Ashley Besecker of Premier Catch: “Be transparent and honest”

Meet them where they are at. We have customers that have never cooked seafood at home before, and we have customers that are actual commercial fishermen in Alaska! Speaking with the customer and meeting them where they are at with their needs and information is key. Always over deliver. Over delivering if something goes wrong can […]

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Meet them where they are at. We have customers that have never cooked seafood at home before, and we have customers that are actual commercial fishermen in Alaska! Speaking with the customer and meeting them where they are at with their needs and information is key.

Always over deliver. Over delivering if something goes wrong can turn a frustrated customer into a customer for life.

As part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Besecker and Joci Besecker.

Ashley and Joci Besecker are sisters-in-law and co-founders and owners of Premier Catch, a direct-to-consumer seafood company out of Seattle, Washington bringing sustainable, wild seafood from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to dinner tables around the country.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

We started Premier Catch in June of 2020 right in the heart of the pandemic. We have insider connections to incredible seafood from our family being in the fishing industry for over 50 years, and we watched as families began cooking more at home and running out of healthy and diverse protein sources. We were able to create a retail brand that utilized the incredible seafood that normally would’ve gone wholesale to 5-star restaurants around the world, and we had it specially processed to create pre-portioned, bone-out, individually vacuum packed and flash frozen at the dock seafood like King and Sockeye Salmon, Pacific Halibut, Sablefish, Alaska Cod, Dungeness Crab and more. My (Ashley’s) husband Tyler runs the family wholesale seafood business, and with those relationships with fishing families that he and his father Dana have spent years cultivating and nurturing, Joci and I are able to access the highest quality, freshest seafood out of the Pacific Ocean. We truly have 5-star product designed to make it easy for dinner preparation at home.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

We actually learned a lot from designing our packaging. We had to really think through what our mission was — to have seafood readily and easily available for at home dinners — and also what made sense as far as a quantity for people to purchase. We decided on 5lb bags of our fin fish, and I bet your readers are going to think “wow that sounds like a lot of fish to buy!” when in fact it’s actually just 10 portions of individually vacuum-packed fish. As we started our pop-up shops and talking to customers, we realized this was one of the biggest things that caused a customer to walk away. So, we developed a quick explanation to keep people engaged and explain why it’s so amazing to have 10 pieces of fish sitting in your freezer. If you want to eat more fish, you have to have it on hand, right? No one wants to go to the grocery store multiple times a week! And bam. We learned that speaking to a barrier actually helped sell a larger quantity than people may have been intending to purchase. Listening to our customers, we have also made 2.5 lbs bags containing 6 portions of fish available, so that it is easier to mix and match if they want some salmon and some halibut in the freezer at the same time. It’s all about listening to the customer and helping them solve a problem, or making their lives better.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

It’s really our family. Growing up in the northwest we have the luxury of being introduced to amazing seafood from a young age. We know quality, we know all the different types of salmon, and we know what to ask about how it was caught and where it came from. Those lessons began starting with my (Ashley’s) great grandfather who was a halibut fisherman in Alaska on the F/V Grant. We’ve had an incredible foundation in knowing great seafood, but we wouldn’t have been able to hop onto the other side of seafood, the sourcing and sales, without our father-in-law Dana. He is one of our favorite people in the world! He started in the seafood industry when he was in college actually. His basketball coach at Western Washington University had just purchased a reef net fishing boat in the Bellingham area and that summer Dana started fishing. He got to know a bunch of the tendermen, who would come twice-a-day and pick up the fish he’d caught; and that was his first taste of fishing as a commercial venture.

He worked as a fish buyer for Bumble Bee Seafoods, then Peter Pan Seafoods, and others. After learning and developing relationships around the industry, he started what is now the company that has grown into the family company, Dana F. Besecker Company, as a one-man operation with a phone and a small office, in 1989.

Without Dana, we wouldn’t have these relationships with these multi-generational fishing families. Without Dana, we wouldn’t be able to have our pick of the catch like we do.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Customer service can literally make or break customer retention. I know that when I have a poor experience with a company, whether it’s in something as simple as asking a question or interacting with the people themselves, or potentially how a return or complaint is handled. Most of the time, I just want an apology or acknowledgement, and of course a refund or some free stuff! We have to over deliver. It’s just that simple. We have a 100% happiness guarantee, so if someone tries some of our seafood they’ve never had before and decides that specific product wasn’t for them, no problem. Full refund. We have had some things that are out of our control go wrong, but we still take care of it and make sure the customer has an awesome experience no matter what. Recently we had a seafood delivery placed in the wrong location and the customer didn’t see it, and even though that had nothing to do with our product or our company itself, we sent her another one right away and a gift card. It’s so nice to feel taken care of in all situations. This builds trust and relationship between the customer and the company. People ultimately buy from people, and with that comes trust.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

As companies grow and become big corporations; this can happen easily if they aren’t careful. In the beginning of a business, you have to be on the ground and hustle and meet your customers face to face. We personally run all of our pop-up shops, and many customers are very impressed that we are the actual owners and founders of the company out there selling our seafood, answering questions, and connecting with our community. Delegating is wonderful and of course needed as a company grows, but if you can take the time to establish your company culture early on, it really shows.

The disconnect can happen if a customer interacts with someone who is clearly just clocking in and clocking out. People can read other people very well. They can tell if someone is excited about the product, or are just following a script. I think there are some companies out there that lose sight of the fact that their customer isn’t just a number or a statistic, that they are a person looking to use their product or service to make their life better or easier, or to solve a problem they may be having. When you look at things from a “numbers only” perspective you begin to lose your appreciation for your customer.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Actually, it can be the opposite! More competition can cause a company to put a lot of time and effort into competing and take away focus from the customer experience. They may be too focused on getting more customers rather than taking care of the ones they already have.

Social media is also a huge outside pressure that can force companies to step up their game in the customer service realm. It started with Yelp and public reviews, but now it’s all over Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. Many customers are so comfortable on these platforms that they will publicly call out a company and tag them if they’ve had a bad experience. It forces the company to fix it, and fix it fast!

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

We have had several instances at a pop-up shop where a customer has simply forgotten to come and pick up their pre-ordered seafood. After speaking with them I (Joci) actually went and delivered the items to their homes after we had finished an entire pop-up shop day. While we do not normally do home deliveries with our freezer van, we really wanted to show our love and commitment to our customers and go above and beyond.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Of course! The organic growth of a customer sharing that story is gold. When someone has a great experience, it is natural to begin speaking about it with friends and family. Not only do we have incredible products, but we are also really kind and genuine, looking to help and serve our customers any way we can! This has turned local sales into national sales, as customers having these experiences learn that we ship across the country, and then their family in Texas or New York or Arizona hears the story and places an order. Word of mouth is still the best!

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Meet them where they are at.

We have customers that have never cooked seafood at home before, and we have customers that are actual commercial fishermen in Alaska! Speaking with the customer and meeting them where they are at with their needs and information is key.

2. Always over deliver.

Over delivering if something goes wrong can turn a frustrated customer into a customer for life.

3. Be transparent and honest.

As we’ve grown, there are several things that have changed along the way, from pricing to packaging. We have always updated our customers by speaking with them in person at our pop-up shops, or via our weekly “Catch Me Up” Monday email. Many of them have felt like they are growing with us and have been a part of the entire process.

4. Be authentic.

People buy from people. You can see this through our social media and our interactions with customers. We maintain a polished look, but with the authenticity of who we are! I’ve shown my messy kitchen on social media, our customers have seen pictures and videos of our kids, it’s just such a sweet and genuine vibe.

5. Follow up and check in.

We have our weekly newsletter that keeps our customers in the loop and we design that entire email personally each week. We think about what is happening in our local communities that week, what’s happening around the world, and what would be helpful for people to know going into this week.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

We offer a referral program where any customer can sign up and create a special code that they can send over to their family and friends. Their family member or friend gets a discount on their first Premier Catch purchase, and the existing customer that had a “wow” experience receives a gift card from us! It’s a win win for all!

We also send follow up emails with a little rating scale. We love when customers give us feedback! And since we are so involved with the day to day of our business, when you email Premier Catch, you get us owners directly. Any customer can always email us to ask questions or give us feedback. New companies like ours really appreciate new ideas and thoughts on how we can continue to improve and be better. It helps us!

My particular expertise is in retail, so I’d like to ask a question about that. Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Well, we are a direct-to-consumer company so we would love to speak to this! We are specifically focused on Alaska and Pacific Northwest seafood, so we are of course based in the US. What ends up being our shining star is the fact that we hold tight to our niche. Many of our competitors grab any seafood they can from all over the world, from tons of different sources and fishing methods just to make sure they have stuff to sell. While we understand that they are just trying to make sure they have inventory to sell, we believe it creates more vulnerability in the end. We have a passion for sustainable and wild seafood, so we only sell sustainably caught seafood and we only sell wild seafood. By staying true to our passion, we become the most trusted source for those items. It’s all we do, and people trust that they get outstanding products and service from us every time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Being Moms, entrepreneurs, and even having Ashley as a dietitian, we want people to eat more seafood. That’s really our passion. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to whip up scallops on a Tuesday night, or know that at 4:30pm that you can serve King Salmon in just a few minutes. We’ve tried to remove all the barriers: buying, recipe ideas, sourcing sustainable, flash freezing, taking the bones out, pre-portioning the fish. We want to provide people with incredible seafood, from incredible sources that ultimately leads to the health of our customers and our planet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find us on Instagram @premiercatch and on Facebook @premiercatchseafood we also have a very fun TikTok account @premiercatch as well!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

It was our pleasure!

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