I’m a lucky business owner.
When I started Trek Light Gear, I had never started or attempted to run a business before in my life. It more or less came into being only as a way to tell more people than just my friends about a product that I thought was cool and would have a positive impact on their life.
When it all began to take shape and I had to start thinking about things like goals, business plans and mission statements, I quickly began to focus on the idea of having satisfied customers above all else. But, making your customers satisfied is a pretty basement level goal. My first product was a hammock after all, satisfied is easy. Satisfied is having a clean website, a decent product and putting a hammock in a box and shipping it within a few days of when it’s ordered. Satisfied is what you feel as a consumer when nothing went terribly wrong and you got what you paid for.
I knew right away that if I was going to grow a business from my living room with only a couple credit cards and no advertising budget to speak of, I needed HAPPY customers. When you’re truly happy with a product or a company it’s not enough to just keep it to yourself. You’re inspired to take action in some way or another, to let people (and hopefully the company itself) know just how happy you are. More than just wanting my customers to spread the word and help the company grow, I knew that if I couldn’t see and feel that my customers were really happy then running a business probably wasn’t for me when it all came down to it.
So, when it came to the business and customer service side of things, I set out with one plan in mind: to always do what would make me really happy as a customer. Things like shipping orders as quickly as I can (the same day they’re placed whenever possible), offering Live Chat on the site (and sometimes even answering questions at 2am), having contests and giveaways to reward the people that get involved the most and even writing a personal note on every order that goes out. I also knew that being a happy customer wouldn’t end when you receive your package in the mail, which is why I set out to create a strong online community and give all those happy people places to connect, share their experiences and get help when they need it.
How do I know if it’s all working or even being noticed? Here’s an email I got recently which inspired me to write this post:
I received my Trek Light Double yesterday and slept in it last night. I had the best night sleep I have had in many nights. It was well worth the wait.
In a society where we often want things instantly and can go to the local sporting goods store and pick up a [competitor’s product], I must say I am glad I waited and ordered from you all.
You have lived up to all the web has to say about you from the quality to your product to the personal touches you give it like the handwritten "Enjoy Mark!" on the invoice receipt.
I will definitely order from you again and recommend Trek Light Gear to others.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com recently wrote a best-selling book called ‘Delivering Happiness’, in which he talks about how he grew the Zappos business into a worldwide phenomenon doing over $1 billion in sales every year. As soon as I heard the title and the topic of the book it resonated with me, because those are exactly the words I’ve used in the past (mostly in own head it seems) to describe what I’m working towards every day. Every time I put a Trek Light hammock in a box and then layer it with two cool stickers, a postcard and a handwritten note, I know that I’m delivering happiness. But it’s up to you, the customer, to ultimately tell me whether or not I’m being successful and that is exactly why I consider myself to be so lucky.
Happy emails are only the beginning, check this out:
These are the ‘letters’ that I receive on an increasingly regular basis now, posted on our Facebook page, emailed to us, or shared on Twitter. (For more examples, check out the Trek Light Fan Fridge, over 140 photos and counting!) Sure, we run photo contests from time to time that encourage people to send in photos to win free stuff, but the photos continue to come in (like each of the ones above) without any incentive other than the chance for our customers to share with us and the community how much they’re enjoying their Trek Light Gear. It’s touching, inspiring and evidence to me of the huge difference between working towards having satisfied customers and having HAPPY customers.
Every time I receive an email like the one Mark sent in or see that a customer has taken a few minutes from their day to take a photo and share it, it really makes me count my blessings as a business owner and most importantly encourages me to continue doing what I’m doing and to try to do it even better. So, please consider this my thank you letter to you for continuing to support Trek Light Gear and sharing your happiness with me and others. Keep those pictures, videos, Facebook and Twitter posts coming. If you like Trek Light Gear, even if you’re just a reader of this blog and don’t own a single product, share that experience with your network of friends and family. Your happiness as a customer leads to my own as a business owner and I hope together we will both continue to deliver that happiness for many years to come.
I’ll leave you with some questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments:
When is the last time you were happy enough and felt connected enough to a company to take a photo of yourself using their product and send it in?
When is the last time you wrote an unprompted ‘thank you’ email to a company or business owner to tell them how happy you are?
What makes you happy enough as a customer to do those things?
If you own a business, what is it that you do to make sure that your customers are HAPPY and not just satisfied?