Voxpro – powered by TELUS International spoke with Ashwin Cheriyan, co-founder and CEO of healthy food delivery business Thistle, to learn about maximising potential in a crowded market and minimising effort in the customer journey.
Could you give us some background on Thistle and where the idea came from?
My co-founder (and wife), Shiri Avnery, and I wanted to tackle two of the biggest problems of our generation: a population whose health is declining due to an increasingly poor diet, and a planet suffering from the impact of the overproduction of animal products.
Thistle launched in 2013 with the goal of building a modern, tech-enabled, organic food and nutrition company. We develop and deliver fresh, fully prepared, delicious and nutritious plant-forward meals, juices and snacks right to your door.
“Even if a customer has a good experience, you’ll find that there was always room for improvement.”
Given the nature of Thistle’s business, creating an effortless experience for customers is key to its service. How do you achieve that ‘effortless’ effect?
We decided from the start that we needed to invest in great customer support. In looking at great direct-to-consumer companies, we found that almost all of them invested heavily in great support – for example, Zappos, Apple and Warby Parker. We wanted to create a company in the healthy food space that put the customer first by providing unparalleled support.
The mandate for our customer support team is to anticipate the problem a customer may have before it occurs and take proactive steps to avoid it in the first place via swift operational changes, product and engineering improvements, and constant feedback to our culinary development team.
If done well, a customer may not even realise the effort put in by our customer support team as a result of anticipating and avoiding a likely problem before it ever had a chance to manifest. That is what makes it effortless.
Any advice for companies – whether they’re in the food delivery business or general tech – as to how to remove as much friction as possible from the customer journey?
Ask your customers constantly for their feedback on what could have been improved during each stage of their journey. Even if a customer has a good experience, you’ll find that there was always room for improvement and some of our best feature ideas and improvements came from customers who had a good experience but were given the chance to make suggestions that would have made the experience even better.
Let them know that no suggestion is too crazy or unrealistic – you’ll find that even if the proposed solution is unrealistic to implement, the problem that surfaced may be addressed in several other ways.
Never be satisfied that improvements cannot be made when it comes to improving the customer journey.
Do you have any great customer stories you can share with us?
You’ll find that often, the most impactful things are quite small. In our early days, one customer wrote us a rave review about our service because one of our delivery drivers brought her paper from the curb to her doorstep as he was dropping off her Thistle delivery. This small act of kindness made a massive impact on our customer – to her, we immediately went from being just a service to a collection of empathetic and kind people who would go above and beyond to take care of her.
In your view, what companies do world-class effortless experience?
Zappos was the first to really show that a business can differentiate itself primarily on the strength of a world-class customer experience. It obsessed over the customer and, via this obsession, built a world-class business. Others that come to mind include Dollar Shave Club, Amazon, and Trader Joe’s.
“Every interaction is an opportunity to ask for feedback – even from customers who had a great experience.”
Any trends currently shaping your business?
The business of food is a crowded one. Standing out is hard – even in relatively new sub-categories such as food delivery. This means you have to increasingly rely on your current customers as your champions and biggest advocates. You cannot achieve this without a great product and great support.
How do you view the future of the food delivery industry? Are we likely to see new technologies change the way food delivery companies do business?
Automation and driverless delivery will have major impacts on the food space. As companies like Thistle become great at delivering a great product at increasingly lower price points due to efficiencies gained from automation, we expect outsourcing nutrition to third-parties like us (versus cooking at home) to become the norm for most people in the world.
Any brands you love engaging with as a customer?
Allbirds has consistently delivered great customer service from its launch – I’ve had some issues with orders and they were incredibly responsive and went above and beyond to turn the experience around. I’ve come back several times as a customer as a result. Amazon has delivered a great customer experience from its launch – I’ve been a customer for more than 20 years because of it!
Finally, you’ll be speaking at the Effortless Experience CX Summit later this month. What areas do you hope to address?
How to make customer support a cornerstone of your business and why this will pay dividends in a world in which it is becoming increasingly hard to stand out.
How every interaction is an opportunity to ask for feedback – even from customers who had a great experience – it can always be better!
This blog post is part of our Effortless Experience series. Stay tuned for more content on the topic including podcasts, Q&As from speakers and an e-book.
Enjoy this post? Why not check out our interview with Marlene Summers, Vice President of Customer Support Services and Community at subscription management platform Zuora, who discusses the subscription economy and the art of effortless experience.