back to main menu

S3E03 – Creating Delight at Every Step of the Customer Journey – Arman Sood, Sleepy Owl

Duration 21:48

Guest Speaker

Arman Sood

Arman Sood

Co-Founder, Sleepy Owl

Industry

E-commerce

Arman Sood is the Co-founder of Sleepy Owl Coffee and has been a pioneer in the new coffee movement in India. Arman has also been featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and started Sleepy Owl Coffee with the aim to make incredible coffee accessible to consumers. Prior to founding Sleepy Owl, Arman was part of a leading ed-tech start-up and worked as a Marketing and Communications Evangelist.

We cover:

  • [11:33] How has customer support evolved at Sleepy Owl?
  • [13:46] What metrics are best to gauge customer sentiment?
  • [15:52] What to look for when building your support team?
  • [18:04] How key is automation in support today?

If you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe on Apple PodcastGoogle PodcastSpotify or wherever else you listen from. It means a lot, and it helps support the show. 

Transcript

Jude Gerald Lopez

Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the 20 Minute Moat. I’ve got a very special guest with me today, Arman Sood, who is the co-founder of a very much loved coffee brand right now in India, Sleepy Owl.

It’s a very exciting conversation that we think we are gonna have, so welcome, Arman. Once again.

Arman Sood

Thank you, thank you so much. Very excited to be here.

Jude Gerald Lopez

It would be great if you could tell us about your role at Sleepy Owl. And, a little bit about what your vision is. it’s a brand that everyone knows and is known for creating some very delightful experiences. So,  if you could just take us through that, it would be lovely.

Arman Sood

Perfect.  So, Sleepy Owl started in 2016.

So, we’re onto the sixth year of our journey now, right. And for people who, you know, do not know, Sleepy Owl started as a cold brew coffee company and they were the pioneers in creating .. very innovative and very differentiated product at the very get-go of our journey.

And, very early on, we realised that our mission is to create extremely convenient and innovative coffee products.  That are affordable and delicious for Indian consumers.

And get as many people, you know, onto the coffee journey, right?

India is a tea drinking nation and our mission has been to get people to make coffee as the first choice of beverage, right?

And, no doubt, you know, of course, you have to have a great product for that, but, I think, as a brand that is now, you know, well known and loved.

It’s very important to make sure that you are giving delightful experiences to customers, right.

And that happens, you know, from the moment someone hears about you from a friend, to your interaction directly with the brand, to receiving the product.

I think, at every step of the journey, there has to be a delight that has to be created, right?

And we’ve been very focused on doing that, right? So,  I personally look at operations at Sleepy Owl.

And, with operations comes customer support, and, you know, customer delight.

And, those two are the areas that I have, you know, focused on over the last few years.

And I believe we are trying to do our very best, you know, I think, during customer delight, obviously, you know, every day is not rosy, right?

And you have to work with all kinds of situations and cases.

And I think, the end goal is to leave people you interact with… with, you know, good, fond memories of their interaction, right?

So that’s ideally what we try and strive for.

[02:46] Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah, I mean, I think philosophy wise, that’s brilliant.

00:02:50 Jude Gerald Lopez

What’s interesting is I think Sleepy Owl has been one of those brands that have made fine coffee accessible, for, everyday users – you don’t need to know the temperature and you don’t need to know it by the gram.

It’s very intimidating for a lot of people, you know when they are moving from, say, an instant coffee setting to a real coffee.

So, I think, that’s a phenomenal thing that you have achieved.

Arman Sood

Yeah, we actually realised very early on that, you know. 

One of the reasons why a lot of young Indians are, you know, either drinking…  not drinking coffee or sticking only to instant coffee, is because of the intimidation that surrounds them. 

You know, brew your own coffee, right?

And, you know, I think, that was the problem that we sort of identified it. Everything that we’ve done is to tackle that very problem. 

That it does not have to be intimidating. It has to be very, very simple. Not just in the process of making it, but even in the process of discovering it right.

And in the process of… of, you know, coming onto our website to buy coffee. It has to be simple and intuitive and easy, right?

Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah.

Arman Sood

But that’s exactly the problem that you mentioned.

Is what we have been trying to solve for.

[04:09] Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah. I mean,this is something I wanted to ask you.… coffee and community are synonymous.

Coffee builds a sense of community with people.

Now you are a online retailer. It’s a online experience that, you know, users have, customers have.

How do you bring that sense of community to your customer base?

Arman Sood

OK, so you know, as you mentioned, yes we are an online-first player, right?

And for us, direct-to-consumer has been the sort of channel that we have leveraged and used to grow our brand, right? We don’t have a single cafe space. 

And, I think, cafes allow you to build communities slightly easier than if you are strictly online, right?

But, for us, it has been…you know,  ..a mix of time to get a certain amount of offline into the playoff things, right?

Whether it’s events, whether it’s office space things, whether it’s… you know,..food-fest etcetera.

We always make sure that you know, as far as possible, try to create a little bit of a physical feel and touch to our products as well, right.

So, you know, ours is an online store. We are available in modern trade and general trade stores.

We are available at hotels, restaurants, cafes, and offices. So there is a lot of institutional play as well, right?

So, the customers that, you know, interact with our brand, don’t interact strictly digitally, right?

So, so that’s one side of it. The other side of it is that, you know, we’ve… I think, so we have tried to leverage our social media.

To create the right kind of engagement and the right kind of conversation, right? So while you may not necessarily have like, ..you know, physical interactions or getting together of people to form a community.

I think, you know, all the varied customers who are interacting with Sleepy Owl feel the same thing. Feel the same experience, right?

Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah.

Arman Sood

And I think that feeling is mutual across our, you know, customer base, right. And that caters down to community. 

Because I think, what happens is that something we realised early on, is coffee is one of those things that you will probably talk about more, with your near and dear ones.

As to what you are drinking? What you are having? 

Yeah

Arman Sood

I genuinely believe that, you know, people like sharing or talking about the… the beverages that they consume, right.

So you know, we’ve always made sure that you have to create that delightful experience.

So that, when shared, it’s shared with a positive note, in a positive connotation, right? and, I think, we’ve managed to also create what I would call evangelists, right?

Where people swear by… the product and the brand and their experience, right?

And then that creates a sort of slightly stronger community, because people who are interacting with the brand, are interacting with us because they have heard it from someone near India, right?

And then that form those bonds.

The community among users.

[07:03] Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah, I mean, that’s quite interesting. And, you know, from an organising point of view, you know, coming to customer support. What is it like at Sleepy Owl?  What is the customer support team up to?

And, how do they function?

Arman Sood

OK, so you know, I think as a company over the last few years we have grown steadily. 

But, when we started out, customer support was, you know, essentially looked at by me directly for over 2 years, right?

So what that has created, so as… in the last five years, two years were… there was one customer support person, and that was me, right?

So that kind of has created this, you know, … situation where, I have lead from the front, for a very long time, right?

And therefore, you know, still try and continue to do so.  So the support team, that way has, you know…the values and the understanding are really much of what, we set in the beginning, right?

So the tone that we wanted to create, or the culture we wanted to create, with respect to how we work with customers. Right?

For the longest time, you know, on our packaging and on our website and even today, if you were to go Google, you know.

Sleepy Owl customer care, my direct line, my direct number is what is listed, right?

So you will end up, you know, reaching me and having to speak to me, right?

So I think that allows for me to set the tone for how, you know, the experience is for the customer, right?

The support team, you know, for us Jude, it’s been, you know. You have to understand that it’s not only about solving the problem that the customers come with. 

Right, but trying to figure out a way to go above and beyond, right? 

So it’s always like I said – You have to leave that customer with a feeling or a notion that the brand has gone above and beyond to cater to my needs and queries.

And, we don’t shy away from doing that, right? So, you really say no questions asked.

You know, return and refund policy if there is a bad experience. There’s, you know if customers have requests, we do our best to, you know, accommodate those special requests in every way possible. 

So you’ll never hear a ‘no’, you know. 

You will always hear a ‘we can try’, or ‘we will figure it out’. 

We will do our best. So, that’s the format in which we try and engage.

00:09:22 Jude Gerald Lopez

I think that’s also the reason why the brand has so much trust, you know, despite being, relatively speaking, it’s still a young brand. 

[09:28] Jude Gerald Lopez

And, at least, personally from experience, and, you know, whoever I had spoken to. 

There is a kind of a steady fan following for Sleepy Owl.

Arman Sood

Yeah, No I think you used a very important word, trust, right.

Now, at the end of the day, I feel this is what’s going to be a big differentiator between us and our competitors.

Or, you know, between brands in the market is when you have consumers who can trust you.

Consumers, who know that, you know, there is…  you know, the brand is there to support you and be there for you, right?

And I can just give you an example of a case yesterday. Where due to a technical glitch we had a few COD orders… a few prepaid orders go out as COD orders, right? 

And when… when the delivery boy reached the customer’s doorsteps. The customer ended up Googling and they reached me directly, right? and all I had to tell them was, listen, we’ll fix the glitch, but, you know, for now, pay the COD. 

Which means you are paying twice, right?

Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah

Arman Sood

And, you know, just drop in a quick hello. And, we will ensure that the amount that you paid earlier is refunded back to you, right?

And, you know, I think, there were about 5 cases. And in four out of five cases,… the customer said, sure, we’ll pay the extra because we trust that you will refund it.

I am sure had there been anybody else on the other end of the line instead of me.

Maybe there would have been the same trust because I tell them that listen, I am the founder and I… this is my direct number.

Then, you know, you can reach out to me. Do not worry. They say yes. OK, no worries, you know. 

And, I think, that creates that aura of ok, you know, trust. Which is very crucial.

Jude Gerald Lopez

You know, I mean, an experience like this is what turns a customer from … just a customer to an evangelist..

Arman Sood

Absolutely.

Jude Gerald Lopez

If this happened to me, I’m sure I would… say, next time I meet a bunch of my friends somewhere. I’m like, you know what happened? Something very interesting happened.

Arman Sood

Yeah, you have to create stories that are share-worthy. 

That you know, memories that, you know, stay with customers, right? So I think that’s very important.

[11:33] Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah, yeah. In the past two years, you have grown as a brand, how has,  customer support, sort of had to cope with this?

Like, on the one hand, you know, a lot of brands prefer highly personalised forms of, you know, interacting.  And, you know, curating every experience that they offer. But sometimes it becomes at odds with scalability.

So how have you been able to solve that?

Arman Sood

Ok, so I think, you know, we have grown slow and steady right?

And we, from the beginning, and even now, at this scale, we are at, we still believe that doing things that don’t scale is important, right?

So, whether it is handwritten notes, whether it is, you know, the customisation we do that. 

And we know that maybe this can’t be done at a certain scale. And maybe it’s not even gonna happen.

Even at the scale, we are at today, but, like I said, going out of your way, doing those things, is important.

Then the support team will also try to do the same thing, right? So we don’t only, let’s say, rely on, what we call, inbound queries or inbound support.

There are a lot of activities that we do outbound as well, right?  Where we try and reach out to customers before they have to reach out to us, right?

So whether that’s for feedback, whether that’s for just getting an idea or a sense of their habits.

Arman Sood

And what do they do in terms of consuming our products, other products? We like talking to our customers, right?

And that starts, you know, all the way from the top.

Where almost everyone in our team has, you know, regular conversations with people who have bought from us. 

And we treat this as we search feedback, learning, development, you know, and that’s what keeps the team busy, right?

So, I think, see this rule is simple, right? 

Like, if your presentation and your marketing and your activities are one hundred… and operations, are one hundred percent perfect. 

There’s no reason for anyone to inquire or have queries, and therefore, support is redundant, right? 

Like there is no need for support, or anything. So, on days when things go good and the support team doesn’t have as many queries. 

We focus a lot on the outbound side of things, right?

Jude Gerald Lopez

Sure.

Arman Sood

So that’s how, you know, we ensure that we are touching base with our customers.

Jude Gerald Lopez

So it’s a lot more proactive in that sense.

Arman Sood

Absolutely. Not reactive, proactive. I think that’s the right word!

[13:46] Jude Gerald Lopez

I think, you know, the way that customer support is evolving. Two things that stood out.

One is being proactive and the other is empowering your customers with self-service options. You know, if they can, if they have the information.  9 out of 10 times, they can solve a lot of things for themselves.

Arman Sood

True.

Jude Gerald Lopez

Before escalating it and you know, I also want to know, since you are talking about customer support at Sleepy Owl, are there certain metrics that you keep a very close watch on?  

To, sort of, reflect what customer sentiment is likely after?

Arman Sood

So we, obviously, you know, on our Shopify, we have a review app, right?

And we get, you know, we send out review emails to people to encourage them to leave reviews on the website, right?

And we keep a very close track of those reviews. So that’s one very important metric that we look at and we track and solve for, right?

Of course, you know, I think quarterly, there is an NPS score that comes out. In terms of how customers are enjoying or experiencing the product, right?

where we find one thing very important is resolution time as well, right?

I think customers do not. You know, especially if you come with a grievance or an issue.

You want it to be dealt with and responded to in a quick and efficient manner, right? And that’s something we really closely track as well and, you know, you know, the team always says right, like positive review is something you should ignore and a negative review is what you should focus on, right?

It’s still, it’s still something where I say no, you know both are important.

Like a positive experience, allows you to give yourself a pat on the back, right? 

As well as learn that, ok, what made it positive. And what is the standard that someone is enjoying your product? And of course, negative, no doubt, cannot be ignored. It has to be worked on, improved, right?

So yeah, those are the key things that we track.

You know, I think, one metric that is not support-specific, but it’s retention numbers, right?

So but, disconnected because if you have good retention numbers, you know it’s a function of the whole piece, right?

From ops to support being streamlined and that’s why people are coming back to you right so?

[15:52] Jude Gerald Lopez

I mean, yeah, I mean that sort of answers the question quite specifically.  You know, for, say, for example, for a brand that is now growing. 

And you’ve seen this trajectory, and from where you are today, it’s working quite well.

What should a brand look for if they are building their support team. 

What should those fundamental principles be like?

Arman Sood

Ok.

I’d say, definitely, with the way technology is evolving, right? Like it’s great to have a human touch. 

So definitely have a human at the end of the line. Whoever that may be, right?

Well trained people who can communicate and give that feeling of personalisation.

But, at the same time,  you know, you have to allow yourself to leverage the right technology that’s out there, right?

So whether it’s, you know, conversations with bots. Whether it’s, you know, AI/ML driven conversations. 

Whether it’s auto responders, auto replies, you know that… that are done right?

00:16:54 Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah.

Arman Sood

I think there has to be a fine balance between both. You cannot, I don’t believe personally that, you know. Being one hundred per cent, you know, of course, self-service is great. 

And, like, I think, you can create an ecosystem where people would like to serve themselves.

But, I think, India is still not there, right? You know, I look at my personal behaviour as well. 

Like, sometimes, you know, you get onto a… you call a customer support number. And I wait, wait for what… they can connect me to a human agent, you know.

I wait for that number, I don’t want to do anything.

I just want to speak to someone, right?

And I feel like that’s the easiest way for me to offload the challenge that I’m facing.

So I feel like that would continue to exist, you know, and that’s why I state there has to be a balance, right in both the human side and technology side of things.

Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah, I think it’s a very dangerous conversation. If you say that, you know, one should replace the other. 

It’s very counterintuitive at the end of the day because, I think, we have all experienced the IVR phenomena, where people know what hoops to jump through to get to the human agent. 

You know what numbers you press

Arman Sood

Yeah, absolutely.

Jude Gerald Lopez

You can get to the person.

[18:04] Jude Gerald Lopez

Going forward, what do you think of automation being a reality?

Arman Sood

Of course one hundred per cent. Automation is a reality. 

It is already happening and that’s why I said, we use certain apps technology products to make the human agent’s life easier, right?

Because you will be able to realise that there are, you know, common cases of specific things that customers reach out for, right?

And in a lot of cases, there are faster and swifter ways to trigger the message to the customer, right?

So that’s definitely something that, you know, we automate, right?

Arman Sood

We don’t get people to actually draft complete emails. 

Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah.

Arman Sood

Or, you know, you don’t even need to copy-paste an email.

You can do it using technology in a much faster, much more efficient way, right?

And that’s what we do for it. At the end of this time, there is still a human agent. I feel like technology will, you know, will still need to be monitored by human agents, right?

So there will always be a human agent at the end of this. Whether is to make the technology work or to, you know, replace it as and when needed, right?

On a case to case basis.

Jude Gerald Lopez

I think, with conversational AI and automation, you know, becoming a lot more sophisticated. 

They are gonna complement each other. 

Arman Sood

Absolutely

Jude Gerald Lopez

This allows human agents to take up priority cases. Organise their time a lot better. 

And not get bogged down by, you know, replicated queries and repetitive tasks, so I mean, I think that’s the kind of change we are seeing.

Going forward, like, are there particular tech prints that you keep a tab on? that can impact, customer experience positively in the next two years?

Arman Sood

Yeah, so I mean, like, I’ll give you an example right. Till about, like a year ago, we weren’t using WhatsApp, right?

As a tool, as much for support.  But like, the moment it did become, you know, popular or started getting people were solving for that, right,

We were forced to jump on it. 

Ready to figure out how it could work?  And similarly, you know, as in when things are getting popular, we are jumping on those engines as well to see how it can apply to our business.

And how it makes our overall life easier, right?

But no specific tech trends that, you know, in support that, you know, I’m specifically tracking or looking at.

Jude Gerald Lopez

OK.

Arman Sood

I think we’re just going with the flow.

And, you know, trying to keep life simple and delightful for both ourselves and our customers.

Jude Gerald Lopez

Yeah, I think, I think in creating delightful experiences, the brand is like, I mean, you need to take notes from brands like Sleepy Owl.

Arman Sood

Yeah, so I mean like, you know, It’s again, one of the other things that we try and do.

We are not just selling our products, we are selling an experience. 

And then, we invest in spaces like packaging, and we invest in, the presentation of the delivery right?

We do subtle things. Like, we moved to completely to sustainable packaging. 

For our B2C operation from paper tape to…things, you know, so those are subtle things. We don’t need to talk about those, right?

But we know that those who care will see it. And they will notice it.

And it will add to the overall experience.  

Jude Gerald Lopez

This has been a very interesting conversation.

It’s been an absolute delight Arman, speaking to you, and you know, getting 

Arman Sood

Thank you Jude.