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How The Flex Company Balances Qualitative and Quantitative Customer Feedback

With Jane Adamé, Head of Customer Research

The Flex Company is maker of innovative, alternative menstrual care products. It's a 4-year old startup based in Los Angeles, and all of their products are manufactured in North America. The company launched a few retail placements in 2019. They started out as an e-commerce company but is now an omni channel retail company. The team is about 30 people, mostly based out of their headquarters in LA.

Jane Adamé is Head of Customer Research at The Flex Company. Neel and I spoke with her to understand how The Flex Company chooses to balance qualitative and quantitative customer feedback.

Tell us about how you joined The Flex Company

I co-founded a company that created a prototype for an all-new menstrual cup that was designed for people with a physical disabilities including one I personally have. This gave me the opportunity to design a more inclusive product. Lauren [Schulte Wang], the CEO of The Flex Company, reached out as she had created the Flex Disc to overcome some issues she was experiencing with existing menstrual care products. We came together solving problems born out of personal challenges. We've been partners in the mission to deliver innovative products in the menstrual care area ever since.

What major channels do customers provide you feedback?

  • E-commerce marketplace reviews

  • Email

  • Social media, primarily though a private group

  • One-on-one conversations

  • Phone

  • Special customer events

  • Surveys

Who talks to customers?

  • R&D

  • Customer Success

  • Technology team (for our digital storefront)

Tell us about how The Flex Company leverages private groups on social media?

One of the unique ways we talk to customers is via a Facebook group: the Uterati, which has thousands of members. This is something we've kept private — people have to apply to join. We've made this choice as we want the group to be a safe space for people to get peer support, learn to use Flex's products, and have meaningful discussions.

Within the group is a branch called the Uterati Research Community. There are approximately 1,000 volunteers in this subgroup who are interested in being new product testers and providing feedback to the company. We source a lot of our one-on-one customer interviews out of this group. It helps that there is a variety of people there: people who love out products, people who don't, people for which our products work well, and people for whom it doesn't work well.

And what about the special customer events?

We organize these events called Flex Labs Live. When Lauren first started, she hosted dinners where people could talk casually about periods. The topic is fairly taboo still and she wanted to provide a safe space for people to discuss any issues they had with menstrual care. Lauren believed you can't solve problems if you can't talk about them. Flex Labs Live is an extension of the original dinners Lauren used to host in her apartment—these events now happen at HQ or away at rented event spaces.

Flex Labs Live is an extension of the original dinners Lauren used to host in her apartment.

How do you do one-on-one interviews?

For us, talking to users one-on-one is important as we produce personal care products.

To make them meaningful, it is important to center people's comfort when discussing the topics we need to. We give people their option of time and medium (video or phone).We reach out to a few customers (in the target segment) and ask them to schedule conversation via Calendly. Fortunately, as I am directly part of the R&D team, many customers are happy to chat and provide their feedback directly to R&D.

My goal is to get to 20 in-depth conversations a month. These conversations are typically 30 minutes in duration. Having a continuous flow of new conversations is crucial because we are a young company and things are still very much in flux. Conversations we had 6 months ago are not as relevant anymore.

I get the conversations transcribed then synthesize to look for common patterns. 12-20 conversations provide a good fit to identify common patterns.

We are not only looking for things in the middle of the bell curve. We are also actively listening to people on the edges as that's how our core products were initially built — we are designing inclusive products for people traditionally underserved by the market.

How does the company convert all sources of feedback into action?

We try to avoid making assumptions. Whenever decisions need to be made, we make sure we have people from the team who have had a direct line of communication with customers. Often time this will be a member of our Customer Success team.

The Flex Company also hosts monthly lunch-and-learns for their employees to share learnings from customers.

What is something that your team does well with?

We are not only looking for things in the middle of the bell curve. We are also actively listening to people on the edges as that's how our core products were initially built — we are designing inclusive products for people traditionally underserved by the market.

With the advent of various tools and ways to communicate with customers, most e-commerce companies are very data-centric. But I feel you miss a lot of important things by only focusing on large data. But our company does a good job of valuing these more trickle-in insights that point to patterns before they entirely emerge. I think our team does a wonderful job of heavily considering both in all decisions.

The Flex Company has cultivated the "Uterati Research Community," approximately 1,000 volunteers in a Facebook group who are interested in being new product testers and providing feedback to the company.

What is something that your team struggles with?

One of the things that becomes a challenge when you are listening to so many customers and you value everything they are sharing is that they contradict each other. And, as a team, we can have trouble moving past these. We are still navigating how to make firm decisions when there is fuzzy, contradicting information.

[Bonus] Is it challenging for The Flex Company to hire males?

The Flex Company strives to be balanced and we are fairly close to a balanced gender distribution. The men who are drawn to working for Flex Company are great listeners. For instance, Andy Miller, Director of R&D, originally my co-founder before joining up with Lauren and the Flex Company, is a cis male and believes that being a male is a great benefit for his work because he doesn't have the option to rely on his own experience, he has to listen. He is not biased by his own judgement of the performance of the product. He has to evaluate the product by listening well to actual users. The Flex Company benefits from having a balance of opinion from employees who are both users of the product and those that are viewing the experience from further away.