The quality of the interaction your customers (both current and future) have with you in the early days of your company can be a powerful differentiator in the long term. In fact, establishing a high level of customer care is something that startup companies with small customer bases have a decided advantage over larger competitors. When you have only a few customers, you are able to actually speak with them on the phone to ease purchasing or handle technical issues. Doing this in the early days can help to create a group of evangelists for your product(s) that will generate the kind of positive publicity that will help you win new customers and successfully compete.
Hold onto this advantage by growing with your customers
All of this may seem pretty self-evident. However the key here is to make sure that your customer care efforts are scalable. In the beginning, you may be able to plan visits, schedule direct meetings with your lead R&D team members and other activities that will delight your first customers. However, these types of interactions are costly (with regard to time, effort and money) and are likely not sustainable as your customer base grows.
Maximizing your customer relations efforts
Use your early effort-intensive efforts to learn what particular customer relations efforts are most valued by your customers and begin to plan scalable, sustainable and cost effective alternative that can grow along with your increasing customer base. Doing this early, will allow you to plan for the budgets, human resources and other efforts that will be required to maintain this.
The following list of Customer Relations Tactics is intended to kick-off the thinking that will lead to a winning strategy.
- Smooth purchasing process
- Small Customer Base: Every order handled in-person or by phone
- Larger Customer Base: E-commerce, ‘Click here for quote’ button on online store, hire inside sales dedicated personnel
- Caring technical support
- Small Customer Base: Every issue handled in-person or by phone
- Larger Customer Base: FAQ’s on website, ‘How-to’ videos, hire dedicated tech support personnel
- Easily contactable
- Small Customer Base: Encourage customers to call you with any issue anytime
- Larger Customer Base: Encourage customers to contact via email, hire dedicated tech support and/or inside sales personnel to handle calls
- Insuring customer satisfaction
- Small Customer Base: Check in with all customers by phone or in-person
- Larger Customer Base: Check in with a customers by e-mail (automatically set up at the time of sale), periodically send out satisfaction surveys, randomly select a subset of customers for calls by dedicated inside sales personnel.