Understanding customer value at companies where everything is fast-moving with Colin Crowley (PART 2)

If customer value changes at different stages of growth, what happens to customer value at fast-moving companies where change is the norm?

Understanding customer value at companies where everything is fast-moving with Colin Crowley (PART 2)

The evolution of mousetraps has been an epitome of innovation and a source of tourism in the form of mousetrap museums. We have been fawning about this in the first part of our blog.

However, one other thing happened around the same time the rodent distress rose to its peak. As herds of people took stakes and torches to the incessant scuttle between the walls, a sneaky wild cat killing a rodent made humans go crazy.

The wild cat, now domesticated, landed on all fours into human life, integrating itself as a good SaaS product should. There is much to be learned about integration and expansion from cats.

Cats had their first step in the door by solving pressing problems, just like a good SaaS product. By 2022, there were 600 million pet cats around the world. It is mindblowing to think that this catscape formed with one cat mellowing its feral cry to a husky purr. The same growth can be mimicked with a SaaS product by cross-selling and upgrading its way into the broader ecosystem of the organization.

While this sounds like the apparent road map for a SaaS product, the path is neither clear nor direct. We spoke with Colin Crowley, a customer experience innovator and CX advisor at Freshworks, to understand how customer value affects the product.

In the first part of the series, we covered why understanding customer value is important to be successful for your business, but that led us to more questions. If customer value is vital for product adoption, as we explored in our first part, what happens to customer value at different stages of growth when the said growth threatens to bring about a change?

In general, growth has a stronger grasp on customer value at two stages. This blog will focus on why we should care more about customer value in early-stage companies or scaling companies keen on automation.

Luckily for us, Colin spends most of his time helping startups and companies that focus on product-led growth. Here are a few tips he gives to companies growing or wanting to automate things from the beginning.

4 ways to win at customer value during rapid growth in companies

1. Collecting feedback from customers from day 1

There is a boon and a bane about being at step 1.
Tim Urban from Wait but Why shows the interplay between unknown possibilities through his life path diagram. At every fork of a branch lies a unique path that leads through a different set of experiences. The same applies to a product at step 1. Until it finds the sweet spot in the market, it keeps shifting gears to find its ever-evolving audience.

Colin says,

“If you're in the startup space, it’s key that you work to understand your customers as soon as possible so that you make smarter business decisions and set a firmer foundation for your business.”

This understanding shifts the onus on businesses to have a strategy set in place to gather customer data from day 1.

“You can track how they (your customers) interact with your website or use AI-powered technology to tag their incoming contacts automatically. Or maybe you use similar technology to perform text or sentiment analysis, or maybe you have a concerted strategy of getting feedback through surveys, focus groups, or some sort of voice of the customer initiatives.”

It is vital to be proactive about collecting customer data upfront because a startup is at a crucial stage where it needs to understand its customers, and it's easier to do that with a proactive approach.

2. Empower customers to choose their journey

You’d have noticed the uptick of ‘Choose your own adventure’ as a genre in recent years. It democratizes storytelling by giving every viewer and interactor an opportunity to narrate their experience.

Picking a thread from the genre, why not empower your customers to interact with your products as widely as possible early on and notice how customers naturally navigate?

You can experiment with how you introduce your product to the customer. The process can vary from being very handheld and gated, where you walk the customer through your product on an intricate level, versus letting people sign up for a free trial and to navigate and let the product value naturally expose itself to them. Here the human is only an additional resource.

Colin says,

“A key theme in customer experience these days is customer empowerment, which basically means wherever you can maximize the options your customers have because your customers know what they need and they know how best they want to navigate your product or your service.”

When you let customers choose their narrative, you’d easily be able to spot them distilling into two funnels. Some customers are more likely to jump into the product, go with the free trial, and start building out systems. There also exists a particular subset of customers who have different organizational needs or different organizational acumen and want a more handheld experience.

“There's also the added benefit that, if you give power to customers to navigate things on their own terms, there are things that you will learn about your product or your service through how customers choose to navigate. If, however, you create a rigid structure that forces customers down certain behavioral patterns, you don’t learn as much from how they behave because their steps are predetermined. Let customers roam free first, learn how they use that freedom, and create structures from there, rather than impose them at the beginning.”

3. Remember to dream big.

As much as one needs to listen to customer feedback, a business should also know when to take the plunge. Staying within the borders of customer feedback or wants might limit the product’s scope.

Colin says,

“The minute you start to go down the product route, and you get customer feedback, and you have to iterate based on that feedback, then you're more consciously operating in a more limited environment, which could limit your vision or even your appetite for dreaming big because you’ll be focused on today’s problems, not tomorrow’s possibilities.”

When launching a product or service, it is vital to use the opportunity to dream big in terms of what you want to achieve out of what you launch.

“As much as possible, don’t overthink exactly how customers will interact with every little crevice of the product because, to some extent, you never really know - but rather take that opportunity to dream big with your vision. And then, when you launch your product, go and do that deep dive into customer opinion and the customer experience and let reality temper your vision. The key thing is to let customers temper the vision from their real-world feedback rather than tempering it yourself based on presumptions that may be incorrect.”

This is especially true when you have a market niche for your product or service. It is more the reason to shun the naysayers from a practical perspective when you have a strong opinion on the product's viability.

“There'll be plenty of time to iterate from there, but early on, you have a unique opportunity to dream big - so take it.”

4. Understanding customer value is not about your product.

When it comes to startups and launching ideas into the world, it is always a concoction of big dreams, audience reactions, and going out on a limb. Only sometimes can you stay closer to your customer value throughout your journey to the product-market fit. A longer journey takes a longer time to reach the goal. But there are many other ways to hedge your bets.

One thing that Colin wants everyone to take away is that customer value isn't just about the product.

“A perfect example is the human component. Maybe you go out on a ledge with your product when you first launch, but if you're making sure that you have a robust human infrastructure when you launch, and customers feel valued and supported, it helps you hedge your bets with the product. Customers will see value in your attentiveness and customer service, and this provides space for you to iterate with the product while still delivering value elsewhere.”

It is more important to understand that value is created on all fours. The other factors can be used to create a supporting infrastructure, so it's about more than just the product. This knowledge liberates an organization to innovate with its product, as not every change is tied to customers’ trust.

In the final part of the three-part series with Colin Crowley, we will explore how customer value arises from understanding your customer experience and real-life examples from Freshworks to support the claim. Stay tuned to learn more!

Sinduja Krishnakumar

PUBLISHED ON: 1/19/2023