Anand Jain .

The author is Co-founder, CleverTap

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Customer Centricity: The Success Mantra For Startups

Many startups go through this sequence, and it drives them into the ground. But there’s an easy solution: staying focused on your customer and their experience.

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If you’ve worked in a software startup, you’re familiar with this scene: A prospect or customer says that a competitor has a feature you don’t have. Desperate to make the sale or keep the customer, you say you’ll get right on it and add that feature. Everything goes haywire from there. The feature isn’t a great fit for the rest of your customers. It’s a secondary priority, so it doesn’t work correctly right away. It dilutes your product. And ultimately you regret adding the feature in the first place.

Then another customer points out another feature that a competitor has. And the cycle begins again.

Many startups go through this sequence, and it drives them into the ground. But there’s an easy solution: staying focused on your customer and their experience.

Where Startups Go Wrong

You might think that taking up every feature request given by your customers is a great example of customer centricity. But if you think about the situation above more closely, you’ll realize that you’re not actually being driven by your customers. You’re being driven by your competitors. 

Sure, customers bring these issues to your attention. But the entire process is focused on trying to match or outdo your competitors. You might even have gotten into the business with a focus on offering more features than your competitors, but the reality is that a product with all the leading-edge features is only one part of great customer experience. Customer experience has topped price and product quality to emerge as the leading deciding factor on who customers do business with.

The product that best serves customers is the one that will be most successful. That’s an important distinction that’s lost on many startups and product designers. Adding more features doesn’t necessarily serve the customer better.

How to Stay Focused on the Customer: The Co-creation Model.

Every entrepreneur establishes his or her business aiming to add value to a customer, that existing players currently lack. Be it communication gaps or loopholes in the product, entrepreneurs strive to be the best in their space.

But somewhere in the process, beating competition becomes the battle cry for most entrepreneurs and this tends to steer the focus away from what their customers really need. Bringing back the customer to the spotlight will help businesses be more successful.

One way to make the customer the hero of the story is to adapt what I call a co-creation model. Learning and providing services that are best suited for the customers’ business is the essence of this model. Yet, we do not discount the competitor’s progress or work, we simply adapt only those practices that will benefit customers.

To provide the services that are best suited for the customers’ businesses we need to learn to ask questions. Being fully acquainted with the business model and understanding the mindset of the customer will help us make the right suggestions to scale up their business. Remember, customers have the power to make or break your business.

Customer Centricity Doesn’t Mean Always Saying “Yes”

Being focused on customer centricity doesn’t automatically mean you always say “Yes” to all the requests. When customers recommend a change to be made in the product or process, it can be tricky to decline such a request. 

Sometimes these needs arise from competition analysis; other times it is based on the work the customers have done. It may be a great upgrade to the existing practices in a generic sense but may not be applicable to our customers’ business. That is when we need to reason with the customer on why it will not suit their business model. Additionally, it may require us to understand the nuances of the customer’s business which can be challenging at times. That said, it is our job to try and find the best way to meet our customers’ needs. 

Always remember to keep in mind the best interest of our customers before making any decisions about their business. Ask yourself, “Does this serve our customer well?” If the answer isn’t an immediate and emphatic “Yes”, make sure to double check if you’re doing the right thing. Ask them how the change or upgrade will have a positive impact on their business. Sometimes, if the customer can provide you with a fresh perspective, it may prove to be a great strategy. 

It is not easy to stay focused on the customer, especially in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive. So, don’t get caught up in the loop. Stick to your status-quo and ensure you meet the needs of the customers, build a product that stands out, and will withstand the test of time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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