That time a customer invited a goPuff cofounder to smoke hookah - Philly


Dec. 15, 2016 10:36 am

That time a customer invited a goPuff cofounder to smoke hookah

Back in the day, Yakir Gola was a lowly delivery driver for the company he funded. Here's what one incident taught him.

goPuff cofounders Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola.

(Photo by Roberto Torres)

Back in 2013, before the $8.25 million Series A and the multi-market expansion, Philly-based delivery service goPuff had only two delivery drivers: cofounders Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, two Drexel University undergraduates trying to get their startup off the ground.

“[We were driving] 17 hours a day, seven days a week,” Ilishayev told a room full of founders at Founder Factory, Philly Startup Leaders’ flagship conference series, on Thursday morning.

One late-night delivery near Temple University left Gola with a lesson on customer service.

“I was very late, so when I get there I started apologizing about the delayed delivery,” Gola recounts. Following a short conversation, six people emerge from the house and an invitation to smoke hookah is presented. The cofounder joined in and had a chance for some one-on-one feedback from actual customers. Once the smoked settled, the lesson became clear: customer feedback has to be tended to in order for the company to be trusted.

By the following week, a number of neighbors from the block where these customers lived had signed up for the service.

The anecdote was interesting because it highlighted a human take on customer service that big companies rarely get. It also speaks to a philosophy the company has established as it deploys in other markets: replicating Philly-levels of customer care across the markets they’ve expanded to.


“If we get a very negative review, Rafael will call them personally,” Gola said.

During the fireside chat, the cofounders also mentioned how outside-the-box marketing had helped get the ball rolling in terms of customer acquisition. Back in July, the founders included a Willy Wonka-like “golden ticket” in a random item from the warehouse. The lucky person who received said item was invited to visit the warehouse and go on an all-out shopping spree (for free).

Goes without saying, but the promo made some jealous friends download the app.

Companies: goPuff
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