Good customer service

Having griped yesterday about a bad business, I want to show you what seems to be a good business model to me. Check out Woot Shirt.

In a nutshell: every day, they feature one (1) shirt. For that one day, it’s $10, including shipping, to buy that shirt. The next day, they feature another shirt.

You can look back in time, but even if they do still feature the shirt (in the Reckoning link) the shirt now costs $15.

Why does this succeed?

  • people don’t want to feel they’ve missed out, so after a while you get into the habit of checking every day
  • at only $10, it’s an easy impulse-buy, and if you don’t act on the day-of, you either lose the shirt or you have to pay more for it
  • even if you have enough shirts, you can probably make room for one more

Now let’s go one further: the shirts are designed by artists who compete to be featured, meaning they’re not paying for the artists to be on-staff. Costs are low because they can just take the graphic and don’t have to create it. It seems as if the regulars also get to vote on which designs they want to see enshirted, meaning the voters feel they have a vested interest (no pun intended) in buying the designs they voted for.

They have a community there where the regulars will discuss the designs on the shirts.

Even my brother-in-law, whom I believe would rather wear a beard of bees than go shopping, loves the site. During his recent visit, every shirt he wore came from them.

And they have minimal customer service. But contrast to yesterday’s debacle. I ordered one shirt, and then three days later, I ordered another. When the first one arrived, it was a bit snug.

I emailed customer service and asked if I could change my order to a larger size. They very quickly replied that they were terribly sorry, but the order had already gone to processing for shipment, and it would not be possible to change.

In other words, the customer was asking the impossible. And you know what? That didn’t bother me. It was my own fault for not knowing my own size, and they were prompt and apologetic about their refusal to accommodate an impossible request. They also told me why it was impossible.

That’s the way to mollify a customer who is “difficult and impatient from the start.” (I may change the blog’s subheader to that. Hi! I’m Jane, and I’m difficult and impatient from Day One. It’s kind of like a badge of honor.)

I may be wrong, but this kind of business model, that treats the customers as if they were actually people, blends social media with low impulse-control, and has a relatively low overhead, would seem to be the most flexible for the current economy and the changing face of business. It’s just too bad they don’t offer horseback riding lessons.