How Instacart turned a customer into an apostle

One of the most influential people in my professional life is a man named Shane Frame. He’s one of the men behind the incredible Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney, TX…and one heck of a country guitar picker!

One of the lessons he taught me was the difference between customers and apostles or brand ambassadors.

He used to tell me, in that loveable twangy tone of his “Jason, we don’t want customers. We want apostles! We want to be so good at what we do that they go and tell everyone they know about us.”

That has always stuck with me. We shouldn’t strive for employees or customers. Anyone can do that.

Instead, we should strive to be so good at what we do (whatever that may be) that through sheer respect and appreciation people spread the story of who we are, what we believe, and how we do things.

No advertising campaign, no slogan, no amount invested in marketing of any kind can reap the benefits of incredible customer service.

Which brings me to Instacart.

Now I admit that I embrace crowd-sourcing and mobile apps more than anyone I know.

I jumped for joy when the press release about HEB and instacart serving my zip code hit my news feed.

I had been searching the web for food and grocery delivery services but found no one worthy of repeat business either because of ridiculous fees, clunky apps, or just the lack of that certain “wow” factor that draws us as consumers back to a given brand.

I also admit that I am not the kind of person that will use a service like instacart with significant frequency. Neither my budget nor my preference for picking out my own bananas make me the “typical” customer for same day grocery service….and I feel a little guilty about asking someone else to do something like grocery shopping for me.

But we all have “those” days (or weeks…or months haha) where we need a hand and instacart has been there on more than a few occasions.

Yesterday was just such a situation.

The Wife and I had been dealing with a sick pet, a sadistic (yet ridiculously adorable) toddler, our full-time careers, and everything in between. We had an exceptionally busy weekend with my school assignments, my nephew’s birthday party, all that sort of stuff.

I found myself out of baby food, out of bananas, out of pretty much everything so I logged into instacart, “did my shopping” and set a delivery time for the evening. Oh the wonders of our modern suburban lives!

The evening came and “Veronica” dutifully brought my kid cuisines and cold cuts right to my door and as I unpacked everything I stopped dead at the site of my shampoo and conditioner bottles. They were TINY…slightly bigger than a trial sample but not by much.

I had paid about the same as I would have paid had I gone to schmancy salon to buy my own schmancy brand shampoo and conditioner but I got about a third of the quantity.

I opened my app ready to shout to The Wife, “They brought us the wrong size!!”

Instead I shouted “I’m an idiot. I ordered a tiny size and they just charge as much as the regular size. Ugh.”

So we get our wildly gorgeous yet more than a little unruly baby to sleep and I’m fidgety. I got the “will you rate your transaction” email and I thought to myself…”why not?”

I clicked 4 stars and then hit “other” and explained that I thought it more than a bit lame to charge so much for such a small size but oh well, mea culpa.

I thought nothing else of it and fell asleep.

This morning I awoke to the standard “thanks for your feedback” acknowledgement and again, thought nothing of it and went through my day.

What happened next is what turned me from a customer into an apostle.

Instacart reached out to me to apologize for the issue. We had a thoughtful exchange about pricing policies and strategies, Veronica being awesome, and my own lack of attention to item descriptions.

With no reason to do so, instacart gave me a credit…waaaay above what was necessary and thanked ME for my loyalty and understanding.

Understanding? I understand that I didn’t read the description. I understand that you have very clearly stated pricing policies that state prices vary from those in-store. I understand that they did absolutely nothing wrong. I also understand that I was entitled to nothing.

BUT – they understand that they didn’t want me walking away from a transaction just feeling OK.

They understand brand ambassadors are worth more than a few bucks on a single order.

So I write this for two reasons – 1. It’s been a topic I’ve been mulling over for a while because Shane’s influence will last forever and 2. Because I believe that not it’s important to give credit where it’s due and to make sure we are shouting from the rooftops when companies do things RIGHT just as much, if not more, than we do when they do something we dislike.

If you haven’t tried instacart please do.

If you tried them and were happy, tell 10 people.

If you tried them and weren’t so happy tell THEM! Give them a chance to turn you around. They can’t help you if you don’t let them know…and be realistic and honest.

Get your message across to them and be willing to hear them out.

In the end, not every company is going to blow us away and not every company is going to get it right every single step of the way.

Instacart hit a homerun today and for that they get my incredible thanks and have earned a devoted customer. I’m now MORE likely to shop MORE often than I was two days ago…because I know they value me and they want to not just do good business but they want their customers to walk away feeling like they’re doing business with honest, devoted people.
And the idea of having my groceries delivered by someone listening to “In Bloom” by Nirvana is pretty freakin’ awesome.

Anyway – that’s my piece for today. I love instacart!!!
Who do you love?

Until next time…

Be Well and Kind,