The Secret Behind Chewy’s Customer Acquisition Strategy

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How customer service contributes to Chewy’s successful customer acquisition strategy.

Customer service is becoming an increasingly significant part of the customer experience, and brands are searching for ways to go above and beyond their customers’ expectations. The bottom line is that customers are more likely to remain loyal and/or refer a brand after having a positive experience. In fact, a study conducted by American Express reveals that “7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service.”  

Online pet food distributor Chewy was able to master the art of delivering excellent customer service. Chewy is the leading seller of pet food online—above Amazon. As a result, they were also able to sell their company to Petsmart for a reported $3.35 billion.

Chewy’s success has piqued the interest of many in the ecommerce community. Kelli Durkin, Chewy’s VP of Customer Service, spoke with CommerceNext Co-Founder Veronika Sonsev at the CommerceNext 2018 ecommerce conference. They discussed Chewy’s customer service strategy and the fierce customer loyalty and the numerous referrals that have resulted from that strategy.  

Why did Chewy choose to differentiate based on customer service?

Durkin tells the story of their Founder Ryan Cohen who has a teacup poodle of his own, Tylie:

“When [Cohen] went into the boutique pet shop in Miami, [an employee] would greet him at the door, [they] would smile, [they] would ask about Tylie. And he just knew there was a way to bring that online and really disrupt what was going on with pet food.”

This is where the inspiration for Chewy was born. The founders knew that if Chewy wasn’t the best at customer service then they would be pushed out by the bigger brands. Bigger brands could offer faster delivery times, cheaper products, and more.

This is when Chewy adopted a company-wide “customer-first culture.”

What is the role of VP of Customer Service?

Durkin’s role at Chewy is to build a culture within customer service. She achieves this by treating Chewy’s customer service agents like their external customers, “wowing” and delighting them.

Chewy does not follow the traditional call center training method. Durkin’s main challenge is to teach employees to think outside the box, become an expert in their industry and go above and beyond for their customers. This includes every employee from packaging to customer service.

How does Chewy’s customer service exceed expectations?

Durkin explains that Chewy tries to go above and beyond customer expectations with every interaction. For example, one team objective is to pick up the phone within six seconds. Another is to answer all questions without having to transfer or escalate the customer. One of the more personalized and impressive examples was sending over six million handwritten holiday cards to their customers which cost the company almost $100,000 in postage alone

Chewy's handwritten postcards
Chewy’s handwritten postcards

How has great customer service helped Chewy acquire new customers?

Durkin believes that an important aspect of Chewy’s customer service success is that agents don’t read from a script or sound robotic. Customers find it refreshing that Chewy employees treat them like family.  As a result, they want to share their experiences with their own family and friends.

Watch the breakout session: “How Chewy Uses Customer Service as an Acquisition Strategy”:

What methods does Chewy use to measure customer service success?  

Durkin explains that Chewy measures Net Promoter Score and reads every review to measure success, “We have folks in customer service that are dedicated to reading and responding to reviews. We are proactive about responding to our customer reviews to show them that we care.”

With Chewy leading by example, how can brands model their own customer service strategy?

In order to compete with big-name retailers and large online ecommerce websites, smaller start-up brands need to consider how they will differentiate themselves. In Chewy’s case, they chose to provide a white-glove customer service experience. The resulting positive recommendations by word of mouth turned into a successful acquisition strategy for their brand.

Consider how you can apply their findings to your own ecommerce site:

  • What steps can you take to set your brand up for success against larger ecommerce companies? Larger companies can easily manage shipping speed and lower prices, so what sets your brand apart?
  • From order creation to delivery, it’s important that every team member – regardless of their job function or department – plays a vital role in working towards that differentiator. How can you set your team up for success so that everyone contributes?
  • How do you plan to measure your differentiator? In Chewy’s example, they actively monitor all online reviews and have a dedicated team in charge of responding to feedback. Make sure you have a plan in place to ensure your team meets and exceeds expectations for whatever it is that sets you apart.

By thinking outside of the box and taking these questions into consideration, you can guide your brand towards an improved acquisition strategy and overall customer experience.

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1. What role does data analytics play in optimizing customer acquisition efforts across various channels and touchpoints?

Data analytics allows companies to analyze customer behavior, preferences and demographics to optimize their customer acquisition efforts. By understanding which channels and messaging resonate best with their target audience, businesses can allocate resources more effectively, resulting in higher conversion rates and improved ROI.

2. How do companies leverage partnerships and collaborations to enhance their customer acquisition efforts?

Partnerships and collaborations enable companies to tap into new markets and leverage the trust and credibility of their partners to attract customers. Whether through influencer partnerships, co-branded campaigns or strategic alliances, these collaborations offer unique opportunities to reach untapped audiences and drive acquisition through shared value propositions.

3. In what ways does customer experience design influence customer acquisition and retention rates?

Customer experience design plays a critical role in acquisition and retention by ensuring that every interaction with the brand is seamless, intuitive and memorable. By prioritizing user experience across all touchpoints, from website navigation to post-purchase support, companies can not only attract new customers but also foster long-term loyalty and advocacy, ultimately driving sustainable growth.