Founders : Do you make customers a part of your journey?

Are you a ‘nice’ person to deal with?

Recently, AirBnB founder, Brian Chesky sent a tweet asking ‘If @Airbnb could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?’.
He received more than 300+ ideas ranging from travel guides to AirBnB social network and several others.
If you ever wanted to build a competitor to AirBnB, there are enough ideas to build on. But the bigger question is why are AirBnB customers so open about sharing feedback with the founder vis-a-vis millions of startups who don’t get feedback and feature suggestion from customers.
What makes a few startups so approachable that customers tend to believe that they are a part of an extended team?
Here are a few perspectives:
How approachable is the founder?
Typically, founders are approachable only when they want to engage with the audience base. That’s not the right way to go about it – you should be seen as an approachable founder who cares about customers.
Can your customers approach you when your support team isn’t able to solve the problem? Are you a ‘nice’ person to deal with? Or are you seen as an arrogant (or busy) founder who doesn’t care to reply to customers complaints?
What do you do with the feedback?
Recently, Tesla announced a new feature that dissuaded Tesla customers from parking at supercharging station. The suggestion came from a tweet and was implemented within a few days of the tweet.
As a customer, you would be more aligned to Tesla than competitors because you do know that the CEO cares for the company and its customers.
Do you often meet your customers?
As a company grows, the founding team brings in multi layers of management and leadership team. This results in founding team being totall disconnected from the customer feedback and suggestions. This often results in what is often called as Chinese whispers game – i.e. customers’ feedback often gets manipulated and misunderstood across different teams and might be totally different from what the customer would have meant.
Great companies are built on founding team’s red-eyed focus on customer service and great leaders do walk the talk – i.e. they often act on feedback / suggestions from the customers.
Would you share your product roadmap with customers?
Sometimes, knowing the product roadmap and the company vision helps in building a loyal userbase. Great companies often conduct closed door study with selected customers and walk them through product roadmap, in order to get their feedback and eventually make them a part of the product journey.
Such customers often become brand ambassador for the business and evangelize the company among their peer group.
As a founder, you have to incorporate this culture as part of the company DNA – right from the day one.
You just can’t delay building this culture!

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