How Glossier has Transformed the Customer Experience with Erin Miller

Season #
Episode #

Glossier is a monolith in the online beauty business, and they’ve gotten there by building incredibly personalized connections with their customers. This episode of Playing for Keeps is all about the ways that brands can scale authentic relationships over time. Erin Miller, head of customer experience at Glossier, talks about great micro-interactions, taking a customer’s perspective in communication channels, and the connection between employee retention and customer retention. Plus: how to keep personalization from getting creepy.

Show Notes

  • How Glossier builds their customer support team gradually
  • The customer for a traditional beauty brand is a department store or Sephora- not the end user
  • “You can’t make a business out of selling a lipstick once”
  • The relationship with the customer is more valuable than the transaction
  • Don’t try to shape customer behavior to your channels- shape your channels to customer behavior
  • Rethinking engagement across an entire business
  • Every interaction doesn’t need to lead to a transaction
  • A couple amazing Glossier emails: and


Kristen LaFrance: (00:42)

Great customer service is imperative to great customer retention. And if you know one thing about Glossier other than the iconic pink pastel color, it's how incredible their customer support is. So how did this DTC all-star really shift the world of CS on its head? And how do they manage to run such a tight ship at scale?

Kristen LaFrance: (01:03)

Erin Miller, head of customer experience at Glossier is here to break it down for us. From channel management to hiring the right people, you're about to hear the strategy behind the famous G-team. Let's glow.

Kristen LaFrance: (01:15)

Hey Erin, welcome to the show. So excited to have you guys on. This is, I would say the number one most requested episode from season one. A bunch of listeners wanted to hear from Glossier, likely because I talk about you guys a lot and how much I love you guys, so, so excited to have you on the show. How are you doing today?

Erin Miller: (01:34)

I'm good. Thank you so much. That's very exciting that we are that requested.

Kristen LaFrance: (01:39)

Yes. The listeners love you guys. Erin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with Glossier?

Erin Miller: (01:45)

Yeah, absolutely. So I am the Head of Customer Experience here at Glossier, which means that I oversee the customer experience team, which is the team that is on the ground with our customers every day, delivering customer support, managing our community.

Kristen LaFrance: (02:00)

Yeah, I love that and obviously that goes along really well with the theme of this podcast. Could you just for the listeners who don't know who Glossier is, which I'm not sure if there's going to be any, could you just describe kind of Glossier's mission and what sets you guys apart from other beauty brands?

Erin Miller: (02:15)

Yeah, I mean, so just tactically we're a beauty company and we sell beauty products on and in a number of our permanents and pop up physical locations. But I think more than that, Glossier's mission is the belief that everyone is a beauty expert and that beauty can really be a way for self-expression and personal narrative. So our mission is to really give our customers voice through beauty.

Kristen LaFrance: (02:46)

I love that and that's actually a reason that I really connect with Glossier a lot because I grew up with two older brothers, I was never really taught much about makeup, had no idea how to do anything. I actually for my wedding, one of my best friends from my high school, she is a makeup artist and she was doing my makeup and she saw some of the products I had and she was like, "Wow, Kristen, you've really grown up, look at you buying Glossier products." That mission really connects to me because it was kind of an area of insecurity almost in my personal experience as a woman. And so it's amazing what you guys have done in terms of bringing beauty to kind of the masses and letting people understand how to use and it be much more approachable, which is just something I love. I actually have this quote that I got from someone at Glossier and now I can't remember who, but I pulled it and it said, "What separates Glossier from traditional beauty brands is we are not in any way confused about who our customer is." Now, knowing your customers is like the number one thing I say on this podcast. It's my number one tip for customer retention, for acquisition, for everything. So how did you guys actually learn about customers and figure out really who that customer is? So much so that there's no confusion across the entire brand.

Erin Miller: (03:59)

Yeah, and I think that Glossier, I don't know, I'm sure that there are other examples, but I think Glossier is really one of the first to truly own our relationship with customers. And that allows us to actually really understand them. If you think about a traditional beauty company, traditional beauty company, their customers are the department store or their customers are Sephora. If you're thinking about who they're selling to, they're selling to, even the department stores were really the old school way and then it moved to the Sephoras and Ultas, but it didn't change the fact that the beauty companies don't have a direct relationship with their customers. So because we're direct to consumer, our customer is actually our customer. And that helped us actually get to know them because we're constantly hearing from them about what they like, don't like, what's important to them, what they want to see from us in the world, from themselves. Most beauty companies don't have the opportunity to have that direct relationship because they have to, ultimately they sell to Sephora and Sephora owns the customers.

Kristen LaFrance: (05:03)

Yeah, absolutely. And I really like what you said, that you truly own the customer relationship. And this kind of concept of being a quote, unquote customer-centric brand. It's become somewhat of a buzz word of sorts. And actually how that plays out in practice I think is a little bit hard to tell. So how did you guys really tactically from the customer experience side, how are you backing up this kind of customer-centric mission and what concrete things do you think you've done that have earned this true customer retention reputation that Glossier has?

Erin Miller: (05:35)

Yeah, I mean I think it's mostly behind the scenes. I think it's really in how we make decisions every single day. So one of the things that I love about the beauty business, and I think there are other businesses like hospitality that are similar, is the only way that you're successful is if people come back. You cannot make a business out of selling someone a lipstick once that's not going to do it. It's not the same as selling a car or selling a mattress. Although I'm sure that those businesses actually rely on repeat customers as well. But even more significant when you sell consumable products. People have to come back. And so I think that Glossier was built on this idea of the relationship with the customer is what's valuable, not the transaction, not selling them one lipstick. And building our company that way has made it really part of our nature and the way we make decisions every day with the framework of what are we doing to enhance the relationship. Not how many lipsticks are we selling today? How many Boy Brows are we selling today?

Erin Miller: (06:42)

So I think it's fundamental to the way that the company was built and it's really hard to backwards engineer that. When you try to do it, I think where you run into problems is when the reason that this idea of customer-centricity has become such a buzz word is companies trying to backwards engineer this. They've built their whole business around cashflow. They've built their whole business around unit economics of each transaction. And then they're trying to back into, "Oh, but actually customer relationships are important. So how do we find a compromise?" Whereas we're not trying to do that. We've understood that from day one.

Kristen LaFrance: (07:14)

Yeah, and that's so huge. I've been thinking a lot about recently kind of the fundamentals of retention because customer retention, like you said, it's this huge important thing, but a lot of brands tend to be kind of backtracking towards it or just not even sure where to start. And the most fundamental retention basic is that this idea of being customer-centric has to start from the very beginning. And it has to be completely company-wide. And everybody has to be on the same page that that's a mission. And that's what's so clear about Glossier that you guys do this all the way from marketing through to customer service.

Kristen LaFrance: (07:49)

And customer service is something I really want to talk about because we've seen so many great examples from Glossier. So first off, I've read that you guys see customer service kind of as this fundamental driver of value, not just a cost center, which I think a lot of brands think of customer service as a cost center. Can you expand kind of on this idea and what this approach has done in terms of customer retention and why you guys think customer service plays so much into that retention effort?

Erin Miller: (08:19)

Yeah, so I think something that I've always found extremely strange is that I'd say we're in an age of engagement. Everybody's all about engagement all the time. Are our customers engaging with us, is something you hear constantly. But when it comes to customer service and customer support, most companies want to minimize interaction, which makes literally zero sense to me.

Kristen LaFrance: (08:43)


Erin Miller: (08:44)

That is engagement. But you're trying to discourage customers from engaging with you. When your marketing team is probably constantly talking about, what are our engagement numbers? So our approach is that we encourage engagement in any way and for any reason that customers want to talk to us and then so many great things come out of that. It's never made any sense to me to say, "You can engage with us but only on our terms. If you want to engage with us by making UGC and sharing it with your friends about how much you love X, Y, Z product, great. But if you want help tracking your package, we'd rather not talk to you." It's really odd to me and totally the wrong way to think about it, to try to force customers to engage with you in a way that you find to be preferable. You have to engage with them the way that they want to engage. And so we just sort of open the door and say, "Come on in, engage and we will find a way to make that really fun for you and really fun for us."

Kristen LaFrance: (09:45)

Yeah. Yeah. And I absolutely love that. And it's such a good point to bring up that a lot of brands say they want to do engagement, but at the same time don't actually really want to do engagement on all fronts. They only want to have positive engagement, when we've actually learned from episodes in this season that sometimes having a negative engagement, coming to CS and then having a human actually answer your questions and helping you solve your problems leads to higher retention more than completely avoiding those conversations at all because you learn so much. And I know you guys have a lot of different channels where customers can come in and talk to your customer experience team. How many different places can customers come in and contact customer service? Can you kind of outline what that looks like?

Erin Miller: (10:28)

Yeah. So we really try to meet the customer where they are and where they want to engage. So right now that's email. That's, there's different ways to contact our team directly on our website, as well as all of our social media channels. And live chat on our website, we're always looking for new places that customers can reach us, but we really want to be on the channels that they're on. So we don't necessarily want to say like, "Here are our channels. Pick one." We want to say like, "We know that your hanging out in X, Y, Z place and so we'll hang out in X, Y, Z place and if you want to meet us there, cool. We're there." So it's less about driving specific channels. It's more about hanging out in the places where our customers are and just being available if they need us but not pushing it.

Erin Miller: (11:19)

Again, there's a balance here, which is again, this idea of engagement is you let people engage the way that they want to engage. You don't have to get in their face, let them come to you when they want to. I think expanding on this idea of engagement and allowing customers to engage with you when and how they want to. I think it's a really natural human behavior, a natural behavior in business where you want to manipulate customer behavior to [inaudible 00:11:53] that suit you. And I think you see it in a lot of different places.

Erin Miller: (11:58)

One place where you see it a lot I think is in customer service, but I think you see it in all kinds of retail businesses. Out here, retail businesses talk a lot about omni-channel and this idea of omni-channel, and I think that it's really trying to force customers to display certain behaviors, to manipulate them into displaying different behaviors that are more profitable for your company. But I think that that almost always fails. When you try to force customers down a certain path, they know it and it doesn't feel good to them. So we're never trying to force customers down a specific engagement path. We're just trying to find out where are they and let's make sure we make ourselves available if and when they want to engage.

Kristen LaFrance: (12:42)

Yeah, and I love that and I love that you're just basically saying instead of forcing a certain channel, let's figure out where our customers actually are and where they want to engage and let's just make sure that we're there and we're set up for successful conversations in all those places. Which leads me to ask structurally kind of, with your customer service team, how do you manage all these channels? Because something we've talked about on this podcast a lot is this idea of SMS is a big conversation, chatbots are a big conversation, but each one of these channels kind of comes with their own style of communication almost and ways that people communicate on them. So how do you guys deal with that on a team structure-wise? Do you have kind of reps that are trained specifically per channel? Is it specifically per types of requests that comes in? How do you make sure that that brand voice stays structurally sound on all these different channels?

Erin Miller: (13:34)

Yeah, I mean I think this is really where you get into the art and the science of what we're doing. I think on the science side, technology's huge. Just you need to have the right people, you absolutely have to have the right tech infrastructure. And so we're always looking for new vendors, but we're also always pushing our existing vendors to be on the leading edge of what we're thinking about. Because we can't do this, have all of these different channels and hang out there and be ready and be available without the right technology that makes that happen. So that's a big piece of it. And it's funny, our customer service is so human and it's so much about being human and the only way we can enable our humans to do an amazing job is with the right technology.

Erin Miller: (14:19)

So I actually think about technology a lot, probably more than you would expect. Because I think that my role and part of my team's role is building the infrastructure that allows our humans to be amazing and deliver amazing service. They can't do it if we haven't set them up for success. So I actually [inaudible 00:14:39] technology a lot more than you would think given that our customer service is so human.

Kristen LaFrance: (14:44)

Yeah, I love that. It's also an interesting thing, because we really are talking about this humanity and sometimes that can feel like a floaty kind of idea, but really when it comes down to it, you have to have the right technology to be able to create those good experiences. On the flip side of things, kind of the art side of it, then how do you approach that side of actually dealing with the conversations, having people conversing with people, keeping that brand voice really, really standard across all these channels and all these different customer service agents that are talking to people?

Erin Miller: (15:17)

Yeah, I mean, I think that this really goes back to hiring the right people and giving them extensive training and giving them all the right tools. If they're the right people with the right qualities, the right training, and the right tools, they have everything that they need to deliver exactly what we want them to deliver. So again, it's really making sure that they're armed both with the qualities, the training, and the tools and then, letting them go out and be in the world and trusting them.

Kristen LaFrance: (15:48)

Yeah. So when you're looking kind of for these team members, what are the qualities you look for in a customer service agent that you say, "Okay, I feel like you would rep the brand really well." Is there a certain set of qualities in someone you're looking for when you're hiring?

Erin Miller: (16:02)

Yeah, I mean, I think honestly the first piece is that we're scaling our team really, really thoughtfully. And again, a lot of that is enabled by technology. We're not frantically trying to hire to meet the business growth. We're really thoughtfully scaling our team and that allows us to take the time to hire the right unique, special individuals. I think you talk to a lot of direct-to-consumer companies and people often ask me like, "How do you scale the team? Our needs are so big, we just have to hire like crazy." And I think that's really hard if you're frantically trying to hire people, you're not going to be able to choose the right people and then really invest in them. So I think a big part of it is again, making sure that we are being thoughtful as we scale our team and we're not just bringing on people to have bodies.

Erin Miller: (16:50)

I think the other, there's a couple of things that people don't actually expect, but I think the first quality is good judgment is really important. People think a lot of it is about empathy, and it is absolutely about empathy, but it's also about having good business judgment. And I think that that's something we look for and that's really important. And then the other thing that I think people don't necessarily isn't as expected is so much of the job is technical. So we get tons of people who are like, "I love Glossier, I love skincare and makeup. I love the product, I love the industry." But actually a lot of the job is really technical. So we look for that as well. It's not necessarily the same as working in a beauty counter. It includes some of that, but it's much broader and our agents have to be really well-rounded in terms of being able to help customers with a wide variety of issues that goes along with being in e-commerce.

Kristen LaFrance: (17:46)

Yeah, absolutely. And if there's ever a case where, say an agent gets a certain question that maybe is not quite up to their ... I'm thinking you might have an agent that knows a lot about using a certain kind of eye shadow and has done a lot of experience herself and maybe is the best person to talk to for a certain question. Do you guys ever get certain questions where agents then transfer those questions to each other to try to find the right person to answer the question in the best possible way?

Erin Miller: (18:15)

Not really. I mean, sorry, we call them editors versus agents.

Kristen LaFrance: (18:22)

Oh okay, good.

Erin Miller: (18:24)

[Crosstalk 00:18:24] used that a few times, and that wasn't clear. So our editors are our team members that are talking to customers, but not exactly. So I think what we do do is we, obviously we have extensive training and as you evolve your career at Glossier and on the team, you'll become more senior, more experienced, and you'll develop new skills. So there is that level of training. But remember that it's going back to the core of Glossier, which is there are no wrong answers, it's not beauty editor expertise driven. You are your.

Erin Miller: (19:03)

Not expertise, beauty editor, expertise driven. You are your own expert. So we're not necessarily building a team where one person is the eye shadow expert. That's not how Glossier thinks about helping customers. We don't say we have the answer, and the only way you can use eyeshadow is what this expert person thinks. It's really more about empowering customers with the information that they need to have fun with that eyeshadow. So no, we don't have one editor who's the expert on winged eyeliner because that's not necessarily what we're about. But, if you're having a really tricky technical issue, like you're trying to ship something very specific to a specific place that has fragrance, which is hazmat that can't be shipped here, there may be a level of technical training that someone has that someone else doesn't have, which we'll escalate to. But it's really more about tenure and training than it is about an individual being an expert in this specific area of skincare. Because that's not really the way that we engage with customers, if that makes sense.

Kristen LaFrance: (20:07)

Yeah, I actually loved that answer because I have to admit, as an interviewer, I was kind of putting you in a place to tell me I was wrong on that one because it's really cool to hear that side of it, that Glossier mission comes all the way through to these individual conversations. That's really what I wanted the listeners to get out of this, that you guys are saying, and you said this at the very beginning, that the customers are the experts, and our whole thing is to try to get you to have the most success and the most fun with the products, which means, as a brand, we don't always have the answers, but we can help you find the answers and we can find an answer together that you're going to be happy about. And I think that is just, it's huge and it's amazing that you guys are able to position your editors, not necessarily as the experts, but the people in the community that you can go to as a Glossier customer to then find the success that you're looking for.

Kristen LaFrance: (20:59)

So great answer to that question I have to say. I love that. Now, you mentioned training quite a bit, and I'm sure that there's just an absolute ton of training that goes on for editors and I'm sure it's kind of consistent. What are really, other than the technical side of things, what are the soft skills that you're training with these new editors that come on? Is it really honing in on the brand story, the brand voice, getting down the language that you speak with customers and how to deal with things? What is really the approach to training that you guys take, maybe less on the technical side?

Erin Miller: (21:34)

Yeah, so again, I think I mentioned judgment. A lot of it is about judgment. We really want to empower our team to have good judgment so that we, again, we can let them do their jobs. So we're not going to tell them exactly what to say in any situation. We're going to give them the tools to develop that judgment so that they can understand that. The other thing that we really, in terms of soft skills, emphasize is reading and understanding. So really understanding what a customer needs so you can answer the question.

Erin Miller: (22:05)

I'm sure you've had the experience where you've asked a question, you've gotten an answer that was kind of an answer, but not all the way [inaudible 00:22:13] someone was armed with a pre-canned response and the question was 70% of what that response was meant to answer. And so that's the answer that you got because they were moving quickly, and that was the goal. And so we really want to focus on what is truly what is the question and how do we answer it and answer it completely and really give you all the information, like you said, give you everything that you need to know so we can find an answer together. So that really, patience, reading, comprehending, and answering for real is another one of the soft skills that we try to teach and train on.

Kristen LaFrance: (22:55)

Yeah, and that's so important because you guys really project this idea of creating personalized responses when people come in and talk to your editors. And I was going to ask like what does this look like in practice? But you just summed it up. What it looks like in practice is actually taking the time to read the questions and figuring out, maybe my standard type response would be this, but this customer has this kind of edge case that I can actually take a second and find the better answer.

Kristen LaFrance: (23:22)

I think that is the entire trick to creating really what we're calling personalized responses, is don't treat it as a buzzword of being personalized and say their name and say the product that they bought, but actually, are you taking the time? Are you training your... And I love that you said this to training your editors so that they can do the job on their own and they can make these decisions so they don't feel locked in and pressured and scared to do something this way or that way. Giving them the power to actually make those personalized responses is kind of the only way to actually do it.

Erin Miller: (23:56)

Yeah, and I think the other piece of that too is understanding what the customer needs and delivering that. So you know, again, like a lot of the personalization that you hear about is all about, well, when someone comes in, like recognize that they have bought a lot from you, or they've bought this thing before and bring it up. And I actually don't know that I agree with that. I think that it is about understanding what the customer wants in that moment. If the customer just wants to know where their package is and they want to know that fast, then just deliver that.

Erin Miller: (24:26)

They don't need a ton of extraneous personal quote unquote information. You don't need to bring up. And perhaps it's inappropriate to bring up like, "Hey, I see the last time you ordered Boy Brow was three months ago. Do you need a refill?" That actually may not be the right moment to do that and it may feel intrusive. So it's about judging, again, what does the customer need in that moment and delivering that. I think this personalization can kind of go wrong as well when you sort of get including all of this extraneous selling when someone really just wants a quick answer to a problem that they have.

Kristen LaFrance: (25:04)

Yeah. Yeah. I love that you said that because something I bring up a lot is this idea that for retention it's less about... And I talk about the customer experience is everything. But really what the customer experience is made out of is moments with a brand that are just absolutely on point and amazing experiences. And so I love hearing you hone in on these moments and saying, treat every interaction as their own moment. That of course is going to build into the entire experience. But taking the time to say, okay, in this interaction, what does the customer need? Not trying to make some massive sell or massive play to get some more money out of that customer. But saying, this is a relationship and we are committed to that longterm relationship, which means this interaction needs to be good on its own and with the entire experience together.

Erin Miller: (25:55)

Yeah, exactly. It's going back to what we started the conversation with, which is this idea that the relationship is the unit, not the transaction. The transaction is not the unit that we should be measuring our business on. We should be measuring our business on how many relationships do we have with customers and are they ongoing. And so when you think about it that way, you're not thinking about every interaction needs to lead to a transaction. You're thinking about every interaction needs to lead to a long and fruitful relationship with this customer.

Kristen LaFrance: (26:25)

Yeah, absolutely. It feels a lot like dating almost, where it's if you're in a new relationship with someone, you're not thinking every little interaction needs to lead to, I don't know, maybe going home together. You know that's not going to work in a brand new relationship. It's more doing a relationship right is about building on moment after moment and make building, that trust-building, that longterm engagement, that communication style, and then that will lead you to where you want to go.

Kristen LaFrance: (26:54)

It feels very similar, and it almost feels like a no brainer to me when I hear this, but then being so driven by certain metrics and businesses can really allow brands to stray from that idea that you're building a longer term connection, that that means every touch point needs to be building towards something, not necessarily the end goal, which is another transaction.

Erin Miller: (27:15)

Yeah, exactly.

Kristen LaFrance: (27:15)

I love it. I love it. So, I feel like we've beat around this, but in your own words, why do you think that that customer experience is so valuable for retention and longterm growth for Glossier?

Erin Miller: (27:27)

Yes. This is the one of my favorite questions. So I think that this market is so incredibly crowded, and our customers have so many choices. I mean, how many beauty companies are there out there? How many places on your walk from the subway to your apartment, or from on your drive from work to home? How many places do you pass that sell beauty products? I mean, so many. So creating trust in our company is a huge factor in where our customers decide to put their hearts and dollars. And that's exactly what we're doing. We're creating trust. So, think about how if you're trying to decide whether to buy a product on the internet, a beauty product that you've never tried before, that's kind of scary, and you don't want to feel like you could be throwing money away. I mean, how many times have you bought a beauty product where you use it three times and you think, "I don't even like this?"

Kristen LaFrance: (28:22)

And then it sits in your drawer forever?

Erin Miller: (28:23)

Yeah, and you're not going to go back to Sephora and ask them to take it back. So our customers know that if they ever order something from Glossier and it's not what they expect, we're going to help. And think about how comforting that is. We're going to make sure that you love what you get and your experience in every part of it and we're going to take as much time as you need to help you get there. You're never going to feel like you're throwing your money away. We're here to make sure that that will never happen. And I think that's the key. There are so many choices of where you can buy similar... where you can buy beauty products, and in order to be our customer's choice, we have to have the best customer support.

Kristen LaFrance: (29:02)

Yeah, I love that. And really creating trust is so big, especially in an industry like beauty where there's a lot of consumer weariness about buying products. So once you build that trust, it's really what you see. The Glossier community is just a raving fan base of people who absolutely love Glossier. Anytime I wear my... I have the Glossier pink sweatshirt. Anytime I wear it out and I'm around downtown, someone stops me and is like, "Oh, I love Glossier." And I'm like, "Me too!" And I really think that trust that you guys have built with your customers is what drives that absolute fandom with the brand. I mean, obviously combined with a lot of surprise and delight and wonderful things you guys do outside of it. But the root of it is that customer trust, knowing that when I buy something from Glossier, I either will like it or I will find something else that I like and that will solve my problem for me. And that trust is really built on these one-on-one conversations your customers get to have with editors.

Erin Miller: (29:59)

Yeah, I think this is really the key to longterm growth for any direct-to-consumer, CPG type of company. Because again, it goes back to you cannot make a business out of selling something to someone once. It's not like, "Oh you don't like your Boy Brow? Tough. [inaudible 00:11:19]. If you think about the costs associated with customer acquisition and operating the business, that's just not a business model. So, I think what we're doing here in terms of customer support and customer experience is the key in a lot of ways to our longterm success.

Kristen LaFrance: (30:37)

Yeah, absolutely. Which is why this podcast exists. Just to wrap up, first, I'm sure that you've got a lot of really cool customer stories. I know a bunch of cool customer stories from Glossier, actually. Can you tell us what of your favorite customer stories since you've been working at Glossier?

Erin Miller: (30:55)

Yeah, so I think about my customers as my team, so I don't actually think a ton about the individual customer stories. But what I think about is, okay, what are the things that really delight me and make me really happy about how well we've retained our team? We have really high retention on our team, which is unusual in an industry that has so much turnover. And I think that speaks to how much effort we put into each individual editor as a customer of us, of Glossier Inc. And that really trickles into each customer acquisition. So that's my favorite thing, that we have a customer experience team where people have years of tenure with Glossier and our average tenure and our annual turnovers. Our average tenure is really high, our turnover is really low. And I think that to me is my favorite story, and hearing from some of our editors about what working for Glossier on this team means to them. That's my favorite customer story. But I want to hear what your favorite customers story is.

Kristen LaFrance: (31:58)

Well, I love the answer, for one because it really shows that commitment to people that Glossier has, which when you're committed to your customers, it means you have to also be committed to your internal team and giving them the power and the tools to be able to be customer-centric. And I absolutely love that answer. Probably one of my favorite answers so far on season two, so that was amazing.

Kristen LaFrance: (32:22)

My favorite Glossier customer story, actually one of my friend's girlfriend, I got sent this because they knew that I was doing this interview. She lost... I want to say it was a lip gloss or something that she had, but she took it to a concert. She lost it at the concert because one of her friends wanted to use it and then as concerts go, you lose all your stuff, whatever. And she sent this message to the G team that said on Instagram, she was basically like, "I don't know why you guys would ever do this, but I just want to let you know I lost this lip gloss, and I love it so much and I use it every day, and I was sharing it with my friends. Would there be in any world you guys would maybe send me a replacement and help me out?"

Kristen LaFrance: (33:05)

And the conversation back and forth was just this so personalized where the editor came in and was like, "Oh man, this was so sorry to hear, hope you had fun at the concert. Who did you see?" Went back and forth on that, and then ended the conversation by saying, "We've got one packaged up, heading your way. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us."

Kristen LaFrance: (33:23)

And just seeing that, that it was, like you're saying, you could see the decision between relationship versus transaction. In that moment, that editor probably could have convinced her to buy another one, maybe with a discount, maybe buy something else, maybe try something different. But instead they said, okay, this is someone who has such a deep relationship with us that she thought to, I don't know, message us to see if she could get it for free or just let us know that all her friends were having it, and she lost it. And they rewarded that relationship over the transaction saying, you know what, we're going to send you another one for free because now there's so much of a commitment and a relationship built up that when she runs out of it, she's going to come buy it again.

Kristen LaFrance: (34:05)

And I just thought when I saw it and I saw the interaction and I saw how the editor worked through that problem with her and then came to the conclusion of, yeah, we're just going to send you a replacement for free, it just honed in on exactly everything we've been saying here is really that commitment to the relationship. And so that's my favorite customer story.

Erin Miller: (34:26)

That's a really good one. And I think that's the kind of thing that we see it every day, and that's really what it's all about.

Kristen LaFrance: (34:33)

Yes. I love it. Now what's the thing that's really surprised you in your role at Glossier since you've been working?

Erin Miller: (34:39)

Yes. So, this is a good one. So I've been at Glossier for two and a half years now. And I think that the level of just approachability, friendliness, openness of everyone here from the top down really surprised me. This is not a snooty company. This is not a cool girl company. It's really a really kind, approachable, friendly people company, which to be honest, surprised me a little bit. And that, coupled with the level of professionalism of people here, this is actually an incredible high-performing company that's driven by a lot of professionalism and a lot of kindness.

Erin Miller: (35:22)

And to be honest, that was a little surprising to me when I first started working here because I think you hear a lot about Glossier is all marketing, Glossier is all hype, and it's just not the case. The people that work here are incredible professionals who value hard work and making the right decisions and being kind to each other and do not value some of the things that you might think from the outside. And that was a huge positive surprise for me. It's not a house of cards, it's not all about marketing. It really is a high performing company driven by great people.

Kristen LaFrance: (35:59)

Yes, I love that. And last question before we wrap up. This is a big question because Glossier is just growing at such a rapid pace and doing amazing work. Where do you see kind of glossy heading in three to five years?

Erin Miller: (36:13)

Gosh, I have no idea. But the thing that I do know is we're always going to keep our community first. We're always going to prioritize treating our community the way that we, as partners in our growth, the way that we have to date. So we're really dedicated to taking them along for the ride and that's going to continue. Where that leads, it's a lot harder to say. When you have your product development driven by internal resources and internal opinions. You can plan that out for three to five years, but when you're doing it in partnership with your community, it's a lot harder to say where are we going to be in three to five years. And we're really lucky that our leadership and our business allows us to do that and say, we don't know 100% what three to five years looks like, but we know that our community's going to help us drive.

Kristen LaFrance: (37:01)

Wow. That was the best answer to that question I have ever gotten. I loved that. I love that the acknowledgement of, you know what? I could give you an answer of maybe some ideas we have in three to five years, but really, who knows because our customers are going to really set our path for us. And listeners, that right there is why Glossier is Glossier. That's it. I love it.

Kristen LaFrance: (37:25)

Thank you so much Erin. This was such an amazing interview. So many great tactics for people who are really trying to build out a better customer experience team. I know a lot of listeners were wanting to hear from you, wanted to hear a little bit about the G team and how you guys have it all set up. So I really appreciate you being on the show.

Erin Miller: (37:42)

I'm so happy that I was able to do this. It was great to talk to you.

Kristen LaFrance: (37:45)

Oh, and one more question. If listeners want to buy something from Glossier and they never bought anything before, what is your top product recommendation?

Erin Miller: (37:53)

Okay. For me, it's got to be the Boy Brow. Life-changing product. I wear it every day. It's really special.

Kristen LaFrance: (38:00)

Got it, got it. I just bought a bunch of stuff on Glossier. I did not buy Boy Brow.

Kristen LaFrance: (38:03)

Got it. Got it. I just bought a bunch of stuff on Glossier. I did not buy Boy Brow yet, so I might have to go back and do it again.

Erin: (38:06)

Okay. Well, I think that if you contacted the G team, we might be able to help.

Kristen LaFrance: (38:10)

We'll see. Thank you so much, Erin.

Erin: (38:13)

All right. Thank you.

Kristen LaFrance: (38:14)

Thanks so much for listening to this episode, guys. Be sure to stick around for the Digest with Val Geisler right after this.

Kristen LaFrance: (38:20)

Hey keepers, look, if there is a theme to playing for keeps this season, it's that the key to increasing customer attention is keeping the customer experience rock solid every single touch point. You hear me harping on this in every single episode, so here's one thing to look at. What does your business do when a recurring charge gets declined? How does that experience feel for the customer when they run into a payment issue on a subscription?

Kristen LaFrance: (38:43)

See, Playing for Keeps is produced by the team here at Churn Buster. It's really our passion project. From the other side of this thing, we are the e-commerce leader in recovering subscription failed payments all while protecting your customer's experience. Look, failed payments and involuntary churn are a fact of life in the subscription space. When that happens, you shouldn't be sending robotic repetitive messages from a third party to your customers.

Kristen LaFrance: (39:04)

Churn Buster's got your back here. We set your business up with custom retry and outreach campaigns. They create a seamless Dunning experience. It's been tested and proven to work for top e-commerce companies like Mandy's, Butcher Box and Lola. With a no-code five minute set up for recharge and other processors, you can level up your customer experience today and start retaining more happier customers and you know, I love that. What a good episode.

Erin Miller: (39:34)

I love that this was a customer service related episode because ultimately every episode we've talked about and we've done is a customer service related episode and yet we have yet to talk to a customer service person.

Kristen LaFrance: (39:52)

And we've yet to really talk about specifically customer service and that is why I was so excited when I was able to finally kind of connect to the chain to Erin and see her position and she was just like, "We have got to get you guys on" because if you're in eCommerce, you know how impressive Glossier customer service is, it's kind of what they're known for. And so to be able to get behind that scene a little bit and hear how they do stuff was, I mean pretty mind opening for me. I actually learned a lot in this episode, which are my favorite episodes where the guests actually teach me things. As a host, I tend to think I know everything and so I love it when guests actually teach me stuff I didn't know and I learned a lot in this one.

Erin Miller: (40:35)

Yeah. I always think customer service people are the most in tune with what the brand means in the world and also what the brand needs the most. And yet they are the last people most brands go to for that information. A lot of brands look at the higher ups or they look externally and they forget that are in some cases a person in some cases a lot of people who are talking to your customers every single day and know how to best serve them. I think, who was it? Bloom we talked a lot about kind of that bridge of customer experience and building communities in the right place and going where the customer is and really diving into not saying like this is where we are, so come here. But listening to the customers and knowing where they are and building around that. And that's something Erin talked about too and it's just so nice to hear a customer service person in the trenches, getting the air time to share what truly matters.

Kristen LaFrance: (41:49)

Yeah. One of my favorite things that she talked about going along that is, because I asked her, "How do you encourage that engagement? How do you prioritize channels?" And the response of, "We're just going to be on the channels that our customers already are." And then she followed it up with this idea that you can't manipulate customer behavior. And she said a lot of brands out there do a lot of stuff that's trying to manipulate the customers to do a certain thing or to behave a certain way. Versus what they're saying is, we're not going to force our customers to display a behavior that wasn't already there. We're just going to slide into the behaviors and then amp up that experience and make it already a lot better than it is. And I think that was really powerful. And when I listened to the episode back again this morning, I heard that and it really stuck with me, especially with SMS coming out and this idea of what she said, omni-channel. And you know, it's less about being everywhere, more about just being in the right places and being able to serve your customers well in those places.

Erin Miller: (42:51)

Yeah, there's definitely times where I've seen brands on every channel and it feels like, I hate saying authentic because it's just such a buzz word.

Kristen LaFrance: (43:02)

It's our favorite, well, authentic is our favorite word here.

Erin Miller: (43:06)

But it does, it feel inauthentic. It feels like, why are you here on like a Google ad? Even some brands that show up in Instagram that you're like, really? So I feel like there are cases for that and Glossier is a great example of it where listening to where your customers are, sure go omni-channel but go like to their channels. And if it's like, Hey, everyone's on TikTok, you need to get on TikTok, great. Go do that. Yeah. And I'm sorry if your entire team doesn't know how to use TikTok, you better learn.

Kristen LaFrance: (43:48)

Yeah. You've going to get trained up quick.

Erin Miller: (43:51)

Right. If that's where your audience is, then that's where you need to be.

Kristen LaFrance: (43:53)

Yeah, because that's where they want to be engaging with you and if you kind of slide into that, it makes a lot of sense. We have an episode coming out in a couple of weeks with Helena from House and you're going to hear a lot of the same thing in that episode and it's this idea of not trying to shift behavior, not trying to change something because that is really, really, really hard to do. But actually just trying to kind of slip right into the already existing thing and say, hey, you're celebrating what they're doing and then making it a little bit better and that idea goes from everything from CS to email to what channels you pick, how you advertise, how your CS team responds too, just that idea I think is really, really powerful. It's very similar to kind of what Erin Orndorff and I talked about in season one. That idea of just tapping into the existing stories of your customer versus trying to write them a new one.

Erin Miller: (44:50)

Yeah, exactly. And the other side of that is empowering your team. And that's something that Erin from Glossier talked about is that her team is empowered to make decisions on their own to know how to help a customer. And sure, sometimes they want to have like a team chat about how they might handle something, but ultimately Glossier is as much of their business as it is its own company. They feel a real sense of ownership. And I think this is something where I have a soft spot for our customer support people having done that job in the past and it's one of the most underpaid positions in a company. And it's also like they are on the ground with your customers, so to speak, and they are overlooked and they're not seen as, they're important when it comes to quick response times. But when it comes to making business decisions, it's typically not the customer service team that's part of that. Glossier is a great example of a company that really values their customer service team and also know those are the people who are can make or break your brand. They need to be empowered and they need to feel a sense of ownership around your brand and they need to treat it like it's their own.

Kristen LaFrance: (46:22)

Yeah, and I mean this is what Glossier is known for and I mean this relates to a lot of what we've been talking about on the Digest before of you have to be a little bit different. You have to do a different playbook than every other brand. And this is where Glossier decided like nobody's played this playbook this way that we're going to say our customer service is not a cost driver, it's a value add. It is the most important aspect of our business. And I mean look what it's done for them. They're the Glossier of Glossier. We use that as a phrase like the Glossier of this because they did something that was so amazing and kind of almost turned customer service on its head a little bit and gave us all this new perspective of it doesn't have to be, like the Away scandal, it doesn't have to be like that. It can actually be that these people are people in your business that are making actual decisions for the brand.

Kristen LaFrance: (47:21)

I think the coolest thing that I learned from her was when they were looking at who to hire that she said, a lot of people think it's like empathy and love for the brand that's really important. But actually the first thing that they look for is good judgment and good business judgment. If you've ever had kind of an interaction with a Glossier customer service, I've done, I've bought a lot of stuff. I've returned two things. The way they've handled both of those returns is I say, Hey, I need to return this, and it was something like this just didn't match my skin color or I got something that I was like, actually I went with more of like a matte style than a Dewey style, so it didn't work for me. Both times they were like, "Okay, here, your refund is already sent off. Just keep the product, give it to a friend or whatever. Like you don't need to send it back."

Kristen LaFrance: (48:07)

And it seems like you listen and you're like, "Well we can't do that. We can't just like never take back any products." But if you really think about it, I think what they've done is they said, the shipping costs, are they worth it, the restocking, can we even use it if it's been used? What would be better is actually just empowering our customer service agents, or editors as they call them, to just make the decision that on an entire grand scale, getting that one Dewey bottle back, is it worth having to make the customer do that or is it more worth to just make a really delightful and spectacular unexpected touch point?

Erin Miller: (48:44)

Yep. And I've had that experience with a couple of other brands, especially lately. I feel like more brands are starting to lean into this idea of what's going to make the best impact on the customer. This was their first or second or 10th purchase, let's think about their experience of the brand, their options in the world and make this a really good experience. When I was a store manager for lululemon, we, and this was 10 years ago, so the brand could have changed since then, I don't work there anymore. But my experience, the way that we were trained was to really empower our teams to make decisions for the customer. So a customer would come in and say like, "Hey, I bought this pair of men's boxer briefs a year ago and there's a hole in them, my husband loves them."

Erin Miller: (49:47)

And one of my team members would come to me and say like, "What do we do? She wants to return these, like totally used your old boxer briefs?" And I was honestly trained to ask them, "What do you want to do? What do you think is the right answer here?" And nine times out of 10 my team would say, "I think we should return them. We stand behind our fabric and the quality and that shouldn't have happened and we need to let our product team know about it." "Great, let's do that." And we were totally empowered and given the budget and resources to do that. And from a really big brand level that people might think like, well, sure you have the budget to do it at lululemon level. But quite honestly, 10 years ago, lululemon wasn't what it is now.

Erin Miller: (50:38)

At least not in the US. But that idea of empowering your people to make decisions based on what the customer's experience of the brand is. And then like not only that customer's experience but what they're going to turn around and tell other people. That woman returning a pair of boxer briefs. If she tells us, once that return or exchange or whatever, and we accommodate that for her, she's going to go to brunch with her friends and speak highly of that experience. And yes, maybe some of her friends are going to say, "Oh well we have some holes in our stuff and we're going to think about that too", that could happen. And maybe that's a good thing because then we also discover products flaws and we discover like an area of the business that needs some examining.

Erin Miller: (51:26)

But ultimately it creates a really good experience for her. She walks out of the door happy and especially in a physical setting of a retail store, she's not throwing a fit at the cash register. There's so many things to think about that with DTC we can be a little bit more, we can take a little more time with those decisions because we have the fourth wall of the internet, but even then like the internet is so big. I mean how many tweets do you see every day of people like mad at a brand about something or other.

Kristen LaFrance: (52:02)

Every day. Of course. I think this actually reflects back a pretty deep kind of mindset shift that's required for brands that are trying to think about retention and customer experience is before we've all been pretty shortsighted on wins and getting this little win and focusing on the money and making sure we have a profit on this ad and this ad and this ad. And you know, anytime I get trolled on Twitter it's usually by someone who has lived in that zone of, well what you're talking about is longterm. It's not like a quick win. We're losing money by not moving quicker and it's taking this deep mindset shift of is everything in your business actually doing the best for the customer in thinking, okay, Glossier might lose $12 on the bottle of Future Dew that I didn't use it didn't return, but is it really a loss of $12 or could you look at it as a customer investment of $12. I think that is something that's so, so powerful that Glossier has done is they've shifted from a very foundational stance that things that cost money are also value adds and not always looked at as just a drain on your business.

Erin Miller: (53:18)

Yeah. Erin was talking about knowing that true measure of success for your team and that it's not always a financial metric. Because there is all of that, you know we've talked about before, the dark data we can't see and there is the longterm planning. Colin talked about this with the subscription, being the ultimate goal is getting someone on subscription because it creates greater LTV, creates a better experience and relationship between the brand and your customer. If someone had a one off purchase and they have a good experience in that return process or exchange or whatever, they're more likely to become a subscriber and you can guess that and you can also, I can almost guarantee that you can go into your data and prove it.

Kristen LaFrance: (54:11)

Yeah. It's like this crazy idea of caring about your customers.

Erin Miller: (54:17)

Yeah, it's weird.

Kristen LaFrance: (54:22)

Before hard metrics. It's like we both have necklaces that say that or something.

Erin Miller: (54:25)

I know. I love my necklace.

Kristen LaFrance: (54:29)

Me too. It's my favorite.

Erin Miller: (54:30)

You're going to have to like create a DTC line of those necklaces for all of our listeners.

Kristen LaFrance: (54:37)

I probably should. Corrine got one. I just sent her one. So you know, if anybody really wants one, hit us up. We'll make you some more necklaces.

Erin Miller: (54:45)


Kristen LaFrance: (54:46)

HMU. Do you have anything else from Erin and Glossier?

Erin Miller: (54:53)

No, just my biggest thing that I want people to take away is like go talk to your customer success people and then like take them out to lunch because you don't pay them enough and they have all the good answers.

Kristen LaFrance: (55:08)

Yes, value them, love them. We love you, all you customer support workers. We love and support you.