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How TOMS Stays Focused on Their Customers: From the Inside Out

"The customer may not always be right, but they should always be heard."

Stacy Carpenter, the Director of Customer Experience (CX) at TOMS, understands that putting customers at the center of your business strategy is a direct path to sustainable success. From giving trips to new employee on-boarding, journey mapping, and tracking KPI's, we had a chance to talk to Stacy about her role at TOMS and the ever-evolving goal of enhancing the customer and employee experience with purpose.

Photo credit: Stacy Carpenter

Do you use customer journey mapping to influence your decision making and strategy?

We definitely do. We base it upon customer intent and customer behavior. I always think it's important to focus on the customer. From my perspective, I'm always trying to figure out where the customer is coming from and what they are trying to do. The intent is that they landed on our site because they saw or heard something that they liked, or they got a recommendation from someone. They're looking for something, and they're browsing. Then, as we lead them down the customer journey, they're showing more intent to purchase.

Are your customer journey maps shared across the entire company or kept within your department?

It's used within our group and department, and then it's also shared across the organization. This is something that I really focused on when I came to this role was building out that customer journey through the customer lens and how they experience our brand.

How often are you monitoring and measuring the impact on your KPI’s?

We review and measure on a weekly basis. But I would say as an individual, I'm looking at those KPI on a daily basis, especially when it comes to customer service, which has this whole other set of KPI’s. Sometimes you can be in a conversation with a customer for quite a long time, and it's OK as long as you're resolving the customer issue and that they feel really great about that contact that you had with them.

What initiatives are in place to ensure that your customer service team is delivering that specific experience, and how does that impact their training?

We really want to make sure that our agents understand what they're doing. And it's the same reason why most every employee is here within this building. And that is using business to improve lives, which is the mission of this company.

With training, the first thing that we start out with is talking about our brand. Every contact they have with our customers is not just an order. It's not just a transaction. There's another customer on the other end. The customer that makes the purchase. And the customer that receives the purpose. Both customers are important, and one does not exist without the other.

How do you and your team continually learn and stay aligned on your KPI’s and customer experience goals?

We go to conferences. I always try and arrange lunch and learns. I have a weekly team meeting, and then I do one on ones with every one of my team members.

We look at the data together; we calibrate together, we review our goals together. We watch webinars whenever we can.

I'm always trying to make sure that my team does realize that life comes first and then work. And then within those hours of work, where are those pockets where you can create those opportunities for learning? One thing that I do with my team is I make sure that everyone completes an individual development plan so I can see where they want to go in the future. And then, we elicit feedback from colleagues across the organization.

How are employees immersed in the brand from the moment they start working at TOMS?

Every employee here at HQ, when they start, goes through something called Kickstart, where you learn about the entire organization. Different representatives from

departments come and tell you about what they do and how their part fits into that larger supply chain. But most importantly, the bigger focus is on the impact we have.

How does TOMS make sure that every employee continues to understand and live out that purpose aside from the initial on-boarding?

A year ago, I had the opportunity to go on what we call a giving trip. Every employee at TOMS has the opportunity to go out in the field with one of our giving partners. Sometimes it's abroad, and sometimes it's right here in the U.S. so they can see the impact that our dollars are having.

I had the opportunity to go to Peru, and we visited one of our partners, and we ended up giving out a little bit less than 4,000 shoes, in one week, to different children around the city of Lima. I don't think words can justify the experience. Just the amount of gratitude I had for being able to even have that experience, but also just seeing the gratitude in the children, in their families, in the organization, in the volunteers that are there every day distributing shoes. It's just so impactful.

And then in a couple weeks, I’m going to be taking a trip to Tennessee. And we are going to be traveling with our giving partner, Save the Children and meeting with local schools right in our backyard, where we're also making an impact. I'm just so grateful to know that our impact is also close to home.

I went on a day trip to a school that was about three blocks from our HQ to distribute shoes. It's just nice to know that the impact is not just in far-flung places, but it really is here in the U.S. as well. And then to be able to experience that on a regular basis is pretty incredible.

How does TOMS include the customer in these giving back initiatives aside from the shoe donations?

One of the things that we launched in 2019, which I was pretty excited about, having listened to all of our customer's feedback, is giving our customers the opportunity to have a say in our impact because it's not about us, it's about them.

We cannot do what we do without our customers. So, what we launched on is if you're a new customer and you land on the site, you immediately get to choose which

issue you care about. And then that issue carries with you through your path to purchase.

The customers that engaged with this experience have a much higher conversion rate overall, and much higher lifetime value. We really want to nurture the relationship with those customers because they were willing to take that extra step to tell us what they care about and what they want to see their dollars going toward.

In your role, what would you say the challenges are with customer experience and trying to create a strategy to put the customer first?

One of the biggest challenges is always wanting to do what's right by the customer, but not always being able to explain that to the customer on the business side. Sometimes we have a policy that we do need to enforce, and we do need to let the customer down. And how do you do that in a good way? There are better ways, and there are worse ways, but there's not a great way.

I don't really love the phrase “the customer is always right,” because I honestly don't think that's always true. But I do think that should be turned into “the customer may not always be right, but they should always be heard.”

In an interview online, you talked about constantly finding ways to capture stories of the TOMS brand and communicate them out. Do you have examples of ways that you collect those stories and then share them?

We often have our giving partners come into the office and talk about what they're doing and how TOMS is playing a role in that. I always try and take advantage of those opportunities. We also have a newsletter where stories are distributed, and we also have a content hub where those stories are posted as well.

We have all staff meetings, and one of my favorite part of any staff meeting is we either start or end with people that just got back from a giving trip, and they share their experience.

Photo credit: Invision

Outside of TOMS, what is one memorable experience that you have had as a customer?

This was from a very long time ago, but my family and I took this trip to Santa Barbara, and it was right around Christmas time. Christmas was kind of a big deal for me, and I was pretty upset that we were going to be away for Christmas since we normally would have 20 or 30 people over to the house, with a big Christmas dinner. I loved it because it was so much fun and our tradition

When we arrived to our hotel, we went to our room and the hotel had decorated the whole space! They put in a Christmas tree, and put presents under the tree and left a note saying "Happy Holidays to your family, from us."

And I don't know how that whole thing transpired, but it was pretty magical.