With the seemingly endless popularity of puppy and kitten pictures, videos, and memes on the internet, it would seem that the social media script for America's largest pet pharmacy could basically write itself. But while the customers of 1-800-PetMeds do like to post lots of photos of their pets, the company itself is serious about its business and about providing exceptional customer service.
"We're a really fortunate brand in that we get a lot of people who love the content that we share," says Vanessa Penagos, content and inbound marketing director at 1-800-PetMeds. But "we definitely don't go out of our way to [post puppy and kitten pictures] just because we can."
With more than 8 million customers, 1-800-PetMeds operates in a regulated industry in much the same way as traditional pharmacies do. So while they can help customers with their orders, there are certain topics that are off-limits. "We certainly want to be helpful, but we can't just be giving out medical advice," Penagos says.
Still, the company differentiates itself with its friendly interactions and personal touches - like including a free dog or cat treat with every order (which results in lots of social media posts) or remembering a pet's name in a future interaction after a customer has mentioned it or posted it with a photo on the company's Facebook page.
A smooth customer service interaction is important because pet owners are particularly emotional about their animals. "We strive for fast, easy, helpful service" that is "100% consistent" across channels, says Penagos. Most customer engagement and customer service inquiries come on Facebook, though Instagram and Twitter are also popular channels. Customer service agents are trained to "put themselves in the customer's shoes" so the emotional aspect is expected. "A lot of times customers just want to be heard" when it comes to complaints, Penagos says, recounting a time when a customer ended up deleting a negative post after the brand responded because the customer hadn't expected a response.
As part of its customer service promise, the company offers a 100% money-back guarantee with "no questions asked" on non-prescription items such as treats and toys. All returns are donated to animal shelters, likely resulting in even more photos of happy puppies and kittens.
Here are some of the key points in the interview and where to find them:
1:15 The background on 1-800-PetMeds
1:55 The company's approach to social customer care
3:45 How the social media team is organized
4:32 The intersection of social media and SEO
7:05 The kinds of social media posts that 1-800-PetMeds sees from its emotionally-invested customers
8:49 Why 1-800-PetMeds maintains a "pharmacy first" approach even in the midst of lots of puppy and kitten pictures
10:20 Managing marketing and customer service in a regulated industry
15:58 Which social media channels are biggest for a pet-related company?
16:43 The potential role of Facebook Messenger for customer service
17:45 How 1-800-PetMeds engages with animal shelters
18:48 How a social CRM might prove helpful in social care
19:39 Vanessa shares a memorable customer interaction
21:20 The one thing that Vanessa knows now that she wishes she knew when she started in social care
If you've had a great customer service experience with a brand on social media, please tweet us using hashtag #FOCS so we can invite that brand on a future episode. Subscribe to the Focus on Customer Service Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.