Episode 55: From Skating Pro To CX Star - Princess Polly’s Alex Collis On Creating Spectacular Experiences

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This is a podcast episode titled, Episode 55: From Skating Pro To CX Star - Princess Polly’s Alex Collis On Creating Spectacular Experiences. The summary for this episode is: <p>What do pro figure-skating and customer experience have in common? A lot, actually.&nbsp;</p><p>Just ask <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriacollis/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Alex Collis</a>, Senior Director of Operations at <a href="https://us.princesspolly.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Princess Polly</a> - one of the fastest growing E-Comm brands in the world.</p><p>Alex has incorporated her unique (and ridiculously impressive) background into her current CX role, and she shares a whole lot of spectacular advice for others in the space. This week, on Flip CX’s Spamming Zero Podcast.&nbsp;</p><p>What’s Covered?&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Alex’s background in professional ice-skating &amp; what it’s taught her</li><li>Challenges in shifting careers + how Alex conquered them&nbsp;</li><li>Biggest contributors to Princess Polly’s extraordinary growth&nbsp;</li><li>Walking the line between giving your customers what they want &amp; remaining profitable&nbsp;</li><li>Alex’s top piece of advice for other E-Comm brands&nbsp;</li><li>Flip, Marry, Kill - CX Style&nbsp;</li><li>What’s next for Alex?&nbsp;</li><li>An experience that floored our guest&nbsp;</li><li>And more&nbsp;</li></ul><p><em>Ready for more fantastic Spamming Zero conversations ahead? Listen, rate, and subscribe on </em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/@spammingzeropodcast/videos" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>YouTube</em></a><em>, </em><a href="https://listen.casted.us/public/126/Spamming-Zero-50f3e248/1540dfdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>&nbsp;Casted</em></a><em>,</em><a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-1-introduction-to-spamming-zero/id1626323789?i=1000564895366" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em> Apple Podcast</em></a><em>, or</em><a href="https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5jYXN0ZWQudXMvMTI2L1NwYW1taW5nLVplcm8tNTBmM2UyNDgvZmVlZA" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em> Google podcasts</em></a><em>.</em></p>

James: What's up everybody? We are in June 2023, and this month's sponsor of the Spamming Zero podcast is Zowie, getzawie. com. What do they offer? They offer SMS, email and chat for your customer support. They actually have a few different products that I want to go into just quickly, but also in addition to all that, they're an amazing advocate for AI and teaching people about AI. They have an entire knowledge center that's called the AI Knowledge Center. You can subscribe to that. They provide a bunch of different material on many aspects of AI, not just related to the realm that they focus on. But here's some of their products. The first one is Zowie Automate, Zowie Care, Zowie Grow, and Zowie X1. I find it really fascinating because their grow product, for example, can turn every interaction that your agent has into a potential revenue stream. It's one of the most difficult things that we can do is trying to turn those interactions without it seeming like we're hard selling. Zowie helps you do that. The automation piece is pretty simple. It just gets rid of the repetitive tasks. We talk a lot about that at Flip as well. They do it on the email, SMS and chat. They also on their website, have a one- minute chatbot builder, so go play around with that. Again, getzowie. com.

Recording: I'm James. And I'm Brian. And this is Spamming Zero.

James: Ooh, it's another week with Spamming Zero. Welcome to the show, everybody. Super excited about this episode because we have Alex Collis, who is the senior director of operations at Princess Polly. 40 Under 40 in retail. By the way, if you are watching the video version of this, I asked her prior to the show what these awards are above her. She's going to show us her collection of amazing awards.

Alex Collis: Oh my gosh.

James: Can you do that? This is wild. Look at this.

Alex Collis: Yeah, there's inaudible. The Stevie's, the Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer Service. There's a few of those. International Business Awards, American Business Awards. Some of them are for Executive of the years. Woman of the Year. Young Professional, they do this one, I'm not eligible anymore, but they do this one, you have to be under 30 by a certain date. Yeah, I'm not eligible anymore, but I got that one before I turned 30. Just some fun things. It's awesome that the CX industry does things like that and awards people that are so passionate because there's so much passion to have for your customers. Really, really awesome.

James: Needless to say, Alex knows her stuff quite well, so this is going to be a great episode. I'm excited about it. We're going to be talking about Alex's journey, who, by the way, she was a professional ice skater. Is this correct?

Alex Collis: Yeah, so random.

James: We're going to dive into this. This is going to be so fun. But first, introduce yourself to the audience. Tell the audience a little bit about who you are, some of your background. Let's start there.

Alex Collis: Yeah, absolutely. As James mentioned, I'm Alex Collis, the Senior Director of Operations at Princess Polly. We are one of the fastest growing e- commerce fashion brands in the world. Have been very, very exciting. My journey, as you mentioned, very interesting. It started in an unconventional setting, which was an ice rink. I was competitive and then turned professional for many years. I started around the age of eight, probably younger, because my mother had skated and took me here and there, but really started taking lessons. Just through it brought so much discipline and perseverance and the thrill of performance into my life, and it also sparked my love for fashion. As a child, I found myself enchanted by the pages of Vogue Magazine. This is before social media and everybody pushing fashion as an agenda, I think. I would creatively reimagine the model's outfits into figure skating dresses. And I learned to sew and sketch and even designed some of my skating costumes. I just always envisioned myself as this fashion designer in my future. That was my ultimate goal. And then I stopped competing around the age of 18. I was in this really what I thought at the time was this career ending car accident. It was really bad. And I went through some rehab and then just decided to turn professional. I began touring with professional figure skating shows, toured about 200 cities and about 40 countries, so have been all over the world. And a lot of that culture and things has also helped me in my career as it stands now. I think when I realized I was done with that, I wanted the consistency because on tour you travel every single week or sometimes twice a week to a new city. I did this for several years. At one point I was like, " All right, I need some consistency." So, I decided to come back to the U. S., went to fashion school, and only to realize that my true passion really laid on what I thought was design. I started pattern drafting and everything, and I realized I have to dress a bust form. I don't get to wear this. I'm making this thing, but nobody gets to wear it. So, turned my gears toward the marketing and creative side, and that's what I ultimately went to school for. But in this shift in my career, over the years I had held several managerial positions within companies on the retail side of things, and then had a stint at Rent the Runway during their subscription expansion phase. This role is really what exposed me to the invigorating challenges of exponential growth within a customer- centric model. I guess it was really during this time, I discovered my love for the customer experience and that it played a vital role in retail that just totally resonated with me. From there, I think the call of the Australians was too strong to ignore because I was really drawn to the vibrant and playful spirit of Princess Polly and it was a brand that mirrored my own passion. Joined the team as we were preparing to launch the U. S. operation, and just making this exciting turning point in my career. Since then, have just been part of this phenomenal growth. We launched the U. S. operation in 2019. Went public in 2021, had the honor of attending the New York Stock Exchange, so very, very exciting. And just circling back to that journey from the ice rink to where I am now and the path that's just been filled with so much discovery and challenge and probably most importantly, a whole lot of fun.

James: I got to unpack two things that you said. I'm genuinely curious about this and I don't know, maybe if you even have some pictures of this, maybe we could put it in the blog post.

Alex Collis: Oh my God, yeah.

James: Okay. You designed some of your own costumes. What was your favorite one? Describe it to the audience? What was-

Alex Collis: Oh my gosh. I have so many, but my favorite one, and I always was inspired by the music and whatever I was skating to. It was really important for my coaches and myself to create... It's so funny because all of this just ties directly to what I do now but create an experience. It was about creating an experience for the audience, at that time for the judges and telling a story. Each program is what we call them or routine, had a story. This one storyline, it was basically I was a musician, and again, not as theatrical as you might think, but the inspiration behind it, the dress itself it was red, and we could totally do a photo if you want. I created this really awesome pattern that had a music note coming down the very center of the bust. And then it turned into the strings and down the whole back was all these music notes. The number was a very jazzy number. It was a technical competition, which is something you'd maybe see on TV. It was just so jazzy and fun. Competitive skating costume, so again, not as theatrical, but that was probably one of my more favorite ones. And something that I had so much to do with the whole design of it that... Just so much fun. I look back and I think about all these things. Oftentimes, the music was probably what would inspire ultimately what I wore.

James: I love that. I'm super passionate about music. Music is one thing that really gets me, and I definitely-

Alex Collis: Do you play instruments or do you play?

James: Yeah, I do. I don't talk about it a lot, but when I lost my eyesight, I actually taught myself how to play piano.

Alex Collis: Really? Oh my, that's fascinating.

James: I don't even put my hands on the keys the right way. People that play professionally and stuff, they'll see how I put my hands on the keys and they're like, "What in the world? What are you doing?" But I make it work and I can only play by ear, so it's fun.

Alex Collis: inaudible.

James: I love it. We are definitely including a picture. If you have one, we have got to put it on there. I would love to do that.

Alex Collis: I probably have the sketch somewhere.

James: We should do that. That'd be wild. I grew up with two sisters, actually three sisters, and they were into competitive dance, sort of I would go to their competitions with them. I didn't get the opportunity to delve into the world of figure skating. But dance competitions are somewhat very similar, the amount of work that has to go in there and the discipline. It just so happens that now have a daughter who's 14, and she just made her first competitive dance group and she's-

Alex Collis: Congrats. So exciting.

James: It's exciting and she's super excited about it. But I can't help but relive some of the nightmares that I remember my sister's going through. And I'm like, all right, so tell me, as a dad, how do I make sure that she doesn't feel those same nightmares?

Alex Collis: Oh my gosh. Did you ever play a sport or anything?

James: Yeah, I played basketball, played-

Alex Collis: Okay, so you know. It's the same thing. It's all relative. I think probably the most important thing is nothing is ever just perfect. It takes practice. That is probably the most important thing. That will take you so far in life. There are so many lessons from this portion of my life in skating that totally translate into what I'm doing now. It's all discipline and this emphasis on progress over perfection. More than anything, skating taught me that the journey matters as much as the destination. Again, these insights have been a fundamental part of my own career. When you watch ice skating... When you're watching it on TV, what is something that's really impressive to you?

James: It tells a story. And it tells a story through non- verbal cues, which I think is the beauty of dance, right?

Alex Collis: Totally. I wouldn't say this is as often in dance as it is in skating, but in skating you're always falling down and you're always getting back up. That teaches you... Again, taking it back to the discipline, you literally fall down and you're expected to get up and just have a smile on your face and keep going. This applies to anyone in any industry, whether you're in a startup or e- commerce or your daughter who's in dance. You're going to encounter hurdles and make mistakes and face failures, but it's your ability to get back up and learn from these experiences and just keep pushing forward, that truly matters. Gosh, if there was any advice, focus on progress over perfection.

James: I love that advice.

Alex Collis: That's what I would say.

James: Great advice. I tell her all the time, " Hey, look, now you've made a competitive team, which is awesome. But now in order to keep making the competitive team, you got to just continually improve every day when you can."

Alex Collis: 100%. And I think too, you learn a lot about yourself. You learn so much about yourself. If you can stay present in the moment with your own thoughts and maybe not what other people are thinking, that's another thing in a sport like dance or ice skating or anything where you're always up against those kinds of challenges. That's another one, to stay strong and trust your internal confidence more than anything.

James: Love that. Let's talk a little bit about... I want to be sensitive to the fact that you went through it through an accident, but do you get an opportunity to explore that passion of figure skating today, and when was the last time you got to?

Alex Collis: Okay, so this is going to sound so funny. I do still skate. Of course, any figure skater will always skate if they have the ability. Especially if you get to a certain level, it is ingrained in you. I put it before anything or anyone else in my life. My number one passion, my truest passion. When I stopped skating, I didn't really ever stop again, but just I shifted gears toward my career now. And the way I think about this is I had so much passion to give and so much energy that I spent towards pursuing this goal with skating to get to a point where I realized there are other things in life that were also important to me. And I just injected all of this passion and purpose into what I'm doing now. I know a lot of people say it's sounds all so inspiring and it is. But I totally still skate. I just did a performance actually with a group. I live in Los Angeles, but I'm from the Bay Area. So, I went back up home. I'm from Santa Rosa, California where Charles Schulz actually created the Peanuts characters. So, there is a world up at Snoopy's Home Ice is forever my home. I traveled back up there. Charles Schulz was known for also having these massive, beautiful, stunning figure skating shows during the wintertime. And then also, during the summer, there was this senior world hockey tournament and they had the hockey players. I have a friend, she has a nonprofit, it's called Redwood Ice Theater Company. I just did a show where it's called the Glitter Games. And we brought in professional figure skaters and hockey players. Basically, me and my hockey player partner, spent two days learning a routine together. We choreographed the whole thing and then skated in a... It was this hour- long show, but it was competition where the different pairs would compete against each other. It was so much fun. I still stay very involved and connected. Again, my whole community is that world. Really fun and it also just brings back all the childhood memories. I grew up doing some of those shows. My first show was when I was actually 11 years old. I was in the very last Charles Schulz show as Woodstock the bird. It was so incredibly special. I still do skate, my long- winded answer there. God, you get me reminiscing about all this stuff and then I get so excited.

James: That's the point. That's why we want to talk about stuff that people are passionate about. I am guilty in the fact that I am not a good figure skater.

Alex Collis: Not many people are unless you really trained, so no judgements.

James: I fall so much, it's ridiculous but I do watch it a lot. When the Olympics come on, I especially watch it. I think my mom and my sisters instilled that in me because that was their thing. They loved watching figure skating. Kristi Yamaguchi back in the day.

Alex Collis: Yeah. Scott Hamilton has another organization. It's the Scott CARES Foundation. And they came up to Santa Rosa, Kristi Yamaguchi, her husband, who's a well- known hockey player, they were all there as well. And we did a whole thing for what would have been Charles Schulz's 100th birthday. It was in celebration of life for him, and all the proceeds... It was over$ 120,000 I believe that was donated to his organization. Again, that part of the community, there's so many things that they're doing to give back, and it's always fun to be part of all of that.

James: I have this wild idea for you. You could take it or leave it, but you did this little mini Dancing with the Stars thing for figure skating and you brought in the hockey players.

Alex Collis: Yeah.

James: Why not do a fashion show with Princess Polly's product lines this way? You guys are opening up a U. S. location. You could do something really cool.

Alex Collis: That's right.

James: I'm just saying.

Alex Collis: There's going to be a lot of fun stuff. Stay tuned for more on all of that with Princess Polly. We are opening up our first store at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles, and it's coming this fall, so also overseeing that. It's been a very exciting time for us. More to come and we're absolutely going to have events. I know our customers are totally going to love it.

James: All right. Well, maybe that's not the greatest idea, but I think it'd be pretty cool.

Alex Collis: You know what? You never know, James. You just never know.

James: It's true. I'm sure you probably have much better ideas than that, but it's worth a shot. What are the big challenges that you ran into as you went from shifting careers into what you're in today? What are the big challenges and how did you overcome them?

Alex Collis: I guess transitioning from, again, this professional athlete to a leader in e- commerce, it's been a journey. I would say there's probably three main challenges. And that would be just refining leadership skills, combating self- doubt, I mentioned that. And then just demonstrating resilience. I'd say first stepping into a leadership role. It really required not only building up my technical expertise, but also my ability to just inspire a team. It was here that I think I really realized the significance of having a career coach. And much my coaches in skating, my career coach has played an instrumental role in shaping my leadership style and just honestly accelerating my growth into this corporate world. I highly recommend a coach for anybody that doesn't have one or that's looking to shift focuses or shift gears or just needs that guidance. Find an industry expert or find a leadership coach or find somebody that can help inspire you and help you through yourself navigating and achieving your goals. I firmly believe that setting a goal is really important because while you might not always achieve it, you can at least have a structure like plans and something in place to help get you there, which I think is so important. I would say just on that self- doubt bit, this was a significant hurdle. Now you have to think of in ice skating, when you go out and you compete, you're just judged. You're literally judged by everyone. Your results are based off of someone else's opinion. There is absolutely technical things in place to allow the technical ability to speak for itself, but there is absolutely this element of just what people prefer. So, you're constantly dealing with that. I've always had to remind myself not to let the external voices cloud my self- perception. Just drawing parallels to my figure skating days, where I focused on just the routine and the performance and not the crowd's opinions. And I think that that's so important. Again, probably where that leadership coach can help to come in or somebody that can help you recognize why you are the way you are. And just knowing that you having this internal confidence can make such a difference. Again, then on the resilience side of things, it's just a key trait that I've transferred over from my skating career directly. Just in skating where a fall doesn't define the performance, it's the grace in which you rise and continue that does. I learned to really see the setbacks as opportunities in disguise. And displaying resilience as a leader, it also serves to inspire your team and it demonstrates that they can also overcome challenges. I think that it's so important too because, again, in e- commerce, like instead of seeking this unreachable perfection, it's vital to just celebrate the incremental achievements and focus on long- term progress. I think that that-

James: There's so many components in e- commerce, right?

Alex Collis: Totally.

James: This is something that we've been talking a lot about internally at Flip. And one of the things that I keep reminding everybody like, " Hey, you know what? Yes, we have a product that is great and serve somebody who's in e- commerce, but we're one little piece of the pie and the bigger picture is much bigger than us." The more that we can help, I think this is especially true for vendors out there that are listening to. The more that you can help tackle the bigger piece and help an e- commerce company tackle those things that maybe your product can't provide value, the more that the people that are taking these products are going to be able to find value, not just in the product that you're giving, but also the relationship that you're trying to build with them.

Alex Collis: Oh, absolutely. I 100% agree with you and I speak to the partnerships and relationships things all the time because, again, there's so much that you can learn from other people and that you can also teach them. That collaborative partnership... I'm very thankful in which all of our partners are always so supportive of our personalized customer journey. We don't want just out of the box, no. We are where we are because we have done things differently and we've done things that work for us specifically for our customers. I have so much respect in those partners and those companies that are absolutely willing to ensure that their partnerships are a critical element to their success. Of course, it is. It's part of the business model, but you know what I'm saying?

James: Yeah.

Alex Collis: You genuinely have to care. And for those that do well, the skies are the limit.

James: Yeah, I completely agree. Let's shift gears a little bit because I want to dive into what you have just talked about and what makes Princess Polly unique. You've been part of the growth journey here. Dive a little bit deeper into what you feel like has contributed to the growth and being one of the fastest growing e- commerce brands in the world.

Alex Collis: Oh, totally. Gosh, I will tie this right back to people. I would say our people and our customers, that's been the key to our success. I'm so honored to share a space with our team that includes some of the most passionate individuals that genuinely love what they do and are so dedicated to our mission to make on trend fashion sustainable and accessible. There's something to be said about our leadership that inspires individuals. On the customer side though, to me, the incredible customer journeys that we've always created, our product, our values, I'll speak to the CX side of things, we genuinely listen to our customers. This is not just at the CX level, this is at every level in the organization. I know companies say that they do this, but we really do. CX is all about creating memorable and positive interactions between a customer and a brand and fostering satisfaction. I'll say my little quote that I often say at conferences or when I speak, and that is the customer experience is the heart of an organization and we pump the blood and deliver oxygen to vital organs in the business to help them thrive and grow stronger. So, a lot of our business decisions are based on things like comments, DMs on social media that we receive, the customer support tickets, of course, along with product reviews, the general feedback like returns feedback. For example, people said they wanted sustainable options, so now we have this lower impact line. People said they wanted petite sizes, now we have petite sizes available. People said they wanted a store, we're bringing you a store. I could talk about this all day. If a customer has an issue with a package, it's so interesting to me that in a lot of organizations, CX will sit under marketing. I think that's a mistake.

James: I agree.

Alex Collis: We have it in operations and there's a reason for that. I get asked this question all the time, why is it that way for you? You get a customer support ticket that's like a Wizmo direct question, where's my order? Or why is it delayed? Or whatever. Is the marketing leader going to go talk to the freight provider company or go chat with a 3PL to go talk with the freight? No. Oftentimes, it's these Band- Aid solutions to fix problems, whereas within operations, you can just attack every single problem and fix it, which is super cool. I think because of that, I would absolutely say that has a direct correlation to our success. When we launched in the U. S., all we did was listen to feedback and where we needed to improve. Hands down.

James: I love that. There's also a healthy balance of trying to make sure that you're not... And this is going to sound terrible, but different frame of mind here, but you don't want to do everything that your customers want you to do.

Alex Collis: Right. There's a line.

James: Yeah, there's a line there. How do you gauge that? There's always feedback coming from customers and different ideas that they could probably throw at you. How do you weigh the difference? Is it, oh, well, we're hearing the majority of the time or a certain percentage or how do you that internally?

Alex Collis: Absolutely. We'll quantify the issues and figure out... Again, I think the other element that we're not considering here is what's also important to every other department to help create CX and just operational synergy and really foster the relationships and collaboration between teams. Because sometimes your priority might not be another team's priority, and that obviously needs to be considered. That's really important in the decision- making process of what we choose to do when and how. Of course, we'll run so much analytics and data before we ever make a decision. So, I would also argue that we don't just listen. We will run analysis on different topics and cross correlate different data points to really point us in the right direction. All of the decisions that we make are absolutely driven by data. If there is a 911 and it's very obvious, then immediately all teams are on board to just pivot. And that's also really important. I think that collaboration and that ability to adapt, the idea of scrappiness is of virtue and you got to make it work. Some things may take a sideline for a second, but if there is a 911, it's all hands on deck. I guess it just depends. Very, very determined by the situation itself.

James: Yeah, I love the way that you're approaching that too, because I do think that it's important to use data for sure. That's actually my background for my career and how I even got to where I'm at is the data stuff.

Alex Collis: And did it help you?

James: It's literally the only reason why I'm a CMO today.

Alex Collis: There you go.

James: I am not great with writing. I'm getting better at it and I'm a great storyteller.

Alex Collis: Well, now you have ChatGPT to help you.

James: Exactly. But that wasn't a strong suit of mine, and typically marketers are really, really good at that part. I'm really creative with brand and stuff, but data is what did it for me. Being able to understand that and then how to manipulate the data so that you can actually make it actionable is a big part of it.

Alex Collis: That is so important. It's one thing to just like, Hey, everyone, here's a report. Here's the data to pay attention to. It's a whole nother thing when it's actionable insights. It's so important to actually... And again, from a time perspective and where your dollars are going towards people's time, that is so important so that you've got this efficiency and you're not wasting time more than anything.

James: Yeah. I want to talk a little bit about what... Most of the audience that listens to the show are directly in a role in e- commerce or they're at an e- commerce brand. I would love for you to tell our listeners, what's your big piece of advice that you would give to e- commerce brands on... What's something that you feel like they need to focus on?

Alex Collis: I could get super specific about this. I would say that just a high level of what I think people need to do to find success is just dare to be different. Innovation is what got us to where we are. Not copying other people. Again, I am pushing back on this to listen to the customer, but you have to make decisions based on data and feedback and not just do what everybody else is doing because that same copy paste model, it's like implementing a new solution, like I said. Everything is so customized to your specific customer journey. I think that's so important because any brand can go and just copy another brand and their strategies, but it's how they're actually executing their strategies that you might not know. I think that that can be a mistake. There are just so many companies out there that are in similar parallels now in the e- commerce space, and I think that you don't want to lose sight of that. You don't want to lose sight of like, well, they're doing this, let's do that. Innovation is just so important for what works best for you.

James: I wasn't planning on asking you this, but now I want to know. Obviously, Princess Polly is bar none ahead of the curve of most, but what other brands in e- commerce would you say are ahead of the curve in this area?

Alex Collis: I think it would just depend on what specific thing you're looking at. I think there are companies that have their strong suits and there are companies that are a little behind. I hate saying this word and I hate comparing anything to it. It's the A word. Do you know what I'm going to say?

James: No, but I can't wait to hear it.

Alex Collis: Amazon.

James: Oh, yeah.

Alex Collis: Unfortunately, what's what they're doing with... Maybe I'll use an example so people understand. From especially the customer experience side of things, like to be able to pick up in a lot of different places, return your stuff in a lot of different places. They make it so easy. What brands face is trying to keep up with that. I don't want to name a brand directly in our parallel that I think is doing anything... I think we're doing it by far the best. But there's constantly changes in tech, in AI, which is a hot topic right now, as I'm sure you know. There's just constantly so much to do, try and keep ahead of the curve. I don't really have, I guess, a specific answer for you. Hopefully, that was specific enough.

James: I think about brands that are being innovative and different in the market in e- commerce. And there's two that come to mind right away as well, besides Princess Polly, which by the way is always on the top of the mind and the top of the list. I think about Liquid Death. They're just so irreverent at doing things so different. I think about how Aviator Nation has grown and their drops in California doing their concerts where they will release product clothings. Their scarcity tactics-

Alex Collis: Again, there's a whole other side of things too with tech. And again, the metaverse. Who's jumping into that right now? Again, I think it depends on your industry too. It varies between industries. But yeah, I hear you. I totally hear you.

James: All right. Let's play a little game, Alex.

Alex Collis: Okay.

James: We play FMK on our podcast. Tell us something you think is sexy in e- commerce right now.

Alex Collis: Okay. I just said it, AI and the ChatGPT experiences.

James: I did not think that's where you were going. I did not at all.

Alex Collis: Really? It's such a hot topic right now. How can it not be the number one thing on everyone's mind? And listen, I have never been into the robotic chatbots. When you ask it a question and it recommends an article, it's just a terrible and sometimes very frustrating experience. But there is just this whole world of unknowns right now, and it's such a thrilling and exciting time. And there are some people that are out there doing it right now. I think there's also a lot of risk involved and a lot that you have to be mindful of. But that is something that I would say I absolutely think it's totally trendy right now in the e- comm space, whether it's from the CX side or the marketing side, or there's so many different sides to it and facets to it that... What were you thinking I was going to say?

James: I don't know. I just did not think it was going to be Ai. There's so many people out there that we've talked to on the show and just outside the show too that, to your point, have a lot of fear with AI right now. We actually just did a big digital event where we brought in some AI vendors and literally talked about from a technical perspective, how there are certain things you need to be asking vendors. You need to be looking at their product roadmaps. You need to be understanding how they have security and compliance and governance-

Alex Collis: Security and data is probably the number one thing right now. Absolutely.

James: By the way, in this event, it was the number one thing people were asking questions about.

Alex Collis: That's what I mean.

James: By a long ways. It wasn't even close. I just-

Alex Collis: Who know where it's going to go? I just think it's such a thrilling and exciting time because this is another shift in technology and we are not even hardly scratching the surface of it. I think there are a lot of things out there that are experiences that maybe they're not based on the same ChatGPT experience, but more of the language learning models. There are things that are innovative out there that right now can be used and are safe, but that whole other world of it, I think, I'm just excited about to see what everybody does with all of this. In the tech industry right now, it's just such a controversial topic as well, which I think, again, why I find it-

James: Exciting.

Alex Collis: ...innovative, and trendy.

James: Have you played around with Midjourney at all? It's a design-

Alex Collis: A little bit.

James: ...element of ChatGPT. Okay. Listen, I may be crazy here, but I'm going to make a prediction.

Alex Collis: Do it. Let's see.

James: In the next 12 months, I think that there will be more fashion brands using a design element like Midjourney, taking an initial concept that a human being comes up with and using AI to create different variations of it at a much quicker scale. I genuinely think this is going to happen. I saw this image today on a LinkedIn post, and this gentleman has been using Midjourney since it very first came out, which was in 2022, early 2022. He showed the same exact prompt that he gave it, which happened to be a Yoda selfie. If you're a Star Wars fan, you know what I'm talking about. And it was like this distorted image of a Yoda. It didn't even make sense. He did it again three months later, then did it again three months later and showed the progression all the way through today. You would not believe just in one year the-

Alex Collis: I'm totally going to look this up.

James: I will send it to you.

Alex Collis: Okay. Yeah, please do.

James: It is wild to see just in one year the-

Alex Collis: Transformation.

James: ...progress that it's made. I think obviously, more companies are going to be leveraging AI more than ever. All right. Let's go to the next question. What's something you love and you've loved for a while and you hope it sticks around?

Alex Collis: Okay. I love that people are realizing that CX and operational synergy is the critical path to truly making a difference. Like I said, people often ask me about why CX lives under operations. I think more than ever, CX has become the forefront of listening to your customers paying attention, truly making change happen. So, I really hope that that sticks around. Again, being a CX advocate myself, I know how much data there is there to just dig into and ways that it can truly make a difference in your organization. So, I would say that's what, hands down, I hope it sticks around. The mentality of it becoming... Because there was this one day when everybody just like, customer service is the cost center of the business and we've just got to do it. And it's not that way. At least it's not in our organization. I really hope that I continue to see that again to the point of awarding people that are passionate about it. I absolutely think that that's fantastic. It only inspires the community more.

James: By the way, small little plug. Alex is one of the judges for the Back of the Customer inaudible. Super excited about that. That's going to be-

Alex Collis: Me too. Can become a CX award- winning leader.

James: Yeah, we're excited about that one.

Alex Collis: inaudible.

James: And honored that you're participating as a judge. That's going to be exciting.

Alex Collis: Yeah, I'm very excited.

James: All right. What do you want to get rid of? What do you wish was gone like yesterday?

Alex Collis: There are so many things. Okay, this is funny because it's so important, but can I just say returns? I want to get rid of returns altogether. I wish that it wasn't reliant on people coming back to us, but it totally is. If there was something I could just kill and it'd be totally fine and life goes on and it doesn't impact a business, then I would absolutely say... It's just something that, trying to create an experience. Number one, it's also the most expensive part of operating. Just the economics of it can be very costly, but I think they're, in some cases a little bit broken right now with customers expecting the world of how to return something. I just think there's a lot of opportunity for it. Maybe that's really what I'm suggesting here. Not that I want to kill it, but still so much opportunity for it. I would argue we have an incredible return policy that we're super proud to have built. We just keep exploring more ways to make that customer journey super seamless and easy, but also have it make sense financially.

James: Love it. Okay. We're going to play another little game that's rapid- fire questions. Are you ready?

Alex Collis: Okay.

James: By the way, I did not forewarn Alex on this.

Alex Collis: What are these questions going to be?

James: That's a great question. Okay. First one I got for you is I want you to fill in the blank. I wish that figure skating was what?

Alex Collis: On TV more often.

James: Love it. Okay. See, you were scared of the question, but it wasn't as bad as you thought.

Alex Collis: Yeah, it just needs to be. I feel like besides the I, Tonya movie and all of those things that people know about figure skating or oh, I watch it when it's on the Olympics. No, I want it to be a bigger sport. It needs to be on TV more.

James: Okay, so fill in the blank or tell me what you would do in this situation. You suddenly get this really great budget that you haven't had. You get all this new discretionary funds. Let's say you get, this is a way big exaggeration, but you get a million dollars, the Princess Polly gives you right on the spot. They're like, " Hey, do whatever you want with it." What are you doing with it?

Alex Collis: Invest it in my people and leadership development.

James: Love it.

Alex Collis: It would inaudible.

James: Unconventional.

Alex Collis: That's just what I would totally do with it. Again, I've been talking a little bit about this today is people's development and investing in people is so important. So, being able to empower them and have the ability to do that. But there are so many other places that I could totally put that money too.

James: I think with a million dollars, you might be able to do all the investment in your people plus then do something really cool too.

Alex Collis: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, 100%

James: All right. We're almost at time. We're going to ask two more questions. The last one that we're going to ask is about an experience that you've had. But before we do that, what's next for you?

Alex Collis: What's next for me?

James: What are your top goals? What's on the horizon for Alex?

Alex Collis: My purpose is to add value to people that I come in contact with and inspire them through passion and purposeful leadership. One thing that I've always wanted to do is write a book. I'm in the process of doing that right now. It intertwines a little bit of some of the things we've talked about today with my experience. Yeah, it's just a goal that I have for myself and something that I want to accomplish over this next chapter, no pun intended, but totally pun intended, of my life.

James: We're going to have to chat separately because I'm in the middle of a book right now as well.

Alex Collis: Amazing.

James: We should compare notes. inaudible.

Alex Collis: I'm here for it. 100%.

James: All right, so let's end the show with this question. We end the show the same way every single time. Tell us about an experience that you've had that you were like, oh, holy smokes. That was awesome.

Alex Collis: Okay, so this is going to maybe be a little bit weird, but it was actually on my honeymoon. Got married in September, and my husband and I went to Bora Bora and a couple of the islands of Tahiti, including one that's called Mo'orea. It was an in- person experience. While we were there, it was, I think too, because it's after years of sitting at home and being online. We go and we have interactions with people and humans, but just a lot of FaceTime on online. And being in- person for this tour that we went on, it was an ATV tour around the island. And just hear me out with where I'm going with this. But during this tour, the tour guide was very passionate about where he was from, and we went all up and down. It was this four- hour adventure and we learned a lot about the culture and it was just such a physically beautiful, but also just a beautiful culture. I've done a lot of traveling and I love interacting and engaging with people from all different walks of life. And this tour guide, at the end of the tour, we went to this... The tour ends with this smoothie juice where they make fresh smoothies and juice with the fruit out in the back, that's grown right there. And it's so delicious. We're sitting there and it was myself, my husband, and then this other couple who were also on their honeymoon. FYI, if you ever go to Tahiti during the months of September, October, November, it's just couples everywhere. Just people on their honeymoons and it was hysterical. But this other couple and the tour guide. We're sitting there and little did we know... We started talking about life and just the beauty of life and this guy's story. Little did we know, it turns out that the tour guide lost his 100- year- old grandmother the night before. He was so passionate about his job, what he does, where he is from, his life. He just took the time to express himself and it was beautiful. It was so rewarding to just be in the presence of this man who was talking about the amazing... It makes me tear up. I'm not kidding you. I recorded it and I still have it to look back onto this day. He talks about just not letting the little things in life bother you, and that it's just through connections with people and your experiences of the world around you that matter. It just gives me chills to even say it because it was a total... I was not expecting to have this eye- opening experience during this time. That is something that I respect so much. That's the joy and wisdom and value I hope to add to other people's lives. It just made me really recognize what I love to do and how do I continue to provide experiences like that, whether it's in person or online to others around me.

James: I love it. Alex, you've been amazing.

Alex Collis: Thank you.

James: Alex Collis from Princess Polly. By the way, I think this could happen future Olympic figure skater judge.

Alex Collis: Yeah, we'll see. I think it absolutely could happen. But is that the journey I'm on right now? Not so much, but that would be a whole nother... Maybe when I'm retired, to be honest.

James: That it would be really cool. I'm just saying. Alex, you've been amazing. Thank you so much.

Alex Collis: Thank you so much for having me. This has been so wonderful chatting today, so thank you.


What do pro figure-skating and customer experience have in common? A lot, actually. 

Just ask Alex Collis, Senior Director of Operations at Princess Polly - one of the fastest growing E-Comm brands in the world.

Alex has incorporated her unique (and ridiculously impressive) background into her current CX role, and she shares a whole lot of spectacular advice for others in the space. This week, on Flip CX’s Spamming Zero Podcast. 

What’s Covered? 

  • Alex’s background in professional ice-skating & what it’s taught her
  • Challenges in shifting careers + how Alex conquered them 
  • Biggest contributors to Princess Polly’s extraordinary growth 
  • Walking the line between giving your customers what they want & remaining profitable 
  • Alex’s top piece of advice for other E-Comm brands 
  • Flip, Marry, Kill - CX Style 
  • What’s next for Alex? 
  • An experience that floored our guest 
  • And more 

Ready for more fantastic Spamming Zero conversations ahead? Listen, rate, and subscribe on YouTube,  Casted, Apple Podcast, or Google podcasts.

Today's Host

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Brian Schiff

|CEO of Flip
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James Gilbert

|CMO of Flip

Today's Guests

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Alexandria Collis

|Sr Director Of Operations at Princess Polly | 40 Under 40 Retail TouchPoints 2022
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