Chewy’s customer service gets four paws

January 18, 2017 08:00 PM

Some customers get more than what they ordered when shopping with pet supply e-retailer Chewy Inc. The rapidly growing e-retailer—sales doubled to more than $850 million in 2016—commissions artists from across the country to paint 6 x 6-inch portraits of customers’ furry friends, and sends them to customers.

Chewy trains customer service reps to ask questions about the customer’s pet, which often leads the customer to send in pictures of their pet, either as part of a friendly conversation or so the representative can see the size or breed of the animal to help them advise the customer on what the best food or product might be. Chewy’s artists transform some of those photos into portraits.

The pet portrait program is just one of several tactics Chewy uses to ensure consumers will choose Chewy when it comes to future purchases.

The goal is to make any interaction a customer has with Chewy better than any experience they could have in a competitor’s bricks-and-mortar store, says Kelli Durkin, vice president of customer service. “We try for each customer experience to be unique. There are no automated systems, and each of our 450 customer service team members has autonomy to respond to almost every situation,” she says. “They often feel like they really get to know a customer over the course of a transaction with them.”

Chewy has prioritized superior customer service since its start in 2011, Durkin says. The e-retailer begins by making sure it has enough customer service staff on hand so whenever a customer calls or initiates a live chat, a representative answers her call or chat request within six seconds, while customers can expect a reply to email inquiries within a half an hour. The e-retailer’s customer service staff has grown alongside sales—its current 450-person customer service staff is double what it had a year ago—and agents answer inquires 24/7. The Dania Beach, Fla.-based e-retailer has of a total staff of 3,777 in four cities.

Chewy’s “WOW” team, which is what the e-retailer calls its customer service representatives, sends a handwritten thank you note to every first-time customer, and the team also sent out more than 2 million holiday cards to customers who placed orders during the holiday season. Recipients routinely post photos of their notes on their Facebook pages or on Chewy’s, and seeing their notes posted excites the service team, Durkin says. Photos of pet portraits get spread online too.

“Pet parents are literally talking to us about what they’re feeding their ‘children,’” Durkin says. “They’re taking their time when they’re on the phone with our team, and they really appreciate knowing that we’re listening and paying attention to them.”

Chewy declined to disclose how these efforts drive repeat purchasing or greater lifetime value, but Durkin says its customers are usually loyal advocates.

For more new approaches to customer service, check out the February issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Subscribe here.




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