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 in 2016.

(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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