EPISODE
9

Growing to $15M/year With A Customer Service Strategy (with Jeff Cayley)

with
Jeff Cayley

In the last episode, Jack Haldrup, founder of Dr. Squatch, shared how they managed to get 40 million views for one of their viral videos, and how they get over 100,000 orders a year with a brand personality that convert customers through relatability and humor. He’ll also explain how he manages to preserve a brand identity as the company scales significantly.

In episode #9, Jeff Cayley, CEO of Worldwide Cyclery shares how he created a customer service strategy that is the backbone of their ecommerce growth to nearly $15 million a year in sales. He also shares how they go above and beyond for customers to keep them loyal to the brand while creating a word of mouth marketing strategy.

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Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Today, on episode number nine, get ready. Jeff Cayley, CEO of Worldwide Cyclery shares how he created a customer service strategy that is the backbone of their growth to nearly $15 million a year in sales. He also shares how they go above and beyond for customers to keep them loyal to the brand while creating a word of mouth marketing strategy. This is Minds of Ecommerce. All right. Hey, Jeff, thank you so much for being on the Minds of Ecommerce Podcast. Welcome to the show.

Jeff Cayley:

Thanks man. Thanks for having me.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Yeah. So as you know, this podcast is about understanding some of the key strategies that really help entrepreneurs grow their business to millions of dollars. You've had Worldwide Cyclery for how many years now?

Jeff Cayley:

Eight and a half years we've been at it.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Eight and a half years. And you've also had crazy growth, and I think especially in the last few years, that growth has been multiplying and multiplying. Tell us some juicy stats about the growth you've been able to achieve.

Jeff Cayley:

I founded the business when I was 21, bootstrapped, $20,000 loan from my mom at 10% interest, which I paid her back in the first year. And it's gone from one little, tiny retail store and eBay store and myself to... now we're at like over 35 people in three locations across the country and quite the team. And so last year we did just under 15 million in revenue. So it scaled pretty well. I mean, not like mega hyper startup style growth, but enough. For me, it was obviously my passion. I rode and raced before and turned that passion into an awesome, fun company in an industry that I love.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. That's amazing. Now, we were talking right before this recording, and you said that one of the biggest things that helped you grow this business - what's really the backbone of that now $50 million business- was customer service. And it's something that I don't think people really think about when they're thinking of growth strategies, right? We think of traffic acquisition and then sometimes we forget about how our company is operating. Well, it's our customer service. It's human interactions that our staff are having with customers. So tell us a little bit more about why customer service is the backbone of your business and how is it different from any other company.

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah, absolutely. So a couple of things there. From probably our first, I would say three or four years, we grew pretty fast and we didn't do any marketing. That wasn't my background at all. I wasn't a marketer by trade. I was not sophisticated at that. But what I was knowledgeable of, was retail sales. So I worked in retail and worked in retail bike shops, and I got to work under a guy who was an incredible small business owner who was just amazing at human interaction. He was super charismatic and kind and caring and just thoughtful to people, and the whole town.He had a local business and the whole town just loved this guy,. Michael's Bicycles in Newbury Park. Guy was awesome. So, I really spent time there learning how to interact with people, how do you really wow people in terms of service and all of that sort of stuff. So I knew that, and I also knew that in our industry, in the bicycle retail landscape online in the high end mountain bike scene, that was like the achilles heel of all the other competitors out there. All of their reviews were terrible, they were doing a lot of business, people were buying from them, but people were having constant problems with them in terms of their customer experience being boring and their customer support was awful or nonexistent.

And you can test it. You can go on there, hop on their live chat, pretend you're a customer, poke around and look at their reviews like. So I really saw that as something that I really knew how to do well and if I could kind of create that white glove, really high touch, high communication, customer support experience in store, then I could do it online. And that was like the biggest weakness of the competitors out there. So that was what I thought.

And just to clarify, I call customer service or customer support when customers reach out to you, that's when they call you or when they email you and they've got a question, whether it's before they place an order, after they've placed an order, that's where you can shine on your customer service, customer support side. However, there are hundreds of orders a day that you don't get to do that, and that's where your customer experience is.

The customer experience is how beautiful the website, is how easy it is to find what you're looking for and checkout, then your email campaigns that come through, your order confirmation emails, do they connect with you? Are they funny? Do they relate? Are they relevant? Are they value adds? Or are they boring and mundane and just like what you'd expect from anywhere else? That's customer experience. So customer experience is when you go and you buy something online and you don't have a need.

We've all bought stuff online where we've not needed to contact customer support - probably most of the time, hopefully. So, that's customer experience, whereas customer support is you reacting to the customer reaching out to you. So just to clarify there.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

For you, what it sounds like from our conversation before this podcast, is that you really realized that in the industry you were serving, no one was really standing out in any of these ways. So to you, it was really about utilizing that underserved area and wowing customers with better customer support, but also a better customer experience. That's super interesting. So tell us... Okay, yes, you're wowing your customers, you have a great customer experience, but what does that look like?

So let's say in practical terms, I'm a customer of Worldwide Cyclery. How do I get wowed by your customer support or your customer experience? What are those little things that you decided to add to your process and systems that your staff works on every day to really wow your customer and get the word of mouth up?

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah, totally. So I look at that as being a question-answer is kind of like table stakes, right? When someone asks a question, does this fit my bike, or I placed my order and USPS lost it, those kind of customer support inquiries, if you just answer that question, that's kind of just like table stakes, like you've got to do that. How do you go above and beyond that? How do you add to it? Maybe it's a little humour, maybe it's a little something extra. I look at it as more like value adds, right? It's like how do you write a thoughtful email reply or how do you have a thoughtful phone conversation and you get to know the person, and understand who they are? For us in our industry, it's understanding who they are as a bike rider, what kind of bike they have, what they might like, what their next upgrade might be. It's creating that connection and going above and beyond to make friends with them and understand why they love the industry.

We sell to people who have $5,000 to $12,000 mountain bikes, right? They're into it. They're not beginner cyclists, they've been riding mountain bikes for years, this is their favourite hobby. So like, let's get to know them, understand why they ride, what they're doing, how we can make their ride better. And we're all mountain bike nerds ourselves, so we want to get to know them on a different level instead of just answering their question. So of course we're going to answer their question, but then we're going to try and add value somewhere else. Like, "Hey, have you seen this educational content on this topic that might be super relevant to what you're trying to do right now? Hey, have you ridden here? Have you heard about this new product? You might love this."

That's the kind of stuff that goes above and beyond in terms of that customer support. And then it's also just doing a better job at it, right? Instead of a bad customer support experience, just like you ask a question, or the worst is like you ask two or three questions in an email and you get a reply and the person answers one. We've all had that happen. It's super frustrating. So it's making sure you address every single concern, and then also being proactive to what might their next concern be. So if they say, "Hey, USPS lost my package." And you just reply and say like, "Oh, okay, we'll send you another one." , you kind of solved the problem, that's cool. But you know the next question is going to be," Oh wow. Well, when might I expect to get that? So you've got to think of that, right? It's thinking a step ahead of what they're going to ask. So those are some more practical examples of customer support and how you can go above and beyond and really just help people.

And to be frank, most people these days have such a low standard, right? They're used to communicating with Amazon or other retailers out there, or airlines or their cable company. People have such absurdly low standards for customer support, you don't have to do that much. And people are like, "Oh my God, that was amazing." So it's not like it's that crazy hard, but you do have to understand it on level to go above and beyond a little.

And then the other thing too is your copywriting. People read things in the tone that they are in, right? So someone has a problem or they're upset and you're not careful with your words, they'll read that reply in a rude tone because they're in a bad mood, and they'll take it the wrong way and they'll get pissed and they'll rip you on a review. Right? So understanding that and knowing how to strategically use emojis or what we call fluffing up the message makes 100% sure that that person who has an issue, who might be a bit frustrated, understands that you're coming back to them in a nice, humane way.

And that's actually very challenging to do over text these days, but it's a lot easier to do over the phone. So we always make an effort to call people. That's a huge thing that you can do. No one really likes to talk on the phone anymore, but there are still people out there that do. So that's one thing I did in the early days, if we ever had someone who is just seemingly irate, like really upset about something.

No one gets super pissed off because their handlebar grips didn't show up on time, there's another underlying reason, right? So I always would just call and I'd put them on speaker phone and I'd have the whole team around, and I would show them how to keep your cool, how to apologize if it was our mistake, how to solve the problem even if it costs us some money and we lost some money, and how to just listen to the person and understand where they're coming from and what the issue is and how we can actually solve it and go above and beyond.

Hopefully that's not too much of a ramble, but it is important. It's kind of like what's made our customer support so well known. And nowadays, we're so far into the business and we're so highly reviewed on all these different platforms that it's cool that I can talk about it and say, "Yeah, but I actually have the data. Go look over here and there are thousands of amazing reviews." So, clearly, we've figured it out and we're doing it right and we have the user feedback to prove it.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

It's super interesting. And just to recap, you've actually put this in a very linear way. So the first step is to try to understand, where does the customer come from? So looking at the tone and looking at whether they are going to have other questions after I answer this email? You really want to understand where they come from, what are their needs, what type of customer they are, and from that standpoint, then you reply, right?

So instead of just doing the basic, you respond because you've got a hundred other customer support, you actually take more time upfront to possibly save time. That's super interesting. And now, you are also saying that you're not afraid to call customers sometimes. So if there's an issue that may take too much time to answer by email, you encourage your team to just pick up the phone. Look, at the end of the day, I'm guessing if they don't want to talk on the phone, they'll hang up and you can keep the conversation going via email, but I'm sure most people appreciate the speed sometimes that you'll be able to provide over a phone call.

Jeff Cayley:

Totally. And tone of voice is huge. Even if you just leave a voicemail, them hearing your tone of voice apologizing and being a nice, normal human being on the other end of the line, it humanizes you as opposed to just having text. And I know a lot of us millennials are afraid to call people on the phone, but in our industry, you're working with a lot of people who aren't millennials that are closer to like age 35 to 50, and they are more used to talking on the phone. So we pick up the phone and we call and we let them know that we're also humans. And that's huge when it's like something we made a mistake on too, we're not perfect. We mess up here and there, but the way we resolve that problem is to admit fault and then solve the problem It makes a very meaningful difference to people and how they look at us in our customer support.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right. And I'm guessing if you're responding to an email, like you mentioned, you could also use emojis just to kind of soften up the tone or bring a little personality into the response. Now, let's say I'm a company, about your size, and our customer support or customer experience, either way, is just average. Like we're answering emails, we're having way too many customer support emails to deal with, we probably don't have enough staff, quite frankly, to be super efficient and be as good as you want to be, which is most eCommerce companies. But they want to get better at it. What would be your step by step, short, quick tutorial on how to improve that experience?

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah, totally. I think the first thing you need to do is assess where you are, and assess where your competitors are. Because where your competitors are in your industry is typically what people are expecting. So everyone's had an experience contacting an airline. So if you call an airline, you know what to expect. And if you called an airline to change a flight and you pressed one button and got a human that was knowledgeable and helpful, you'd be like, "Oh my God." Like it'd be amazing because it's all about expectation.

So it's understanding your industry and what is that expectation in your industry? So again, I think customer support and customer experience are totally under utilized growth hacks that people just don't understand how to use these days, but it's really what you need to do if you're trying to build a real business that's going to last decades. If you're just trying to do some fly by night arbitrage thing, then yeah, it probably it doesn't matter. But if you're trying to build a real business that's going to be meaningful and last a long time, customer support and customer experience are huge. But assessing your industry and assessing, what's the expectation, what's commonplace and then thinking, "Okay, how can I level up that?" Maybe it's not leaving people on hold, maybe it's having English speaking people answer the phone as opposed to someone who clearly English isn't their first language. That might be the commonplace expectation in your industry, and then gives you an idea of how you can just level it up. So I think understanding that expectation in the industry is step one and then just being creative on how you can level it up and just be better at it, that's kind of step two.

And then from there, it does all go back to industry knowledge and knowing who else is doing what out there right now, and how can you not be a problem solver but be a value adder. So problem-solver of course, boom, tick that box, and then how can you add value to that? And not in a salesy way, but in a way that's actually helpful. That's a way that you can really just level up that experience. And then simple stuff too. It does go back to that expectation in the industry, but people want fast replies. Like if they send you a text, an email or a phone call, they want to be replied to as fast as absolutely possible. People are impatient and busy these days, and if you can consistently get back to their email within an hour and if you can consistently answer their phone call without a hold time, they will keep doing business with you and really enjoy that experience, especially if those things are significantly above the expectation that they had.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Mmm. That's so key. So what you said, if we put it in just like a simple one, two, three, it's, identify the gaps in the market, understand what people are doing and where you could be different, two is really trying to understand, okay, now how can we be different. So you understand the gaps, now it's really trying to find a solution. And number three, and this is my favorite part, it's really shifting the mindset of your support staff from being problem solvers to be more than that and being value adders.

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah, totally.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

That's fantastic. What is the biggest mistake that companies do, Jeff, when they try to come to prove their customer service that they fail at it? Have you seen any examples of that?

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah. Again it just all boils back down to that expectation. What are people expecting you to do, and then what do you actually do? And I think the human element is so huge. I'll give you an example, you can use macros. So a macro is like in Zendesk, it's the platform we use for customer support, super popular. There are a lot of good platforms out there, that's just the one we use. And the term for a macro is kind of like this automated message that'll just go back. It's like you ask a pretty simple question, you can just click this macro and it auto fills it, you change a couple of words and then send it back. We've all seen those, even if we didn't know that those weren't hand typed. How thoughtful are you when you create those macros to make them sound like a real human typed it, and then does your staff know when to and when not to use that? So if someone asks a very simple question in a very simple manner, like, "Hey, I was just wondering when this was going to arrive," and you drop in your macro of, "Hey, thanks for reaching out. We expect this package to arrive X, Y, Z , blah blah blah. Let's know if you need anything else, yada yada."

So our business, we have a brand being very fun, that's kind of what defines us. We're in the mountain bike industry, we love riding bikes, we love having fun, we love goofing off, making jokes, drinking beers. We're all about that, and we eat, sleep and breathe that lifestyle, so people often communicate with us and say funny stuff or make jokes that are related to something that just recently was put on our Instagram or YouTube channel. So if someone writes you a funny email, reply back with something funny and know when not to use the macro. Know when you really do need to make a more human, fun connection and reply. Play back with people and joke around and have fun.

Again, that's very industry dependent and very brand dependent. Our industry is very fun and casual and lifestyle and our brand goes along with that in a very cool way, so we know how to do that. But just making it human, knowing how to talk to people like they're humans and knowing how to do more than just solve problems and go above and beyond. I think people just drop the ball because they just do bare minimum. They just reply, they just solve the problem and that's it. And like, no one's going to remember your company because they asked you a question and you solved the problem in 30 minutes. They don't remember you for that. They remember you because you wrote something funny, because you not only solved their problem but offered them X, Y, and Z advice, or created a connection or asked them a question because you were interested in who they are and how you can help them more. You just have to go further than just solving that problem. Otherwise, no one remembers that. So I think that's where people drop the ball. They're like, "Oh, we have good customer support. We reply to every email in an hour." It's like, with some boring generic reply, no one cares. No one's ever going to remember that. So you have to be more creative.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Yeah. One of the takeaways of what you're saying is at the end of the day, your customer support staff, it's a marketing channel, right? They're interacting with customers every single day, probably more than your Facebook ads are interacting with your customers. It is the brain and the face of your company. They're out on the front lines. So, it's really important, from what you're saying, that brands understand the value of telling their customer support staff really what the brand values are, what the brand stands for, that customer support staff should know as much about the brand than anyone working in marketing, be able to project those values onto the customer and have fun with them and not just be a robot pressing, picking a response that customers are just going to ignore. That's awesome. Jeff, so much value in those 15 minutes. Thank you so much for sharing all those insights with us. Now, if people want to learn more about Worldwide Cyclery or learn more about your stuff, where should they go, where can they follow you?

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah, totally. I don't really personally do much on social media. I'm out there on Instagram and stuff, just Jeff Cayley, J-E-F-F C-A-Y-L-E-Y. Our company's much more fun to pay attention to and watch, so we're on YouTube and Instagram just at Worldwide Cyclery. And then, yeah, if you Google my name, Jeff Cayley, I've done a few other articles and stuff if you want to learn more about the story and things like that. But yeah, we're definitely having fun in our industry and trying to build something unique that's just different and fun and makes people laugh and supports people having fun on bicycles. So yeah, that's what we're all about and what we're enjoying doing and building a business.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Awesome. Love it. Thanks so much, Jeff.

Jeff Cayley:

Yeah, man. Thank you, have a good one.

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