Mike Hughes, managing director of PeopleTECH, explains how high-growth businesses can stay on top of the customer experience
For early-stage startups, focusing on the customer is a relatively straight forward process. In fact, any early-stage startup that isn’t customer-focused is probably going to struggle to achieve growth, which is why so many place such emphasis on delivering a first-class customer experience.
However, as startups secure investment, attract more customers and generally expand, what was often based around the founder’s own personal vision can become corrupted. The back office processes especially, that once allowed next-day delivery to a small amount of customers, can struggle when aiming to do the same to a bigger volume of customers when the business scales rapidly.
The founder or CEO will find their attention is taken by any number of other things, and what was once a seamless customer experience can become disjointed. Why is it so important for this to be addressed, and how can high-growth companies best ensure that they continue to deliver the best customer experience possible?
The era of the empowered customer
It has never been more important for any business to deliver a first-class customer experience. Consumers are more empowered than ever before, and are only too willing to take their business elsewhere if the experience they receive does not reach the required standard. They are also more than happy to share their bad experiences on social media, causing embarrassment and potentially damaging the brand of the company in question.
So for many high-growth firms, customer experience is a key differentiator. Some of the most high profile startups of recent times – Uber, Deliveroo and WorldRemit – have all achieved such disruption so quickly, partly because they deliver an incredible customer experience. But it is easy to lose sight of what makes a good customer experience, when a company scales quickly. This is how high-growth firms can stay on top of this.
Start at the top
We recently conducted analysis at PeopleTECH, and found a lack of focus on customer experience at a senior level amongst high-growth firms, with not a single firm on the FTSE AIM 100 having a chief customer officer (CCO)or equivalent on the board. Just 2% of FTSE AIM 100 companies have a CCO on their senior management team (SMT), with only a further 5% having someone on the SMT with a specific customer-focused remit.
Customer experience is a senior level conversation, which is why it is so important to have someone in a specific senior role to make sure that doesn’t happen, to keep reinforcing the importance of customer experience and to communicate the impact that it can have on the bottom line. Without this role, it can be easily overlooked as startups scale.
Learn from other high-growth companies
Most customer experience issues relate to a startups’ self-imposed complexity, or an inability to understand the ‘extended enterprise’ that touches the customer.
But while each startup is course different, they experience many of the same growing pains and lessons can be learned from other startups. Most business models are based on what’s needed to get off the ground (small in terms of scale) and issues occur when growth takes place. So high-growth companies should also not be afraid to look at what others have done to retain control of the customer experience, and bring this into their own proposition.
Ensure your technologies and processes can scale
There are rarely customer experience issues in the early stages of a startup’s evolution. A founder will usually make assumptions about aspects of their business and in the early-stages would expect to get that right more often than not.
But as a company grows, the model need to evolve and change with it. This also applies to the processes and technology, which will often require further investment. This investment is another area that can be overlooked when a startup secures funding. Back office is not a glamourous element of startup life but it is one of the most important in maintaining high standards of customer experience.
Delivering on customer experience is more important than ever, but running into issues is common amongst high-growth firms. However, this need not be too problematic, if there is a plan to address them, and address them quickly before they become the norm within an organisation.
Mike Hughes is the managing director of PeopleTECH.