Alexi Suvacioglu of Because: 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience

Kristin Marquet
Jul 5, 2020 · 9 min read

Companies, at times, focus too much on building/selling the ‘perfect’ product hoping that this will solve the customer experience. But the product is just one piece of the puzzle — a great experience is all-encompassing. Price, quality, delivery service, packaging, and customer support all matter.

part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexi Suvacioglu. CEO & Cofounder @ Because, a personal care direct-to-consumer company focused on older adults including protective underwear and pads, skincare and oral care products, and CBD oils. Prior to Because, Alexi founded and sold two venture-funded companies, the most recent one of which was acquired by RetailMeNot– the world’s largest digital coupon marketplace. Alexi also led eBay’s North American AdCommere business and spent 6 years in technology consulting at Accenture. Alexi holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from Kings College London.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My co-founder Luca and I grew up in Italy, in tight-knit families and have fond memories of homemade pasta meals at large tables with loud voices and lots of laughter. No topic was off-limits — family members were the caretakers when health challenges arose and many conversations were dominated by health even when we were too young to grasp its importance, like Aunt Mary having diabetes or grandma Irene breaking her hip.

Communication with parents and across different generations around health and caretaking can be difficult, and we saw the opportunity, given our own upbringing and subsequent work in technology, to fill this gap. Nobody cares about older adults. That is a controversial statement, but they are the forgotten generation. I want to change that and set out to build a mission-driven, global company that could serve our parents and grandparents, and ultimately ourselves. I want to enable millions of older adults to lead vibrant, independent lives.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When we first launched we called all of our products “diapers” — we meant no harm but were quickly told that it’s demeaning and insulting to use the word diaper if you deal with a condition like incontinence on a daily basis as an older adult. Feedback came in loud and clear and we haven’t referred to them as diapers since.

Ultimately, we learned that you need to build a company together with the people you’re serving. You need to respect and be thoughtful of the community. Now, we engage our customers often through surveys and our community groups on Facebook and they help us drive product innovation, packaging changes, and more with their feedback.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes, there are two people who come to mind:

1) Mike Volpi of Index Ventures believed in us when we had an idea and a mission and not yet a business. He had the courage and foresight to take a significant bet in the absence of data. In particular, Mike brought together a group of partners to help us grow our operations and expand our ability to serve more states in the US. He paved the way for others to see that innovative Silicon Valley companies can serve more than just millennials.

2) Luca Gualco — we started this business together — Because partners matter and I would not be here answering these questions if we weren’t in this together.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Customers remember how a company makes them feel. We are all emotional beings. At Because we stay true to this as every team member at every level interacts, listens, and reads our customers’ calls and emails every day. This is how we know what our members feel about our products and services. In a world where everything is driven by interactions with a machine, we put forward the need for people to contribute to the creation of the products and services we sell. The result is that our customers want to be actively involved in the life of our company and we love this — from testing new products to writing on our blog, we are deeply intertwined with them.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Providing a great customer experience is very hard, and very expensive to get right at scale. It might all go fine when the business is small and as the CEO you are seeing every email and answering calls, but as you grow, keeping the values and mission front and center in every interaction requires constant focus, oversight, and investment. It also requires courage to know what is important and stick to your guns in the face of pressure to reduce the expense associated with treating your customers the way you would like to be treated. You might save money in the short term by investing less in the customer and their experience, but in the long run, if you invest in your customers, you will be rewarded with loyalty, product feedback, and an engaged group of people that are there for you.

Companies, at times, focus too much on building/selling the ‘perfect’ product hoping that this will solve the customer experience. But the product is just one piece of the puzzle — a great experience is all-encompassing. Price, quality, delivery service, packaging, and customer support all matter.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

It might, but a focus on customer experience has to be authentic or it won’t stick. We are driven by what we believe is right and we are investing in our customers and their experience because that is important to our goals and mission, and we believe it will drive long term value. Often competition can bring more pressure on prices, which in turn can reduce margins, leading companies to reduce the focus on the customer believing that better prices will win the day. That might work short term, but not long term.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

One of our customers wrote us a letter last month with these words: ‘Thanks for being there’. That was it, no other words or questions or feedback. ‘Thanks for being there’ — these 4 simple, elegant, universal words capture the essence of what we’re accomplishing here at Because.

We looked into this customer and realized that her note wasn’t about one isolated thing like free shipping, or a better product. This customer had been with us for almost two years, receiving monthly shipments of various incontinence products, and had interacted with our customer support team many times over the years wanting to change or move an order, try a new product, or ask a question. The sum of the support we provided and the consistency of always ‘being there’ made an impact on her life. And her note made an impact in mine.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

We read the letter and talked about this customer’s journey with Because at our weekly all-hands meeting. We talked about how even as we grow as a company and our hundreds of thousands of orders turn into millions of orders — we can never lose sight of the fact that each order, each package has someone’s name on it. Our work has a tangible impact on a person, our products make a difference in their lives, and the quality of our work in every function, on every team and at every level, matters. Start-ups can be hard and it can be easy to get stuck in the details of just trying to get everything done but letters like this refocus us. We’ve since framed the letter and it’s now hanging prominently on our office wall as a reminder to keep being present for our customers. Because that’s what we do — we are there. Every day. Every month. Every year.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

- Don’t treat Customer Service as an ancillary function — Get involved and stay involved. You can’t create Wow! Customer experiences if you and your management team don’t talk to customers, reply to customers, listen to customer service calls. Wow-ing customers are the result of an in-depth understanding of what’s actually happening to them in real-time, rather than recaps or reports explaining what happened last month.

- Go five WHY’s deep: If a customer has an extremely positive (or negative) interaction get to the root cause by asking “Why?” and digging to really understand what’s going on. For example, if someone calls and says, I need to cancel because the product doesn’t work for me — we seek to deeply understand why the product didn’t work. Through those conversations, 9 times out of 10 we can find a different product that the customer wants to try instead, simply by taking the time and talking through what’s going on.

- Data is key: You can’t improve what you’re not measuring. Know what metrics drive your business, look at them every day, and hold yourself and your teams accountable.

- Treat your customers as an extension of your family — Listen, be honest, be there. Try to do more than they expect. Go above and beyond to help. We’ve overnighted replacement orders at no charge when someone moved but forgot to tell us about their address change, and we’ve listened on the phone without rushing to hang up as someone told us about her spouse who had just passed away, who no longer needed our products, but appreciated the support he had received from us in the past year.

- As you grow make sure your vision and your passion for the customer don’t get diluted. Share customer letters, talk about customers at all-hands meetings. Every team member needs to deeply understand how their work and their job connects to the broader goal and the customer’s experience.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

I don’t believe in rewards points, referral schemes, or gamifying the customer experience. Not everyone will agree, but for me these initiatives are short-lived, often attracting the wrong types of customers. Just look at today’s most valuable brands in the world: Amazon, Google, Apple, Coca-Cola — do any of these have points and/or encourage you to share your purchase with your network? What companies CAN do is be present in the lives of their customers, deliver consistently on their promises, and stay top of mind.

Focus on the long game and foster long customer lifetimes. Actually deliver value. Customers vote with their dollars and will continue to do business with your company, choose you over your competitors, and unreservedly recommend you to friends and family if you are there and make it easy. Each customer matters.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I want us all to take care of our elders: make the time, listen to the stories, learn from their experiences, support their journey. They’ve looked after us in our youth and built the backbone of our country and society — it’s now time to give back, and there is so much we can learn from their lives. I’m fortunate that my personal commitment to this movement aligns with my passion for entrepreneurship and building businesses, and I firmly believe that a business can do well financially and also do good societally. We’ve touched the lives of 100s of thousands of seniors and we’re just getting started.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Because Linkedin profile — Alexi Linkedin profile

https://www.linkedin.com/company/becausemarket/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/suvacioglu/

www.becausemarket.com

https://www.facebook.com/becausemarket/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Kristin Marquet

Written by

Publicist and author based in New York City. Founder and Creative Director of FemFounder.co and Marquet-Media.com.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Kristin Marquet

Written by

Publicist and author based in New York City. Founder and Creative Director of FemFounder.co and Marquet-Media.com.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store