Josh Ledgard is the co-founder of KickoffLabs and SiftSocial. He knows a thing or two about what it takes to create a successful launch experience. In this guest post he explains how customer support starts before you even launch your product or feature! The way you communicate with customers before you launch can have a massive impact on the outcome.
How to Communicate with Customers Before you Launch
I love my customers and I love support. While any technology can be copied, the customer service experience you choose to offer is unique. It’s critical that you start these good habits BEFORE and during your launch. Here’s how:
Don’t skip talking to customers first
Before you buy a domain, put up a launch page, and start drafting up your employee stock option agreement you should be socializing your idea with potential customers. Spend time listening to them explain the problem you are trying to solve.
Everyone you talk to should walk away knowing that you understand their pain, are committed to solving it, and are taking their ideas seriously. That’s the foundation for any great customer relationship.
Don’t tease customers. Be straight up about your plans.
NDAs just stand in the way of good conversations. Launch pages that tease customers will set you up for failure. You may have higher conversion rates… but if every signup assumes for themselves what’s being built then you’ll have a LOT of dissatisfied voices when they feel like they were misled.
Be open, honest, and transparent with customers about what you are building. It’s better for you AND them if some people opt out and say that what you are doing isn’t for them. That will free up your time to focus on making the people you really care about happy.
Have a phone number prominently displayed
The first time you talk to a potential customer that found your phone number and called you’ll be glad you did. Most people will NEVER pick up the phone, but:
- The ones that do call will help you shape your business.
- The ones that don’t will have additional trust for what you are saying because they know they COULD call you if they had to.
NEVER use a do-not-reply email
NEVER, EVER, EVER, NEVER SEND A CUSTOMER AN EMAIL HE OR SHE CANNOT REPLY TO.
Make it clear that ANY email can be replied to. Why miss the opportunity to engage with your (would be) customer? Why make them jump through even a single hoop to contact you?
Thank people for signing up on your launch page
You have a second chance to make a great first impression after your launch page. Too many people just capture email addresses and don’t say thank you. You should:
- Make it personal from a real person.
- Add context to remind people what you said on your launch page.
- Educate them… give them some more information about what you are doing or ways they could solve the problem today.
- Give them a call to action… like helping you get the word out.
For more great tips click here.
Thank anyone that helps you get the word out
If someone tells their friends or twitter buddies about you they should be thanked separately. These people just classified themselves as even bigger fans of what you are doing so they deserve:
- Extra love. Reply online and promote what they do in return if it’s applicable.
- Another opportunity to talk personally to you and shape the product. Offer to call them up and chat more. You can only be helped by talking to these customers.
Build trust and get feedback by promoting support on your launch page
This is an area where UserVoice can help you out. Just get their feedback button for your website up on your launch page… TODAY. Like the phone number it tells customers that:
- You care about their feedback from day 0.
- They can help shape the product by giving you ideas.
Talk to your first 1,000 customers personally
I wish we’d been more hardcore about this from day one. There is a great post by Rob Fitz about this on the startup toolkit I recommend reading. I don’t think it has to be just through email.
Make sure you personally reply to the first 1,000 customer interactions. After you pass customer 1,000 the it will be hard to change a broad perception that has been formed about your new company/product. So make these people extra happy even if you lose money on some or make a tweak they recommended that maybe you weren’t planning on rolling out for a couple of months.
This effort is aimed at turning them ALL into your first raving fans. They are critical because these are people that will help you onboard and welcome your next 4,000 customers. 🙂
The TL;DR: Make Customer Communication Part of your Launch Plan
If you haven’t caught on yet the goal of this post is to open up as many doors for influencers to connect with you so you can build a more customer-focused product. You aren’t Steve Jobs. The rest of us have to talk to and give a damn about every customer from day 0.