We love to write about companies that are emulating what we call “The Barefoot Spirit.” These are the principles we convey in our Keynote addresses. These are the principles we used to found and build Barefoot, the world’s largest wine brand.
Such a company is Chewy.com. Here is a company that clearly puts the customer on top, and stands for more than the mercantile goods and services it produces. The concept is simple but the delivery is multifaceted. Chewy addresses the burgeoning pet industry by supplying top quality pet food to your door. But it goes much deeper.
Customer Service. Unlike many online consumer product suppliers, Chewy does not “force” you to order off their site by discouraging phone calls. Their call center in Florida receives and satisfies over 100,000 phone calls monthly. Their people are polite, knowledgeable, and cheerful, and they usually pick up on the first ring! They develop personal relationships with their customers, answering their questions, offering advice, and helping them with their orders in real time.
Company Culture. Their people are all pet lovers. They put themselves in their customers’ shoes and say, “How would I like it if I were on the other end of the phone right now?” Of course you would be concerned about your pet, what they eat, and what other products would make their lives more enjoyable. You would be concerned about prices, brands, delivery, dependability, and quality guarantees. The Chewy customer service people are all over it! Meow!
Business Model. Chewy is positioned as a pet food and pet supply provider that researches its products for quality and guarantees customer satisfaction. You can sign up for a reoccurring order that is delivered monthly in any configuration of products you desire. You can change that configuration or delivery interval any time simply with a call. Just use your name when you call, no account numbers necessary. So in essence, Chewy is set up to be the most supportive and convenient source of pet supplies you could ask for. Talk about convenience!
Higher Purpose. Chewy is dedicated to helping a wide variety of local and national non-profits servicing animals in need from Pets for Patriots to Forgotten Friends, and from National Dog Rescue to Angelical Cat Rescue. By standing for a noble cause within their space, they gain credibility with their own staff, their customers, and the members of those organizations who now have a social reason to stay loyal. Recently we ordered some different cat foods from them, most of which our cats liked. When we called to return the products they didn’t like, the helpful Chewy representative not only credited our account for the unopened products but asked that, rather than return them, we donate them to a shelter of our choice!
Hustle. All online supply companies selling consumer products are up against bricks and mortar box stores and supermarkets whose primary attraction is convenience. Just drive to the store, pick up your supplies and drive home. You have it same day. At Chewy, they recognized this challenge and came up with a solution. If you place your order before 4 PM it will be shipped the same day. As their website says, “Whoa, that’s fast!” Chewy has created a network of warehouses all over the country and uses its strategic alliance with FedEx to make it possible!
We like the way the company attracts and keeps its customers by striving to be the most convenient way to buy pet supplies. For a company only three years old, Chewy is “crushing” it! Woof!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders