Creating a Culture of Engagement: Beyond the First Sip
In my new book The Tip Jar Culture, I introduce a concept that seems simple on the surface but is profound in […]
October 17, 2022 by Gregory Offner
How much money would you pay for a pair of socks?
There are all sorts of companies out there who charge a premium for clothing, but socks are not something that you’d typically consider “splurging” on – at least I wouldn’t.
But a few months ago, someone gifted me a pair of socks, and I wasn’t prepared for what would happen next…
Typically, socks are the lowest common denominator of gift.
They’re right up there with a tie or a toothbrush. But after being gifted the pair by a friend, I smiled and said thank you; not really meaning it, and fully intending to donate them to goodwill. I already had plenty of socks.
Dress socks, athletic socks, and even a pair that say “Baby” on one foot and “Daddy” on the other (those, too, were a gift) – I already had plenty of socks.
But after sitting on the shelf near the front door (as most things destined for Goodwill tend to do) for a few weeks, they wound up in my sock drawer until one day – in a hurry – I thrust my hand into the sock drawer and those were the socks that came out.
The moment they touched my feet, I was thrilled that they never made it to Goodwill.
Whatever these were made of, they were impossibly comfortable.
And they fit, dare I say it, perfectly. I have size 13 feet, and while they’re not huge by today’s standards, I typically have a hard time finding no-show socks that fit.
On top of it all, there was an “L” stitched on one sock, and an “R” stitched on the other. Bless my self-diagnosed OCD heart, it’s like these were made for me!
This was my first introduction to Bombas.
If you’re not familiar with the company, Bombas was founded a little more than a decade ago (as of the writing of this article) by two friends who saw an opportunity to do something good for the world.
In 2013, Randy Goldberg and David Heath learned that socks were the most requested clothing item in homeless shelters; and with that knowledge decided to found Bombas on the premise that for every pair purchased, they’d donate a pair to a homeless shelter or homeless-related charity. This was the birth of Bombas.
But in addition to doing good, they needed an approach to the relationship with their customers that was meaningfully different in the marketplace.
After all, if people wanted to get socks to the homeless they could stop by any department store, purchase a pair, and drop them off at a shelter.
So they did what all great entrepreneurs do.
They sought out waste, confusion, and exclusion in the marketplace; and here’s what they found:
If you’re at all like me, you’ve had the “lone wolf” sock experience at least once in your life. After a load of laundry, there’s one sock that just doesn’t have a partner anymore. Despite looking everywhere, you can’t find it’s mate; so what do you do?
At best you turn the solo sock into a rag, and more often you send it sailing into the trash bin.
What a waste!
So, Bombas decided to put an end to that once and for all. Among their other fantastic approaches to customer endearment, they have a “Happiness Guarantee” policy which offers a one-time replacement at no charge.
Their socks aren’t cheap; in fact one pair of Bombas is slightly more than the cost of a 6 pack of Adidas socks…but they’re the best. And to eliminate any confusion about their mission, they stitch the words “Bee Better” into each and every sock they make. Why “bee”? Well, the word bombas stems from the Latin word for bumblebee.
The founders of Bombas believed that no human should be excluded from the dignity and health benefits of clean and healthy feet (which, incidentally, have many knock-on effects – just think how many things in life are made more difficult, or impossible, with impaired mobility). This belief was at the heart of their decision to follow in the footsteps (pun intended) of companies like Tom’s – which donate a pair of shoes for each one purchased.
Despite my reservations at shelling out nearly $100 for 4 pairs of socks, in 2020 I took the leap and became a paying Bombas customer.
Their socks stand up to harsh (and frequent) laundering, and haven’t shrunk. They’re the perfect thickness; meaning that even after all that wear they still feel like socks, and not stockings.
Money well spent, right?
Well, it wasn’t til a few days ago that I got to experience exactly what that money bought me, when I experienced their commitment to the customer experience firsthand.
Recently I purchased a 4 pack and mistakenly ordered the wrong size.
It was completely my fault. I just pressed the wrong button, and honestly I thought that I would be stuck with them. But if you don’t ask you don’t get, right? So I wrote their customer service team, and asked if – despite my error – I could exchange my socks for the correct size (Large, in case you were wondering) and here’s what they said:
“…I’d be happy to exchange your [socks], no strings attached. Instead of dealing with the hassles of sending the items you have back to us, please feel free to share your items with family members or friends…”
Whatever their COGS (cost of goods sold), I have to imagine they’re not losing money by letting me share those socks, rather than return them. So a cynic could easily say it’s a self-serving move.
But isn’t that the point of building a company?
Solving other people’s problems, and enjoying a profit from the solution?
Frankly, it’s just one more reason to love this brand. They’re playing the long game.
They just made my life simpler, and in doing so absolutely delivered on their stated customer experience goal: 1,000,000% satisfaction (ok, so they rounded up a bit).
Bombas has made the decision to become (and, as of this publication, are currently) a Certified B Corporation – which requires they track and report on their social and environmental impact.
Bombas is just one example of an organization that sees their existence as impact-first. There are others out there who seek first to solve a problem and know that – in doing so successfully – profit will follow. Now those same cynics who took issue with the “Happiness Guarantee” policy will say that every good business person knows that “it’s more profitable to treat a disease than to cure it” overlooks the fact that the world doesn’t have a shortage of problems. Only, it seems, a shortage of impact-first minded problem solvers.
I’m grateful that in the work I do, I get to be one of those problem solvers and help organizations.
Sometimes just drawing attention the problem is enough. Or, if you’re feeling that entrepreneurial bug (or bee, in the case of Bombas) you can plot out a solution and take action.
The first step is identifying something that doesn’t work (or doesn’t seem to work) as well as you’d believe it could. Take that process or product and break it down in constituent parts.
Once you’ve taken it down to the smallest steps you possibly can, you’ll be ready to identify Waste, Confusion, and/or Exclusion – whether it’s in your home, in your organization, or in your everyday life – and do something about it.
I’d invite you to share your ideas for eliminating waste, confusion, and/or exclusion with me.
Who knows, your idea may just be the topic of a future blog post.
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