BL&T No. 140: Creating Customer Connections


This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"It’s your job to connect deeply with end users to improve their experience. You can’t rely on marketing intel or customer analytics alone; you must generate your own firsthand insights in order to earn adviser status. Design and sales are personal."

From "Naked Sales: How Design Thinking Reveals Customer Motives and Drives Revenue" by Ashley Welch, Justin Jones [Book]  


After work today, I went out for a short motorcycle ride. I was eager to take advantage of the perfect weather, clear my head after a long day, and break in my new motorcycle gloves. While the gloves are new, I purchased them over a year ago. Let me explain.

Finding the gloves

I was required to wear proper riding gear, including gloves, to take my motorcycle training course in October 2021. Despite having ridden a Vespa-like scooter around Brooklyn with my wife Dana for some time, I wasn't sure how comfortable I'd be on a motorcycle. Regardless, I was always enamored with the idea of riding one — as a kid and an adult.

I already had a helmet from my scooter adventures but needed gloves. Given my uncertainty, I wasn't keen on investing too much in equipment at that point. I figured I'd find a pair of gloves for the course and upgrade once I started riding.

I went to Amazon to search and found a pair of leather gloves at a decent price ($69.99) from a brand called Indie Ridge. I'd never heard of them before, but then again, I was new to the world of motorcycle gear. I loved the vintage look and the touchscreen compatibility.

When I scanned the reviews, I was surprised to find what appeared to be seasoned riders sharing their personal experience with the gloves. The review that stood out most was from a rider who had been in an accident with the gloves and came to Amazon to give them five stars.

I was intrigued that the customer had spoken to the founder and got a replacement pair; you don't hear that often on Amazon.

My search ended there. I clicked Add to Cart, completed checkout, and thought, maybe I'll be able to wear these gloves longer than I think. While I anxiously awaited their arrival, I visited their e-commerce store. I liked that they sold more than gloves but held back on any additional purchases.

When the gloves came, I was impressed with the unboxing experience. I didn't take photos the first time, but here are some from the pair I received last week.

The branded bag was a nice touch, but what caught my attention was a card signed by the founder, Steve, prompting me to activate my warranty via email. This was how the reviewer who had been in an accident had so easily gotten in touch.

Although Steve hadn't handwritten the note, it asked me to include my favorite guitarist in my email. I appreciated the personal touch. It was a nice way to make a mass-printed card feel more genuine.

Here's the response I received from Steve:

I usually ignore review requests, but this time, I went to Amazon and showed some love for the brand. I laughed, thinking how my simple search to find an affordable pair of gloves turned into connecting with the founder of a young brand who seemed to have similar interests as me.

Overlooking an issue

The gloves felt great and got better as I broke them in, besides one issue. The touchscreen fingers were glitchy with my phone. I thought it might be my screen protector, but the issue persisted even when I eventually took it off. As life got busy, I prioritized putting more miles on my bike and overlooked the issue.

Flash forward to a year and a half later — April 2023. I was out for my first ride of the season, heading to a family party. On the ride home, I opted for a more scenic route home. At a stop light, I went to enter my home address so I didn't get lost. The touchscreen fingers didn't work. Again. I thought about how dangerous it was to fumble with my motorcycle gloves while sitting on a running motorcycle, so I trusted my sense of direction and continued.

It took me a week, but I searched Amazon reviews to see if others had the same issue. Sure enough, they had. I remembered the lifetime warranty and returned to my original email with Steve. I told him about my experience and asked if this was a known issue.

Steve responded within hours. We exchanged a few emails where he told me there were issues with an earlier version and sent me a link to replace the gloves free of charge. The process was easy. I even had a chance to pick a different pair with more coverage on my wrist. They're a darker leather color and happen to match the leather of the seat cover I added to my bike after I bought it.

The new gloves feel and look great. I've realized that I like to get "lost" when I go out for scenic rides. When I decided to do this today, it was easy to navigate home without fumbling. The touchscreen fingers work perfectly.

Creating connections with customers

Whenever I have an opportunity to chat with a founder during new business conversations with prospective clients, I always feel more connected to the brand. If you watch Shark Tank, you might know what I mean.

Although I don't know much about Steve or what inspired him to start Indie Ridge, I felt a similar connection by merely having the chance to exchange a few emails. Making himself available was enough to show his passion for the brand and care for his customers.

Not every founder will be able to communicate with customers like Steve, but here are some ideas to create a similar customer connection as a founder:

  • Add a personal touch to the unboxing experience with an incentive to communicate: While including a note in the package made me feel valued and appreciated, the lifetime warranty encouraged me to reach out to Steve. If you can't offer a similar warranty or it doesn't make sense for the product, give customers another reason to reach out, like a gift or discount on a future purchase. Getting the opportunity to connect with customers when they're most excited, having just received the product, is a great time to ask them for a review or referral.
  • Talk to your customers: Between product reviews and customer surveys, it's easy to feel like you have a pulse on your customers wants, needs, and desires. However, product reviews often capture the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Nothing can replace picking up the phone and chatting with the people who bought your product. Identify your top customers, those who haven't purchased in a while, and if you offer subscriptions, those who have churned. Every few months, jump on a call to hear about their experience and what you can do better. You're bound to learn something new. At the least, you'll build loyalty with customers who will then tell their friends about their experience. Or write their newsletter about you.
  • Tell your story: Take the time to create a video about why you founded the brand and what makes it unique. It doesn't have to be a $100k shoot. Set up your iPhone and share your story. I'm always surprised when I see brands named by the founder, but finding their story is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's nothing new to see content like this on social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube, but I'm particularly excited about a platform called Tolstoy. They offer a video pop-up on your e-commerce store. Customers can land on the site and immediately hear from the founder. It reminds me of what it's like to lead those new business calls. If there's one suggestion I would have for Indie Ridge, it would be to consider this.
  • Stand behind your product: You can have great products and happy customers, but how you handle issues is what matters. Unfortunately, happy customers don't always share their love for the brand, but the unhappy customers you satisfy, are bound to tell everyone. If Indie Ridge hadn't offered the warranty and then stood by it, I might have already replaced the gloves with another brand. I know wouldn't have written this post.

As I continue my motorcycle journey with my new gloves, I'll never forget my story with Indie Ridge. It's been a great lesson in the importance of genuine care and commitment to customer satisfaction. At Barrel, it's been inspiring to think about how I can guide our clients to do the same while prioritizing exceptional client service and experiences that leave a lasting impression.

Thought Starter

How can I connect with my customers? What might resonate?

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