We have never met an entrepreneur who does not think their idea will change the world. The question is: does the world agree?
Like most entrepreneurs, we started our business because we had an idea for a service that we felt was badly missing. We were tired of finding out about “the sales” after all the good stuff had gone. We wanted a simple, efficient way to find out about fashion sales and special offers on the high street without having to sign up to dozens of email subscriptions.
We knew there was a demand out there but we needed to establish how that demand could be met. Our customers were they key. And if we’ve learnt one thing it’s the importance of consistently making the effort to understand what our customers want and, finding ways to satisfy their needs in a profitable way.
Many first-time entrepreneurs, having fallen in love with their initial idea or business plan, think it will drive them all the way to success. The truth is that once the initial idea is introduced to the market it will have to be revised, redesigned and improved many times over.
You will know what you want to achieve but it’s unlikely you will do that just by sticking to the original route you had planned. If you fail to monitor, understand and act upon your customers’ needs and priorities you’ll end up on the rocks. You need to be able to answer a few simple questions: Do your customers keep coming back? Are they spending more money with you? Why? What value can you add to get them to come back more often, and spend more?
The key here is to test your assumptions quickly by asking customers what they think and track consumer response to changes in your product or service. Some marketers call it being ‘customer-centric’; for any successful entrepreneur, constant improvement based on customer feedback is one of the key building blocks for their business.
Before we launched SalesGossip we set about testing our initial concept on a group of target customers, knowing that what they said would ultimately affect the direction our business was to take. They loved SalesGossip as much as we did, but they hated our interface. We thought we knew how users would like to browse the sales, but we were wrong.
We had grown attached to certain features, but our target market told us they didn’t like them. We modified the website structure and redesigned the user interface and, as soon as we launched the new version, traffic and the numberreturning customers began to increase. We are constantly improving and enriching our service based on customer feedback and metrics we setup to understand consumers’ behaviour better.
Plenty of evidence exists to show that satisfaction with the customer experience is linked to profitability. For example, research has shown that twice as many car dealerships with low satisfaction scores went out of business in the recession as those with high scores.
In the digital world, customer experience is just as important, if not even more so, because there is not the direct personal interaction to resolve any problems. A boring site or clunky mobile app will never take off, however innovative the initial idea. The runaway success of a website like Net-a-Porter or Dropbox can be directly attributed to outstanding customer experience, achieved through continuous improvements to their service based on customer feedback.
And this will never stop. 100-year-old companies, from Porsche to Selfridges, still differentiate themselves through the superb customer insight that allows them to provide an outstanding customer experience.
It’s critical that you regularly use customer feedback to shape your product roadmap. No matter how great your initial idea, customers will vote first with their feedback and then with their feet. Your job is to take that feedback and translate it into something that far exceeds their expectations.
Emilio Sanz is the co-founder and CTO at SalesGossip.co.uk