10 Takeaways From Chewy's Master Class on Customer Care

The pet brand's empathy went viral recently, but they've been doing it right all along

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When tweets go viral, it’s not always great for brands—it can be for a faux pas, a perfectly timed meme or angering an online army.

Pet ecommerce brand Chewy went viral for the best reasons.

A basic search for social mentions of Chewy is a testament to the brand taking customer care to an empathetic level that is frankly unseen at most companies. When customers reach out to cancel recurring orders due to the death of a pet, they aren’t met with a script for maintaining their subscription. Instead, they receive empathy and genuine concern.

Chewy realizes that pets are members of the customer’s family. They are a friend, a colleague, a life companion, and the brand’s response reflects this as it not only resolves the reason for the customer reaching out but also takes steps that you would only expect from a close friend.

For example, Chewy doesn’t have to send flowers when your pet passes away and it wouldn’t lose any brand affinity. It doesn’t have to send you handpainted portraits of your dog, Chewbacca, on May the Fourth—but this company does. This is the customer culture it has built.

In a growth-driven world striving to automate everything and create ads to ensure awareness, Chewy does the work that doesn’t scale. Chewy creates memories with its customers around positive and negative moments. Those core memories are the most defensible moat you will ever see in business.

So while competitors could offer similar products and even try to compete on price, Chewy has nurtured relationships with customers not through positioning or campaigns, but with empathy-fueled human interactions that show it cares about customers’ animals like their own. 

There are 10 clear ways Chewy elevates and differentiates itself through the customer experience.

  1. Care as much about your customers’ needs as they do. Your customers can tell if you care and will continue to be attracted to businesses that create that bond with them.

2. Delight customers and let that empower positive word of mouth. Passionate customers are an incredible organic driver. Consumers will believe these strangers over brands—your customer saying how great you are will hold more validity than your ad campaigns and messaging. The voice of the customer wins. 

3. Steadfastly hold onto the processes that keep your business human. Having a bereavement card signed with the name of the very person you spoke to about your lost pet makes a thoughtful token feel even more special and intimate. It’s human-to-human instead of company-to-human. 

4. Social messages exude genuine kindness and love. The social voice’s tone and sentiment align with the customer care Chewy provides.

5. Potential customers see how you treat your current clients. If you share user-generated content or respond to positive social mentions, more customers will likely create UGC and positive mentions because they want similar treatment. Positive reinforcement fosters future positive word of mouth. There is a reason why we continue to see so many similar stories about the customer experience with Chewy. They get to share the love and know that they will be heard and seen by the brand. 

6. The seeds you plant today will grow tomorrow. These activations build revenue over time, as former customers return when they have a new pet and prospective customers convert after seeing the type of care they can expect. Chewy is strengthening its relationship with current and future customers with every interaction. 

7. Customer experience is a powerful differentiator. Emotional bonds are harder to beat than price or convenience. If you have a strong affinity for specific brands, it will take a high level of disappointment to shift your sentiment.

8. Exceptional customer experience powers the flywheel. It improves retention while creating a customer advocacy voice that wants to champion and grow your brand. 

9. If you want to create emotional bonds that last, provide delight that lasts. Those pet paintings will hang in customers’ homes forever, and every time they see it they will have an emotional connection to their pet and the brand that made that painting a reality. 

10. Don’t lose the heart of a small business. As businesses grow, it’s easy to lose sight of the little moments that customers care about. Grow your business, but keep your small-business heart. 

If you have customers, you must evaluate how you care for them. How do you make them feel? What do you do beyond the contract or promise of service? It isn’t “If you build it, they will come.” It’s “If you care, they will stay.”