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The current trend of introducing chief customer officers (CCOs) in firms is unnecessary, according to PetsPyjamas CEO Gracia Amico.
Speaking at the Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) 2016, Amico said the customer-centric role should not be made separate because all team members should have the customer in mind.
“I’m looking at upcoming roles and one of them is the CCO. It makes me laugh because I don’t understand where it is coming from,” said Amico.
“We are all CCOs, we all are the customer, we all have to do our best.”
Amico also said to provide good customer service, it is important to give customers what they want and not to make assumptions.
The customer is the focus in Amico’s business. She launched PetsPyjamas in 2012 to address the £5.4bn UK pet market and £18bn holiday market by offering pet-friendly holiday packages.
Because of the nature of the business, Amico said the first thing people do when she mentions her company is show her a picture of their pet.
Since pets are considered “part of the family”, and PetsPyjamas’ products cater to both pets and people, it is often difficult to know whether the customers are the humans or the dogs, said Amico.
“People spend a lot of money on their pets, so there is a growing trend called pet humanisation,” she said. “That’s why we try to arrange fantastic experiences and hotels where dogs are just as welcome as the people.”
Going above and beyond
Amico believes in offering a premium service for customers. She does this through offering surprises for the pets and creating a community for the website users.
When customers book a holiday through PetsPyjamas, a “pleasure bomb” of treats will be waiting for the dog on arrival at the holiday destination.
PetsPyjamas also calls customers after their trip to gain feedback about their experience with the company.
Another big part of PetsPyjamas is photo and experience sharing. The retailer encourages customers to share details about themselves and their pets to create a community experience and provide an aspect of social media through the brand’s website.
“It means people stay longer on our website and they share valuable information with us,” said Amico, adding that the firm wants to create a brand experience that will make the user feel part of the community.
“If we know a dog’s birthday, we can send them a present,” she said. “We are creating a club where you have extra things. We understand that people with pets are part of a community.”
Parting with pure play
As well as offering travel, the website has an accessories range. This includes a fitness tracker for pets, which allows owners to monitor pet activity.
“We created an accessories range because the brand became quite strong,” said Amico. “Just as with humans, pets are becoming obese, so our fitness tracker addresses that.”
The brand currently operates a pure play online service supplemented by a telephone service. Amico said physical stores are not in the company’s future, although it is thinking about having a presence in bricks-and-mortar for selling accessories.
“Some customers don’t want to just book online and that’s the end of the experience,” said Amico. “We have to think about the customer and what they want.”
The brand does not have a mobile application, and Amico explained launching one would be “innovation for innovation’s sake”. PetsPyjamas aims to provide a relevant service to the people who want it, rather than gain redundant user numbers.
“One of the foundations of the business model is that it is holistic and that we only acquire a customer once. Then we can hopefully cross-sell customers the holidays through the accessories,” she said.
“That’s why we’re creating a lifestyle website where people can do more than just one thing. We’re trying to do all that within one business model.”
Part of the pack
It is important to Amico that the employees she hires are as passionate about the company and about pets as she is. The majority of employees at the firm have pets, and its Shoreditch headquarters is dog-friendly.
She said it is also essential that everyone at the company is as honest as possible to ensure the company is going in the right direction. This is supported by the firm’s open-discussion policy.
“Because we’re a startup, we think more about the importance of a happy customer,” she said, adding that the culture of being a startup compared with a big business is what allows it to be customer-focused.
Amico aims to be part of all aspects of the firm, and tries to cater to customers by meeting her own needs as a dog owner.
“I am the customer, I always want to be representing the customer,” Amico said. “Let’s bother, let’s do it, let’s go that extra step.”
The firm aims to take itself away from pay-per-click advertising to focus on partnerships that will help gain a single view of the pet, such as insurers and hotel chains.
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From 6 April 2016, it will be mandatory for dogs in the UK to be microchipped. This is something PetsPyjamas will be using as an opportunity to offer relevant services to pet owners, depending on the stage in the pet’s life.
Amico claimed building the firm from scratch was an “educational process” on providing what customers – and their pets – need and want.
“The main thing I’ve learnt through this business is that nothing is ever impossible,” she said. “If you go that extra step, you will shine and you will make a difference.”