

Let’s go back to the beginning of Paperlike, the first version of which was funded via Kickstarter. Jan loved the product himself, but he was eager to gather feedback from the masses who’d backed the project. So, when it came time for shipment, Jan listened.  

One critical piece of insight came as a result of Jan’s openness to feedback. Customers were often making mistakes while applying the screen protector to their iPads. Jan was receiving angry emails, asking why Paperlike didn’t include a backup. From that point forward, PaperLike has only been sold in two-packs. 

But even with these issues resolved and a wildly successful product, Jan didn’t stop listening.

Over the years selling Paperlike, two additional pieces of criticism came Jan's way. First, customers wished the screen protector was even rougher to simulate the feeling of real paper further. Second, customers wanted less light refraction that came as a result of the screen protector's rough surface. 

At first glance, this seemed like a paradox. Making the screen cover rougher would likely result in more refraction while reducing refraction would probably make the screen protector more smooth.

“So we went back to the drawing board, tinkered and experimented,” Jan said. And after months of testing and product development, Jan found a solution.

"The key ingredient for the new Paperlike is the new Surface Technology' Nanodots®'," Jan said. "We called it that for a very simple reason: because we've basically sprinkled tiny dots across the screen protector's foil. These dots don't disturb the light as much, thus you get a rougher screen with less refraction." 

With this solution in place and field-tested, Jan launched a new Kickstarter campaign to launch the Paperlike 2. The campaign recently completed with 9,651 backers who pledged €282,375.  

Listening to and doing something about your customer’s feedback really pays off.

Lessons:

  • What systems do you have in place for gathering feedback from customers? Reviews? Email sequences? Surveys?
  • People often say they listen to their customers, but few do anything about it. Do the opposite. 
  • What systematic or product improvements can you make that will not only make your customers happier but increase revenue? 

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Customer service may seem like a boring topic to some. After all, who doesn't believe in excellent customer service? The sad truth is, many people say they believe in it, but their actions tell a different story. 

And I get it, having empathy for the person who sent you a 4-page-long, scathing email isn’t easy. However, think about this: it’s how we act in those tough moments that makes all the difference. It’s how we respond to tough situations and seemingly unsolvable problems that builds our brands and solidifies our reputations in the minds of our customers forever.