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Name:??Dan Lax

 

Job Title and Description:??Manager for Sales, Support and Operations at Zoara

 

College/Major:??International Relations (Bachelors), International Law (Masters)

 

Website:??www.zoara.com

 

Twitter Handle: none

 

 

 

 

Q. What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you

 

get it?

 

I was brought into the Zoara family by an investor in the previous company that I was working for who was looking for people to help start an online diamond and jewelry enterprise several years ago. I began with no actual knowledge of the jewelry and diamond trade at first as I came from a sales background, but after months of studying, research and various internships I realized my passion for everything related to diamonds and precious stones. After my internships with diamond manufacturers and jewelers both in the U.S. and abroad I realized that my calling was to sell these beautiful items directly to the customers. Back then Zoara was being built and I’m proud that much of my learning as well as that of my co-workers is reflected in most areas of our website.

 

Q. Can you tell me a little about your background before coming to

 

Zoara?

 

I actually started out in pharmaceutical sales for a while. I guess you could say that I became a bit disillusioned with the trade, particularly as I didn’t have much interaction with the recipients and users of our products and because the work was relatively monotonous. As a kid I was always fascinated by precious stones and my favorite birthday present was a rock polishing kit. However I never imagined that I would find myself leading a team of gemologists, support agents and responsible for the day to day operations of a website of Zoara’s magnitude. Other than being at Zoara, I enjoy anything outdoors. My happiest moments are either during a big diamond sale or on a snow covered peak.

 

Q. What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a

 

typical day?

 

My job includes managing our dedicated team of customer support agents to ensure that they are providing the highest standards of service possible. However I make a point of working as one of them whenever I can, which includes dealing with dozens of customers a day on regular issues as well as issues that require my personalized attention. I typically don’t introduce myself as the manager and I’m happy to hear from our customers that our level of service sticks to a high and consistent standard regardless of whom they speak to. Another very important part of my job is to maintain our relationships with our diamond vendors and also to make sure that our team of goldsmiths and gemologists are keeping up to schedule in completing orders on time. We try to keep a very high turnaround rate even though nearly every piece of jewelry that we sell is made from scratch. Needless to say that part of the company is always noisy and bustling!

 

As for typical days, there is no such thing as a “regular day at the office”. When enjoying access to over a million diamonds worldwide, hundreds of thousands of which are on the site and also serving customers from all four corners of the globe in several languages, our business never sleeps. Some of our most interesting cases were delivering an engagement ring by ski plane in February to a member of the Inuit nation in Nunavut and coordinating with the US military to get orders to FOP positions in Afghanistan that are only accessible by armed helicopters. Also, we are approached daily for specialized items that people typically don’t see on our site. We have had requests for specialized diamond shapes such as Buddha, the Star of David and crosses, and have made custom rings that I never would have imagined were possible to make if it weren’t for the skill of our goldsmiths and designers who are true magicians. We have also sold several unique sapphires, fancy color diamonds and emeralds that customers required, and each such request gives us the opportunities to learn new areas of the trade. I can’t say that a day has passed without us learning something new.

 

Q. What are your key selling points over other online diamond vendors?

 

I believe that other than top notch service, we do deviate from many of our competitors in certain aspects. First, our website is constantly being developed, improved and new features are always coming on as opposed to other sites that rarely change. We also develop our technology based on customer feedback and recommendations by our customer support team, who really know the site the best and provide the best insights. Our Real Diamond Photo feature is a terrific example as it’s unique to Zoara and almost no other competitor. Another point that we make is to ensure that the customer is getting the best value, which means that although we can sell customers higher priced items, we prefer to provide customers with options that will look just as good and cost less. We’re probably the only company who will convince a customer that most diamonds over VS1 are simply a waste of money. While of course this means that less money is made per sale, our customers are happier with our honesty and almost always return for wedding bands and other jewelry. This approach proves how good sales etiquette and honesty is a good investment. Finally, we treat every customer with the utmost care regardless of how much they intend on spending, or even if they are just window shopping. A great true story that I tell new employees is of a young man who approached us looking for a simple setting for a diamond that he inherited. He had visited 5 vendors before us and some of them were unwilling to deal with him unless he bought both items from them, and the others looked down on him. We welcomed his business even though it wasn’t much and also offered to set his diamond for free even though it was a unique shape and took a bit of work. 2 years later the gentleman’s mother came to us and asked us to custom make her a ring with a 5 carat emerald diamond that we sold for over $150,000. She told us that it was because her son was so impressed with the treatment that he received from us did she choose to buy this ring from our company. Again, good treatment of customers always pays!

 

Q. What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you

 

first started out that you know now?

 

Developing good contacts with our diamond vendors is something that we learned as we grew. I never knew how important it could be until we started doing a large amount of business with them. Also, it doesn’t hurt when you need a favor every now and then!

 

Q. Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

 

My fianc?? has always encouraged me to succeed in everything that I do. And yes, I got her ring from Zoara.

 

Q. What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

 

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work – he is the purpose of it.
We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.
– Mahatma Gandhi”

 

I have framed this quote and it’s above every desk in our office.

 

Q. What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn

 

from it?

 

We initially sold many EGL graded diamonds as they sold well and were inexpensive. However, due to many of them not passing our quality control we found ourselves constantly notifying customers that the diamonds weren’t up to the standards that we set for our products. This caused several issues and cancellations, so finally we adopted a strict policy regarding EGL diamonds and only offer stones that are of a higher quality. Indeed, only about 1-2% of our diamonds are EGL.

 

Q. What is the best part of your job?

 

Getting to hold a unique diamond or gemstone is always a thrill to me. Also, the rush of closing a large order can’t be beat. However, the best part by far is to hear the happy feedbacks from our customers of how the ring and quality of service has simply blown them away. We keep a photo album with proposal pictures and wedding pictures that are sent to us by our customers who want to share their happiness. I don’t think that there is any other business that I know of where customers show their gratitude as much as they do with diamonds and jewelry.

 

Q. What is the most popular combination of the 4C???s selling these days

 

on your site?

 

If a customer contacts me for their first time, I first ask for the 5th??C- Cost. Once I have the budget and assuming we are dealing with a round diamond under 1.5 carat, I always shoot for Excellent cut, I-H color, SI2-SI1 clarity (stones that have been checked to have been eye clean). I then choose the highest carat weight that I can and present several good options to the client. I believe that the cut and color are the most important combinations by far. Today’s customers are more educated and many already start off with these parameters, so it means that our message is being heard- pay money for features that you can appreciate!

 

Q. What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

 

A great service attitude, patience, creativity and a willingness to learn. Our training is about 6 months long as our agents all go through apprenticeships with our gemologists and goldsmiths once they complete their phase of theoretical training. Therefore, if the candidate has the “right stuff” I am happy to welcome entry level applicants.

 

Q. What do you tell people when they ask if it???s safe to buy diamonds

 

online?

 

It’s a completely legitimate question that I can understand given the blatant rip-offs that people typically see in the mall. All of our loose diamonds are certified and these certificates can be viewed on the lab’s website so customers can verify the information that they receive on the cert and the laser inscription and/or inclusion plot by comparing. The amount of unfair practices by brick and mortar stores dwarfs the complaints made towards online vendors, not just our company. In any case, we offer a flexible return policy just in case.

 

Q. What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

 

Study hard to be educated in your field, then use your personality to apply that knowledge correctly. I think that’s the key to success with any company, but particularly in jewelry sales where knowledge must be combined with the proper attitude.