CEO of Yuppiechef, Andrew Smith, shares his perspective on customer empathy, the future of retail, and integrating CX as a secret ingredient for differentiation. The South African retailer, Yuppiechef, is truly a customer experience leader, and host Julia guides us through a conversation about how this company’s success has been fueled by customer experience.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Smith, CEO and co-founder of Yuppiechef. Now 12 years old, the Yuppiechef brand is a true South African customer experience leader as well as one of the country’s ecommerce pioneers. The brand sells high quality kitchenware to local consumers via its website and, more recently, its stores.
Yuppiechef’s secret ingredient? Great customer experience
What struck me about Andrew and the Yuppiechef team was just how innate customer experience is to them. He seemed surprised that CX was even a “thing”. From their first trading day, the founders asked themselves “How would the customer enjoy this?” This question was applied to its website, and UX was continually refined to ensure the best experience for their customers. Later, this same question was applied to its distribution, support, and nearly every other aspect of the business.
A new twist on traditional retail
Yuppiechef has put the customer at the center of their evolution. Customer wants and needs propelled them to change from being yuppiechef.com, to Yuppiechef. A decade on from their start as an online retailer, the brand recognized that consumers don’t want to choose between online an in-store shopping. They want both. Ecommerce is growing, but some purchases are just better suited for an in-person experience. Shopping can also be a form of entertainment. In South Africa, where online shopping only accounts for a tiny 2% slice of the retail pie, there is an entrenched mall culture; families go to the mall on the weekend to enjoy a meal and browse the shops.
Leveraging customer experience as their cornerstone, they renamed themselves as Yuppiechef and launched their first physical store in 2017. But the transition wasn’t easy. The team relied on customer empathy to guide them, and the result is a truly seamless omnichannel experience. Customers can order online and collect in store or view a product in store to be delivered to later. Both sides of the business are fully integrated and systems are connected to their warehouse.
Customer experience leader (ship)
Given the retailer’s success, it would not be a surprise if Yuppiechef’s founders considered themselves as having “made it”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Andrew and his team are not resting on their laurels. He is acutely aware that selling high quality kitchen tools is easy to replicate, but Yuppiechef has built an experience that feels different. From the handwritten thank you notes, to the top notch customer support, it’s clear that the employees care.
The founders built a brand around a clear set of values which everyone in the business embodies and they still set the tone Yuppiechef’s unique team culture. Andrew personally responds to each an every customer survey. He also helps out in the contact center when needed. These may seem like small gestures, but they demonstrate that Yuppiechef’s leaders remain committed the brand, their customers and the employees who make the Yuppiechef experience something special. And it’s this secret ingredient that cannot be copied.
Decoding the Customer is a series of customer experience podcasts created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. Originally from the US, she is now one of Southern Africa’s foremost experts in Customer Experience Management. For more information about Julia’s services including her customer experience advisory consulting, click here. To hear other episodes of the CX podcast, Decoding the Customer, click here.