Someone recently asked me which customers I enjoy working with the most. As I crafted my response, I chuckled, because my favourite customer is often the most difficult and demanding. They are always asking us to do more, to push our product beyond its capabilities and they keep me thinking about how we can exceed their expectations well beyond the classic work day.
I call them our “lightning customers.” They are a partner who is, in many respects, more capable, has higher expectations of your team or your product than you do and isn’t afraid to share their opinions, their pain points and their insights.
Lightning customers push us to problem solve, think outside the box and stress test our biggest ideas.
The mission of my team is to enable millions of people to work the way they choose. We believe that when we use the tools that make our lives easier, work gets better. The energy our most engaged customers put into providing feedback on their experiences helps us to improve the business, and no one does this better than a lightning customer.
But a lightning customer is just that – one that doesn’t strike often, packs a ton of energy, and can burn. But they introduce a huge opportunity if you can harness their energy. So, how can you tell the difference between an individual or company that is just difficult and a true lightning customer?
There are three questions I ask when I sense I’m working with one:
1. How wide is the problem?
Is their problem unique to them, or do other customers share it? If you listen to what your customers are asking for, you’ll avoid the common misstep of building a product without a market.
The last thing you want to be is the “New Coke.” For example, when users on Twitter started using hashtags to create easily searchable terms, Twitter developers caught on and made them a core feature by hyperlinking those hashtags. Now we couldn’t even imagine Twitter without them. If multiple customers are asking for the same thing, this is definitely an opportunity to innovate.
2. Is it a future problem?
If other customers don’t currently share this problem, will they in the future? It’s important to ask yourself whether it’s possible that this customer is pointing out a problem or need that other customers will eventually have.
I experienced this firsthand when my team was responsible for helping one of the largest online streaming companies move all of their company documents to store on Drive – about 35 terabytes of data. Because of the sheer volume, this truly stress tested our system.
Rather than complain and wait for us to figure it out, this lightning customer worked with us closely to build new features and maximise the potential of Drive. While they may have been the first company to need so much capacity, it turned out they weren’t alone.
As our enterprise business grew and more large companies started working with us, we found the features we built for this one customer were necessary for many of our larger customers with terabytes of data.
Related: Customer Service Success Secrets
3. Will your customer become a partner?
Is the customer willing to be an active partner in the project? The ultimate defining characteristic of a lightning customer is their willingness to work with you.
If the problem they are asking you to solve will require a heavy lift, ask them, “Are you willing to work with us on this?” Tell them exactly what you’re going to need from them, and be honest. To properly execute on a lighting customer project, you may need to assemble a dedicated team and pool resources that were previously allocated elsewhere.
If you’re going to invest that much on your end, the customer needs to be willing to meet you halfway. If they need to assign their own team to the project as well, tell them.
If executive leadership needs to make final decisions, ask them if the executives are just as invested as the team who is doing the bulk of the work. The last thing you want is for everyone to hustle on a project only to get rejected once it’s brought to the decision-makers.
Once you engage and commit to partnering with a lightning customer, it’s important to get everyone who will be working closely with them invested as well. Invite your customer to talk to the team, or better still, visit their offices and see their pain points and needs first hand – don’t just file a bug.
Hold a brainstorming session with the customer and ask them to let you know what they need in their own words.
Having a direct connection to customers is also extremely energising and motivating for the folks who will have to make the magic happen by designing, coding or supporting this customer.
If you can embrace your lightning customers and use their high expectations as an opportunity to learn, engage and better understand them, you will make better products, inspire your employees and create customer advocates for your business. To me, that is true customer success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Customers Are The Heart Of Innovative Businesses
Keep your customer at the heart of your business.
One of the main reasons start-ups fail is because they don’t create solutions that meet their customers’ needs. Failure is avoidable. Businesses that understand their customers feelings, challenges, expectations and motivations make themselves indispensable in highly competitive markets because they recognise that true innovation is led by customer insight.
An incredible example of a business that believes in innovation driven by insight is Netflix. They revolutionised the way people watch video content by listening to their customer’s needs. You’ve probably heard the story before: after paying a $40 overdue DVD fee, Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix. He was simply too busy to return his DVD. He recognised that this experience wasn’t exclusive to him, but that it was a problem that many people faced. He saw a gap in the market for receiving and returning videos more effectively, and that is how the $150 billion business was born.
If your start-up doesn’t fulfil a human need, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not enough to have a cool idea. Ask yourself, “What is the market need behind the offering?” and then test ways of delivering your offering in the most user-friendly manner. Talk to your consumers, understand their likes and dislikes and establish your business purpose before haphazardly allocating funds to R&D.
You can’t go from being a California based DVD-by-mail provider, to becoming the world’s largest online video streaming service without a business plan. It’s important to recognise the step-by-step process of success. Netflix didn’t go from delivering DVD’s to pouring capital into the production of video content within six months. That sort of development would have bankrupt the company almost immediately. It took 21 years for the business to become content creators.
- In 1999, the company became a subscription service because they found that customers preferred paying a monthly fee rather than making a once off purchase.
- Then, in 2009, the company used investor capital to expand their DVD collection because their clients wanted a larger selection of movies.
- In 2010, the business expanded internationally because they saw a gap in the market across various countries.
- Finally, in 2013, Netflix created its first original content series because customers craved fascinating content beyond the overused Hollywood archetype.
The point is: Progress didn’t happen overnight. The business had to set goals and objectives. They then had to fund their growth by presenting market opportunities, backed by customer insights, to their investors. Establish your start-up one step at a time and make sure every progression isn’t innovation for innovations sake – it must be inspired by a human need.
Netflix was founded by a computer scientist and a marketing director. While one partner focused on Netflix’ service development, the other focused on sales. Since the company’s origin, collaboration and balance have been the cornerstones of the business’ success.
Netflix is currently composed of a diverse team of tech-professionals and designers. They understand the importance of combining technology and design to offer customer-inspired user-experiences.
After conducting consumer research, Netflix discovered that series and movie artwork influences viewing decisions by 82%. This has resulted in the creation of more descriptive and provocative designs. Netflix is known for leveraging human-behaviour to revolutionise their service offering.
As an entrepreneur, you can increase your ROI by partnering with the experts that understand human-based innovation.
Keep your customer at the heart of your business.
Why Smart Business Growth Means Smart IT Budgeting
(…And how to do it)
For any business today, no matter its size or sector, getting the IT budget right has become a critical part of success and sustainability. The difference between a three-device network and a fifty-device network has significant ramifications for your IT spend and your overall budget outlook.
Let’s take a closer look at several potential costs and how to plan for them…
Network: The driving force
Essentially, the network is the backbone/core of your IT infrastructure. It needs to be reliable, fast and efficient. Often, a young and growing business will have a piecemeal network in place, bolting on new sections over time. This can lead to the network becoming inefficient and slow.
The important thing to note is that when you have reached capacity on your current network, is it’s sometimes better to start from scratch and also leave room for expansion down the line (rather than adding to the existing network as a quick fix).
While it may appear more costly (and scary), the end result is a reliable network that you won’t have to worry about revamping for many years.
Licensing: Pricey but critical
Software licensing often comes as an unexpected (and unpleasant) cost to many business owners and their financial teams. Indeed, purchasing legal software can be pricey if you aren’t prepared for it (and don’t understand how it all works!). However, if you buy software licenses in bulk, or commit to a longer term, they can cost far less…so again, budgeting intelligently for your business growth can save you money in the long term. Also remember that many software licenses nowadays can be rented on a per user per month basis so its flexible and always up-to-date.
Maintenance: Be realistic
As the business grows and expands, so too will your IT maintenance needs. The key factor to note is to carefully consider the potential costs of IT failures and hardware issues. You need to take into account that you will undoubtedly have to spend money on maintaining your computers and overall network – and breakdowns can be extremely costly in downtime and lost productivity.
Some businesses find that it makes good financial sense to employ someone to be an IT technician in addition to taking on other responsibilities – but this person may not have the right expertise and experience to manage everything. The other increasingly popular option is to outsource your IT management. With flexible pricing options now available to businesses, this is becoming a viable and often much more flexible route to take.
Think Beyond The Box
With a holistic view of your business finances and admin in place, Sasfin’s new digital banking platform is engineered to help you grow your business.
Welcome to the banking platform designed to support your banking needs. In response to more than 50 years of financing and supporting SMEs, Sasfin has launched a digital banking platform, B\\YOND, to help address the pain points and pressures that business owners face in South Africa.
“We’ve spent decades understanding what makes SMEs succeed or fail, and a lot of it begins with how well a business owner understands their finances,” says Sasfin CEO, Michael Sassoon.
“Failed SMEs often tend to either neglect or become completely consumed by their finances and admin. We wanted to create a platform that could help them take control of these factors, and give them a full 360-degree view of their businesses.”
B\\YOND was built to enable businesses to attend to their finances and admin seamlessly, thereby ensuring that entrepreneurs can focus on their clients — driving revenue and enhancing their products and services in the process.
Everything you need on one platform
According to Sassoon, entrepreneurs on the B\\YOND platform will never need to set foot in a branch again. The sophisticated technology incorporates many value-added services at no additional cost, including:
- B\\YOND online applications: Businesses with multiple shareholders and directors can apply online, by uploading documents and signing the application digitally.
- B\\YOND payroll: A simple-to-use and SARS-compliant payroll function enables business owners to perform their own payroll management.
- B\\YOND invoicing: Businesses can create and send personalised quotes and invoices directly from the platform.
- B\\YOND insights: Smart dashboards generated through clever account and transaction classification and tagging helps manage revenue and expenses, and keep track of projects.
- B\\YOND integrations: Direct-feed integration into Xero ensures that small businesses and their accountants can safely and seamlessly connect their Sasfin Bank transactional data with Xero, the fastest growing cloud-based accounting software provider in the world.
Serving the entrepreneur
While there is much in store for the next versions of B\\YOND, the platform currently offers business leaders the basic tools they need to run their businesses smoothly in one place at no additional cost, with the ability to bank at their convenience.
“Sasfin has always existed to serve the entrepreneur and investor, the two key drivers of the South African economy and it bothers us that there is such a high failure rate of entrepreneurs in our country. We have spent the last three years building B\\YOND — a future-fit digital banking platform to help these entrepreneurs,” says Sassoon.
Engineered for success
Sasfin has gone above and B\\YOND to bring you a new digital banking platform that gives you the tools to make managing your business simple and profitable.
B//YOND is a value-add to all Sasfin Transctional Banking clients
Bank outside the box
The Sasfin Transactional Banking Business Account is designed for SMEs who want to focus on what they’re most passionate about — their business — while their banking platform not only sweats the small stuff for them, but helps manage and grow their business.
- Do you spend unnecessary time on banking?
- Does your bank pay you market-leading annual interest rates?
- Does your bank give you easy cash management in real-time?
- Would you like to manage your payroll and invoicing from your bank account?
- Does your bank help you keep track of your cash flow, manage your admin, and provide you with the set of tools you need to help run your business successfully?
Sign up today and have access to a whole new world of banking better for your business.
Call 0861 SASFIN for more information.
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