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Mary Stasinopoulos

A Day in the Life: Mary Stasinopoulos, Director of Insights + Experience at Alloy Women’s Health

DTC brands are closer to their customers than their CPG competitors. While this removes certain roadblocks, it also means that the responsibility for creating a fantastic customer experience rests solely with the brand itself.

It’s that close relationship that enticed Mary Stasinopoulos to take on her first customer experience role, having spent the rest of her career in research and insights. 

Mary first started working with Alloy Women’s Health when she was heading up the research team for an Alloy investor. Two years later, she was all-in on Alloy’s mission of helping people access information and treatments for menopause, becoming the company’s Director of Insights + Experience. Mary felt a close connection with the customers, many of whom struggled to find help with their symptoms for years, and felt ignored by their medical providers. As the head of CX, she now works directly with and on marketing programs to ensure the highest levels of customer-centricity. 

Alloy isn’t Mary’s first time in DTC. She was previously Head of Consumer Insights for cosmetics giants Glossier. Speaking of big brands, she was also Manager of Product Insights, Consumer Insights & Analytics for HBO, and helped launch HBO Now, the streaming service that preceded HBO Max. However, she was totally new to customer experience.

A few months after Alloy’s launch in November 2021, Mary told us how she’s feeling about CX now, why her approach to metrics is qualitative rather than quantitative, and the unique CX challenges that come with being a DTC healthcare brand.

How did you get started in customer experience?

I am brand new to the world of CX. I just started doing it at Alloy. My background is in research, brand strategy, and insights. That’s what I’ve done my whole career, and I’m still doing it here: my job title now is Director of Insights + Experience. I got my start in political research, and I’ve always loved the psychological part. What makes people vote a certain way? What makes someone think or feel a certain way? It’s all the same thing, whether you’re buying a product, or you’re voting—it’s all psychological. 

I started doing CX at Alloy because after two years of working with the founders and the team to build the brand, I had so much empathy for the customer. I started to love this woman so much. I knew her so well that I could talk in her voice. I feel so territorial over our customers now. I’m like, ‘No, this isn’t how we talk to her, we talk to her this way.’ 

I didn’t realize how naturally CX fit into everything else I’ve always done. It’s such a natural piece of the puzzle, alongside research and insights, and this obsessive knowledge of the customer.

How are you finding CX?

I was terrified at first! I’d never done customer experience before, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I feel like I know this woman inside and out. What makes someone really great at CX is a dedication to problem-solving and a thick skin. I don’t have thick skin. That’s one thing that I’m developing. I hate when someone’s really upset! But I know this person really well, because for two years we figured out what they really wanted, what the underlying motivators were, what they were willing to pay, and what the exact voice was, and that has really informed the CX. 

What does your day-to-day look like?

My day-to-day really fluctuates. Right now the CX team is pretty small. We have one other person dedicated to CX. Her name is Taryne, and she is unbelievable. The day starts with us and one other person who’s on ops all day checking in, making sure there were no fires overnight, and setting the priorities for CX for the day. 

We’ll work together throughout the day on initiatives for the short term and long term. For example, if we know that product is changing something or pushing something out, or we know that there’s a marketing initiative. We’re a small team, so we’re all working together to make sure that it’s cross-functional. At the same time, I’m also working on research projects and experience and brand projects. So my day-to-day is split between a lot of different job functions right now.

What are some unique CX challenges associated with being a healthcare brand?

Healthcare is really different. The trust that customers are putting in you is unbelievable. It’s not an article of clothing or home purchase that they can return. Those can be a big deal, especially when they’re expensive. But this is something that you’re putting into your body, this is something that you’re really hoping will turn everything around for you, and will have a huge impact.

One thing that we found very early on that informed how we redesigned the website and redesigned the experience was that women were coming to us and being like, ‘Here’s my medical history, CX team, what should I do?’ And we’re like, ‘We are not doctors, don’t give us this information, please. We can’t answer medical questions. There are doctors you can talk to once you’re an Alloy member. But here’s what the science says, here’s what we can tell you.’

What is a unique CX challenge that DTC brands face?

There is no second chance. If someone buys a shampoo brand from Sephora, and a Sephora associate gives them a bad experience, it might not taint that shampoo brand. You’re going to purchase all the brands Sephora sells again. But if someone who has loved Glossier for years goes to a Glossier pop-up store and has a bad experience—end of the story. That was their final expense. It burned the bridge. 

Your experience with Glossier CX or with Alloy CX is your one chance to get it right. You can see why DTC companies put so much emphasis on CX. That one person has to have good training because they have a lot of reputation on their shoulders.

What metrics do you use to assess your CX?

I’m not so worried about hitting specific KPIs as much as I am keeping my eye on the content, the types of customers, and the topics of discussion. 

We’re always looking at how many current customers we’re talking to, versus how many new or prospective customers. How many people are already Alloy members, and are reaching out to make a change, or because they have a question about something, versus how many people are prospective customers, and can we do something to help them convert? We’re always keeping an eye on that split. 

Also, we’re constantly making changes to the site as we push new features and new content, so I’m always keeping an eye on the topics those things address. Are we getting questions we’ve never gotten before about different topics in response to different things we’ve put up on social? Is this something that we should start talking about more? Are we seeing new issues we haven’t seen before? Do we have to tweak something? That kind of thing is more important to me than other KPIs at this stage.

What are you most proud of in your career?

At Alloy, I really feel like I’m making a difference in the world. When you read some of the testimonials we get, or you read some of the CX emails, and you read what some women are going through—there have been times that I’ve cried. So I’m incredibly happy where I am. Never in a million years did I think I’d be doing CX, and I’m very proud to have gotten here.

In terms of career achievements, I loved working at HBO and launching HBO Now. That was a big learning moment, and I was really proud of being part of that team.

What advice would you give to someone else who is starting out in CX?

I’m biased, because I love the why, and I love the research. But I can’t imagine starting and training our team without coming from a place of really knowing the customer, and research, and interviews with our founders, and our medical team. I made sure that the social team had all that context, too. 

It’s not just building from a place of hitting KPIs, and ‘Here’s the script, here’s what you say.’ It’s starting from a place of storytelling and research. 

The first place I decided to start was putting together the questions that I thought we were going to get asked, and building the answers. Explaining, ‘This is why you’re gonna get asked this question, this is why we have to answer a certain way. This is why we built the website a certain way.’ It’s understanding the mindset, as opposed to saying, ‘You have to answer this question as quickly as possible, with the standard pre-worded answer.’ I just couldn’t imagine doing CX without as much context as possible.

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