SSENSE à la conférence 33 de MTL+ECOMMERCE


On the #33 Conference of MTL + ECOMMERCE, Maximilien Meilleur, director of the Customer Experience in SSENSE, explained his vision of nowadays customer service.

SSENSE is an international online retailer, and currently, it sells four hundred designer brands on its website and counts more than two millions page views per month. SSENSE has indeed developed an outstanding marketing process. During this conference, Maximilien gave some pieces of advice to help the startups, businesses and companies based on his experience with SSENSE.


What does “customer service” really mean?

Everybody talks about it and it’s natural because the customer is at the center of everything we do. But it came to a point where it has become meaningless. We should stop talking about customer service and start trying to figure out what is it that we really do for our customers and tell the world about it.

So, what is customer experience and how should it be approached? If we talk about customer experience we think about champaign in business class, having someone waiting for you and asking you if you need something, free beers…And it looks like the right thing to do. But it’s the first biggest mistake that we can observe. It’s quite the opposite.

There is no magic recipe. What works for one company will not necessarily work for the others. But there are still some basic points that we all have to follow.


1.    Meet customer expectations

What really matters is just to meet customer expectations. If you do it all the way, they’ll stick with you. Achieve basic things like: shipping on time, fulfilling the visual basic expectations from the site…Think about what your customer expect at the minimum. The thinkline is easy, but the execution is hard.

Being consistent is the key. Everytime your customer has an interaction with you, you are training them and setting their expectation of you. Let’s use chat as an example. One day the customer comes in, asks you a question on chat and you answer in 30 seconds. If that happens more than one time, the next time the customer will come, that’s what he or she will expect. That is called the relative expectations. If one day, you are not there in 30 seconds, in a minute or more, then you will not fulfill the expectation that you build with your customer.

Expectations can be tricky so before building them, you need to know what league you are playing in. When you get “the free glass of champaign at the Dollars store” it’s weird. It doesn’t feel normal or natural. Customers comes with a personal expectation so if you don’t deliver that, it doesn’t matter how many free beers you give.


2.    Be aware of the big players setting the “absolute expectations”

You can’t always control customers’ expectations. Customers of one brand still browse in other company’s store so they come in with a bunch of absolute expectations. The big players (Amazon, Facebook, Ebay…) are the ones setting up those expectations and you need to be aware of them.

Out of e-commerce, a completely different example of that is the smartphone and its app design. When you open an app and you can’t find the “delete app” button, you are displeased because you already expect it to be there .That is because it is always available in the big players sets.

Maximilien gave the example of when he discovered the “wish list” in Amazon giving the option to save items for later, he didn’t see its utility. But now if he goes online and he doesn’t have a wish list available, he’ll feel like something is missing.

So the expectations are set both by the big players around (absolute expectations) and your interactions with your customer (relative expectations).


3.    Avoid the frustration moments by being honest

The problem is that the expectations of each customer are different and unclear. And in a company, what we want to offer is consistency. So, how should we deal with this?

First of all, we have to make the difference between frustration and disappointment. A frustration moment is when you expected something to work as announced and it doesn’t. When the system doesn’t deliver something that was promised. It is really hard to come back after that kind of situation because the customer is frustrated from now on.

In the other hand, a disappointment moment is when the customer had higher expectations. They thought you would deliver the moon and you take them back to reality. For example, if they wished to be delivered in a day, they’ll be disappointed to learn that you can only do it in three days. So they came in with an expectation that you cannot meet but at least they can’t be mad at you because you were honest about your real capacity.

If you lose your customers over a frustration moment you will likely lose them. Very few customers will give you a second chance. After a disappointment, it is easier to win them back. So to avoid frustration, you have to tell them the moment they come in what is it that you can do or not.


4.    Try to win back the displeased customers

If you still didn’t deliver your promise and a customer is really upset, it’s not the end. The interaction of the customer with you ends the moment you decide it to. So instead of ending it like that, get back to the customers, try to win them back. If you have any gifting budget or any kind of resources effort that you want to invest, focus it on the experiences that didn’t go well. Because if you offer them a compensation and keep trying to win them back, they’ll stick with you even more than before.

To support that point, Forester, the famous car company, made a study where they compared the number of customers who switched from one company to another when they were displeased versus those who stayed with them and bought even more than before after they won them back. That was a very positive experience. Numbers were three times higher when they fought to win back the customers that went away.


5.    How to talk to the current customers?

The millennials are a very demanding generation. If they want something it’s here and now, right away. But on the other side, they are easy to understand. They like to find the information by themselves. You just need to build your network so the entry points will lead them to ask questions and let them come to you. Always be there to listen to them and answer to their questions as an adviser. You have to let them know that you are there and wait to jump on the occasion when they contact you.


6.    Find your marketing differentiator

This whole strategy for customer service sounds really boring and in a great part, it is. But it is important to nail those goals. Make sure you invest a lot of time the firsts years to build this up.

Once you nailed all of the five points above, it’s time to find your marketing differentiator. Pick the right interaction aligned with your marketing strategy, your branding, your messaging and your customers. Pick only one instead of various but less unique differentiators, and tell the world about it. For example: free shipping in the US, etc. This will make all the difference and you will reach the real quality customer service.