Why startups should focus on the last mile customer

Ultimately, what your customer will remember is how your brand made them feel, writes Sumit Saxena, CEO, Merren.
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Survival. That’s the primary job of a startup founder. It requires building resources - capital, talent, or even expertise; and ensuring their optimal utilisation becomes critical.

But how does one ensure “optimal” utilisation? Who decides what the best option is? The prompt answer would be ‘the market’. If you tackle the most pressing problems that your customers face, the ones that they are willing to pay for, for you to solve; you would be able to truly optimise.

This can only happen when you make your processes more customer-centric and listen to what they need. Seeking consistent feedback, asking the right questions, integrating the feedback, understanding how it will benefit the customers, what they are willing to pay for and using these inputs to improve your offerings, is the key to success.

Simple enough, right? Then what stops every startup in the world from doing this? Let’s look at a few reasons.

The lure of the comfort zone

All founders seek refuge in their respective zone of comfort. For example, tech founders are more comfortable writing code than talking to customers. Coding more features makes them feel like they are making progress.

Ultimately, they end up building features the market isn’t too keen to pay for. Why? Because the product does not sync well with the customer needs.

The falling customer response rates

Increasingly, Indian startups aim at building for the world. There are several online channels where you can find customers and seek them out for their feedback. However, the attention span of consumers has shrunk over time. People avoid feedback mechanisms that are tedious, time-consuming, or boring. The onus therefor lies on the startup to make the process of feedback collection as frictionless as possible.

Traditional customer experience management tools are like a hammer looking for a nail!

Yet, you are unlikely to find a procurement manager of a steel foundry to respond to your online form.

If you cater to the consumer segments in India, you will run into the issue of reaching customers in small towns and villages where internet penetration is limited. This is the India that completely bypassed the browser revolution and jumped straight into the world of smartphone apps. Send them a browser-based survey form and you would grow old waiting for a response.

Similarly, if you are building for millennials who are constantly glued to their smartphones, and expect them to go to a browser and give you feedback, the curse of ‘no response’ will hit you, yet again.

Most popular CX management tools are built to push out online browser-based forms. Unfortunately, for most brands, their consumers have left the world of browsers behind. Try as hard as you may but you are bound to face multiple obstacles while gathering customer feedback through browser-based surveys

Startups building for most segments, B2B or B2C, must find channels to connect and make it easy for customers to engage with them.

Startups are born out of the need to challenge the status quo, reinventing the traditional ways, and building a positive environment for a seamless customer experience to win against the incumbents. With a determined focus on leveraging tech to further enrich the customer experience management and making it more customer centric, look for customers on platforms that they already spend time on and are familiar with.

Often, easy to use messenger platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram might prove to be better ways of collecting customer experience data, rather than browser-based surveys. All this will also collectively help you plan better for the end mile customer.

Ultimately, what your customer will remember is how your brand made them ‘feel’. Thus, while planning for the last mile consumer, remember to focus on delivering an enriching customer experience with innovative solutions.

Most importantly, founders must set a culture of customer centricity themselves. Even if this means going out of their comfort zone! Only when the use of resources are dictated by customer needs, would optimisation of resources come naturally too.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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