Customer Experience: A Startup’s Secret Weapon to Compete in a Crowded Industry


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Mark Holowaychuk, Founder & CEO of
Mark Holowaychuk, Founder & CEO of

Compete In A Crowded Industry With Better Customer Service

One of my weaknesses as an entrepreneur is that if I see even one other company that is offering the same products I want to sell I start to question whether the world needs another competitor. Stupid, isn’t it? Because if you look closely you’ll almost always find that there is something they are doing badly that you could do better.

Mark Holowaychuk, founder of, bought a lot of vitamins and other health products online, and he was frustrated by how badly many of the online companies were serving their customers. He believed that he could do better.

In a recent interview, he discussed how he’s built a fast-growing company based on offering better customer service than his competitors:

  • 10/10 Customer Experience Guarantee: If a customer is not satisfied for any reason, they’ll give the customer a $10 gift certificate (as well as resolving the problem, of course!)
  • A super-strong returns policy: If the customer is not 100% satisfied with their products for any reason, Vitamart will take any product back within 60 days, even if its been opened and used!
  • Surprises sent with shipments: They’ll toss in samples, magazines or other unexpected gifts with shipments, so there’s always an element of surprise and delight when customers get their parcels.
  • Personalized hand-written notes: As Mark noted, it is easy to forget, when you are ordering online, that there are actually people on the other side of the screen. Things like personalized hand-written notes help build a sense of connection between the company and its customers.
  • New customer phone calls: When you are just starting a business, you have few enough customers that you can call all who place their first order to see how the experience was. This can be a goldmine of information for your business. Vitamart calls them “Delivering Happiness Calls”.

Margins are not huge in this highly competitive health products space. So how can he afford all this (as well as fast free shipping)? Mark’s answer: Sacrifice short term profit for long term loyalty and success.” It works.

Over To You

What could you toss in with shipments that would surprise and delight your customers? It doesn’t have to be expensive; it’s the surprise that delights.

This is a version of an article that first appeared on the Frank Reactions website. To hear the interview with Mark Holowaychuk or download a transcript of it, visit or find the Frank Reactions podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Tema Frank
Tema Frank, Chief Instigator at Frank Reactions, is a pioneer in assessing multi-channel customer experience. She was testing omni-channel customer service with her 1st company, Web Mystery Shoppers, before "omnichannel" was a thing! Hers was one of the world's 1st companies to do real-world testing of online and offline customer service & usability. A best-selling author & highly rated international speaker, she hosts the Frank Reactions podcast, and is the author of the new book PeopleShock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule. Get the 1st chapter free at .


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