Hello, my name is Jaffer Ali, co-founder and CEO of PulseTV.com. A couple of days ago I had a lunch meeting at the Housewares Show in Chicago. It was a great lunch with Rus Sarnoff, an industry veteran.
Before we got down to discussing business, he said, “Jaffer, I just have to tell you, my wife and I are REALLY fans of PulseTV.” I smiled and thought he was being polite. But he went on, “I have to say that you guys have the best customer service we have seen in a long time. I ordered a dashboard camera and it was defective. I called to return it and get another one, and everything was so simple. I sent in my unit, but forgot the SD card in the unit. I called and Brynn in your C.S. department actually tracked down the unit I sent in, retrieved the card and sent it back to me. That is customer service. And by the way, my wife buys all of your flashlights!”
That is an almost verbatim story about our customer service. I came back to the office and gave Brynn a high five for going above and beyond for our customers. It is always great to hear good things unexpectedly. Oh, the potato leek soup they served at lunch was awesome too!
The boss once said, ‘We have to fail faster.’ It sounds a little counter-intuitive for a business model when you first hear it. The purpose of a business is to succeed, not to fail. But in application it makes a certain kind of sense.
For an e-commerce company like PulseTV.com success means connecting our customers with products they want to buy. Not exactly an easy thing since the interest of buyers is notoriously fickle. I would hate to admit how much guess work actually goes into finding successful products. That is why it is important to fail and fail fast, because the successes, when they come, are what keep the customers happy and coming back.
And we have had more than our share failures. The hair highlighters are a great example. At a trade show somewhere one of our buyers found a vendor who was willing to sell us tubes of hair highlighter for practically the cost of the product. The highlighter was a water soluble coloring that you could brush into your hair to create accents and highlights, and then simply wash out with shampoo. Safe, simple and fun. We figured it would be huge with teenagers and younger people.
For the price the vendor was offering we committed to tens of thousands of units. And while the highlighters sold, they weren’t the hit we needed them to be to justify the huge purchase we made. We ended up with thousands of them. That is just one example of many.
But what pays for the failures are the successes. Like Smitty’s Glass Wax for example. It is not a very exciting or unusual product, just something you rub on eye glasses or glass screens to keep them from smudging or smearing, but the customers love it. I can’t even tell you how many units we have sold over the years. Sometimes we have trouble keeping it in stock.
Unfortunately it is impossible to differentiate between the hair highlighters from the glass wax when looking for new products. But we keep trying, and sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed. But the customers know we are always looking to bring them products they need and want. And that is part of what keeps them coming to PulseTV.com.
How many people have heard of PulseTV.com? As an e-commerce company it is not a giant, like Amazon or eBay, but it is remarkable in that it is one of the few companies that started in the wild and heady heyday of e-commerce, when almost anybody with a clever idea and their own website could become a paper millionaire, and survived the collapse of the “dot-com” bubble in the early 2000s.
So the real question is; how?
PulseTV.com was established in 1996 in the suburbs of Chicago, IL and began by selling videos via direct response television advertising. Since then the company has evolved into an e-commerce retailer, selling a wide variety of products including; DVDs, apparel, jewelry, personal accessories, toys, small electronics and housewares. Currently located in Tinley Park, IL, PulseTV.com has combined an expanding online retail presence with aggressive discounts and qualified, opt-in email marketing to stay competitive and continue to grow.
PulseTV.com has adapted to the online marketplace by constantly innovating. At one point the company hosted and distributed the largest catalog of email newsletters – or e-zines – on the Internet, with clients such as Microsoft, Intel and Dell. As Pulsetv’s e-commerce division grew, the company dramatically expanded its own online retail presence, attracting customers by constantly adding new products and offering large discounts on everyday products.
Most recently we have begun producing in-house videos, using demonstrations to supplement product descriptions and help our customers visualize how the products work. Our customers tell us they like the videos as it aides in making a buying decision, but they love the videos for giving them a sense of who’s behind the company they are buying from.
We’re glad to be here and excited that you’ve found us at www.pulsetv.com. Now head on over and check out what’s new.