As companies grow, they often lose sight of what’s important. They may cut corners to decrease costs or forget to get feedback from customers and make necessary changes in the company. At the end of the day, if you are not listening to your customers and making pivots in the company, you will fail. It’s easy to get bogged down on the details of running a company, but it’s extremely important to stay close to your customers.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing….Steve Mamak, CEO and Co-Founder of Nature Gnaws. Steve is the co-founder of Nature Gnaws, a natural dog chew brand with over $10 million in sales in 2018. Mamak left his medical sales career to create the business with his brother-in-law Jay Mokbel. Nature Gnaws has capitalized off of the consumer shift to buying online along with the continued move toward natural products for their pets. Their Amazon success has led to online deals with Chewy, Target, and Walmart.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
As an owner of four dogs, I saw the increased demand for natural products in the pet space. We wanted to create a company where we knew the source and ingredients for every product. With Jay’s experience in the meat industry, our mission could be possible. We flew to South America and partnered with local farmers developing a company founded on real, natural products and transparency.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
We had the first pallet of product from Argentina arrive to my house. I had a semi-truck backing up my driveway and we had to manually unload the boxes because I don’t have a forklift at home. I’m not sure what my neighbors were thinking. Jay and I started packaging in my kitchen for our first Amazon shipment. My wife came home and kicked us out into the garage because the whole house smelled like dehydrated beef.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When we launched the brand, we were fortunate to find Lyndsi Edgar who owned a local internet marketing firm that supported small companies like us. We worked with her company for the first few years before deciding to hire Lyndsi as our full-time marketing director. She has brought a wealth of marketing experience to Nature Gnaws and has played a major role in taking the brand from start up to success.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Great customer service and brand transparency are the foundation of our company and the reason behind our success. Our customers know everything about our product before it lands on their doorstep. We shed light on where we get our products, how our products are treated and the extra steps we take to ensure our dogs our safe. We believe that empowers our customers and they know they are making the right decision when purchasing Nature Gnaws.
Additionally, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch with your customers, listen to them and give them the product they want. We use social media and feedback email systems to listen. And then we make sure we respond and make adjustments when necessary. If a customer is unhappy, we do everything in our power to make it right.
By having these values in place, our subscription rate remains very high and we are adding new customers every day.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
There could be a lot of reasons for the disconnect. First, you need to have a great product. If the product does not meet the needs/standards of the customer, they will never buy again.
Second, as companies grow, they often lose sight of what’s important. They may cut corners to decrease costs or forget to get feedback from customers and make necessary changes in the company. At the end of the day, if you are not listening to your customers and making pivots in the company, you will fail. It’s easy to get bogged down on the details of running a company, but it’s extremely important to stay close to your customers.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
By having more competition, we feel that we have to go above and beyond to educate our customers on why our product is better and safer for pets. Perhaps with less competition, we would not have the need to do this, therefore companies would focus less on customer experience and communication.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Nature Gnaws is proud of the thousands of reviews we have garnered over the years about our product and their experiences. We will go out of our way to resend new products if the customer isn’t happy.
We also developed a Gnaw it Forward program, where we ship boxes of our chews to local rescue shelters, free of charge. When customers and rescue shelters get a huge box of chews, they are utterly in shock. Especially because we personally reached out to them and offered them this opportunity.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Our rescue shelters often post on social media how grateful they are. In fact, one shelter put together and entire video montage of their experience with Nature Gnaws. Other individuals see these videos and learn more about our company in a positive light, often resulting in more sales.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Have a great product — if you don’t, you will never succeed
2. Be willing to test, advertise, try new things to get your brand out there
3. Feedback — use feedback and reviews as a means of enhancing your brand
4. Be Transparent — tell your story, be authentic.
5. Two-Way Communication is key — we use so many tools including social media, feedback genius and more to ensure we are providing a product that the customer truly wants. If not, it’s important to pivot and adhere to these comments.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
We heavily rely on social media to listen to customers. We also use it to encourage consumers to share their Nature Gnaws experience. But tagging us and using hashtag #NatureGnaws, we have garnered so many amazing experiences coupled with video and images. Social media is such an important tool and companies should utilize it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would say go for a walk every day without your phone to clear your mind and just reset a bit. And bring your dog with you!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I would encourage people to follow our company pages:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!