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Ethical Community, an Eco-Friendly Marketplace, Focuses on Customer Service and Community

Editor’s Note: I have to say that customer, Ethical Community, has a special place in my heart. Ethical Community is an online marketplace that connects very small producers around the world with buyers who want to purchase eco-friendly products—organic and natural clothing, jewelry, foods,  health & beauty products, and more. For buyers on the site, the story of what they are purchasing can be as important (or even more important) than the product. These personal shopping experiences are powerful and satisfying in a world where e-commerce is often cold and impersonal. Since I recently worked for a similar marketplace for artisans (1000 Markets) I can say that there are few jobs more satisfying or inspiring than working on behalf of motivated entrepreneurs with a strong sense of community.

The Beginning

Liam Patterson and Jason Dainter are the two co-founders with the vision. Their idea was born from their pleasure in receiving gift items themselves--gifts where they had a personal note from the seller and felt a human connection. They thought: Why not give these producers a marketplace, a place to sell their products, use blogs to share their experiences and growth, and where they could participate in a strong community for learning and sharing with other sellers?

Now that community is 850 strong, with over 7000 eco-friendly products. This video tells their story:

The company recently went through a funding round, and is now focused on rebranding and revamping the site. Lots of exciting changes are ahead, but the sellers and products will continue at center stage.

Building a Library of Tools

Jason is making sure that the fledgling enterprise has the right pieces in place to meet growth head on:

“Gradually we're forming a collection of great tools that allow us to work remotely. We’ve started with for customer service, Olark for live chat,  Basecamp to keep us organized, Indinero for finances, and Pipedrive for sales. We’re also using at the moment to build a bespoke knowledge base.  All the tools support the marketplace behind the scenes.

At first it was tempting to try to do everything for everybody who joined up. But then we realized that our core is the marketplace and the infrastructure around that. We’re concentrating on community, the stories of our sellers and the content that surrounds them. Customers seem hungry for an opportunity to purchase ethically from real people, and to read about the journeys.

Additionally, our sellers are hungry for how to do things like social media, search engine optimization, photography, and marketing. That's where the knowledge base permits us  to convert our web geeky knowledge into information we can give to them. Our goal is to become so useful as mentors that sellers will come to us and know that we’ll help them succeed.”

On Customer Service

“We thought it was crucial to get customer service right. We wanted it to be easy and smooth to get answers to our customers. We also wanted to take our fast growth into account, and find a tool that would scale with the huge support demand we expect. just ticked so many boxes. We could see that it had everything we needed. We tested it thoroughly and were blown away. It’s easy to set up and easy to use. We’re mega-impressed with the support team. They are truly responsive. We couldn’t be happier." A Power Tool

" is a hugely powerful tool, and we love how it brings all our support issues right to one place. We’re very social, and Desk is social to the core. We have gotten our first Flex Agent on board, and he was delivering instant customer service that very day. It’s also inexpensive. keeps track of his time, and we pay only $1 an hour. That’s affordable even for a startup.

Another great feature is the macros. You can take a complicated multiple-step process and make it into one macro. Then we just tell the staff—look at that macro list, select what you want to do and click. Easy peasy."

Customers are really happy with Ethical Community's emphasis on customer service. Here’s an excerpt from a pretty typical letter:

My recent experience with your company fills me with great hope that it is the right platform for my business and I am confident more than ever now that if anything goes wrong I know you guys are there to quickly listen to my problem and then come up with solutions to fix them.

I can't praise your service and systems highly enough and would certainly not hesitate to recommend your site to others … once again thank you for your very speedy resolution to my situation, it is very much appreciated. Let’s hope the bigger companies take a leaf out of your customer service book.

Philip Woolley,

" makes it possible for us to offer this high level of service. We intend to make is a competitive advantage as we grow."

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