Great service is something every startup should invest in.
One of the first meetings I had while in New Orleans was with the CEO of one of Enhatch’s earliest customers, a medical device startup with some healthy venture backing. Having that startup mentality, though, certainly helped in bringing them on as a customer, as they are scrappy and looking for novel ways to sell their new product.
For the most part, our meeting was simply an opportunity to catch up and touch base since we were both in town for the Academy. We talked about progress on product, how sales were going and our future plans. Normally one would not be so candid with a customer, but the CEO has been much more than merely a customer; he has also been an advisor, avid supporter and a mentor to Birch Ventures from the beginning.
What came next was quite a surprise. Unprompted, he went into a long(ish) dialogue of how appreciative he was of our support and our attention to service, and how we were integral to their own success as a startup trying to innovate in the medical device industry. This was not some typical executive pabulum but an unguarded and unscripted moment of genuine thankfulness.
In the corporate world, there are few moments when you experience such honest appreciation from customers. It is much easier to complain or focus on the negatives. Also, in B2B sales, when it is groups of people selling to groups of people that involve group decision-making and groups of people implementing solutions, there is less invested personally by individuals. It is just work, after all.
In my own experience, I have been fortunate to have many awesome customers that were supportive and actively promoted my company’s products to others. It takes enormous work, though, to get to the point where customers feel the need to express their appreciation. You really have to go above and beyond the call of duty, and it is a credit to the teams I have been involved with over the years that created such loyal and happy customers.
In our startup universe, the buzz is all about growth hacks and user acquisition tips and self-service models for this or that. However, nothing creates growth faster than investing personally in supporting customers. Especially in enterprise sales, you need customers that are fiercely loyal and willing to invest their own personal and professional capital to choose you and to support you. As a startup, we are not the first choice or the safe choice; we are the crazy, out-of-left-field choice. They are taking a massive risk on your ability to follow through on commitments, build a solid product and provide a superior level of support. After all, a startup is very vulnerable and replaceable in a sea of incumbents and larger, more established competitors.
Invest in customer appreciation. Provide the type of radically, over-the-top service that goes above and beyond the ordinary and expected. The product is certainly important, but the service is what people remember most. When the product has bugs, experiences downtime or features are slow to materialize, it is service that might save your butt. And if all goes well, you will have radically supportive patrons to help spread the word. There is nothing better than customer appreciation.
This article was originally published on Strong Opinions, a blog by Birch Ventures for the NYC tech startup community.
Photo credit: CC by Celestine Chua