There’s a reason every fast-food receipt includes a customer survey at the bottom and every online chat with customer service ends with a “How Did We Do?” pop-up. It’s simple: Feedback from customers is invaluable for business.
According to Forbes, there are three big reasons to solicit client feedback. First, it tells your company what you’re doing right (and wrong). Second, it helps your customers feel heard and involved (making them more likely to become brand advocates). Third, it makes it easier to improve your product. The fragrance company Skylar, founded by experienced businesswoman Cat Chen, is a great example of all three.
Chen started Skylar to solve a problem in her own life. But feedback — first from a friend, then from customers — helped it grow into the success it is today. To understand how it happened, you need to know a bit about Chen and what makes her company unique.
The Baby Who Started It All
Chen got an MBA from The Wharton School. Then she worked at Apple and Activision before joining Jessica Alba’s startup, The Honest Company. There she served as the vice president of operations. Building a brand wasn’t new to Chen when she started Skylar. What was new was striking out as an entrepreneur in the perfume industry — an industry dominated by traditional big-name products in department stores and malls.
Why did she do it? It all started when Chen discovered that her newborn was allergic to the perfumes she wore every day. When she started looking into other options, Chen found an untapped niche: hypoallergenic scents. This gave her an opportunity to build her own business from the ground up. That eureka moment blossomed into a natural fragrance company with a mission to encourage and empower customers with quality products, nonprofit donations, and an uplifting community.
Going Au Naturel
When Chen began searching for fragrances that didn’t contain irritating ingredients, she couldn’t find any that were hypoallergenic. Even essential oils-based products caused her daughter’s allergies to flare up. So, Chen set out to make her own. She learned about the harmful chemicals found in most perfumes and developed a better alternative. She began by experimenting with scents, eventually working with a renowned perfumer to concoct complementary pairings.
Early on, she fulfilled orders for customers out of her garage and made daily trips to the post office. These days, people toss the words “clean” and “natural” around like candy on Halloween, but Skylar’s products fit the bill authentically. Skylar’s website says all their products, from perfumes to lotions, are hypoallergenic and free of the 6 big “no-no ingredients.” Even its packing peanuts are made of biodegradable recycled cornstarch.
Using Customer Feedback For Product Development
Chen frequently turns to the Skylar community to guide product development. Loyal customers receive samples of new scents and are asked for their feedback. She learned that lesson in the early stages of Skylar.
Starting out, Chen used her own preferences to guide product development. Then, she had an eye-opening experience when a visiting friend sampled some of the prototypes. Shockingly, the friend disliked the scents that Chen loved and adored the ones she hated. Chen learned from that experience and quickly began gathering consumer input to determine which scents made the cut at Skylar. The company’s attentiveness to its customers has been integral to growing and sustaining business.
“By keeping our eyes on what matters most — our customers and our community — we’ve been able to skyrocket,” Chen told Forbes.
Last February, the company secured $8 million in funding and has seen 2,000% growth year over year. Skylar also recently began offering a subscription-based model called the Scent Club. Customers receive monthly fragrances, and the program offers a host of other perks. One perk is early access to new products, which is as advantageous for Skylar as it is exciting for members. The clients get fresh scents, and the company gets a built-in test market.
Great Marketing Alone Doesn’t Cut It
Chen’s previous experiences at The Honest Company helped her scale Skylar rapidly. She told Forbes that she learned was how to fail fast, execute quickly, learn from mistakes, and pivot when needed. Before her MBA and tenure at The Honest Company, Chen was also an MIT undergrad and a self-described data nerd. She uses her data and analytics skills to better understand her customers and how they like to communicate.
Still, Chen knows even the best data isn’t enough to sustain a business. Chen’s understanding of “the people side” of Skylar is one of the major factors that allowed it to grow at the speed it has.
“As amazing as a great marketing campaign can be, delivering to our customers every day, with the right shipping speed, product quality, shopping experience, and customer support, is what actually creates customer loyalty and a sustainable business, from my perspective,” she told Forbes.
Ultimately, as Chen learned, business success comes down to listening to and learning from your customers. Learn more about how you can build those solid customer relationships here.