Content and Customer Experience Give Bevel a Sharp Edge

 

One fact alone would make the Bevel razor a curious debut product. Mainstream popularity and acceptance of bearded men (“peak beard,” in common parlance) has been blamed for significant declines in shaving-related sales. One major razor brand reported a 10% decline in 2013.

Then consider that Bevel, startup Walker & Company’s personal care brand, is targeted at African-American men. Most are prone to a painful and potentially scarring condition known as “razor bumps” from traditional shaving. As a result, blade shaving is relatively less popular among these men, yielding market share to depilatory creams, electric razors, and salves.

Bevel forged ahead with a blend of old and new. The basic product design borrows from the safety razor, first introduced in 1901. But Bevel’s high-tech direct marketing and customer service efforts are strictly of this century.

Rather than launch an all-out assault on retail shelves, Bevel has built its brand on a direct and consultative appeal to potential customers. Because so many of those prospects are wary of putting a blade to their face, the brand offers demonstration videos and one-on-one live chat video tutorials, which proved so popular that Bevel has expanded service hours to accommodate interest.

Content and customer service intertwine

The brand was surprised by the strong demand for video chat and has stepped up production of more detailed video tutorials. Bevel also has embraced the challenge to provide as much handholding as needed to overcome years of discouraging razor experiences. “Customers need to feel confident that they’ll wake up the next day looking OK to face school or work, so whatever helps them get over the obstacle of getting that first successful shave done is great,” says Jaimel Gauda, customer success team lead at Bevel.

Every Walker & Company employee does at least two hours of customer service work per week. The pinch-hitters pull their weight, too. Bevel reports that 80% of contacts are resolved by the first contact, and 90% of customer tickets are solved within 24 hours.

Bevel runs its customer service organization through a platform provided by Zendesk, and relies heavily on Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to track customer satisfaction and preferences. The NPS survey consists of a single question asking the customer’s likelihood to recommend Bevel to others, along with an open-ended comment box. “We’re a new brand, so we get a lot of honest feedback,” Gauda says.

At first, detractors most frequently remarked that they wanted more control over shipment schedules, as well as the ability to suspend their subscription. Bevel has since added more options to accommodate both concerns, and to make high-touch customer service remedies more obvious and easy to find. The NPS results aren’t anonymized, giving Bevel the ability to put a customer’s overall opinion of the brand in perspective with every contact.

Content sponsorship connects with prospects

Bevel keeps new customers coming with an opportunistic mix of new media outreach. Conventional digital advertising does some of the work, but doesn’t provide enough flexibility to tell the brand story. “It’s hard to change behaviors, especially among people who have grown up thinking that razors are bad for their face,” says Michael Plater II, director of marketing. “We want to say that we’re not like the last razor you had, but getting that across in a 300×250 display ad is tough.” 

Instead, Bevel focuses on reaching audiences with key sponsorships, including podcasts by Brilliant Idiots, Combat Jack, and The Read. The brand also has a content marketing portal, Bevel Code, which blends general lifestyle articles with grooming-focused pieces. “That information is hard to find for our community, and it’s also an opportunity to showcase our brand,” Plater says.

Once customers buy in to the message, Bevel does its best to lock them in. The company operates as a subscription service, offering automatic shipments of blades, oil, cream, and balm designed for curly-whiskered customers. In exchange for asking customers to commit to such a premium approach to basic grooming, Bevel offers courtesy services like free blades for travelers away from home.

Bevel is just beginning its second year of operations, but the direct outreach and hands-on customer service are so far producing steady growth and genuine curiosity about the brand. “Most of our traffic still comes organically, which is great,” Plater says. “The best customer is a free customer.”

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