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How a Failed Experiment in the Name of Eco-Friendliness Taught This Company About Its Most Important Asset The founder of meal-kit service Gobble shares what she learned about keeping it cool when the company's ice packs didn't.

By Lydia Belanger

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Complaints were pouring into customer-service channels for meal-kit delivery service Gobble so quickly, the company gave its damage-control approach an internal hashtag: #Crushathon.

This influx of negative feedback was the result of a compostable dry ice pack the company began using in January to keep ingredients fresh in its boxes, which it distributes to tens of thousands of households across seven Western states. Gobble was trying to replace traditional gel ice packs with a more environmentally friendly alternative -- one that would dissipate and become more lightweight in transit. But the company found that dry ice temperatures fluctuated, either spoiling meats or freezing herbs.

Gobble reverted to the gel packs and lengthened its product testing cycles. It also made a point of personally responding to every disappointed subscriber. Founder and CEO Ooshma Garg calls this period "the worst two customer service weeks of Gobble ever." Team members from all across the company -- chefs, engineers, designers, accountants -- were dispatched to reply to emails. The company has long had an "everyone washes the dishes" mantra, because everyone who works at Gobble spends some time working in one of the company's distribution centers. The all-hands-on-deck approach to #Crushathon was no exception.

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Garg herself wrote and sent out a letter to the entire Gobble membership explaining that the company's intention was to take a step forward toward sustainability, and that it shouldn't have let this experiment affect the quality of its product.

"People were floored by the authenticity of the letter and the honest explanation of the approach," Garg says, noting that she received positive letters from members in response to her apology. "I think that completely made up for a botched week for our members. It showed me that even as we become a bigger company and hire more teams in marketing and communications, how important it is to maintain our valuable and authentic dialogue."

Here's what Garg tells Entrepreneur she and her team have learned as they've prioritized innovation, personalization and reliability.

This conversation has been edited.

What have you learned about growth while doing good?
Balancing a desire for hyper-growth, while also ensuring high levels of customer service and support, is very challenging. This was a great wake-up call for us in the early stages of the company's life cycle. We've now hired a bit ahead of the curve in customer support, knowing that we can repurpose those team members during down times. We all contributed to interviews and hiring the team ahead of scale.

To get ready for our national launch this August, we are examining every aspect of our business through the lens of our customer. I am not sure if we would have been as disciplined in this effort, if not for the lessons learned with our recent operations stumble. The customers always, always come first, and letting them down at any point is simply not an option.

What have you learned about culture while doing good?
We've upgraded the training of everyone in customer service, and we now call it Gobble Concierge. We pay more, we train more, we offer more autonomy and every team member in customer service refers to themselves as a concierge.

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We don't have a strict template for when a box doesn't arrive on time, as every situation is different. It's important to us that we help the customer solve the issue, so the Gobble Concierge has the autonomy to work closely with the customer to find the best solution. For example, this could be helping the customer find a healthy restaurant nearby that can deliver dinner to them that night, ensuring they have dinner ready for their family.

What advice do you have for other businesses looking to do good?
The road to success is paved with many experiments and micro successes and failures along the way. Many companies have stopped innovating as aggressively as a startup can, because they know what they're doing is working and they simply want to triple-down on that model, which leaves new entrants an opportunity to take over with something fresh and creative.

Lydia Belanger is a former associate editor at Entrepreneur. Follow her on Twitter: @LydiaBelanger.

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