NEED: starting small and scaling fast

NEED: starting small and scaling fast

We love to hear stories about the ways that Zendesk (and Inbox) help our customers accomplish their goals. It’s inspiring to see the creativity behind each implementation, and to hear more about the philosophies and experience that drive great customer service. 

“What are the 15 things I would need to buy if my apartment caught fire?” Answering that question was Matt Alexander’s inspiration back in 2013 when he started NEED—a website selling curated essentials for the modern man. Need a portable world clock? You got it. The perfect fleece pant? Check. Chrome plated razor? Now we’re talking!

Sure, the clothing, accessories, and lifestyle goods offered by the company are less about survival and more about living well, but the company is on to something. By making it easy for men to buy stylish and interesting goods, NEED has chipped away at the $100+ billion dollar menswear and lifestyle industry. And now, this past February, the company launched Foremost, their first collection for both men and women.

Meeting every customer need
Each month members receive a note pointing them toward a limited-edition collection containing 10-15 hand-selected items, tailored to the season. With a subscriber base now topping 250,000, the latest offerings quickly sell out. Foremost comes along as an answer to the question of how to scale, allowing the company to sustainably grow the overall business by appealing to niche markets, using the same model that’s brought the brand this far. With Foremost, NEED is able to offer more quality custom products, including one-off designs and work from emerging designers.

This means, of course, NEED is also tasked with scaling their customer service to meet growing demand and their new membership base. To that end, their success relies partly on their dedication to meeting their customers’ needs, and partly on tools that have been selected as carefully as their monthly product offerings.

The company’s toolbox resembles that of many web-based startups, leaning heavily on APIs and integrations with a handful of agile solutions. The site runs on a custom platform built by Mobelux (the folks behind Tumblr for iOS, Circa, and more), and they use integrations with MailChimp for marketing email, Mandrill for transactional email, Slack for internal collaboration, GoSquared for metrics, and Zendesk for customer service.

On the hunt for shared email
Zendesk has helped NEED to scale their support, but managing shared email was a gap they were looking to fill. Nearly every company email address routed directly to Alexander’s inbox, forcing him to filter by subject and manually forward to the correct person. Thankfully, he found Inbox while scrolling through Product Hunt.

“We tried other tools, but they weren’t memorable,” Alexander said. “That Inbox came from Zendesk was a big endorsement.”

Fast forward four months, and the team at NEED uses Inbox “pretty religiously.” Inbox allows them to create new email aliases when they need to. Now sizing and fit questions are handled through one shared Inbox, and emails about sponsored podcasts through another. They can easily set up new email addresses to handle specific promotions and assign incoming messages to specific team members. It’s a simple and clean solution, right in line with their overall brand aesthetic.

And of course, as they continue to scale, NEED’s needs will continue to change. Some things they’re doing today in Inbox might eventually be automated through a web form or handled through live chat support. “But there will always be a need for Inbox,” Alexander said. “Shared email will always be there, and Inbox is basic, minimalist. It’s exactly what we need.”

Looking for a better way to manage team email? Learn more about Inbox

[Note: this post originally ran on Startupland.com.]