A Beginners Guide on How to do Customer Service for Early Stage Startups
Remember that essay from Y Combinator’s Paul Graham called “Do Things That Don’t Scale”? It is, without a doubt, one of the best essays for early stage startups, where Paul talks about several unscalable things that startups should focus on while trying to grow.
And as it turns out, one of those things is actually customer service, or what he calls ‘Delight’. Paul Graham highlights this ‘Delight’ factor to make your customers feel that “signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made.”
Truth is, customer service (or lack of it) can make it or break it, for you and your startup. We all know it’s important, but why and how should you do it? How can you make your users happy and not screw up? How can you get the right feedback to improve your product?
Here are some tips on customer service that you can easily use for your early stage startup:
1. Make your early adopters happy
Take your time to listen to your customers and, just like Paul Graham wrote in his essay, make an effort to delight them. Wufoo, for instance, sent a handwritten thank you note to each new user, and Uniplaces, our alumni from Lisbon Challenge, actually picked up students at the airport and gave them a ride to their new home. Think of what you can do to surprise your users and customers and remember that bigger companies can’t really do that because they’re already too big to take this kind of effort.
2. Keep it personal
No matter what you do, keep it personal. At first, avoid those email templates and automatic replies, just talk to your users and try to understand their needs. Reply to every single message you receive and show that you really care. If you’re a founder, don’t just hire someone to do this for you, it’s important for all team members to see what your users are saying, and even more important to have the founders replying to customer support emails, as it generates a much bigger impact. All this will also help you to narrow down your real target user.
3. Validate your assumptions
Get your users to validate your assumptions. It’s good for you to have an ambitious vision towards the future of your company, especially when you talk to investors. However, that vision needs to be realistic and the only way to check if it is tangible or not is by talking to your customers. According to Carlos Espinal from Seedcamp the problem is that “unless your customers validate your assumptions shortly after your successful fundraise, you may find yourself going down the wrong path to keep up an “appearance” rather than re-focusing on what you know to be the real value to your customer.”
4. Make it easy for people to reach out to you
This comes down to the basics. Don’t just create a contact form on your website for your users to fill in. Instead, make it easy for them to provide feedback and reach out by having an email address for customer service really visible on your website. You should also consider having a live chat, so that your users can immediately reach you, in any page of your website. In the past I have used Olark, that is super easy to integrate and to start using.
5. Don’t do everything they tell you
Your users might tell you all kinds of things and not all of it is actionable, at least for the time being. It’s entirely up to you to filter that information. Don’t just build random features because a couple of users told you they want it. See first if all that is aligned with your strategy for the future and decide whether it makes sense or not. And when you reply to those users who so kindly asked you for something but you feel that’s not a priority for your business don’t give them a straight ‘no’ as an answer, give them instead a ‘not yet’.
6. Get this book to help you out
This book is really a must read for all entrepreneurs. It’s called “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick and it’s all about “how to talk to your customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you”.
In the end, it all comes down to the commitment you’ve made, as an entrepreneur, with your customers, because they are the ones who truly matter. And always remember that those early adopters are your best advocates if you get this right. So, don’t just acknowledge the importance of customer service, go for it and do it.
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