customer service scaling timeline phase oneThis is part of our ongoing series on Scaling Customer Service, based on our Customer Service Scaling Timeline. This month we’re covering Stage One.

Welcome to the very initial phase of a company’s life. It’s a deceptively simple-looking stage for customer service: few tools, and just one founder focused part-time on customer service. Easy, right? Not at all.

This is because customer service in this phase is less about solving customer issues. Instead, customer service during this phase will be answering the question: what will make customers happy? You’re not trying to make them happy with an existing product – you’re trying to figure out what potential product will make them happy. And you’re often doing this with a very limited set of beta testers or initial customers.

toolsConversations Are Key

In order to accomplish this, your most powerful tool is going to be conversations. Whether via email, phone, or in person, this phase is all about asking people questions. You’re not going to have enough testers or a complete-enough product to simply look at usage – you need to ask. We recommend taking people out for a beer. People like free beer.

Are tools beyond email and telephone a bad thing at this point? No – but they can often get in the way of what you’re doing. If you have a lot of beta testers, tools may be necessary. But if you’re still working with a 15-person beta group, you shouldn’t be setting up tools, you should be talking.

staffScaling When You’re Just One Person

At this point the big scaling challenge for you is going to be time. With only a part-time focus on customer conversations, the learnings here must be communicated concisely. There’s no time for individual feature requests or a full transcript of a conversation. Instead, you need to tell stories.

bear in a riverThink back to the stories we all hear as kids. These stories don’t simply list out the lessons we’re expected to learn. Goldilocks and the Three Bears isn’t a one pager with this executive summary:

  • The middle thing is just right
  • Don’t take stuff from others
  • Bears will eat you if you make them angry

Goldilocks is a story because children don’t have any reason to care about bullet points. But once you help them understand and relate with the characters in the story, the lessons suddenly stick like glue. While we’d like to think we’re far more advanced than children, we all still love a story. Introduce your team/co-founder to who a customer is and what their feelings are, and they’ll absorb the necessary lessons.

Feeling ready to start understanding your customers’ needs? Stick with us this month as we bring you case studies and further tips about Stage One of the Customer Service Scaling Timeline.

Bear photo courtesy of Blackburn Photo.