For SMBs, focusing on customer experience is an ideal strategy to build your brand. The most beloved large brands are all about CX, with the resources to back up their promises. But what SMBs lack in bottomless pockets, they make up for with the ability to be nimble.
Eli Weiss is the Director of Customer Experience at OLIPOP, a company producing healthy tonic beverages that work to improve digestive health. Eli brings many unique experiences to his role—from being raised in a traditional orthodox Jewish household, to working without a college degree. His interest in human experience and how to give customers what they need is evident in his practice of starting his day in the inbox.
The voice of the customer is the ultimate estimation of what you’re doing right and what needs fixing—and it’s all right there in the CX team’s inbox. Since joining the team in 2020, Eli and his team have lowered monthly churn by 70% and grown revenue driven from the CX team by over 1200%. And they did a lot of it simply by listening.
We caught up with Eli to learn more about his daily approach, the advantage that great CX can give SMBs, and what founding his own company taught him about the value of feedback.
How do you define customer experience and how do you approach it in your day-to-day?
Customer experience is, really, a more proactive approach to customer support. Customer support is a fire extinguisher—when there’s a problem, we resolve it. Customer experience is looking throughout the customer journey at every touchpoint and making sure that we’re at least delivering on what we promise, and hopefully over-delivering. The broader context around my role is obviously building out a team that is dealing with the support on a day-to-day basis all across email, SMS, Facebook messages, Instagram DMs, comments on social. It’s inspiring that team, keeping them motivated and engaged, and then kind of just working across the organization and being the customer voice in every single conversation.
So a day-to-day looks like first thing in the morning touching base with the inbox, making sure there are no escalated tickets or anything that needs to be dealt with. Then I’d say a large part of my day is split between meetings across functions, as well as ideation on retention initiatives. Just really being the customer voice in the room in some of these larger conversations.
What sort of challenges do you help OLIPOP solve?
As a brand, OLIPOP is omnichannel, and we’re about 70% retail. When I started we were in about 700 stores and now we’re in 12,000 stores.
The goal is to really synthesize the information that we get from customers and package it up in a little bow and deliver it to the right place at the right time—that’s the main objective of a great CX team.
If we learn about a certain incident, we can take the feedback fast enough and make moves on it. Every day we’re on the front lines collecting information and passing it along to all different parts of the organization. I think that the misalignment for customers and the reason why they churn is that their expectations aren’t in line with what they’ve experienced. I think when you think about what makes customers churn, the flip side is more interesting to think about: what makes customers stay? Our job is to remove as much friction as we can.
What are some metrics that you look at to track progress?
We look at customer effort scores. There’s a book called The Effortless Experience that talks about how customers fall in love with a brand when their experience is frictionless. So we try our best to remove friction as much as we can. At the bottom of every email, it’ll say “Eli made it easy to get this resolved today” and you can vote strongly agree to strongly disagree. We track that to understand if our customer effort score is high enough, then we are making sure that people have an easy way to get their issues resolved.
We also track NPS. Every NPS survey asks, “On a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to refer this to a friend?” but then we ask a secondary question, “for which of these reasons did you choose your score?” The options are: shipping and delivery, website experience, product value, and customer service. If customer service is a driving indicator for people to refer our brand to others, we’re in a good spot. We’re also looking at first response time. I think response time is highly underrated.
What did previously founding your own startups teach you about CX?
I think that the difference between being a founder and being on someone’s team is that when you’re a founder you feel very, very strongly about your product and about the experience you want people to have. When things don’t go well, it hurts you so much more deeply than it hurts you when you’re working a nine-to-five job. Being an owner really gave me the ability to deeply understand and feel things, but also gave me the ability to make a quick change based on feedback, because the buck stops here. It really gave me the ability to learn more about taking the initiative to make a change when we see enough feedback that says that we should make that change.
What are some exciting new trends in CX that you’re interested in exploring?
I think I’ve just been very, very inspired to see CX become less of an entry-level job with no growth. I’m excited to see CX and retention being looped together a lot more often than they were five years ago. I think seeing CX and retention go hand in hand is awesome.
What kind of advantage can excellent CX give SMBs?
The broader thing that you hear is that CX costs a lot of money—it’s a cost center. And when you’re small, you should outsource it for $4 an hour and spend your money on growth. What you’re seeing is that growth is not like the days of Facebook arbitrage; those days are slowly coming to an end. In order to properly build a business today, you don’t just need money for ad spend, you need a brand. The brands that you love generally have a great experience and that’s everything customer experience is across the entire spectrum.
Making sure that you’re delivering a great brand experience is having great customer experience.
And the number one silly thing that I hear very often is “it costs a lot of money to create great experiences”—and it really doesn’t. Number one, you need to set expectations properly; Number two, you need to deliver on said expectations.
And when brands start early on, I think it’s impactful to spend some time in the inbox yourself. Once it gets to more than three to five hours a week, you can definitely get some help there, but a business can learn so much by just listening. Brands wait until later on and spend $50,000, $100,000, learning about their customers when in reality, they can talk to their customers in the inbox every day.
What piece of advice would you give someone who’s looking to champion customer experience in their business?
I think that the number one thing I’d say is, instead of focusing on creating peaks, spend more time filling the valleys, and that’s from a book called The Power of Moments, by Dan and Chip Heath. And I think that’s a must-read book around how you create moments. I think that people are so obsessed with over-delivering but often fail on delivering the baseline of what they promised. So make sure that you look at every single part of the customer journey and make sure you’re delivering on those expectations before you do anything wild.
The other piece of advice I’d say is you don’t have to go above and beyond for everybody—you can choose once or twice a week to reach out to somebody personally and make someone’s day. That’s enough to create a brand that deeply cares about customers because great experiences are heard and those kinds of words travel.