How Glossier’s gTeam is changing the definition of customer service

Glossier has never been a brand to play by traditional rules, and its customer service team — dubbed the gTeam — is no exception.

While many companies have long seen customer service merely as a necessary cost center, the buzzy direct-to-consumer beauty brand, founded by Emily Weiss in 2014, sees it instead as a major value-driver.

“We inherently believe in and have invested in this team,” said Jessica White, the executive director of customer experience, the company’s preferred name for the team.

But the differences are more than superficial: The team is integrated into the larger marketing department, regularly advises on product development decisions and, according to White, is actually helping to drive customer loyalty, retention and conversions.

Today, the gTeam has grown from one member at launch to roughly 30 “editors,” a title chosen to reflect the expertise, opinions and insight that team members are tasked with providing. As on Into The Gloss, the beauty blog Glossier was born out of, that more formal know-how is tempered by a voice that, as White puts it, “is friendly, warm and thoughtful.”

It’s also casual.

“We never want our customers to feel as if they’re talking to a robot, because they’re not. Every editor on our team has a unique vibe and a different experience with Glossier products, so we all bring something different to the exchanges,” said Mallory Pendleton, a gTeam editor dedicated to social media who has been with the company for 14 months. “When I’m DMing a brand on Instagram, I want a candid response, like one I’d get from a friend, so that’s the way I think when I’m in the Glossier DMs, too — whether we’re sending emojis in reply to a mention or answering a complex product question with recommendations.”

Of course, most brands answer consumers online in the form of a live chat or a similar form of communication, but Glossier is uniquely flexible with how and where those conversations take place.

The conversations are happening across social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as via email, FaceTime and phone, with each editor focusing on a dedicated channel. Direct messaging on social media and email exchanges are the most common, said White, while social platform popularity differs by country. The team currently has members working in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, where Glossier products are sold.

“Instead of limiting interactions with customer service, which is the norm in the industry, we strive to create conversations with our customers,” said White.

But rather than just delving into the basic service questions about, say, shipping or returns, highly personalized one-on-one interactions are key.

For example, two years ago, a bride-to-be wrote in to Glossier, panicked about the fact that its website was out of its Haloscope highlighter, which she was hoping to use on her wedding day. One of the gTeam editors messaged everyone in the office to find out if they might have an unopened Haloscope sitting in their own makeup bags for the brand to send. They tracked one down and sent it her way. The newlywed was so pleased, she sent some of the final wedding pictures back to her gTeam contact.

“We’ve always empowered the team to go above and beyond,” said White.

But that level of intimacy is difficult to scale, and Glossier has grown rapidly since the gTeam first debuted, when the brand sold one product. Glossier now sells 23 products (excluding brand merch) and employs 130 people. White believes the growth has only benefited the gTeam: “We now have the people and the resources to fully execute on what we wanted to do,” she said.

More recently, while the Thomas Fire burned through a big portion of southern California, the gTeam had a multi-day conversation with a young woman, whose family had to evacuate their home as a result. She sent the team a photo of their beloved Balm Dotcalm skin salve, saying that it had helped keep her family’s skin hydrated in the extremely dry air. “We messaged back and forth about her experience, and stayed in touch to make sure that her family’s home was safe,” said Pendleton. When they returned home, Glossier sent them a “welcome home” package, filled with more of the balms, alongside a few other free products to sweeten an otherwise scary time.

Unlike many companies that either outsource customer service or keep the team separate from the inner-workings of the business, Glossier’s gTeam is considered part of its marketing team, a testament, said White, to its overall value.

The team’s insights from customer conversations are also regularly used to help inform broader brand strategy and product development.

“Yes, they’re one part of the team, but what they find is they’re part of a full feedback loop that can lead to organizational change,” said Erin Miller, Glossier’s director of customer experience.

A few years ago, after noticing a spike in people in a certain geographic location asking about the timing of their shipments, for instance, the brand was able to work quickly with its shipping provider to improve on the shipping speeds for that specific cohort.

In 2016, when the brand’s Generation G lip product launched, a lot of questions arose around the different shade names and which would work best for specific skin tones. To add some clarity to the confusion, gTeam members worked with the creative team to add more thorough descriptors and select different assets to better educate consumers.

“It changed how we create and think about the content we display for new launches,” said White. “We want to give customers what they need in order to make informed purchase decisions.”

Operating, in a sense, as the voice of the Glossier consumer, the gTeam is also one of the first groups to test out new products that are in development, often years prior to launch. “They help us figure out and predict all of the questions or concerns that our customers might have about the product,” said White.

If they notice any trends in what consumers are asking for on social media — like a certain type of product — they’ll also relay that information back to the development team for consideration.

Glossier has been known to hire people with diverse, unexpected backgrounds, and, unsurprisingly, the same goes for the gTeam, the bulk of whom do not come with traditional experience in customer service. A recent job posting for the gTeam lists qualifications such as “an approachable style with a personal touch” and a “no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-question attitude.” But believing in the mission of Glossier is crucial, said White.

“It comes down to: Is this something that gets you excited to come into work everyday? Do you understand and buy into the value we’re creating?” she said. “That’s super important because it contributes to the editor being good at and happy with their job.”

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