It was finally that day when you get up in the morning, hit refresh on your in-house admin and smile to a huge grin to yourself: 1000+customers, WOW!
To some of you this probably won’t sound like a big deal and maybe you’re right, but for us, a company that tackles SMB’s e-commerce sites, it is huge. Just huge. It is truly a long-tail effort that was not taken for granted. Here are my 2 cents on how we got here and what I would have done differently:
Customer support is a company effort
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My belief is that customer support should be a top priority. One of the things we can do better than everyone is support. Support via mail, phone, live demos and basically everything the customer wants.
In the beginning I was head of the support team that was comprised of only me. For a while it was enough. But after around 200 customers and adding 3-6 customers a day I saw that my lack of responses (being in an investor meeting for example and not being able to give support) hurts the company support. So we brought a support person into the family and literally she did wonders.
In retrospect, I even think we brought her too late. The best timing is when you are adding 1-3 customers each day and you will see the improvement in the churn rate.
Besides a dedicated support person that will make your services considerably more professional, I learned that whenever a customer needs help it is crucial to show the R&D ninjas that it is a top priority. It is not always easy and not everyone is happy to be interrupted in the middle of coding but it is crucial.
Value proposition and simplicity
In order to get more customers we needed to simplify our value proposition. The first step in this road was to truly understand our customer’s needs.
Yeah, I’m a big believer at being lean and to always practice continuous deployment. From the inside it is not always that easy:
It means connecting with as many customers as possible, regardless to their size (a lot of them don’t response no matter what), sending surveys and understanding the data and feedback.
One of the worst moments is when you understand the data is telling you that the feature you thought would be massive is not going in the direction you wanted.
This is what I learned: Thinking is bad, knowing what your customers want is much, much better.
For every new feature or product it is critically important to simplify and build helpful content so the customer can understand its purpose and use.
To summarize: Everything you do should fit into one sentence, then a one-pager to explain the reasoning.
Spend 25% of your time on in-house analytics
We are using Google analytics, KissMetrics and a few other services. None of these are good enough for our specific needs. I cannot stress enough on the importance of prioritizing your in house analytic tools. It is just crucial for understanding what the hell is going on. Why are customers signing up and not installing? Who is our typical customer? Which features work while others don’t? It is important for support, marketing, product and oh yeah, all the investors love getting the password.
In the high speed our startup is running, sometimes there are arguments on why we invest so much time on our in-house analytic tools. On the other hand, without knowing what is working for our metrics and KPI we will just be in the dark.
These are just the top 3 things that came up to my mind, but I’m sure there are a lot more. Oh, one last thing I forgot — once you get to the milestone you wanted, a few beers is a very good idea.
Image: thisreidwrites via Flickr