How Shinesty Uses Alternative Positioning as a Customer Support Best Practice

If you reach out to customer support at Shinesty, your experience might feel reminiscent of a  conversation with your best friend – support reps will casually swear, make jokes, and occasionally even call names.

But this is nothing to leave a bad review for, this is all very normal.

Shinesty is a company with one mission: to help encourage the world not to take itself too seriously through selling outlandish and outrageous clothing for themed parties and events.

We are snarky, irreverent, outlandish, and occasionally crass. We go beyond the typical brand compliant gif/emoji in our support interactions. We want to treat customers like friends – not “friends” in the kind, gentle way that many companies address their customers – but in the way that we might actually call out a good friend after last night’s “only-one-drink” endeavor.

We are unapologetically committed to being ourselves, and we want these things to permeate through our customer support interactions.

You’re probably wondering if it’s hard to accomplish that brand tone while still being helpful. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not difficult. We say that not because we’re cocky, but because we know we’re better than others who try it.

We do follow the customer effort methodology, in which you aim to deliver service for customers while requiring the lowest amount of effort from them.

Customer effort is broken into four components:

  1. Channel stickiness

  2. Front-line control

  3. Next issue avoidance, and

  4. Experience engineering

Then experience engineering is broken down further:

  1. Advocacy

  2. Positive language

  3. Alternative positioning

And alternative positioning is broken down even further:

  1. Don’t be so fast with “No”

  2. Save the long explanation

  3. Discover the real issue

The following interaction digs into this last section of experience engineering, alternative positioning, and demonstrates how we use it to provide the best possible customer experiences.

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Rule #1: Don’t be so fast with “No”

It takes some creativity, but avoiding words like “no,” “unfortunately,” and “sadly” really do help keep the customer happy when delivering bad news. Don’t believe me? Think back to the last bad-news email you received from a person who wasn’t schooled in alternative positioning – I bet it stung because they probably left you high and dry. Being told “no” stirs up a lot of negative emotions like annoyance, anger, and even frustration. So, do yourself and your team a favor by avoiding those types of words.

In this case, I never said “no” to THE Michael Scott (fictional customer btw). I reframed the “no” by explaining (briefly...see below) that the last Red & Blue Pastel Derby blazer was just purchased.

He still gets the point, and nothing is unfortunate or sad about it (see Rule #3).

Rule #2: Save the long explanation

As a support person, it’s easy to fall into this trap. You want to explain everything that happened because you feel badly that you can’t help the customer the way they might want to be helped. But that’s actually counter-productive.

People don’t want to hear a long answer about why you can’t help them. Once they’ve heard the “no,” whatever you say won’t actually help solve their problem at all. At most, give a brief summary of the reason you’re saying no, then move on to the solution.

Rule #3: Discover the real issue

In order to get to the solution, you need to first think about what the real issue is. In this example, the hypothetical Michael Scott needs something to wear for his Kentucky Derby party. We don’t have the Red & Blue Pastel blazer, but that’s not the point. The point of his email is to wear something Derby themed to his own party.

By understanding the root of the problem, we realize that we can easily give Michael a “yes”. We are going to make sure he looks good. Things Michael should prepare for: elevator eyes, pictures with random strangers, and an abundance of free drinks. Don’t say we didn’t warn him.

Elevator Eyes for Michael Scott

By giving a brief and positive explanation, and offering a solution that might not resolve the initial customer issue, but does resolve the actual problem, we just turned an interaction that could have been bad news bears into one that has a positive outcome.

Elevator eyes. For Michael Scott.

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