Josh Kohlbach developed a unique customer experience strategy during his time working as a marketing consultant for small businesses.
Business was good, and demand was strong.
So strong, he soon hired two developers to help him keep up with the work.
The problem was: the business was taking over his life.
“I think we ran into the limit of that business model for us,” he said. “I couldn’t scale it anymore.”
“I was so busy I couldn’t take a holiday,” he added with a laugh.
Josh’s frustration was the seed of something new: a totally different business model for his company, Rymera Web Co.
Today—instead of selling services—Josh and his team develop software plugins for WooCommerce businesses using WordPress.
As you’ll see, an unwavering commitment to listening to their customers is at the core of what Rymera does best.
Finding a need: It started with a client’s problem
Rymera’s transition to a product business didn’t start with a random spark of inspiration.
It started with listening.
“Some people put things into the world that they think people want,” Josh told us. “They’re not really listening to people. They’re just guessing at what they want.”
By contrast, Rymera’s first product came directly from solving a customer’s need.
One of its clients needed both wholesale and retail pricing for its website, but none of the existing WordPress plugins had the needed features.
“The existing products could only do about 50% of what they need,” Josh said. “We created a new plugin that met their requirements.”
Along the way, Josh got buy-in from the client to sell the new plugin to other customers as a product. Wholesale Suite—Rymera’s flagship product—was born.
Wholesale Suite ‘ranked’ quickly in WordPress.org’s listings
Google isn’t the only search box on the internet.
Rymera launched Wholesale Suite in May of 2015 and immediately began to attract users who searched for “WooCommerce wholesale” from inside of WordPress.
To rank in these results, Josh leaned into two of the most important elements used by just about any review-based marketplace:
- Customer ratings
Keywords were as simple as adding “WooCommerce wholesale” throughout their listing.
Getting customer reviews, however, took some creativity.
An ‘overwhelming’ number of 5-star reviews
As of this writing, Wholesale Suite has 201 5-star reviews on WordPress.org.
How did Josh get so many reviews for his product?
Simple. He asked for them.
Any time a customer would reach out with a customer service problem, he and his team worked hard to solve it quickly and professionally.
Then, when the customer was happy (and wowed by their experience), Josh emailed them one last time to ask a favor:
“Would you leave us a review on WordPress.org?”
As a result, Wholesale Suite now has a host of reviews that look like this:
Delivering an excellent customer experience
Asking for customer reviews is a relatively easy practice to implement. But it only works if you’re actually making customers happy.
For that, it takes a strong commitment to customer experience strategy.
You need a product people enjoy and are using, which they had. Then it has to be backed up by whoever at your company is running customer service.
For over a year, that was Josh himself.
1. Josh kept customer service for himself for a full year after launching Wholesale Suite
“I actually really like doing customer service,” he said. “But by the end of 2015, we were getting 15 to 20 requests a day and I was spending 75% of my time answering tickets.”
“At some point as the owner, I had to make a decision to hire someone to help,” he added.
It was important to Josh to ensure that all customer questions were handled quickly and professionally. He just needed someone to help.
2. He stopped using Gmail for customer support
Getting customer service out of his hands meant that Josh needed a solution other than his work email to answer support requests. That’s when he signed up with Groove.
“I was following Alex’s Founder’s Journey blog,” Josh said. “I knew the way he approached business, which coincided with the way I view the world as well. So that was pretty much a lock for me.”
“I’ve used other products,” he explained. “But they were painful to use. Groove looked designed and like somebody had actually thought about the user experience. It works well for us.”
Getting customer service out of Gmail meant Josh was ready to have someone else start helping with tickets.
3. He started with an outsourced service
Josh started by hiring an outsourced customer service company that provided customer service reps. To start, they answer “level 1” tickets on Rymera’s behalf.
They used Groove’s API to integrate their system with Rymera’s system, and—for the most part—the process worked well.
“We told them to answer any question they felt confident answering,” Josh said. “If they weren’t sure about an answer, we had them send it along to us.”
4. Over time, he brought customer service back in-house
Outsourcing customer service was a good first step. But over time, Rymera brought customer service back in house.
“It started with the level 2 requests,” Josh said. “I needed someone who could handle those more complex requests so I wouldn’t have to do them.”
That gave them one in-house support member.
“We hired another customer support person and trained them up,” Josh said. “That’s let us bring everything in-house and we didn’t need the outsourced solution anymore.”
Since then, they’ve added one additional customer service rep, giving them a total of three people dedicated to customer service.
Josh’s advice for other tech founders launching products
At the end of our interview, we asked Josh if he had advice for other tech founders looking to follow a similar path as his.
Here’s what he had to say:
1. Be a real person
“A lot of people put on a fake business persona when they answer a support ticket, which I just think is stupid,” Josh said. “People in companies are real people. So talk to them as if you were standing in front of them in the room.”
“For me, it’s always been well received by customers. They feel like they’re getting personal service that way.”
2. Answer questions fully (and read between the lines)
“You should answer every question fully,” Josh said. “But also, you sometimes have to read between the lines.”
For example, Wholesale Suite customers sometimes submit a support request asking if they can force buyers to purchase a defined “set” of items (e.g., a set of 12).
“It’s better for their packaging,” Josh said. “But they don’t tell us they’re trying to optimize packing when they ask the question. They just ask about the feature in our product.”
Josh and his team know their customers well enough to spot the “question behind the question” in situations like these.
They can suggest several different options to help solve the packaging problem—including several beyond what the customer originally asked for.
3. Actively encourage reviews
“Make it easy for people to give you a review,” Josh said. “If you know they’re happy, if you’ve fully solved their problem, send them a note and ask for a review.”
“That way, when someone new starts researching your product, they see this overwhelming proof of you being awesome to your customers.”
4. Respond as quickly as you can
Josh’s team doesn’t try to respond within minutes, but they do try to respond as quickly as possible.
“For us, we shoot for about half a day,” Josh said. “A lot of our inquiries aren’t simple fixes. You have to look into them. So it can take a little while to research and test a solution so we can get back to them with a recommendation.”
5. If you can’t solve the issue immediately, take ownership
If a customer has found a bug and you can’t fix their issue right away, take ownership and let the customer know what you’re going to do about it.
“We’ll tell them ‘Yeah, this is a bug,’” Josh said. “And we’ll tell them that we’ve created a development ticket and that it will be fixed during one of our next sprints.”
6. Listening is everything
“Listening to people is the number one thing,” Josh said.
“It starts from the top of the company. Even if you’re the CEO and you have customer service people, you still have to be actively involved and listening to your customers.”
7. ‘Just do it’
Finally, if you’ve identified a customer need and are thinking about building a product, Josh’s advice is simple and straightforward:
“Just do it,” he said. “People procrastinate too much. Just launch something, solve someone’s problem, and then listen to feedback.”
Customer experience strategy is what holds everything else together
Josh’s commitment to listening is the glue that holds his entire business strategy together.
From his initial idea for the product all the way to hiring practices for the customer support team, it’s at the center of everything Rymera does.
“Everything has to revolve around the customer experience strategy,” Josh said.
That’s how you give yourself the best shot at succeeding with a product release.
Not by dreaming up new products you think will serve your market.
But by identifying one problem you know for certain that a real company will pay good money for you to solve. Then delivering an exceptional customer experience to everyone who signs up for your product moving forward.
“Your content, knowledge base, support, product, feedback—everything you do has to be centered on the experience customers have with your company.”