Venture capital fundraising has reached heights this year. In the second quarter of 2021, venture funds poured $75 billion into U.S. startups. Fintechs and proptechs, which pulled in a record $9.7 billion in the first half, have seen funding activity soar. Flush with capital, companies like Railsback, Revolut, and others are using funds to hire teams and build out marketing, sales, accounting. These are critical functions, but are there other functions to consider using funds to scale up businesses quickly?
As consumers are shopping more amid the pandemic, consumers are also engaging with brands in new ways through a variety of online channels. With less physical interaction, brands are relying on customer experiences that consist of websites, customer agents, virtual chats, social media, and other means to communicate with customers. Increasingly, customer experience is becoming a key differentiator—or the X factor.
Startups have one thing on their minds: growth. They ramp up marketing and promotional activities to collect leads, fill the sales funnel, and drive revenue growth. But what’s the best way to retain the customers you already have? Ultimately it boils down to satisfaction with the service or product you deliver. But more and more it’s about the experience customers have with your brand—from initial adoption to how you serve them along the way. Understanding the customer experience is key. Investing in that understanding early on will go a long way to sustained growth.
Can you minimize churn?
To be sure, customer churn is inevitable. Often it is because a customer didn’t have a good experience. They may have had an issue with a service or product and that problem wasn’t addressed to their satisfaction. But what’s causing that churn? For example, is a customer not getting what they thought they would receive? Challenger brands are capturing this information and trying to understand what’s causing satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) and delivering those insights back to product and marketing teams so they can fix these issues. The key reason: failing to account for churn leads to a revolving door of customers and increased spending on marketing to reel new ones in.
Startups need to develop customer interaction insights to identify why customers go elsewhere and increase retention. One way to do so is to use customer satisfaction surveys. These surveys are capturing product and customer experience. For example, did a customer expect a certain experience when using your website? Did a customer service agent help to resolve the problem? Customer service teams are gathering information and converting data into insights so that the company can address issues quickly.
A bank, for example, can determine which products to promote via its mobile app by better understanding how—and how frequently—customers use the app. Surveys that collect data such as this can be used to track customer behavior and result in new service strategies, such as leaning into virtual agents or chatbots. Surveys can also be used to collect data that can enable companies to deliver more personalized offers.
A starter kit for startups
First, know your customers and their expectations. For example, what is your primary channel strategy? What portion of your work is back office, email, or chat? Your customers may not want to communicate with you by phone. Others may need as much handholding as they can possibly get. Based on your customers, you can determine how much upfront education you should invest in.
Startups must recognize that the needs of new customers will be different from those who have been with the brand for a while. As a result, the approach for each group should be varied. How do you recognize that and build a model that serves both groups?
A new customer may have seen an ad and signed up for an offer but may not know what the product or service is really about. So, there’s a need to educate up front by using a human agent to assist at that very time. By making this investment and helping a customer fully understand what your product can do, you can be better positioned to retain that customer and get a greater share of wallet.
CX is about problem solving. Startups need to build tools and systems to help customers address product or service issues with call center expertise and technology to support it. But as COVID-19 has shown, with more and more customers not physically interacting with brands, it’s much more than that. When thinking about CX, startups must make sure that the experience is not merely transactional.
Reinventing Apparel Sales, Wi-Fi, and Food Delivery
Take Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer that launched in 1999 and is now part of Amazon. Putting customers first was at the core of what the brand offered. If Zappos was out of stock of a product, its site would direct visitors to a competitor website. Repeat customers received surprise shipping upgrades. Orders placed before midnight arrive on doorsteps the next morning. How is that for delighting customers? And if a customer had a problem, they could reach a customer service agent 24/7 and in a manner that works for them, on their favorite channel.
Today, other startups are going above and beyond to wow their customers. Eero, which offers a Wi-Fi system via mesh networking, put customer experience at the core of its business. The company established a CX team early on when most startups are only focused on technology and engineering. Eero’s belief is making it as easy as possible for customers to use its product – from setup to use and service. It does so by guiding customers where the best location is to place the device, enabling customers to share passwords and manage screen time, and auto-updating with little effort needed by the customer.
ClusterTruck, which brings restaurant food to homes via an online delivery platform, uses software and custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery functions. In eliminating a third-party model, it delivers all orders to customers within seven minutes of preparation and less than 30 minutes of ordering on average. When it comes to customer problem-solving, the company’s CX team responds by text or e-mail whether it’s to update delivery status or replace a missing item.
Understanding the Customer Journey
Today, digital is king. With that in mind, startups need to understand how their website was designed, and how their customers navigate once they are on it. Ultimately, it is essential to create a seamless experience from digital to customer agent. Understanding why a customer is reaching out and being able to personalize is important. Companies can do that only by understanding a customer’s history with their product or service. Does the company know what the experience has been? Can an agent pull key information such as how long someone has been a customer or reasons for past calls to customer service?
Today, technology can complement the work of agents by enabling them to have this information. As a result, a customer service representative can enter conversations better equipped to solve customer issues. That gives customers more confidence. The agent knows each persons’ history, can get to the issue more quickly, and can solve the problem more efficiently. Technology can also help to verify customer identity more quickly. Tools and technologies capture customer information up front, which optimizes time spent speaking to an agent.
How to scale CX growth
Increasingly, startups are considering the customer journey and exactly how customers interact with their products and services. Like any company, startups that can anticipate customer needs and resolve problems or issues most efficiently are on the path to successful CX. Though there is no single strategy to deliver great CX, the right tools, expertise, and technologies are essential. Best practices include platforms that can support growth, multi-channel approaches such as live chat or texting that are most useful to your customers and optimize interactions with them, and processes that enable you to focus on key areas of the business while outsourcing others to specialists.
Startups that are customer-centric will be better positioned to create positive experiences for consumers. Amid the pandemic, this focus is even more important. By devoting appropriate resources—funding, expertise, technologies—startups can ensure they are able to adapt to customer preferences. In this environment in which many products are alike, don’t you want to differentiate? By offering omnichannel support that can solve issues more efficiently, you can create delightful experiences. A brand that can demonstrate that it truly cares about customers is well positioned to keep them coming back for more—and for longer.