Pistol Lake is harnessing the power of customer support to build their high-quality clothing company.
We got to chat with co-founder, William Sulinski, and found out that all of Pistol Lake’s support excellence comes from just three guys – the same three guys who run the entire business! Check out how William, James and Andrew pull off delighting their customers while staying super hands-on in every part of their business.
Let’s start with what everyone’s probably wondering: What’s been your most memorable moment with a customer?
We generally respond to all support requests, but sometimes they are just a little too… out there.
Like this one:
On Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 7:06 PM UTC, Ryan <***@gmail.com> wrote:
5 chipotle burrito bucks for a pair of sweatshorts……add extra meat and guac on those at no extra charge. Let me know
We skipped it because everyone knows Guac is extra….
but Mr. Ryan persisted:
On Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 12:27 AM UTC, Ryan <***@gmail.com> wrote:
Offer is good until 12/31/15 (when they expire)……that said I’m sure they’ll be glad to switch you out with fresh ones for any that go unused before the cut off
On Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 10:28 PM UTC, Ryan <***@gmail.com> wrote:
You drive a tough a** bargain…….Will throw in two free chips+guac cards as well.
at this point we knew we only had one option.
What’d you do??
We told him to send us the coupons.
That is awesome.
Ok, so aside from letting one customer pay you in burrito bucks, what makes Pistol Lake support awesome?
We’re all in on it. We all help with support and we always will.
It’s also easy for us to give answers quickly. Andrew does a lot of the inbound support. He’s very familiar with what’s going on with production, which makes it easy for him to provide answers to customers.
We all believe the customer is always right. We want to make the highest quality every time. If a customer isn’t happy we exchange and pay the shipping, or we refund them. It’s not a question for us. If they’re not happy we make them happy.
You three have a million things to do all the time. Why take on customer support yourselves, too?
When you’re obsessed with making the best product you can like we are, you have to be involved in getting direct feedback. Many clothing companies reach out to wholesalers and resellers to sell their products, which is pretty fatal in this industry. You really need that direct feedback to make sure you’re making the best product, which is why we all do support.
Do you have any unique ways you interact with customers?
Surprisingly enough we do a lot of support through Reddit. We’re active in a few subreddits and people reach out and give feedback there.
A few weeks ago we launched our online forums. There hasn’t been a lot of outreach for support, but we are getting feedback there.
How does your team stay organized? Are there tools that work well for your small, but busy team setup?
Because I have so many different roles it requires me to be hyper-organized. I don’t think the tools matter. It’s the consistency of investment of your own time and the dedication to staying organized.
We all use Asana. I personally use Evernote and the notes app on my phone. Even though there’s only 3 of us all in the same building we use Slack. I really like the philosophy Yvon Chouinard talks about in his book “Let My People Go Surfing”: When you’re at work you’re your very best, and when you’re not feeling it you go do something else. Slack works well for those times when we’re not all in the same place.
How do you work with frustrated customers?
We’re engaging a decent number of customers, and for that number we don’t get a ton of really angry people. In the beginning it was tough. I started the company on Kickstarter and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It took us a lot longer than the deadline we publicized to get things out after the Kickstarter, so we treated supporters the way we’d wanted to be treated. When you go silent that’s when people freak out – and with good reason. But no one will ever hate you if you’re communicating and you’re being honest.
The way we deal with angry customers is easy – if they’re unsatisfied we do whatever it takes to make them happy. We explain the situation and try to be generous to help them out and show our appreciation. I’ll be honest and say “I know I’d be super upset if this happened to me. Here’s $20 off your next order.”
One time our payment processor double charged a bunch of our customers. We knew this was going to make people mad, so I personally called everyone who’s number I had, emailed the rest, and explained why they were seeing two charges and that we fixed it for them. People appreciated that.
Do you have any go-to advice for developing best in class customer relationships?
One lesson I’ve learned is how awesome customers can be in terms of informing your product. We aim to be a customer-driven company in order to develop our designs and it’s been awesome. We have some vocal customers that are so smart and intense and they’re obsessed with our design. Harness customer support to use your customer’s input when you’re building your product.
It’s also so important for everyone in the company to interact with customers. No one sees how much people love your product until you interact with them. It makes it all worth it and pushes me to keep building this company.
Last one: Be honest with customers and do the right thing. My friend started a jewelry company that once found a kink in their supply chain. The kink resulted in a lot of customers getting jewelry that wasn’t authentic. They had two options: email every customer that could have been affected and let them know, which would cost them millions, or respond only to customers as they reached out about issues with the item. They chose the first option, and even though it was costly it created so much goodwill that it took their business to the next level. Doing the right thing isn’t just for making you sleep better at night. In the long run it’s what’s good for your business and for your relationship with your customers.