Every point that the process touches your consumer is an opportunity to wow them, no matter how small it might seem. Even the packing slip. The small things add up.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Esti Chazanow

Esti Chazanow is the co-founder and brand manager of LIV Watches. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and studied education and business in college, eventually focusing on management, marketing, and organizational structure and curriculum development in the nonprofit and education worlds. In 2009, she met her husband, watch industry entrepreneur Chaz, and they united their backgrounds and expertise to create a brand that would produce high quality, unique watches at an accessible price point, direct to consumers, and build relationships. LIV launched on Kickstarter in 2014, and the rest is horological history. Esti is passionate about educating anyone who comes into contact with LIV about the rich tradition of Swiss watchmaking. Her focus is on multi-channel communication and working with the LIV team to craft an authentic fan experience — because the word “customer” doesn’t do justice to the enthusiasm LIV fans have for the brand. Esti lives in Miami, Florida, with her family.

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?

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. I studied education in college and received a degree in business and commerce as well. Eventually, my focus became management, marketing, and organizational structure and curriculum development which I worked on in the nonprofit and education worlds. In 2009, I met Chaz, my husband. He was already an entrepreneur in the watch world, operating e-commerce watch stores since the early 2000s. In our first years of marriage, Chaz was starting to realize that he wanted to make a shift. The goal was to create a brand that would produce high quality, unique watches at an accessible price point, direct to consumer and build relationships.

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?

Like all new companies we bounced around with web design — we spent money on small marketing endeavors. You have to try but limit the amount of mistakes. Make a lot more good decisions than bad decisions. That’s our goal. I can’t actually think of any funny mistakes I’ve made — maybe I’m just very harsh on myself, but I never find my mistakes funny!

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?

It may sound cliche and nerdy, but I’m really grateful to my husband and LIV co-founder, Chaz. He really pushed me to do everything I’ve done because he saw that I had that skill and that ability to do certain things. I think if not for him, I would never have made the leap into being an entrepreneur. He pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me feel capable to do so much more than I would have on my own.

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?

A great product is one thing, but we believe that the experience of purchasing from LIV is just that — an experience. From the conversational tone of our website and emails, to our prompt communication and impressive packaging, we are not only selling watches here. We are sharing an experience with our shoppers that starts from the first click to our site and never really ends. We want to build a direct connection with our brand. This fosters so much more loyalty from consumers than merely making a great watch. We’re in the business of making great watches and crafting great e-commerce experiences.

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?

Many companies have a transactional view of their business — their customers are merely people buying a product. At LIV, “customer” is a dirty word. The people who buy our watches are “fans,” and we treat them as such! They have an emotional connection to our brand and are excited to hear about what we are doing next. They’re so much more than just dollar signs. Instead of using the term “customer service,” we call it “fan experience” and we truly mean that. To us, a customer’s just someone who buys something. There’s not much brand allegiance. There’s no form of relationship. And I’m not saying that the word customer shouldn’t be used in the toilet paper industry or the pen industry and whatever else — some products are simply necessities, and brand allegiance doesn’t matter as much. But for us, a person who buys a watch, let’s be honest, most people do not need a watch. Now you buy it because you’re obsessed with the product and you’d like to buy it from a brand that is equally obsessed and you want to be able to communicate that obsession with the brand and you want to have a relationship about it.

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?

With historic Swiss brands, their selling point is their heritage. They’re basing everything they are doing based on the fact that they were established in the 1800s. They are not focused on the fan experience, because they don’t think they have to be. They’re stuck in the past. Their approach forces them to have these huge prices, they have huge layers: production, distribution, marketing, and instead of taking money and investing into brand experience and doing what we’re doing, they’re focusing on telling the consumer that they need to watch because Leonardo di Caprio is being paid to wear their watch. But now, people want unique things and unique experiences. At some point, the new consumers’ behavior will send a clear message to heritage brands.

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

A woman had ordered a watch for her husband and wanted it the next day in Napa since they were going to vacation there, it was an anniversary vacation/gift. Ernest, our fan experience concierge, was able to assist her and get the watch to her ASAP. She was so happy with the experience and the gift that she sent Ernest a bottle of wine!

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

These kinds of stories actually happen all the time, and they absolutely have a ripple effect. The fan ends up becoming company advocates. The baseline of anybody who is going to, let’s say, do a transaction with us is a fan. Anyone who buys a watch from us is a fan. Now, the idea then is to turn that person through the post-purchase engagement from a fan. That engagement can convert a fan into an ambassador, or someone who is proud to represent the brand and will tell people about us. The ambassador is more vocal than a fan — they’ll leave us reviews, share our posts. From there, the ambassador can become an advocate, which is almost like an evangelist. The advocate might, for example, go to his manager at work and say, “Listen, I want to tell you about LIV Watches. You’ve got to sign up to these people. They have a great corporate gifting program.”

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.

  1. Sounds very cliche, but when everyone tells you can’t do something, you know you’re doing the right thing. “You can’t” just means “no one has successfully done it yet.” Take it as a challenge, not something to be discouraged by.
  2. Build relationships, you’re not selling products. Like I said earlier, unless you are selling toilet paper, you need to think deeper about your consumer. They are not merely someone who is conducting a transaction with you. They are looking for a connection, a relationship. Look at every step in your ordering and fulfillment process. Every point that the process touches your consumer is an opportunity to wow them, no matter how small it might seem. Even the packing slip. The small things add up.
  3. Tailor and personalize messaging. We have access to amazing tools now for marketing communications, segmentation, etc. Don’t just send out one email to all of your subscribers. Use the data you have to develop personalized campaigns. It makes a huge difference in building that relationship.
  4. Test, test, test ALL your initiatives. Before you go all in on something, test it out. You should always be testing — which subject lines get better results, which blog posts get the most clicks, which social posts get the most organic shares. The goal is to learn about what resonates with your consumer so you’re always refining and providing more and more relevant content.
  5. Listen, listen, listen. Communication between fans and brands must go both ways. Listen to what they’re telling you! This is a huge advantage that small brands have over big brands — the ability to stay nimble and adjust what you’re doing. This goes for every step of the business, from product design to packaging to marketing. We’ve all had the experience of really liking one aspect of a product but disliking another. You’ll see it in reviews sometimes — for instance, ”I love this moisturizer, but the dispenser it comes in is terrible.” Brands have to listen to feedback like that. It’s arrogant not to. When a brand can say, “Hey, you’ve been telling us to change this dispenser and we listened,” it speaks to a respect that you have for your followers and it also helps them feel invested, which strengthens that brand connection and relationship.

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 actually believe it’s a very organic process, you don’t need to actually do anything, it will happen if your product and experience is incredible, people will tell other people. It’s like the good old traditional word of mouth, it’s the most powerful form of marketing there is. The only way you can control it is by having that amazing product and experience and genuinely impressing your consumers.

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 think some sort of mentor system, perhaps an app that people can easily find mentors or volunteer to mentor others. Maybe it already exists, but I’m talking about something that is very mainstream and easy to find. I think mentorship is so important, and people can really be helped by having a good mentor on many levels — economic, social, emotional. Having a mentor can change everything for a person getting started in business, and that is something that I want for everyone.

How can our readers follow you on social media?