Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes

If you want to build a great, lasting business, never stop thinking about the world from your customer’s perspective. Plenty of successful companies have gone off the rails at scale when they switched their focus to something other than their customers. It’s important to continually demonstrate that you are thinking about them, by solving their problems and communicating in simple, thoughtful ways.

Full disclosure: I can’t take credit for these ideas – they came from an extraordinary conversation with venture capitalist Brad Feld and entrepreneur John Weiss at FullContact’s Connect ’17 Conference last May in Denver. But they really hit home for me, and I wanted to share them with you.

Brad’s reputation for spotting great new companies is legendary. How does he do it?

“When I look for companies to invest in, I look for founders who are obsessed with their products – not just passionate. And that obsession should be linked to finding ways for their products to connect with customers.”

For example, let’s say your website goes down. This causes your customers pain, which has to be unacceptable to you. If you were in your customer’s shoes, you would just want the problem fixed. Even if your marketing people figure out how to spin it: Well, we have 99.9% system reliability — except for last month, when we were at 96% and had a painful server outage.

Always remember that your customers are people. Sounds obvious, I know. But it can easily get lost if you start thinking about your company as a B2B or B2C enterprise. In the end, all businesses are really H2H – Human to Human (more about this in an upcoming post). That means that everything we build should have human beings at the center. It’s the difference between building a viable product vs. a desirable product. Stop worrying about how you will market something and ask yourself: will it create a positive emotional response? Will it make people feel what you want them to feel – smarter, more innovative, more comfortable, entertained?

The best way to treat our customers as humans is to listen to them. When they call with a problem, don’t treat them like a service ticket that needs to be resolved – have a conversation with them. Stop transferring them to another number and just solve their problems. That’s how you drive sustained engagement. Too many organizations are afraid of their customers, and structured so that customers don’t have a positive and easy way to interact with them.

Then, when your marketing teams engage with customers, make sure they get your point across quickly. Your customers are under siege with information throughout their day. Brad recommends what he calls “The 15 second rule.” Can your customer figure out what your company does from your marketing message in 15 seconds or less? Far too often, the answer is ‘no’. Try communicating with three sentences instead of eight pages ­– or a 47-page presentation, or a five minute video.

I can already hear your marketing people pushing back. If we simplify our message, it will lose its meaning. We can’t get our message across about everything we can do for a customer in just three sentences. But you shouldn’t need any more than that to engage your customers. Here’s a template: 1. We have the answer for you. 2. It’s going to make your life better. 3. We want to build a long-term relationship with you. The last thing you want to do is obfuscate those messages with marketing speak.

I loved listening to this conversation because it totally aligns with some crucial goals here at FullContact. Our mission is to help businesses treat their customers as people, not as an email address or a ticket number. You can’t think about the world from your customer’s frame of reference if you don’t know your customer as a person. That’s why we built a platform to help companies cut through the clutter and gain deep insight into each customer, which enables timely, relevant and useful communication – and long-term relationships.  And in terms of keeping your message as uncomplicated as possible, here’s one of my favorite mantras:  “Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.”

A tip of the hat to Brad and John for reminding us that simple, direct and personalized messaging shows respect for your customers, which leads to higher satisfaction and loyalty. I couldn’t have said it better.

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