With new meal kit services emerging on a regular basis, standing apart from the pack demands more than top-quality ingredients and locally sourced produce. For New York City-based startup Plated, the “secret ingredient” has been what CEO Nick Taranto describes as a “disproportionate investment in CX.” We chatted with Taranto on what exactly that entails.

CXR: Why is customer experience so important to Plated?

Nick: Our product is highly emotional, and we are building a brand that echoes that. We are creating multi-year relationships with our customers, and we have committed to investing in those relationships. If you imagine a waiter, a therapist, and your most adventurous and interesting friend all rolled into one, that’s what you’ll get when you reach out to Plated CX Associates.

CXR: What about Plated’s customer service do you think sets it apart from others? Why is it unique?

Nick: Plated understands that no two customers are exactly alike, and that each customer will have different wants and needs. By offering CX support via phone, email, chat and social media, we make it easy for individuals to reach us in the channel of their choice.

CXR: What gives customer experience the extra edge it needs to be really special?

Nick: We treat every customer like they’re a regular.

CXR: What kind of ROI have you seen from your investment in CX?

Nick: By regularly hearing from customers firsthand, we’re able to maintain a strong pulse on what consumers love and want from Plated. Despite our rapid growth, through our investment in CX, we never lose sight of what matters to our customers.

CXR: Can you explain a little more about what you mean by trying to turn Plated into the first hospitality brand in the food category?

Nick: We believe there is a strong connection between cooking more and living better. We want to be that trusted friend who helps take you on a dinner adventure. That doesn’t happen when you treat customers as transactions. We’re trying to build relationships, and that means going beyond pure service, to treating folks with hospitality.

CXR: We thought it was interesting that you ‘disproportionately invest’ in customer experience. Can you explain a little more about what led you to that decision and how it’s been working for you so far?

Nick: Given our emphasis on the customer, we want to do everything in our power to ensure their happiness, and see CX as a huge component and opportunity for this to happen. So far, we’ve seen this commitment resonate with our audience.

CXR: How are you building the Plated business around customer experience?

Nick: We have built our teams internally around different parts of the customer’s journey—so literally every piece of work we produce is grounded in a part of the customer experience.

CXR: What were some of the biggest problems you had ran into with customer experience—either with employees or customers?

Nick: As a rapidly growing business, at times it can be difficult to keep up with demand. Right after Shark Tank first aired, we quickly realized the importance of a strong customer experience team to properly handle the volume of inbound interest we received. We had every employee manning chat and email, and we were still overwhelmed!

CXR: What do you believe is the best benefit to a strong customer experience program?

Nick: Getting to know our customers has been critical to the success of our product, culture, and brand. We are talking to thousands of customers every week, and we are able to use this direct feedback to inform all aspects of what we do.

CXR: What’s the best customer experience you’ve ever had personally?

Nick: I was traveling with my wife in India, and after a few weeks of roughing it, I booked us a night at a nice hotel for her birthday. I told the concierge that it was her birthday, and without asking, by the time we checked in and arrived at our room, they had delivered a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of champagne with a little note. That goes beyond service, that’s hospitality.

CXR: What’s the best customer experience you’ve had (or seen) with a Plated customer?

Nick: Over the summer we took a 1972 Air Stream, retrofitted it to feel like a modern kitchen, and drove across country to introduce folks to our brand and product. In Texas, one of our customers drove over 200 miles to visit us—two days in a row!