A Great Customer Experience is the Best Marketing
Learn about Customer Experience Management
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Pancho dizon, this chapter is titled “A Great Customer Experience is the Best Marketing.” In it, Camille Yao, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Pet Warehouse, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in retail.
Camille Yao Explains How a Great Customer Service Can Separate Your Business
Camille Yao, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of pet retailer and distributor Pet Warehouse, has an unusual answer to what marketing personally means to her.
“To be honest, marketing wasn’t actually something we thought about when my husband and I started Pet Warehouse five years ago,” Yao said. “We didn’t do marketing at all in the traditional sense. Instead, what marketing meant to us was to focus on delivering the best possible consumer experience and relying on word of mouth to see us through in our early days.”
Therefore, Yao’s communications strategy for Pet Warehouse revolved around presenting how the company would go above and beyond for their customers.
How did they do it?
“Pet Warehouse started because we saw a huge gap in the market that needed filling,” Yao said. “The idea of an online pet store is not new, but the problem was a lot of the time dealing with them was just transactional. The pet owner community is a very passionate and vocal one, so we wanted to give them a place that understood that.”
For example, one thing that Yao and her team did to communicate that they only want the best for their customers was to keep their logistics in-house. Although it would be more convenient overall for the company to outsource deliveries, Yao reasoned that having more control over their logistics made it easier for them to control quality and personalize deliveries. When delivery was up to them, for example, a customer specifically asking for pet food to be delivered at 3 p.m. on a Thursday two weeks after the order can be accommodated. In contrast, most typical retailers just wouldn’t fulfill a request that specific.
“We always say that we’re not marketing just a product—what we’re really marketing is a relationship with the customer,” Yao said.
In order to distinguish themselves from their competition, Pet Warehouse consistently goes out of their way to offer creative services to customers at no charge. For example, some customers request for the “ninja delivery” service where they ask for their pet’s food to be wrapped as inconspicuously as possible because their residential buildings explicitly forbid the presence of pets. For free, Yao and her team would go out of their way to stealthily wrap something like a bag of dog food in a way that it would look like a shipment of books or even a box of furniture.
Yao found that services like these often spurred customers to do the communicating for her. “They’ll tell their friends and then those friends will tell their friends,” Yao said.
The strategy seemed to have worked. Today, the company accomplishes between 6,000 to 8,000 deliveries per month, serving over 32,000 active customers, and boasting a five-star average review rating on Facebook. Certainly not bad for a husband and wife team that first started the company simply because of their own frustration in buying pet supplies.
This philosophy of designing a customer experience that goes above and beyond also formed the basis of their social media strategy. Yao explained that the reason why they have such a huge emphasis on community was because they realized that people really loved having someone to talk to, and in the case of pet owners, sometimes they just want someone to tell their pets about—the funny things they’ve done that day, tips for grooming them, the best brands for food, and so on. Pet Warehouse wanted the brand to be associated with the feeling of a tight-knit community.
Rather than viewing platforms like Facebook and Viber just as an extended customer service hotline, Yao and the Pet Warehouse team set up groups to make an online community for pet owners to mingle. This killed two birds with one stone: the Pet Warehouse team was reachable anytime through these groups, but it also gave pet owners a place where they can find peers to talk to at any given moment.
Creating a community around the Pet Warehouse experience not only worked wonders for word-of-mouth advertising but also accomplishing brand loyalty. According to Yao, repeat customers represent up to 70% of their total clientele and stay with them for years on end.
The company also uses their social media to keep an ear on the ground to what customers really want. They regularly ran polls asking what products they’d like to see Pet Warehouse carry, ensuring their stocks were as diverse and relevant as possible. Through this practice, pet owners will feel that Pet Warehouse really wanted to understand their needs. Although their ever-growing audience made it somewhat harder to track requests, the Pet Warehouse team still regularly combs through Facebook for feedback.
Understandably, Yao was proud of the brand she and her team of now 60+ Pet Partners (as Pet Warehouse employees are affectionately referred to) have built. The relationship they’ve worked so hard to cultivate with their customers in their early days is now paying dividends and they plan to expand delivery into the provinces and even open physical stores sometime in the future.
Thus, Yao advised brands to first find their north star, or a core value with which to build their brand around. In their case, it was excellent customer service and focusing on that allowed their brand to grow beyond their wildest dreams.
“There needs to be purpose and intent in what you do,” said Yao. “Although what we did may not be ‘marketing’ in the traditional sense, I don’t think there’s any better way to market a brand than to show its customers are always satisfied.”
Whether it’s pets or another product, Pet Warehouse clearly showed just how far focusing on the customer experience can go when trying to grow a brand.
“Consumers have evolved. One or two decades ago, having brand recall was enough but that’s no longer the case,” said Yao of their decision to focus on customer experience. “People don’t want to just go on a purchasing spree—they want a meaningful experience in all aspects. It’s up to brands to give them that.”
As businesses, there is a call to do more for the community than just catering to whatever goals the company has. If questions of cost always plague the minds of business leaders in molding a sustainable program, then nothing is gained. For once, the natural urge for businesses to generate profit ought to be pushed aside to focus on more important matters: “When we implement these kinds of initiatives, we don’t think about the business generation.” Rivera added that in today’s reality, business growth and sustainability go hand in hand and that both are equally critical when crafting long-term business objectives.
And while other companies are protective over their own corporate social responsibility programs, Rivera is waiving theirs up high in the air for anyone’s taking. Aside from working closely with the DA in pushing for urban farming in Metro Manila through existing projects, they’ve also partnered with several non-governmental organizations and advocacy-based associations to crowdsource on ways to widen their reach“
It doesn’t matter to us which companies or organizations get involved in urban farming. It’s an essential need for us to contribute what we can and collaborate where possible,” he said. “The end in mind is that the collective effort makes a positive impact in addressing key sustainability issues revolving around health and hunger.”
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Camille Yao, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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