The Customer is more important than the product : In the previous blog post in this series, we discussed the importance of Startups starting with a product that is something that the customer really needs.
The fundamental mistake Startups makeMany Startups make the mistake of first launching a product with all its issues and focusing all their resources on just selling. Their plan is to first earn enough and then make a better product down the road. (This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing – working on the product very early in the Startup journey, to make it worth selling). As said before, the customer has issues with the product first launched. Startups then face a situation where the customer care personnel are stuck with numerus calls from customers who feel they did not get what they paid for. The customer care team desperately try to get the Startup to slow down and first fix the issues with the product, but they are seen as more of an obstruction. The result is the Startup now has and internal as well as an external problem. The Startup management team often believes in increasing the customer count. More customers means more cash flow and faster growth. The also tend to be fixated with their product with less propensity to listen to anything negative about it.
Do not underestimate the value of even one or two customersEven one customer or two, who are satisfied, are brand ambassadors for the Startup. Satisfied customers will provide positive reviews, good references, which will automatically mean newer customers and growth of revenues and market share.
A dissatisfied customer will do the opposite. The customer has the power to share negative feedback with all tools at her disposal – like social media, where this feedback gets amplified at lightning speed. It takes more customers with similar bad experience, to join the bandwagon. The result is lost customers and lost sales. This is hardly desirable, given the fact that the business is starting from a scratch and has a huge challenge competing possibly with existing giants of competitors.
Tips for putting the customers first
The success of your Startup depends on whether your customers stay.
Here are some tips to view your customers as top priority
1. Don’t view customers as a transaction
Your first few customers aren’t merely a ‘transaction’. You deliver they pay and you move on to the next one. If you fulfil your commitment, which is delivering, what the customer needed, these customers will become your marketing team, market research /product development teams AND last but not the least, your social media mouthpiece. They have the potential of being the most effective way to build your brand. But only if they are happy.
2. Treat customer feedback with the respect it deserves
Customer feedback will help create a product that the customer wants to buy. (This was adequately covered in the previous blog post titled “Startups and the Customer – Part A“).
Customers can help shape a product that is a sure shot success, but only if the Startup is willing to listen. It may be possible that the Startup may at one point not have the resources to make changes to the product in line with the feedback. The point to be emphasized is that as long as the customers are convinced the Startup is showing genuine interest in finding a way to meet the customers’ expectations, they will remain loyal.
3. Hire the right team
A small Startup may not initially be able to compete with giant competitors who have dominance in the markets, and deep pockets to keep investing their business. However, a Startup can certainly compete at the relationship level.
Every single employee in the Startup team should have the skills attitude and training to be customer centric – who genuinely care about the customers being happy and supported. Every employee should naturally work towards solving the customer’s problems. This, more than anything else will grow the business
4. Don’t view customers as ‘investors’Do NOT consider customers as investors in your business who will remain invested. An investor in the Startup expects ‘delayed gratification’ – he is prepared to reap the returns on his investment in a long-term manner. This is not true for customers.
Investors invest and are willing to stay on with the Startup in order to make a profitable exit sometime in the future. Customers on the other hand are concerned with what the Startup can do for them ‘today’. The relationship with the customer is all about delivering on promises and solving a customer’s need at a price point they can afford.
ConclusionEvery Startup faces risks. Many fail. Some fail in an honorable way. But a Startup that cares for short-term growth and cash flow over customers is likely to fail repeatedly.
Article and photo credit Mr Puneet Mathur
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Puneet Mathur is a Certified Life Coach, Certified Business Coach and a Certified Organization Development Coach. He specialises in helping business leaders to transform their enterprise into a professionally run Company by implementing state of art systems and processes, and building a highly motivated team Puneet is an experienced business leader, with about 30 years of Corporate Leadership experience in reputed Multi National and Indian Companies in the FMCG and Chemicals sector. He started his career with Britannia Industries as a Management Trainee. He has worked varied roles in Britannia Industries Ltd. Marico Industries Ltd. Coca Cola, and the Jubilant Bhartia Group. His last corporate stint was with Jubilant Industries Ltd. As Senior Vice President and Business Head of a strategic business unit (SBU, Puneet supervised Global Business Development, Global Key Account Management, Manufacturing R&D & New Product Development. Puneet has extensive experience in Sales & Distribution of FMCG products and Speciality Chemicals (B2B business). He has a rich experience of expanding distribution reach, Sales Force Productivity, International Business Development, and Exports.