The “little things” make lifetime customers

I am often disheartened by the scarcity of truly pleasant customer service interactions. As a consumer, I place a high expectation on service interactions and it doesn’t take too much to irritate me — I am spending my hard-earned money with your business, after all. That short fuse works both ways, though. I am easily elated when I feel a company is making an effort to make me feel valued as a customer.

Today I experienced what I decided would be my example case for this point. My partner and I recently adopted a young puppy. For reasons I can’t remember, we decided to give Chewy.com a try as our dog food supplier. I made the mistake of switching from the regular puppy version of our food to the large breed version. In my defense, the ingredient profile was almost identical so I didn’t think it would have a material impact. I was wrong.

After realizing the new food didn’t sit well with our pup, I decided to see if Chewy could do anything for me even though their return policy clearly states that returned merchandise must be unused. After a very brief and extremely pleasant chat with Justin D (+100 awesome company points for customer service chat), I learned the mishap would cost me nothing. He enthusiastically told me he could definitely help me out in this situation and proceeded to list out the details of a full refund. Normally the best part of this outcome would be the $84.99 refund that wiped away my mistake. But this episode had an even cooler ending. Justin told me that rather than returning the merchandise to them, they ask that I donate the food to a local rescue or shelter. Not only do I now not feel bad about my mistake — I feel good about it.

Now I don’t know much about the dog food industry but I’ll assume there’s a healthy ~30–40% retail margin on an upscale brand. So for about fifty bucks Chewy has not only retained me as a customer but also turned me into a hardcore promoter. Based on the service I received I will excitedly recommend them to friends and neighbors (and boy are there a lot of dogs in our new building). Though the mistake was my fault, had Chewy not helped me out I likely would have churned out and resumed purchasing at our local stores where return policies were in place for food.

The moral of the story is one we all know; invest in your customers. Make your policies flexible. Customers who feel valued make invaluable promoters. Customers who feel minimized make for hardcore detractors. Big high five to the folks over at Chewy — keep setting this great example.