From startup to success, what is the one thing that really matters?

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This is one of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou because this stands as the timeless secret behind why some businesses succeed (and, why many fail).

The truth behind why only a few businesses sustain in the long run

Here's a quick exercise to understand the truth better. Pick a handful of your favourite businesses that are a part of your everyday life — like your neighbourhood kirana store, a home-bakery or your preferred 'FriYAY' dining spot. Now, think about why you favour them. These businesses caught your eye (and likely your heart too) the very first time because they were in the right place at the right time offering a product or service you needed. Slowly, with time and repeated purchases, you now root for them and recommend them to your friends and family because you, as a customer, have consistently remained happy with how these businesses offer what they offer.

Take the kirana store — you turn into a regular there based on how the owner engages with you, keeps your preferences in mind, builds trust, and even adds a free item now and then to delight you — YOUR experience becoming more important than their SALES.

Similarly, a quick scan of the psychology behind all these businesses would reveal that there have always been people behind the curtains who put customer satisfaction first and paid attention to delighting existing customers before crafting strategies to acquire new ones.

Common reasons why some CX strategies backfire

There are businesses that still get it wrong today, in spite of being aware of how important it is to invest early in customer satisfaction. Some common pitfalls include,

  Building growth strategies around hidden terms and conditions or SLAs

  Being cryptic about pricing and cost of services

  Not hiring/grooming a customer-success head early-on

  Not onboarding smart tools to handle multiple social-media channels (to not just follow trends, but to also listen to what the customers say)

  Over-promising and under-delivering

  Not aligning the product teams with that of customer-handling teams

When a business is determined to go the distance, the entire team must be obsessed with maximizing customer experience, satisfaction, and delight. The customers keep your business purpose alive, and without them, you lose your chances of survival.

Building a customer-centric business from the ground-up

Weaving customer-centricity into the fabric of your organization requires the implementation of the following best practices right from when you start out.

1) Building the right teams, i.e., hiring the right people, forming the right internal teams, and having the right mix of employees. Specifically, with respect to startups, the founding team might have 'customer delight' as their core purpose of existing in business. As they hire the next circle of startup members and employees, it is important to make the vision and mission clear to everyone so that there is no dilution. In fact, CB Insights notes that 14 percent of startup failure stories quoted "not the right team" as their reason.

One way to ensure you're getting the right people on board is through cultural fit. Rather than simply explaining your company's values and expecting new hires to adhere to them, it's far more effective to have a potential candidate first talk about their ideas on culture, workplace traditions and the traits of a good business. Determining the 'individual-culture match' becomes easier this way, before you bring in new employees.

2) Under-promising, but over-delivering - When Anne Hathaway in The Intern (movie) says, "Our package should feel like they're getting a little gift that they bought for themselves," it perfectly captures the essence of a great customer experience — you go beyond and add extra value that surprises the user. Knowing well the costs of customer churn, why over-promise and set them up, users, for disappointment? Instead, it's always better to exceed expectations during the 'last mile' of service delivery.

3) Getting the right tools - The right mix of employees should also be equipped with the right mix of tools. Startups should not make the mistake of "let-me-wait-till-growth-stage-to-invest-in-these-tools" and instead make room in their priorities early on for tools like Live Chat, a support/desk system, tools to manage multiple social-media accounts, and of course, tools for marketing automation.

These tools are vital for tasks like automating mundane workflows and streamlining processes, but should not act as a substitute for the human element. Powerful customer delight strategies should craft CX journeys that include self-service options, seamless automation, and at least one easily accessible touch-point that involves genuine human interaction and connection.

In the end, the secret to sustaining is rather simple. If the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer, then there is only one way to do it — never miss a chance to delight them. After all, can there be better brand advocates than your own happy customers?

The article is authored by Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Global Head - Zoho For Startups, Zoho Corp. Views expressed are personal





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