Sacrificing Short Term Gains for Long Term Success

By Bryan Lalezarian, CEO of MeUndies

One of the most powerful tools I’ve come across in building a consumer brand at MeUndies is the net promoter score (NPS), which attempts to measure word of mouth and how likely your customers are to champion your brand to their friends and colleagues.   There are plenty of resources covering the glories of NPS, so rather than focus on the score itself, I’d like to touch on a constant dilemma that faces any startup: balancing the need to show short-term results against investing in building a lasting company.  Interestingly, those two forces sometimes align together (e.g. building a world-class team), but that’s not always the case.

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In daily decisions, I’ve often found that taking active steps to improve your NPS are long-term focused by nature: wowing a customer with a special gift, going above and beyond in customer service, investing obsessively in the brand purpose, or sacrificing product margin goals early on to drive a more impressive value proposition.  Typically, NPS-driven decisions are not going to drive revenue or profitability in the near term; rather they usually cost more up front.  They key is to be in it for the long run, and trust that building a better experience will be a winning strategy.

At MeUndies, one of our main company-wide goals this year is a higher NPS target, and we push the team to constantly think about elevating the brand and customer experience.  It also helps avoid doing things that could annoy our customers, like spamming them with a ton of marketing emails, even though we know that would likely drive more conversions this month.  Doing that would be a mistake born from shortsightedness.

We prioritize making a customer happy and proud to wear our product over trying to make a quick buck from a customer. I like to think of our customer relationship more like a marriage than a one-night stand.  It’s not about closing a deal right away, but rather inviting them to get to know you, ask questions, understand your brand essence, and interact when they’re ready.  This approach builds trust, authenticity and a genuine relationship—one in which the customer feels connected; they want to brag about discovering you.

For this approach to work from a management perspective, the team at MeUndies has continuous access to our NPS data, having constant visibility on what factors are pleasing customers, and what are hurting them.  We have a ‘NPS Swat Team’ that constantly addresses large issues. Additionally, the customer service team focuses on actively delighting detractors (those who had a bad experience).  As soon as we know a customer wasn’t thrilled with their undies shopping experience, we proactively reach out and please them, sometimes by sending flowers, other times by sending another pair of underwear in the correct size, or even a gift card to a nearby coffee shop.  We like treating customers like family, and pride ourselves on creating an intimate experience where it’s clear we are willing to go above and beyond for anyone who is crazy enough to buy underwear from us on a website.

In an era where customers increasingly expect exceptional service, and brand becomes a key differentiator or competitive advantage, I believe this NPS-centric mentality helps drive success in the long run. It helps amass a tribal following of loyalists who gradually become your most effective source of new customer acquisition.  Think of it as building a brand that goes viral.

Bio: Bryan Lalezarian W’05/WG’12 is currently the CEO of MeUndies, a VC-backed vertically-integrated basic apparel brand.  Prior to MeUndies, he helped lead M&A advisory deals at UBS Investment Bank, and private equity/debt investments at Oaktree Capital.