April 27, 2014

Compete with Kindness

I’m a loyal Instacart customer. Not just because of the time it saves me restocking my fridge, but also for its fantastic customer support and personability.

Exhibit A

Last week I ordered groceries from Instacart unaware that the streets outside my apartment were closed off for an event. The deliverer, Fernando, parked two blocks away, wheeling the heavy order to my door. I greeted him thankfully and returned to my computer to submit a review on Instacart’s website:

Fernando walked 2 blocks to my apt due to a street close off. Awesome. :)

Five minutes later, an Instacart employee replied:

Hey Ryan,

Thanks for using Instacart and for letting us know more about your order!

Fernando is a phenomenal shopper and always going the extra mile.

I’ll be sure to pass along your complements.

We look forward to shopping with you in the future!


Companies often never acknowledge customer reviews unless they’re extremely negative. It feels good to know my thanks will be forwarded to Fernando and it only took Sam a few seconds to let me know.

Exhibit B

When a delivery is running late (sometimes due to unexpected traffic jams or weather issues), Instacart emails an apology with an updated delivery time. But it doesn’t come from an automated system as you might expect. An Instacart employee (in this case, again my buddy, Sam) personally sends the message, opening a dialog if there are any further questions:

Hi Ryan,

I want to apologize and let you know that we are running a bit late on your order today. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to arrive by 7:00-8:00pm but should be able to arrive by 8:00-8:30pm. I am really sorry for the inconvenience, please

Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!


In moments like this, small human touch can relieve frustration.

Exhibit C

Several months ago I congratulated Instacart on their expansion to Chicago. Apoorva, Instacart’s CEO, quickly sent his regards through email, not Twitter as one would expect:

Hey Ryan - Thank you for being such a big fan of Instacart.

We really do appreciate it.

He took the extra effort to reach out via email to open a private dialog. We later met up to chat about product and brainstorm marketing ideas for Instacart.

Instacart faces heavy competition from Google Shopping Express and Amazon Local Express (Amazon just announced Dash, a hardware device to help customers order everyday items). In comparison, these tech giants are impersonal and feel unreachable. And that’s one of the reasons why I’ll continue to support Instacart and one of the competitive advantages small startups have against large incumbents.

If you’re up for it, subscribe to my email list and don’t hesitate to say hello on Twitter (@rrhoover).

Photo credit: certified su

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