Hi, my name is Jared Houghton and I do my best to email, tweet, call, or connect on facebook with every user that likes (or maybe more importantly dislikes) our product.
As startups we are told to create a minimal viable product (MVP), get it to market, listen to customers, fix, and re-release. Fred wilson talks a little bit about this on his blog and how following these steps produces successful companies.
“It turns out, like most success stories, the answer was simplifying the service. Taking features out. Reducing the value proposition to a clear and simple use case. This was not done in a vacuum. This was done by releasing a less than perfect product to the market, finding a few customers who wanted a less than perfect product, and then listening carefully to those customers to get to the ideal product.”
We have followed this cycle pretty much to a T and it works, but at what cost? The loss of our users? I have heard that “you have to lose your first 20,000 users to get the next 100,000″. And while that may be true, I am the kind of guy who wants to keep everyone. Is that possible? The truth is that it’s probably not. However, there is a lot you can do to work with them, learn from them, and possibly turn some of them into champions of your product.
My Suggestions for providing phenomenal customer service:
1) Make yourself and your teammates very reachable
We could always be better, but feedback (at) retickr dot com is on almost every page of our site, the app store, and every product update email we send. If you are hard to reach then there is no way your customers can tell you how much they love your product or how frustrated they are with your latest release. Some people will just blast you in the app store (and that happens), but if you are reachable many people will contact you first, and if you reply quickly you may save a public lashing.
One very generous man had a bug where retickr crashed every time he launched the app. He must have sent me like 20 crash reports, and without his help it would have taken us a very long time to track down and fix this odd bug. It took a while, but due to his priceless assistance, he and others are now up and running (not to mention he is now sporting a fine retickr shirt). A polite response and some extra effort built a life long retickr user and turned a negative situation into fixing a critical bug that greatly improved our product.
2) Have a contact page on your site
What is the first thing you do when you want to contact a company? You type it into Google. If Google can’t index your contact page and present it to your customers within the top 3 results then you are doing something wrong and you need to address it. Having a support, contact, or known issues page will go a long way with your users.
3) Monitor Twitter like its your job
If you have ever tweeted at a big brand, say ‘Coca-Cola’ or ‘Nike’ there is a chance that you probably never heard back from them. Thats understandable considering the amount of mentions they get (but I guarantee that they monitor it). However if you are a startup that is trying to improve your user engagement, twitter is a great place to start. Twitter gives people around the world a voice to be heard and if you are not monitoring what they are saying then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to thank the people praising you, and win back those that are frustrated with you. If you have ever tweeted at retickr, there is a 100% chance that you heard back from us (I use Tweetdeck to manage twitter, but there are many other services available).
4) Email every user that provides feedback
We get a lot of feedback and while most of the time I am tired or have answered that question a thousand times, I type out a personal reply informing that user of the status of their request. Most of the time I know that it will be weeks, maybe even months before we can address their suggestions, but replying and thanking them for the feedback goes a long way to building product champions.
Another great tip is to email the early users of your product. We must have emailed well over a thousand people just thanking them for downloading our product and to let us know if they ever needed anything. You will be amazed at how some people are willing to help out after that.
5) Remember their frustrations and follow up
As we said before, you will lose almost everyone of your early users (who are more or less lab rats for testing). Yet I am amazed time and time again at how grateful people are when you follow up with them 4 months after they asked for a cool feature or told you about a bug that bothered them. I’m not sure what means more, the fact the you remembered them and followed up, or that their bug/request has been implemented? I’m pretty sure it’s the fact that you remembered them, and while they still may never use your product, they will tell 10 friends about what you did for them.
Here is an example of this with one of our users who could not get retickr to work. It took 2 new product updates to get retickr working for him, but he sure was grateful that we remembered him.
“I would really like to send my appreciation to the guys at retickr, especially Jared. There are so many apps available that we all love, but not so many give such great support as this one. Not only is the app very user friendly, but it works as described and the customer service is outstanding. Thanks guys for a proactive approach to customer’s needs as well as a free product that serves to inform. I am a civilian living in Afghanistan and this app helps me keep in touch with what is going on the world.”
6) Lastly, be humble
While it is painfully hard at times when someone publicly or privately bashes you, your product, or company, take a deep breath and write a humble reply. Whether it’s email, twitter, G+, or facebook you need to take the time to send a polite reply. I would also recommend never getting in a comment war (see Paul Carr’s reaction on the comments of one of his posts) or twitter argument. While you may win the argument, you have now lost countless future customers by the way you handled yourself.
I can’t stress enough the ROI you will get from listening and building relationships with the early users of your product. They will teach you what true value your product actually has.
I would also recommend reading More Great Tips for using social media to deal with customers.
Please email me if you have any questions at email@example.com