Imagine if you can scale and grow your company without spending a tremendous amount of money and hiring more people. For most eCommerce companies, that’s the dream. However, Boostopia’s ways to improve eCommerce customer experience have proven that this is more than possible.

A company with a poorly optimized support operation might think throwing more people at the problem solves it. Not only is this a costly way to scale an organization, but more often than not it is also ineffective. Boostopia offers ways to improve eCommerce customer experience without needing to increase the company’s support volume. 

In this episode, Justin Winter of Boostopia discusses the mistakes that eCommerce companies make with their support processes. He uncovers how these mistakes can hamper business scaling and escalate expenses higher than they need to be. Justin also talks about the three different ways Boostopia is attracting new customers to their platform.

Tune in to this episode to learn remarkable ways to improve eCommerce customer experience.

[02:24] Hey, Justin, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for making some time to be here.

  • Yeah. Great to join you, Trent.

[02:30] So for the folks who aren’t familiar with you, let’s start there. Who are you, and what do you do?

  • Yeah, so I’m the co-founder and CEO of Boostopia. We make software for customer support managers to help manage and engage their teams and improve their customer experience. 

[02:50] And when did you launch? 

  • Yeah, so we launched our kind of, our agency, basically, about 4 years ago, kind of looking for what our product was going to be. And then we kind of made this big transition to building the product, launching the product and going full time in on the software here, just back at the end of this past year. So only about, you know, six or seven months or so at this point.

[03:21] And customers so far, how many of those you got?

  • Yeah, yeah. So we have a little north of 30 or so now.

[03:34] Okay. And the customers that you have, how’d you get those ones?

  • Yeah. So before this, 3 of the 4 co-founders, we all worked together at an e-commerce company before, which was a prior company I had founded. 

[03:49] Yep.

  • So our initial kind of vertical focus was consumer e-commerce. So part of that is because that’s what our networks were. So we had tons of friends in other different companies. So from that first batch of customers and kind of their referral networks, that’s kind of what got us going. So that’s been one of our heavy channels as we’ve been developing and building the product. But now, really, we are primarily led by cold sales development and business development, and then, we are kind of mid better developing our paid lead generation programs at this point as well to complement our existing referral base. 

[04:31] Okay, and we’re going to dive deeper into some of those things in just a couple of minutes. Are you funded or bootstrapped?

  • Bootstrapped so far, intending on raising our seed round—will be later this year.

[04:44] Okay. So your ideal customer is who?

  • Yeah, so companies that have at least one full-time support agent up to companies that have about 100. So that range, we don’t have a…we are vertical agnostic if, you know, a company has customers, that probably means they have a customer support department. So that’s good by us. 

[05:16] So, as you say that I’m thinking about something that I read, you know, below further to Nathan Barry of ConvertKit. He talked about early on the importance of creating echo chambers. In other words, focusing on a niche that’s so small, initially, that the people in that niche are very likely to know most everybody else in that niche. So that, let’s say that your software could be used by 50,000 people. 

  • Right. 

[05:48] But in your first micro, micro-niche, there’s only 12 people. And if you can get one, and then you get two, you can get three chances, or you’re going to get the other nine because they’re all going to start talking about you, and then you make your echo chamber just a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger. So when you say, you know, hey, we’re anywhere from 1 to a 100, why not just be like 1 to 10, initially?

  • Yeah, yeah. I know, that’s a great question. And that’s the balance on that principle applied in a lot of different areas is a constant internal debate. You know, from a vertical focus perspective, if the majority of our customers so far are e-commerce and direct to consumers—no. On the homepage, right, big, and bold right there, do we say we are for e-commerce? Right. So, but, from a size perspective, our focus has been, up until recently, has been companies with, and actually even smaller than companies that have one full-time agent. We have some companies that, you know, they have a founder who’s doing an hour or two of support a day, and they, you know, they’re getting ready to have to hire the next person, and then we can kind of come in even. 

But yeah, the majority of our customers, even really today, are between 1 and 20. But with our recent, some of our recent software product launches, we, you know, it’s now something that can be better used by teams with multiple support managers. And, for the most part, the needs of customers in our space, at least, is, you know, you’re gonna have customer support departments that are not big enough to have a support manager, you have teams that are big enough to have one manager, and you have teams with greater than one manager. And there’s not a huge amount of difference between those unless you get in truly into the enterprise when you’re in multiple hundreds of support agents. 

So functionally, from a product perspective, at least, there’s not a ton of differentiation there. But definitely, from our growth programs and who we’re targeting, but we are not actively and proactively reaching out to companies with 100 agents just quite yet. Because it’s not quite so much a, you know, no brainer slam dunk for those people, although it would work. You know, we’re trying to, you know, I’d like to describe, Trent, too, you know, build out those case studies, focus on kind of the smaller end of things and kind of grow organically from there and get pulled up, as that naturally happens as it goes running after it. 

[08:20] And the reason I’m kind of going down this first rabbit hole is that you and I have exactly the same challenge with our SaaS companies. Mine can be used by anybody in any industry, but to go and market it that way would be ludicrous because they’d be great for anybody. And so, on our homepage, we do say “a Work Cloud Workflow for eCommerce”, and one of the things that I’m doing right now is cold email outreach to a very specific persona that is only an echo chamber of what ultimately we could serve. 

One, because I want to make sure that I’m talking to my potential customers—I’m getting first hand feedback, I’m doing demos—and in doing something that really doesn’t scale very well in the beginning, so that we can become more informed for our positioning, as we start to turn on ad campaigns, as we start to write content and all the other things that I’m sure you’re going to be doing or are already doing, and we’re going to be talking about here in just a couple of minutes. 

  • Right.

[09:21] So did you go through a—because we just are right in the middle of this right now—did you go through a formal competitor analysis exercise? And if you did, how, if at all, did it affect your positioning? And when I say positioning, I’m not referring to features that—I’m referring to how you describe yourself on your website.

  • Yeah, yeah. We’re actually, right now, in the middle of doing another sprint on some of those questions. The insights which led to us even doing this came from our experience that we had firsthand in from friends where, you know, we had ticketing systems. We were using Zendesk at my prior company and everyone else I knew, you know, they had ticketing systems, phone, chat support systems. But as soon as kind of, we got to this point where you had a couple people, you’re starting to think about management more, like assessing what’s going on, what, you know, how the operation is performing. Could the operations of support be improved, our processes, and ultimately, could support be something that wasn’t just a cost center but something that created revenue and ultimately improved the customer experience? 

And so, when we started looking for solutions outside of custom spreadsheet models and pen and paper, we ended up finding the solution in enterprise products that required multi-year contracts or hundreds of thousands of dollars and really didn’t make sense until you had over 250 full-time agents. So we saw our kind of solution we were looking for at the true enterprise. But there was no all-in-one kind of home-based solution for the job of the support manager if you had less than 250 full-time support agents. Or, if you did, the component parts of the support manager’s role—reporting, finding the next biggest opportunities to improve, team management and engagement, coaching, scheduling, quality assurance, all those things—the only things that existed for people were kind of piecemeal solutions. 

So some of the best managers we ran into, they would have a constellation of six or seven different utilities that they had to manually cobble together, and in some cases, were spending several days a week, refreshing, reporting, just to be able to get the information they needed to do their job well. So that kind of informed our, “Hey, we want to focus on this, on the low end, and start with those smaller organizations.” We want to be a kind of, you know, the consumerization of the enterprise, accessible modern design. You know, we don’t want to have to require someone who had an MBA, or they’re a data analyst, you know, and spend years trying to figure out how to use our software, right? We just want it to be intuitive and easy. 

And then, we would start at those lower volume, you know, lower size operations to kind of quickly go wide instead of deep. And then, over time, we would then move upmarket, make the individual components of this all-in-one suite, you know, more robust, and in some cases, more complicated, right, for teams that needed that, as we move upmarket. So it was a, we’d start low and move up kind of approach.

[12:52] Okay. So because mine is, I have a lot of e-commerce listeners in my audience. 

  • Yeah. 

[13:00] I want to use this, because I still don’t understand clearly enough the problems that you’re solving. So let’s say that for a small direct consumer brand, e-commerce brand, they, 5 million bucks a year. It got, however, many employees, they have maybe one founder who’s doing the support now, and they’re just getting to the point, maybe, where they’re transitioning, or maybe they have one or two agents.

  • Yeah. 

[13:2 9] What specifically is the number one problem that that company has that your software will help them solve?

  • Yep, yep. So for the company, the number one problem that they’re going to face is scaling and growing the company without spending more money and hiring more people than they need to. So that founder or that operations leader, who’s at 5 million bucks, where they’re on pace that need to hire another full-time support agent, three to six months from now, right. That additional support agent, if they’re in the US and it’s an office, that’s usually a $40,000 a year person. They don’t have the internal resources or know-how to properly use the existing customer support software that they have, whether that’s…

[14:22] They, being the $40,000 person that they’ve just hired?

  • So—or anyone. So if the support manager is a CEO, right, or an operations title, who works part-time one or two days a week, the support department reports to them—they don’t have anyone who’s really run a support operation before, right. But the cost of a poorly-optimized support operation is “throw more people at the problem”, which is a very expensive way to solve that problem of a scaling organization. So our tools, and our kind of serve as add-ons, that we have for companies of that size means we can come in and be these fractional experts. Solve the problem of helping them understand just what’s going on in the support department so that we can help them, and so they can improve their systems, improve the efficiency of things so they…

So on average, companies, we’re able to help them decrease their support volume by 30% and help make the existing team 20% faster, which resulted in not needing to have to hire that next $40,000 a year person. So we end up being effectively free. So the executive team, the owners, right, they love saving tens of thousands of dollars a year, making everyone less stressed, you know, having this resource with tools and team who, you know, is bringing the expertise of Allbirds, Pumba Socks, like a lot of leading direct-to-consumer e-commerce companies, and they’re getting that on a fractional basis, right. 

And then, the other thing is, we see we hear a lot of talk about “I want to improve the customer experience. I want to improve the customer experience,” but in practice, we’ve had a lot of people, they don’t actually, don’t really know what that means in practice or how to do that. So a byproduct of people treating their teams better and improving processes is actually better serving customers. So these are the challenges. Most companies don’t have, you know, a budget for, you know, “I want to spend money to just arbitrarily improve the customer experience, if I can see I’m saving money you’re making money.”

[16:37] Now, does your software, is it take the roll—the ticketing roll-on—is that part of what it does?

  • No, it doesn’t. So we’re not competing with the ticketing, chat, and phone products that people are already using. A way to articulate this would be, no, Zendesk, Gorgias, Customer, Freshdesk, Help Scout—all the desks. Right? Those systems are built for the job of a support team member, a support agent, to do their job, right, which is to have conversations with your customers, to solve problems, and to help them, you know, find the best products that they need, right? They’re not built for the job of their boss—the support manager—right? Who run the operation to engage that team, right, to coach them, to improve them, to train them, and to optimize the systems, the processes, right, so that the team is happier. And actually, I’m repping a Boostopia shirt today, “happy agents, happy customers.” 

One of the things that we found is if you can, you know, one of the highest turnover roles in an e-commerce company is the support role, right? 

[17:50] Oh, yeah. 

  • And one of the big reasons are, you know, “Hey, this was me,” like, “I treated those people like commodities,” right. “I paid as little as I possibly could,” right. And, you know, after about 30 days, they kind of knew the job, and it was just, you kind of show up and you do the job. It wasn’t engaging; we weren’t enjoying them, we weren’t challenging them, we weren’t giving them goals. They didn’t understand how they performed relative to everyone else. So it was just like, “I show up, I kind of do my thing, and I leave.”

And if there was a top performer, they weren’t recognized. So why are you going to put in more effort than the person next to you, who you know, is not putting in the work? If you’re not going to make more money for it, you’re not gonna be recognized for it, right, and your ideas are not. So, you know, the really quality people we had, they would turn out, right, because “That was just a quick job, but yeah, I’ll go find something better,” right? So, and that ultimately is not engaging the team, well, not improving those processes means that the customers’ experience is suffering, right? 

An example I give, which I think is a good one if I’m, let’s say, Trent, that you’re shopping online, and you’re buying a pair of shoes, right. You know, and you have two options in terms of your experience. Option number one: if you buy a pair of shoes, it’s shipped to you, right. And you open up the box, and it’s the wrong pair of shoes. Right. 

[19:12] Yeah.

  • So what do you now need to do? You need to go ahead and call them, right, to solve the problem. And you have that conversation, and you know what, the person is super nice, right. They handle your problem really quickly, really easily, right? And then they, the next day, they offer the other pair of shoes that you need. Option number two: you go online and buy a pair of shoes, they should be the pair of shoes—it’s the right pair of shoes. The end. Right? You know, what’s better for you? Right, number two.

So what is objectively your preference? It’s to not have the problem in the first place, right? So much of this customer experience concept that we see is, I don’t know we just need to be really, really nice to people, right, which is not that that’s not true, right? But, it’s understanding that customers today prefer to not have problems in the first place instead of talking to people, talking to really, really nice people about the problems that they have. Right.

[20:19] Okay, so my conclusion, rightly or wrongly, so far…

  • Yeah.

[20:27] Is that it’s challenging to succinctly describe what you guys do.

  • Yeah.

[20:40] In as few words, a word—it’s a positioning problem. So now, let’s sort of transition our conversation.

  • Yeah, yeah.

[20:46] Into marketing and customer acquisition because that’s really what people, in a lot of companies struggle with, is, you know, “How do I get more users? How do I get more customers?” etc. So, at a high level, first off, what are the various programs or channels or ways that you use to acquire customers? And then we’ll get in the weeds on each one.

  • Yeah, definitely. And it is an ongoing process to aptly and quickly, but comprehensively, communicate what we do, right. And so that’s definitely a big thing for us, a challenge, especially when you’re competing with spreadsheets, largely, right? 

[21:29] Yeah. 

  • So we’re in a category-creation kind of mode. But yeah, for a big channel, so we have our outbound sales development kind of programming, which is, you know, identifying either target accounts that fit the user personas of our, you know, prospective ideal customers. Or it’s kind of listening to kind of intent signals of things that are happening out in the world that indicate someone would be a good customer, and then also reaching out to them to try to be helpful, right, and help them learn about how we can potentially solve their problems. So it’s the cold sales development side of things. 

And then, you know, we have our active, we’re actively encouraging our customers. It’s part of our process to introduce us to their friends at other companies as well, and that’s kind of the big second one. And then the third one, which is, we’re kind of in the middle of launching now, is actively running paid advertising campaigns across social networks, AdWords. They’re such things to get in front of our target audience and offer some free value and, hopefully, have them sign up for a conversation with us to learn more about what we do.

[22:48] Okay. So, of those three, which one is generating the best results?

  • Yeah. So we’re definitely in a…so since the pandemic happened, we had a scary couple weeks, but everything stabled out, and for most e-commerce companies, things were as good or better, in some cases. And so, we’ve actually been in a very busy growth period the past couple months here now. So the paid programs, as an example, we are mid getting that off the ground right now, so we haven’t had the opportunity to see what that’s going to look like with what we’re investing in that now with some external partner resources, and then obviously, you know, the ad spend that will be involved for that. So our biggest and most consistent channel yet, which is at a higher level of maturity, is our cold sales development programs. 

[23:51] Okay, so would it be fair to say that that starts with cold email?

  • Yeah. So it’s a 100% percentage email basis, so we’re handling cold calls right now.

[24:02] Near and dear to my heart because I’m doing the same thing right now in my own software business. So let’s unpack. So very quickly, I’ll tell you, like in 60 seconds or less, what we’re doing, and then I want to go into detail on what you’re doing, and we can put to the notes, hopefully, that’ll be some benefit to the audience. 

So in my case, I’m actually using a tool, give a little shout out to a tool called Apollo, which is a huge database. It allows me, and it’s an email marketing tool—outbound email tool. So I can say, “Hey, Apollo, show me all the people that meet these criteria.” Cool, now I have my list. “Hey, Apollo, take those people, put them into this outbound sequence of,” you know, “split test. Email number 1: three versions. Then wait three days, email number 2: two versions. Wait four days, email number 3,” etc. And if they reply anywhere in the middle of that, stop the outbound. In a nutshell, that’s what we’re doing, and it is generating results. We are getting appointments, and I’m doing sales calls and so forth. So I was relatively easy to set up. Does that sound conceptually more or less like what you’re doing? And if not, let’s understand the differences.

  • Yeah, conceptually identical. Yep. It’s pulling leads, and then, you know, creating an outbound sequence of variety of emails and getting conversation started to get them on an initial call.

[25:22] How many? How long have you been doing it for?

  • So historically, we’ve been fairly sporadic with that, with these programs. So we’ve been consistently now running those programs, really, for just a couple months now. And we’re sort of in a position to where we’re really never gonna have to take our foot off the gas again, now that you know, our product is fully launched, and we had a new website launch in February to better articulate the product’s new pricing plans. It’s going to go the whole nine yards there. So we’ve been a couple months consistently now, and yeah. 

[26:09] How many appointments? So how many people on the sales team, and I’m guessing the founders are probably still the sales team?

  • So I am chief salesperson. Yep. 

[26:19] You and me both. Okay.

  • My hat? Yep.

[26:22] How many appointments a week are you doing, do you think?

  • Yeah. So, right now, we’re doing about two to three appointments a week. And, you know, actively working on scaling those, you know, those programs,

[26:39] How many emails per week are you sending to get your two to three appointments per week?

  • Ah, fair question. I think we’re at about, maybe about 300 a week. 

[26:55] 300 a week.

  • Or…so 300 new… 

[27:00] Net new?

  • Prospects, yeah net new. 

[27:02] Yeah, into the top of the program. Okay. So if 300 is getting you 3, you’ve got a 1% ratio, which is I’ve been running outbound on my other company for like 3 and a half years, and our booked call ratio is 1.18% across the entire 3 and a half years. So right in line with what we’ve been doing for a long time. So if you want, are you only sending 300 because you only have time for three sales calls a week? Or, like, what’s the bottleneck?

  • Yeah, so we had a challenge back when we were ramping things up, a couple months ago, where we were having intermittent deliverability challenges that we are struggling to solve. Even though we had SPF, TKIM, all these different things set up to help enhance deliverability, we couldn’t kind of get out of a slump. So what we’ve been doing, in over the past 60 days, in particular, we brought on a third party to deal with this stuff a lot more regularly, to help us try some different approaches, you know, to help repair our domain reputation, basically.

[28:10] Are you sending from your primary domain?

  • So not anymore. Not anymore.

[28:16] Okay.

  • Yeah 

[28:16] Yeah. No, no. Don’t do that.

  • Yeah, yeah. So yeah, maybe that was our challenge. So, we’re doing that, and so it’s mostly been a, you know, so we’re kind of in the middle of ramping up, you know, we’re trying to balance, you know, making sure we don’t see any dips in deliverability, open rates, reply rates, as we kind of slowly, you know, as we don’t really have a gap, and then all out. Yeah. 

[28:45] What does the messaging look like? What are you saying in these emails?

  • Yeah. So, you know, a lot of who we’re reaching out to our e-commerce company, operations leaders, founder CEOs, or support managers. And that initial message, we’re definitely citing some of the kind of hallmark brands we’ve been able to work with that have really noticeable names. And we’re addressing, and if I can recollect, I think kind of a primary thing we’re focusing on right now that’s been working well is kind of just giving an initial preview of, you know, “Hey, we’re helping companies improve the customer experience, save a ton of money as they scale their support operation, and we’ve been working with a lot of these great brands.” You know, “We’d love to learn about some of your challenges.” “Hey, how long is it before you need to hire your next full-time support agent? What if you didn’t have to?” kind of thing, like a little teaser kind of deal to get that conversation started. So that’s the rough kind of outline of the components in there.

[29:56] So put very, very simply, “Hey, we have this thing. Can I show you this thing, and maybe you want to buy it?

  • So yes, with a two-step sales process. The first, so we have an audit primary sales process, so we offer a free support operation audit, this like five-page, like, super in-depth thing. So I can’t remember how prominently we’re displaying that call to action, but I think right now, at least, we’re trying to see if the problem statements resonate with people strong enough to see if they would reply, and in that initial call, we’re heavily selling this free on it, which then takes us to the next step, but yeah. 

[30:46] Yeah. Have you thought of doing a split test that, basically, instead of saying, “Hey, we built this thing. Do you want to see and maybe buy this thing,” to “Hey, we’re building this thing. And so that we build a really, really great thing, I need to talk to you because you’re a really super smart, experienced person so you can give me feedback on this thing that we’re building so that we can actually build this really, really great thing.”

  • Yeah, no, that’s the..

[31:10] A super subtle shift. 

  • Right.

[31:12] It allows you to kind of stroke the ego of your prospect a little bit—and everybody likes to see new things. We’re bringing this new thing, this thing that doesn’t exist yet, right? And I’m just pointing to that.

  • Yeah. So definitely not we haven’t tried that angle. I’m taking notes. That’s a great idea. We’ll have to try that.

[31:32] Because I started a cold campaign two days ago, and the open rate, so far, didn’t…so I’ve got, you know, new, yeah, this is my highest open—any of my open rates are from 54 and a half to 70% on the first two emails—and one of them is new tool for blah, blah, blah, and the other one says changes to Amazon sales channel—question mark—because our tool helps them to deal with changes to the Amazon sales channel. So my point there is, maybe give that a split test, and see if that’s doing [or] if that could do any better than what you’re doing, right.

  • No, I love it. I appreciate that. That’s a great idea.

[32:17] Okay. So anything else about outbound that we haven’t talked about? Any…did you make any huge mistakes? Was there any big “aha’s”?

  • Yeah. So now, I’d said it’s some of the deliverability challenges and just kind of playing around with that.

[32:37] Yeah, yeah. For all the, in case folks, you missed it: do not send from your primary domain. If your primary domain is, go register, and send from there, and then forward to, in case they tap it in. 

  • Yeah, yeah. Definitely. Yeah, you know, the other kind of aha and kind of our current path on skilling those programs is kind of around building, like, intent signal-based kinds of programs. So, for example, if within our kind of ICP or, like, ideal customer profile, you know, there’s a company that hires a new support agent, right? Then that’s an opportunity for us to reach out and say, “Hey, I see the team is growing,” right? So if we can, you know, have a tool that kind of gives us a live data feed to a highly specific campaign, even if the volume is obviously significantly lower on something like that because the relevancy is so high; the response rates are certainly going to be higher. 

So we’re kind of looking at, and we’re actually working on kind of stacking things like that now. So, you know, did the company just raise a new round of financing? Have they posted a job post looking to hire new support people? So there’s, you know, when you kind of start looking at this stuff, you know, there’s easily like five or six things like that, that you can kind of start to push into, you know, something like an Apollo test, reaching out to them.

[34:16] Have you used Apollo? Because that data is, in Apollo, you can literally say, “Show me a list of all the companies that have closed around within the last 90 days.”

  • Yes, yes. Yeah. So we’ve used Apollo before. Yeah, I’m definitely familiar with that, that they have, you know, a lot of the hiring and the fundraising, I think, are the two big ones today. 

[34:37] They’re awesome. Love them. 

  • Yeah. Absolutely.

[34:39] Okay. Alright, so you mentioned that your referral program was because of what you said, there was three legs: outbound, referrals, and paid ads—paid ads being the newest, so we’re not going to talk about that in this episode. But your referral program, is that an affiliate program? Like, what does that look like? First of all, how long have you been doing it before we go down this rabbit hole?

  • Yeah. So a referral program might be a strong language that might give me more credit than we’re doing. So this is really just being intentional about asking our existing customers we start to “Hey, who do you know that’s in a similar position? We would love to do a free audit for them.” “Hey, that’ll help us out a lot. You know, what do you think?” Right.

[35:27] Is that a manual outreach that you communicate that with? 

  • Yeah, it’s 100% manual. It’s just something we have. So the majority of companies who start with us, we have a kind of jumpstart service package in the first 30 days, where we’re helping take their ticketing system. Or we have companies who start with us run in Gmail, right, and they don’t know what ticketing system they go to. So we’ll, you know, because we’re not a ticketing system company, but we’re close enough to it; we have heavy opinions, but we don’t have a financial incentive either way so we can help them pick one and set it up. And, or if they’re already on one, we can help them go from just like the basic they flipped it on to, we have like this hundred points, like a task list, where we can just optimize the mess out of it. 

And so after that kind of sprints, and they’re now onboarded to the product as well, you know, there’s a very quick time to value. So kind of right after that, yeah, you know, we’re able to say, “Get in,” and then we hand them off to their customer support coach, who most of them have a customer support coaching out on, where they’re having like a monthly call, basically. And we’re intentional and in saying, you know, basically asking for the referral from that existing customer. 

So that is definitely a…it’s not, like, formal program, “Here’s the signup link, you get a custom URL.” It’s not really an affiliate program in that way. And then we have a couple other parts like lose your partnerships, again, not a super formalized program with some other Shopify development agencies, customer support staffing companies, who provide teams to answer support requests. That if, you know, someone’s asking them about ticketing systems, optimizing things, building a help center, or like all this kind of stuff, then they just end up sending them our way, and then, you know, we’ll pass them back kind of a close deal referral fee, you know, in that event, 

[37:21] Alright. Now, I want to talk about processes for the repetitive activities in your business—folks who listen to my show regularly know that I love me a good process. So you’ve got, you know, you’ve got all your outbound activities, which are all repeatable processes, you’ve got your referral program, recruiting and referral partners and all repeatable processes, you’ve got those sales calls that are repeatable processes, the follow up to those sales calls, you’ve got your paid ads, those are all repeatable processes. And that’s all I can think of off the top of my head, and I’m sure that you’ve got a whole bunch more internal repeatable processes. Are you at the point where you’ve documented any of those processes? Or are they all just running on skill and experience up here?

  • Yeah, so a little bit of both, for sure. One of the frameworks that, I think, the gentleman’s name is Ari Meisel, who’s a productivity guy, books, blogs, podcasts kind of guy. I heard something like, almost literally 8 or 9 years ago, that really stuck with me, and it’s “optimize, automate, and outsource everything.” And I think, for us, when I think about processes, I think, obviously, there’s that initial work of building the process, optimizing that process, figuring out what the best process is. 

And then my next step, typically, is to ask the question, know what tool or resource can we use to automate this process so it requires the least amount of human inputs possible, which will enforce consistency; it’s a lot cheaper than a person, right? And then, if it can’t be 100% automated, then we’re left to outsource which, you know, that could just literally be an employee, or maybe that’s me doing something 10 minutes once a week, right? 

So I think we definitely have a spectrum of things that are on that scale of, you know, from automate to outsource. One of the big ones that comes to mind is our onboarding specialists we have, who handles all of the onboarding work with customers. It’s two big, three calls over 30 days. You know, that is definitely a very checklist heavy process, and we do have, you know, well-documented, and just because there are so many steps involved. And largely, people are buying that checklist and us doing that checklist for them as part of that jumpstart program. We have them on a ticketing system and/or upgrade their existing one. So, and that’s a, I think it’s like nearly like 100 items, basically, that’s made over the first three days. 

[39:52] Where does that document live? Is it a Google Doc, or is it in a software app of some kind? 

  • Yeah, so we’re currently using Asana. It is where that is we had—that’s really the only thing we use Asana for. But we had, we’ve used that one a bunch, and, you know, and being familiar with that tool, we’ve decided to use that in their repeatable templates, you know, at the time. That one? Yeah. 

[40:21] Alright. And was there a particular reason you chose Asana versus any of the other things you could have selected for that?

  • Yeah. You know, maybe two or three things come to mind. I think the usability of the tool, the focus on design, you know, just make you, I think there’s a low cognitive, you know, there’s not much of an additional cognitive burden or overload on using a complicated tool because it’s fairly easy to use from that perspective, I think, and they’ve invested a lot there. I think one of the things that we like and we’re using is their kind of project overview views that they have. 

So, you know, we’re…with our onboarding specialists, even though we just have one that’s just one of his hats right now in planning for scale, we know that we’re going to want the ability, you know, maybe once a week on a Friday to have all our onboarding specialist be able to go down the checklist of—not literally checklists—but like, go down and provide a status report and update on all of their projects. So easily being able to see the active status of the, you know, what will soon be dozens of concurrent onboarding is something that we knew would be valuable once we got there and they kind of have that built-in. 

And then the Zapier integration as well, just the flexibility there. So if with our sales CRM, like Pipedrive, as an example, you know, if we wanted to, and we haven’t really done a ton here, but knowing, just having the flexibility where, you know, “Hey, when this thing happens, automatically make that template and automatically initiate this email or when the project is over automatically do this next thing,” right, which is something that we could see being valuable further down the road once we start to scale things and build things out.

[42:12] Yep, got it. Okay. So before we wrap this particular interview up, if you were interviewed, is there anything that I haven’t asked you that, like if you were interviewing yourself knowing what you know that you’d say, “Hi, I would ask me this question”?

  • Nothing comes to mind. Yeah.

[42:37] And let me give you some positioning for that. I’m thinking the title for this episode is “How to Turn your E-commerce Support Department into a Profit Center” because we talked a lot about the higher level, especially early on in the interview. So with that title in mind—and I don’t even know that yet if that is the best title—is there anything else we haven’t discussed?

  • Yeah. I mean, I think…yeah. Boostopia is excited about and what we’re, I think about the majority of your audience being e-commerce, you know, we think the future for you, all the listeners, right, the e-commerce companies is, you know, customers care about those personal relationships, they care about the customer experience. They want advisors, not problem fixers, right. You know, they want a stylist-esque conversation to give them advice about the best products combination that would work best for them. 

And what we’re seeing is kind of a new leading-edge companies; they are focusing a lot on the operation side of things first, so they can, free of their team, from having to answer super basic repetitive questions, right, and engaging their team and then figuring out what those activities, what are those programs where we can use this asset of the people we do have who are product experts to have productive conversations, right, in a way that leads to more revenue? 

So I am, you know, even outside of Boostopia, we’re seeing, like, we’re just seeing some super exciting stuff there. And it’s still very early stages, but we’re seeing companies move that direction: how do we go from a cost center to a profit center? And, you know, fundamentally, you can’t, even if you can figure out how to make revenue from support if you don’t have your underlying cost information, you can’t run any ROI analysis—so you can’t determine if it’s worthwhile even if you can draw out and sells an extra thousand bucks a month worth of shirts or something, right. 

So, yeah. So I think, you know, that’s my only maybe, closing thought, not a question, but that’s, you know, that’s one of the big things I’m seeing, and, you know, companies continue to look there. I think there’s a ton of opportunity there for companies to unlock a lot of incremental revenue to help them continue to grow their companies.

Justin Winter’s Bright Ideas 

  • Start Your Echo Chamber Small
  • Focus on the Support Department
  • Use These 3 Ways to Attract New Customers
  • Utilize Effective Messaging for Cold Sales Development
  • Be Intentional About Your Referral Programs
  • Automate Your Processes

Start Your Echo Chamber Small

Whichever niche you’re in, you need to create echo chambers. Justin cites three perspectives you can look at to get started in your positioning:

  1. Vertical-focus perspective
  2. Size perspective
  3. Product perspective

By evaluating your organization’s position in these perspectives, you get an idea of who your target market should be.

If your niche is small, it is likely everyone else in that space knows about you. So Justin suggests starting at a lower volume and lower-sized operations. Then, over time, move your way up the market. This strategy, as he explains, is the “start low and move up approach.” 

With that, it is essential to make your system accessible, intuitive, and easy-to-use for your customers. “We don’t want to have to require someone who had an MBA, or they’re a data analyst, and spend years trying to figure out how to use our software,” he says.

Focus on the Support Department

When you’re around the $5 million-pace in your organization, hiring a full-time support agent can cost $40,000 a year. That’s a costly way to solve the problem of organization scaling.

This is where focusing on the support operation department comes into play. “A byproduct of people treating their teams better and improving processes is actually better serving customers,” Justin says. 

Most companies say they want to improve the customer experience without knowing what it is like in practice. To look into that further, here are the reasons why the support role has the highest turnover rate in eCommerce companies:

  • Companies treat support roles as commodities.
  • The job is not engaging and challenging.
  • They don’t understand how they perform relative to everyone else.
  • Their ideas and efforts don’t get recognized.

Justin explains that customer experience will suffer if companies don’t improve their processes. Hence, you need to understand the ways to improve eCommerce customer experience.

Furthermore, it is crucial to understand that customers prefer not to have problems in the first place. Again, this shows the importance of putting the focus on improving the support operation system.

Use These 3 Ways to Attract New Customers

Boostopia is in category creation mode for their customer acquisition strategies. Here are the three main ways through which Boostopia acquires customers:

  • Outbound or cold sales development.  Identify prospects and reach out to them on how you can help. 
  • Customer referrals. Actively encourage your customers to introduce you to potential company clients.
  • Paid advertising campaigns. Run paid advertisements across social networks through AdWords.

Justin shares Boostopia’s most valuable and most consistent channel for customer acquisition is cold sales development.

Utilize Effective Messaging for Cold Sales Development

Cold-calling usually starts with cold email. It’s where you create an outbound sequence of email variations to start a conversation and have them jump in on an initial call.

For a first look, Boostopia has a 1% ratio when it comes to running outbound. So if they send out 300 emails a week, they get two to three appointments from that.

Here are some tips on how you can craft an appealing messaging in cold emails:

  • Cite hallmark brands and notable names that you have worked with.
  • Give an initial preview of what you offer. Come up with a teaser that can spark a conversation.
  • Build an intent, signal-based program where you create an opportunity to reach your ideal customer profile.

Justin also highlights the importance of a live data feed for highly specific campaigns. “Even if the volume is obviously significantly lower on something like that because the relevancy is so high, the response rates are certainly going to be higher,” he says.

Justin shares that the bottleneck they experience for cold sales development is on deliverability. If you can’t see a way out of this, you can follow their solution, which is to bring in a third party. This third-party expert will help you come up with efficient approaches to build your domain reputation.

Be Intentional About Your Referral Programs

In other words, be intentional about asking your existing customers to refer you to people in a similar position. It may or may not be formal affiliate programs.

In Boostopia’s case, when their clients send a referral their way, they negotiate a referral fee in the event they close a deal.

It’s also a huge plus to include incentives and free offerings to engage them with your offer better. Boostopia tells their clients: “Hey, who do you know that’s in a similar position? We would love to do a free audit for them.” Remember: you have to show customers your value.

Automate Your Processes

Justin lives by the words of Ari Meisel: “optimize, automate, and outsource everything.” Automating your process using the right tools allows you to require the least amount of human input possible. Hence, it enforces consistency and cost-effectiveness.

How can you automate your processes?

  1. Build a set of processes and optimize them.
  2. Figure out which one of these processes is the best.
  3. Discover what tool or resource you should use.

Justin also emphasizes the importance of the onboarding process. He says this is a checklist-heavy process that needs to be well-documented. For instance, they currently use Asana for their documenting process.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your documenting tool:

  • Usability
  • Design
  • Project overview feature
  • Flexibility
  • Automatic system

What Did We Learn from This Episode?

  1. We learned the importance of support operations in creating business revenue and improving customer experience.
  2. Cold sales development is one of the most effective customer acquisition strategies.
  3. Crafting a good messaging can help pull leads initially.
  4. You can use the influence of a good client network to get customer referrals.
  5. Automating your processes helps you save money, and your system becomes more consistent.
  6. Customers care the most about their experience.

Episode Highlights

[02:25] Justin introduces Boostopia

  • Boostopia is a software for customer support managers that come up with ways to improve eCommerce customer experience.
  • Three of the four co-founders worked with Justin at an eCommerce company he founded before Boostopia.
  • At first, the company relied on the first batch of customers and their referral networks. Now, they’re developing a lead generation program through cold sales and business development.
  • Their focus has been companies with one full-time agent and between 1 and 20 customers.

[09:45] Boostopia’s positioning

  • Their processes improve support operations so that it’s not only a cost center but something that creates revenue. The end goal is to improve the overall customer experience.
  • As a result, the solution they found was in enterprise products requiring multi-year contracts. 
  • They designed the software to have an accessible modern design that is intuitive and easy.

[13:40] The #1 problem that Boostopia solves

  • Boostopia helps companies scale and grow without spending money and hiring people more than they need to.
  • Boostopia’s tools and add-ons help scaling organizations understand how they can improve their support department system.
  • On average, Boostopia helps companies decrease their support volume by 30% and make the existing team 20% faster.
  • By improving their processes and treating their teams better, companies serve their customers better as a result

[16:43] The job of a support team role

  • One of the highest turnover roles in an eCommerce company is the support role. It’s because oftentimes companies are not engaging the team.
  • Without improving the processes of the support operation, customer experience will suffer.
  • Customers prefer not to have problems in the first place instead of talking to people about the issues they have.

[21:10] Boostopia’s customer acquisition categories

  • Outbound or cold sales development
  • Customer referrals
  • Paid advertising campaigns

[25:09] Justin explains how they pull leads

  • They create an outbound sequence of email varieties to start conversations and eventually get customers on an initial call.
  • They clinch two to three appointments from about 300 emails per week, a 1% ratio.

[27:29] The bottleneck in the system

  • They were having intermittent deliverability challenges, and they couldn’t get out of that slump.
  • The solution they’re testing for this is bringing a third party to improve their domain reputation.

[28:49] Justin shares what their messaging looks like

  • Boostopia cites some of the hallmark brands they have worked with.
  • They then give a preview of their support operation solution when it comes to scaling.
  • They offer free in-depth support operation audits.
  • They’re also stacking around intent, signal-based programs.

[35:00] What their referral program looks like

  • They’re intentional about asking existing customers to refer other potential clients to them. It is a 100% manual outreach.
  • Concerning their partnerships, their clients send them referrals who have questions about ticketing systems. If they close the deal, Boostopia gives the referring client a referral fee.

[38:02] A look into Boostopia’s processes

  • The initial work — build the process, optimize, and figure out what the best process is.
  • The next is to identify what the best tool or resource is for automating that process. The goal is to minimize the amount of human input.
  • Boostopia is in the spectrum of automating to outsourcing. Their onboarding specialists handle all the onboarding work with customers, which is a checklist-heavy and well-documented process.

[43:08] — Ways to improve eCommerce customer experience

  • Customers want advisors, not problem-fixers. They care the most about customer experience.
  • Hence, it is crucial to focus on the operation side of things to free them from answering repetitive customer questions.
  • More and more companies are moving their support operations from a cost center to a profit center.


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Today’s Guest

Justin is the Co-founder & CEO of Boostopia. Prev he co-founded and served as the CEO of IR Hot 100 D2C Home Fragrance Brand, a company that achieved a  $12M Run Rate in 12 months w/no funding. He is an advisor to several other eCommerce companies: Boll & Branch, Cora, Bizzy Coffee, Essio Shower. Tech: Bluecore, Sumall, ProcessOut, and Swym. Justin resides in Durham, NC with his wife, Amanda and his Chihuahua, Harper.

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