Most customers tolerate bugs. Most customers tolerate products with missing features that they need (or think they need!) Most customers tolerate the quirks and hiccups that come with new technology and software. This is true of early adopters, but it’s even true to some degree, of late adopters. Customers can be quite forgiving. But what they won’t tolerate is being ignored. Even the feeling or inkling of being ignored can set customers into a rage; and worse, have them looking for alternative solutions to yours.
The way to avoid this is simple: Be Responsive.
Set an early precedent with your startup – that becomes part of your company’s culture – around the importance of responsiveness. And use those customer interactions to learn from them. Your goal is to keep customers happy, but early on it’s so much more than that. You have to learn and understand if that happiness will translate into ongoing product use. You have to learn about customers’ usage, and whether it’s inline with assumptions you’ve made. You have to collect feature feedback and assess the relative importance of those requests. You have to understand the perceived value (or lack thereof) that they’re getting, and analyze any quantitative data you may have.
Being responsive also means being proactive. Don’t wait for customers to reach out with complaints. Don’t expect happy customers to contact you constantly with glowing testimonials. Reach out on a regular basis, create those ongoing touch points and keep customers happy, all the while gathering the intel you need to improve their lives even further going forward.
Responsiveness can mask all sorts of product issues. You’ll be amazed at how forgiving customers will be simply because you responded quickly (almost always more quickly than they expect too!) Responsiveness eases tension, impresses people (because they’re not used to it), and changes how people perceive the product they’re struggling with and the entire company that makes the product. This doesn’t mean you can build crappy products and get away with it just by being responsive. But at the early stages of product development, when you’re putting rough versions into customers’ hands, being responsive is your best tool for keeping people happy and learning how to improve the product itself.