- Since February, Public Goods’ sales increased fivefold and its subscriptions doubled.
- The direct-to-consumer home and personal-care brand’s sudden growth caused a huge surge in customer-service tickets, and the entire company spent a Saturday in April answering the requests.
- Morgan Hirsh, the company’s founder and CEO, requires all new employees, regardless of department or level, to spend their first few weeks at the company on the customer-service team.
- According to Hirsh, the experience helps new hires understand customer pain points, how their role connects to the customer, and the workflows of the company.
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Though big-box stores might be the biggest winners of the pandemic, the home and personal-care brand Public Goods could be considered a big winner in the direct-to-consumer set. Since February, the subscription-only company, which sells everything from candles to toothbrushes and canned goods, saw its sales increase fivefold and its memberships double, the company said.
“We were honestly in the right place at the right time,” Morgan Hirsh, the company’s founder and CEO, said. “And it was a horrible time, but we were lucky to be there and be useful to people.”
Increased demand and an expanding customer base are always good news for a growing business, but adjusting to meet that increased demand is difficult to pull off in normal circumstances — and even tougher during a pandemic that restricted supply chains around the world. Public Goods suddenly experienced a “huge surge in customer-service tickets” as new subscribers had questions about the products, services, and membership, Hirsh said.
What could have been a customer-service disaster for the company turned into a rallying moment. On April 4, a Saturday in the early weeks of the pandemic, the entire Public Goods team, from the finance team to creative, logged on and began answering customer-service tickets.
“People talk a lot about creating company culture, but what does it really mean?” Hirsh said. “It was the moment where I saw real concrete evidence that we had done a good job at that.”
This all-hands-on-deck day wasn’t an exception to the rule, either. It was something that Hirsh had laid strong groundwork for through a foundational company rule: Hirsh has all new employees at the company, regardless of what department they work in or what level they’re at, spend their first few weeks at the company on the customer-service team.
“The customer is the most important part of the business. Everything emanates from the customer,” Hirsh said of why he made the onboarding decision. Answering service tickets helps new team members connect the role they were hired for to the often abstract end user. Customer feedback can also bring to light problems in the business.
“There’s a reason the customer is getting in touch, not just to say, ‘Hey, everything is perfect.’ So you familiarize yourself with some of the customer pain points.”
Fielding customer requests also gives new hires what Hirsh called a “front-row seat into the inner workings of the business.” Depending on the ticket, an employee will have to contact different departments at the company, which helps them understand how all the teams’ workflows connect.
“A customer might want an item to be replaced, and then you have to go in and execute on that,” Hirsh said. “And then you might see that, wow, the steps that actually go into filling this request or that request, and the amount of people involved — it’s actually complex.”
So when the whole Public Goods team logged on that Saturday in April to help answer and execute a mountain of customer questions and requests, they were already prepared. Thankfully for the company, it was also able to hire 20 new customer-service team members by the end of the weekend through references from employees, so the company was able to quickly scale up its team to meet demands.