Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy, is seen outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of Chewy Inc.’s initial public offering in New York on June 14, 2019.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Chewy CEO Sumit Singh said Tuesday that calls to customer service were causing the online pet supplies retailer to accelerate its plans to roll out a virtual veterinary service – although that was years away on the company’s roadmap.

“We got calls to our customer service / customer experience centers with customers sitting at home and saying, ‘Hey. My dog ​​has just eaten chocolate and I can’t reach my vet, “Singh told the National Retail Federation’s virtual conference.

The manager said his weekend mornings are spent reading customer reviews.

“A healthy level of fear is actually good because it keeps you paranoid,” he said. “It keeps you busy and keeps you up front.”

The virtual veterinarian service, launched in October, is an example of how the company is trying to keep adding to the pandemic’s momentum.

Shaking off the notion that pet owners would buy more dog food, cat litter or pet toys from the store again after the pandemic, he said customers had developed new habits.

“We’ve been banned for 10, 11 months now, most of the year,” he said. “Customers have had the opportunity to try online models not just with pets, but across a variety of services, whether it’s home delivery, grocery delivery, grocery shopping, or pet. This is a real mental shift for customers in my opinion. “

Chewy’s shares rose more than 265% over the past year as more Americans adopted pets and shopped online during the pandemic. The company’s market capitalization is more than $ 44 billion.

However, the rapid surge during the global health crisis has led some investors and analysts to wonder whether they can maintain this pace of growth and keep customers long-term. UBS downgraded Chewy and Peloton to sell on Tuesday. The online pet supplies retailer and exercise equipment company have both been beneficiaries of Covid-19 and could see that tailwind wear off.

UBS has not changed its target price of $ 75 on Chewy, a decrease of nearly 30% from the current trading level of the shares. Shares fell about 1% on Tuesday afternoon.

Sumit said it is monitoring trends that will shape the next three to five years, including the acceleration towards more online shopping, reliance on tools and technology to improve customer service, and whether people are returning to offices from home work out or do both.