As it’s Startup Month here at TechSPARK, we caught up with automated e-Commerce shipping company, Shiptheory, to learn more about their stellar customer service strategy. We spoke to the team about their experience in standing out as a startup in the e-Commerce world and how they monopolised on simply providing an excellent service to grow and maintain their clientele. For the full interview, check out the video below.

Top Tip

“Producing engaging content allows you to get crucial information over to customers to stop them contacting you for questions they can answer themselves."

Mark Mikkelson, Co-founder of Shiptheory 

Co-founder Mark Mikkelson, gives us a little background on the company: “Shiptheory helps retailers ship at scale. So effectively, we enable a retailer to programme shipping rules based on their preferences, what they sell etc.

“Following that, it just automates out for the workforce so that their workflow produces export documents. Essentially, all the mundane boring parts of shipping that no one likes to do.

“We spent 10 years building different bits of shipping software for all sorts of different platforms. A lot of this happened on Magento platform, an e-Commerce platform, and then it just naturally grew into what it is today. We added in carriers, we added in different channels or sources of orders, and then it just became its own independent platform.”

The startup has expanded its network exponentially and now has a range of clients. Partnerships Manager, Rita Jenkins, tells us, “We now have organisations that need a few shipments a week, through to those who are shipping over 100,000 products a month.”

You can read more about Shiptheory’s journey in their Startup for 10 here.

Putting customer service at the forefront

Mark explains that Shiptheory did the vast majority of its early growth simply through word of mouth recommendations. He says, “As a startup, you tend not to have as much money. Most people have like infinite ad spend, or it seems like it. So for every lead you get, you need to have a very low attrition rate.

“The best way to achieve that is by offering a great customer experience. You might be able to hit conversion rates of 50% on all your deals, just by providing a much better customer experience compared to your standard competitors. Depending on your industry, this is going to be around a 10 to 20% conversion rate, but you can get it up by just doing a really good job.”

How is this achievable?

With some dedication, this model can be mimicked for any startup. In a world where nearly 80 new startups were registered per hour in the UK last year, you need more than just a good idea to get noticed. Offering an unparalleled service can sometimes be the difference between retaining clients and having to consistently source new ones without growing your network.

Rita explains how Shiptheory discovered how integral this was to prioritise: “Getting to know the customers and learning about their business is super important and has allowed us to continue to grow as a product driven platform.

You can achieve this in two ways, as Rita outlines, “being personable and relatable. If you get to know your customers and listen to what they need, then you’re going to be able to deliver that from a high level of customer service.” 

On top of this, and perhaps more importantly, “being contactable. Making sure that you’ve got all means of contact – by email, phone, etc. they’re going to be able to get in touch with you and you’re going to be able to answer their questions.”

Another key consideration is to carve out time to create engaging and useful content. Mark elaborates, “Producing engaging content allows you to get crucial information over to customers to stop them contacting you for questions they can answer themselves. Whilst providing good customer service through answering the phone when they call is great, customers don’t actually want to have to ring you constantly.

“If you ensure your content is easy to read and to follow, uses pictures, videos, tutorials etc. It allows you to get through critical, and potentially boring, information which will create a much better customer experience.”

Looking around

If you’re aware that some aspects of your customer service could be improved, take a moment to check out what your competitors are doing.

Mark tells us, “it took us ages to work this out, but ask yourself – who provides a good customer service that does something similar to you? Your startup may be an online shop, so for instance, you can take Amazon.”

Amazon provides good customer service, but why? Mark explains: “look at why that is, and distil what the reason behind the good customer service is into some metrics.

“For example, when you’ve had a problem with Amazon and you contact them, you can get hold of someone really easily, right? There’s no waiting around, there aren’t 30 minute hold times on calls. So you might say well, response time, that’s probably one that we should aim for.

“Secondly, they tend to solve your issue the first time that you speak to them. So you might identify first touch responses. Can we solve this the first time you talk to somebody or do we have to go back and forth over days?”

Shiptheory used this tangible strategy to really make a difference to their own customer service approach. Mark concludes, “We sat back and looked at the underlying aspects. They seem obvious now, but identifying the KPIs or metrics of good customer service allowed us to measure it and then work towards getting it better and better and better.”