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Don't lose touch with your customers as you grow

Posted January 28, 2020
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When your business is starting out, each individual customer means the world to you. They are your early adopters who enable you to keep the lights on and help fund your growth. But, as your business scales and your customer base grows, how do you ensure those valued original patrons don’t start to feel like just a number?

“Growth can be its own reward, and its own penalty,” says Colin Taylor, chief chaos officer for the Taylor Reach Group, a customer experience (CX) consultancy. Customers that used to receive one-to-one service from account teams may later find their service reps busy managing many other customers.

“People like to work with people they know, people they like and people they trust,” Taylor says. When account management becomes a revolving door, Taylor says it creates customer friction and “can sour a previously contented customer relationship.”

These same growing pains can happen at a company experiencing an increase in transactional consumer interactions. To address this challenge before it becomes detrimental, consider these tactics that successful fast-growing tech companies can use to stay close to all their customers.

Arm your frontline with real-time information

When leaders circulate customer feedback and information in real-time, it can help keep the entire organization connected to consumer wants, needs and expectations. As a company scales, accurately and consistently populating the customer relationship management (CRM) system with real-time data ensures that everyone, regardless of level or position, has access to insights that can make the customer feel like an old friend. Or, at the very least, they can avoid repeating past mistakes.

An article in Forbes relates the story of a heavy equipment manufacturer with over 1,000 dealer locations. The company found that dealers that provided employees with more access to customer feedback experienced CSAT increases nearly 50% greater “than those that chose to keep data close to the vest”. The former approach also helped boost annual sales per dealer by 15%.

Connect executives to real customers

Nothing helps you connect to customers more than actually interacting with them. Whether it’s listening to customer service calls or taking the time to read customer feedback, this ‘hands-on’ approach can be a game-changer, especially when executives embrace the process.

When senior leaders hear customer comments firsthand, it often lights a fire under them to make changes that lead to better service, says Adam Toporek, president of CX consultancy CTS Service Solutions. Customer data and employee feedback can tell you what changes should be made, but executives can “make eliminating those obstacles a true strategic priority,” he says.

Rededicate your team to customer values

Don’t be afraid to shift gears should you find yourself in a position where customer focus is no longer the priority. As marketing automation platform provider HubSpot grew and went public, company leadership realized its connection to the customer was suffering. To refocus the organization, leadership created a “Customer Code” to help employees stay focused on a common scorecard when serving customers, which includes tenets such as:

  • “Earn my attention, don’t steal it.”
  • “Treat me like a person, not a persona.”
  • “Solve for my success, not your systems.”

While HubSpot acknowledges they need more help on some aspects of the code than others, the important part is that they use it as inspiration and driving force to improve, even as they continue to experience tremendous growth.

Consider artificial intelligence (AI) to scale personalization In the online retail space, some brands have used personalization as a method of engaging and delighting customers. They may surprise them with handwritten letters, free samples or other add-ons. While it’s impossible to scale the “by-hand” elements of some programs, there are still ways to create that personal connection using next-gen technology. For instance, using AI, marketing automation and CRM data, it’s possible to customize advertising, social media campaigns and even client emails.

Build and maintain trust

In many ways, establishing a digital connection is easier than ever. Emotional connection, however, is another story. “Very few digital brands have been able to create or maintain an emotional connection with their customers,” says CX expert and public speaker Shep Hyken. “The key for any company — digital, traditional or a combination of both — is to create trust.”

Sometimes the keys to building that trust are surprisingly simple, and also easy to overlook. Responding in a consistent, timely manner is critically important. Same with setting clear expectations. “If your voicemail says you will call me back in four hours, and I don’t hear from you for two days, what does that say about you and about the value of your promises?” adds Taylor.

Whatever methods you choose to stay connected to customers as you scale, the most important thing is that you always make the effort. And, don’t forget to say “thank you”, says Hyken. “Even a ‘personalized’ message via email or an app is better than nothing — as long as it’s done right.”

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