I love to hang around with entrepreneurs.
Full of energy and passion, they are warriors committed to taking down the tired, old big companies. They wholeheartedly believe their company/product/service/culture is THE BEST.
Unfortunately, all that passion doesn’t translate to a sustainable customer experience strategy. What happens when companies scale?
Here are some ways entrepreneurs typically fail at customer experience:
1. Customer experience is not part of their mission.
In the beginning, companies are built around WHO and not necessarily WHAT. Face it, most products are not revolutionary and many services are the same as what’s already available. Entrepreneurs find success often because of who they are. Think of the entrepreneurs with the most name recognition. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Oprah come to mind. That’s because they are more than just someone who delivers a product or service, they are big personalities.
When entrepreneurs begin to gain business, you’ll hear many customers say they buy from “Bob” and not the company name. So when the company begins to grow, and layers of employees and processes are introduced, the very experience which earned the business of those customers is no longer available. And when there is no mission around what to deliver, employees are left to make it up as they go. This inevitably leads to problems and customers disappear.
The best companies begin with a mission directly aimed at customers. Take Southwest Airlines, whose mission is about service, without even mentioning an airplane!
2. Teams are built based on experience.
The right skillset cannot save you from the wrong person. Too often, entrepreneurs have that first real need for some help, and jump at the person who applies with the right credentials. A good customer experience strategy is totally dependent on the internal culture of an organization.
The people in your organization have to be the right people. The right people understand how to deliver a customer experience that’s meaningful. They have to make judgment calls when someone isn’t there to point to a manual. Understanding your customer experience mission will help you find these people.
Zappos notoriously sends people away from training when they don’t fit. This is brilliant strategy to get the right people for your customer experience. Check out what they use to ensure the applicant fits with their core values. It’s clearly focused on who and not what, and available for anyone to see.
3. They prioritize acquisition over retention.
Entrepreneurs have one goal in the beginning. They need customers. The hunt of the sale is very appealing, and the high that comes from gaining marketshare is pretty compelling. If salespeople are treated like the rock stars of the company, and account or front-line people are treated like “the help,” it’s pretty clear where priorities lie. Keeping the customers you gain should be a priority from the beginning, but often it’s sidelined for the rallying cry of “more, more, more!”
Entrepreneurs who recognize their loyal customers for what they are – the boss – are the ones who succeed.
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton
4. Leaders become set in their ways.
Starting a business is emotional. Business leaders become very attached to the business, and sometimes this clouds their vision. I’ve watched as entrepreneurs hang on to the “old way” of doing things, convinced their baby is just as perfect as the day the idea hatched. But businesses, like babies, grow up. The best ones evolve with the marketplace and ever-changing customer expectations. Entrepreneurs who can’t let go are often left wondering why their “loyal” customers left without so much as a good-bye. Loyalty does not mean forever for customers.
According to the NPD Group, nearly half of those who described themselves as highly loyal to a brand were no longer loyal a year later.
If leadership isn’t willing to continuously examine and innovate around the customer experience, the business is already doomed.
5. Customer experience is seen as a project, not a way of business.
Customer experience projects are great, as long as they are part of a bigger organizational mission. Creating an ideal customer journey map or sending out a survey is not enough to create a winning customer experience. The best companies examine, evaluate and improve the experience for their customers as an ongoing way to do business. This means calling the hotlines and trying to order a product online on a regular basis. It means hearing feedback that hurts and doing something about it.
It means being a leader.
Entrepreneurs are awesome people who are the ones who get things done. Asking them to slow down to hear what customers are saying and understand the actual, true experience is a tall order. The best leaders, however, focus on the experience they want to deliver from the beginning. That way, they can deliver it for the long term.
This post was written for, and a version originally appeared on SteamFeed.
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