What Are Your Customers Really Worth To You?

By February 3, 2012

The last few days have been excellent, we had a wonderful response to our launch. I’ve always been very active in responding to users but this launch made me re-think customer relations and what they really mean. Like many new entrepreneurs, when I first started, communicating with a client was all about closing the deal. However, as I have grown over the last twelve years I realized that building a sustainable long term company, communication must be more.

Inevitably, when you launch a new service users will provide you feedback, whether you want it or not. First, let me point out that no matter how bad it might be, you want to hear it. User feedback, especially in the beginning, shows two things: users are engaged with a service they want to use and no matter how many hours you have spent building your product, they will find something wrong. As developers, we use our services differently than the public. We know how it is meant to function, what every button was intended to do and we have a clear understanding as to why we designed the features the way we did. The public doesn’t see that or care. They want it to be easy, straight forward and regardless of how illogical you believe their thinking to be, it must make sense to them.

So the question is, how do you deal with user feedback? Have you given consideration to the idea, how you engage your users is a reflection of how you designed your service?

Regardless of how upset or frustrated users are, you have to treat them with the same level of respect and positive attitude as those who love your service. Customer criticism is not personal. It is a reflection of their excitement or frustrations with your service. You have the power to change how they feel about your company. Engaging a frustrated user is actually very simple. First, listen to them. You probably have noticed if you read my articles, I love the phrase “Listen to them”. Give them an opportunity to express their concerns. Second, hear them. Every call center in the world trains their reps to say, “yep, ok, I see, I am sorry you have experienced a problem…” I implore you, don’t do that!! It’s bad enough for a user to make a call when they are upset, don’t patronize them. Listen to what they have to say, understand the points they are trying to make and finally ask for clarification.

Clarification is an opportunity for you to redirect the experience in a positive direction. Ask them what would make the service easier, allow yourself the opportunity to be educated about how users are interacting with your service. I once wrote a paper called “Developing A Shadow”, around the idea of educating people in developing nations and turning them into knowledge hubs that other local farmers and business people could turn to for advice. This concept is crucial in customer service. The best way to grow your service is through word of mouth conversions. It stands to reason, new users will ask referring users questions about the service. Take the time to educate those early users, so they can pass the information on.

The last point I want to make is this, simply have a conversation. Be honest about what your working on, areas you know you need to improve and transparent about where you are and the direction the company is going. When the phone rings, it’s just you and the person calling, so treat it that way.

I want to share one experience I had on Monday:

A guy calls me and I answer. With a chuckle he says “oh I get to talk to the founder”. With a smile I respond “I am very involved in support, how can I help you out?” He says just paid for the service and wanted to have a chat. I’m like “Anything from Hockey to cooking, I’m game.” Then he says “hold on one sec I got a flash on the other line.” He comes back a minute later and says “perspective client on the other line for Christmas next year got to run.” I respond “no worries, go make that money.” Here is a good time to tell you, the guy might be in his late 60’s early 70’s. He almost dropped the phone laughing and I then I said “have a great day!”

At the point of his call the sale was $55. Six hours later without any additional communication, it became a $700 deal. The personality you imprint within customer relations will not only drive your bottom line, it will create excitement about your company. You have the power to shape the experience of your users, create positive relationships and set the tone.