Is Your Fast-Growing Firm Ignoring Customers?

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Truly remaking entire industries with an idea and some code requires a certain speed and audacity. What is often overlooked, however, is the attitude for speed’s sake does to the most important person in any business: the customer. And while Facebook, aka Meta, had a world-shaking success, many more startups have emerged because they didn’t land their products or services with their customers the right way.

Take, for example, a budding streaming service. In the beginning, the mantra is going to be simple: Get as many signups as you can as soon as possible. After all, without a growing base of revenue — including the next round of venture capital fundraising — very little can be accomplished.

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What happens, however, when those customers start asking questions? When those customers have service or billing issues that you can imagine in the beginning? And what happens if you’re not collecting data on usage patterns and don’t understand exactly what content is driving adoption or cancellation?

Aggressive customer acquisition strategies often mislead management into thinking they’re being successful when they’re really just blinding the edge of a cliff at full speed. They see a growing customer base and don’t overreact to the next big problem – how to satisfy and retain those customers and know what’s working for them and what isn’t – no matter what. How to offboard them like this. Instead of leaving a scathing Yelp review or tweet that will scare off the next 1,000 potential customers, it leaves the door open for them to return.

There are, of course, huge advantages in moving faster. Market share and the compounding network effects that come with it are essential for any company that wants to grow rapidly and stay on top. Simply put: growth is necessary, but insufficient.

Can your tech stack meet the challenge?

Imagine a hypergrowth ecommerce company managing hundreds, then thousands, and then thousands of SKUs. That company could get out of its system in a matter of months. It could start in a small office with Google Docs, Basecamp, Slack Chat… who knows? The customer service people need to ask questions to the logistics teams that need to talk to the warehouse. The customer service representative needs to look up the delivery service tracking number. They set up an ad-hoc system to track conversations about certain SKUs, but those conversations are not in any database where a structured analysis could take place. They may need to migrate (quickly) to a CRM platform that is built to scale (or scale as their business scales), install custom databases and more.

Let’s say there’s a certain set of recipes – one SKU out of thousands – that always come out broken. Without seeing the trends, no one will be able to track that back to the warehouse and the problem with the packaging. Or there may be some items which, when sold, always lead to repeat purchases. A company that misses out will miss a great opportunity to build on success. They can boost sales of a product that pleases customers, leading to goodwill and repeat purchases.

Understanding that customer journey while your company is in the midst of hypergrowth (as complicated as it is) is, in some ways, the easy part. Having a technology stack ready to deploy at each stage and that can grow with your business is where things intensify.

This is also true of established companies. I once witnessed a giant e-commerce company asking its reps to navigate 12 different business applications to answer the simplest customer question: Where’s my package? These apps can grow alongside your business, but can’t be expected to deliver a solid customer or employee experience. And wouldn’t it be better if customers were able to get the answer to that question on their own with a single click from email, app or website?

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Press 4 to talk to the bot

There are times when those customers want nothing but the simplest digital solution. Even more important: they Don’t Wanting to talk to a human, they want their question to be answered as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Then there are other moments when a chatbot just won’t do. A highly sensitive issue, for example, like an insurance claim, will require that mix of expertise. And Empathy best offered by humans.

It’s just not the full suite of technology available. It is very difficult to have the right technology at the right time. Still the payoff is worth it. After all, how do the hypergrowth companies of tomorrow who are the established winners of today stay on top? They take advantage of the enormous amount of data and information coming to them from their customers to the maximum possible extent. This approach can enable a company to know what a customer needs long before the customer knows himself. This is the key step from responsive to proactive customer experience. And I would argue that those companies ended up on top because they were doing it all.

Empathy can be templated

Leveraging data to create proactive feedback is one of the big opportunities to look at hypergrowth through the prism of the customer journey. This is the promise of artificial intelligence that is already being realized in many customer service applications. But it assumes that a company actually has a plan to collect — let alone leverage — that data with machine learning and algorithms.

In this new world of AI, solid technical support can mean the difference between success and failure without an AI-powered knowledge management system working in the background. Imagine it takes four weeks to train a colleague versus one. It can also mean the difference between thousands of customers who have answered their questions quickly and competently, versus a disappointing experience that removes many stars from any review.

Believe it or not, empathy can be templated and served by AI. If you provide the empathetic responses you offer to your customer service team, it will make it much easier for them to manage even the toughest customer interactions.

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Scale and speed are the most essential components to taking an idea and turning it into a hypergrowth company. Failure and pivoting are often celebrated as essential components to startup success. But you will see the need for pivoting only if you keep a close eye on the customer.