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Five ways to compete with Amazon using excellent customer service

Photo of Alex Holmes
by   Alex Holmes

Manly Bands is an anomaly, and for all the right reasons.

They built a profitable business in less than a year with no outside funding or referral network. They didn’t have a big blog following or an Instagram or Facebook audience already available.

They’re also selling something in an already crowded market: wedding bands.

Google displays over 47 million results for ‘wedding rings.’ Amazon shows more than 30,000 results, some priced as low as $20. Macy’s — a leader in jewelry sales in the US — is a $6 Billion business with stores in all major US cities. Amazon is worth $480 Billion.

How does a husband and wife team, relatively new to eCommerce, compete in this market and build a profitable business so quickly?

Answer: They created a better product AND a better buying experience.

The wedding ring purchase process is notoriously difficult and sensitive. Most people buying a ring are doing it for the first time, and there’s nearly zero room for error.

Chroma Collection from Manly Bands

Michelle and John, founders of Manly Bands, understood this.

I interviewed Michelle four weeks ago to learn how she built her business and how she set up their own customer experience systems.

Here are five takeaways:

Consider the Buying Experience in Every Business Decision

Michelle, cofounder of Manly Bands, talked about this right away in our discussion. An excellent experience IS the product:

One of our standout features is excellent customer service. That’s one of the main things someone is buying — a straightforward and effective experience.

We had a terrible time trying to buy my husband’s ring, and we wanted to make this experience simple and classy.

As the company grew, it was our primary intention to keep the reverence and love in the buying experience.

Not only do they consider excellent service in every business decision, but it was also one of the main reasons they built their business in the first place. It’s central to their identity.

The Woodsman Collection by Manly Bands

Create Shipping Policies that Make Your Customers More Successful

They offer refunds for 30 days and late exchanges for up to 90 days. With Influx, they provide fast, 24/7 customer service for customers who need exchanges or who need to know ‘where is my order.’

From Michelle:

We changed our policy as we analyzed customer feedback and requests. Now, you can return for a refund within 30 days. After 30 days, we ask for a small fee to cover the shipping on exchanges, and we grant a “late exchange” up to 90 days. I don’t know of any big chain jewelry stores that will do that.

Michelle and John iterated their policy too. They started with something unique and effective, and then they changed it further based on customer feedback.

Win with Referrals

Happy customers don’t just drive positive reviews; they refer more customers by recommending, both offline and online:

Most people don’t come back for a second ring, but they recommend the hell out of us. They’ll post about their ring on Facebook, or they talk about it with friends and family. It becomes a conversation piece.

They have lovely things to say about us because our customer service team has been amazing to them.

Social sharing is the trend of the moment in marketing, but offline referrals can be just as valuable.

They’ve successfully turned most of their customers into influencers without paying anything extra. That’s a scalable, repeatable growth engine that organically grows with the business.

The Midnight Collection by Manly Bands

Research Your Competitor’s Exchange Policies

Amazon Prime offers free same-day or one-day delivery. How do you compete with that?

Manly Bands competes with fast deliveries of their own and even faster customer service. Their team is available 24/7 and talks directly with their shipping partner.

They also cover the cost of return shipping.

Michelle ran a 360 review of their competitor’s shipping and return policies:

We looked at our competitors, established retailers, and what our customers wanted.

First, what would Macy’s do? Turns out they wouldn’t do half of what we would do for our customers. They had a 30-day policy years ago, now it’s much different.

Second, most retailers we tend to go to have a 30-day policy. The majority of our competitors do 30 days as well.

Build Authority with Better Product Knowledge

The Manly Bands support team has a deep understanding of their products and customers. This makes it easy to give each of their responses a touch of personality and heart.

Big marketplaces like Amazon can’t provide this level of customer service — their range of products is too big. It’s impossible to deliver this level of understanding across every type of product.

Low-margin (cheap) retailers can’t deliver this level of service either; their margins are too low.

From Michelle:

[Competitors selling on Amazon] have a good customer team, but you don’t talk to someone at the company you’re buying from — you talk to someone at Amazon. They don’t know the product.

They don’t know anything.

If I want to get in touch with the retailer, I have to wait 48 hours for the response. The response has broken English. It’s really hard to communicate.

The Steel Collection by Manly Bands

What’s Next?

With companies like Amazon and Alibaba showing no signs of stopping, independent retailers need to find new ways to compete, and they have one clear advantage: they know and understand their customers better. This gives them the advantage of being able to deliver a superior experience.

Focusing on this strength — delivering a better customer experience — is a clear opportunity for success.

I look forward to finding more online stores that do the same.

Like this article? Read the full Manly Bands case study or follow the Influx blog or Influx research and reports for more stories about optimizing the support experience.

Interested in 24/7 customer service? Learn more about eCommerce support and how we can help you hire support agents.

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About the author

Photo of Alex Holmes

Alex Holmes

Alex runs Marketing and Client Success at Influx. He works with both existing and future clients. Favorite support experience of all time: iTunes and Optus.