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Greatly excceed your customer expectations.

First customers are critical. Greatly exceed expectations at all costs.

                 There is so much history behind this insight, and so many stories that illustrate this point.  Your first customers for any product or service form your reference base, the important group of allies that your marketing and sales people rely upon when attempting to create buzz and make a mass market for a new product.  If you’ve been involved in the launch stage of any product in the past, you should recognize the overwhelming feeling of panic when initial customers make first contact with complaints about quality, functionality, speed of service or other critical part of the new release.

                The best advice I can give is to allocate all of your resources to supporting the roll-out of a new product, at least for a short period.  Respond immediately to every question and complaint.  Capture every compliment and ask if you can use it for marketing purposes.  If the product or service is especially complex or expensive, send someone from sales or marketing or even R&D to the customer location at the moment of first use. 

                Of course most of us have limited resources for such overwhelming support of a new offering. So make the first release a limited one, sized so you can support it with existing resources, even if that means releasing it to only three carefully chosen customers at first.

                And I am serious about the “…at all costs” admonition in this insight.  If you must provide a free backup unit, personal on-sight service for a month, your personal cell phone number for the customer CEO, or any number of unexpected offers of superior service and accountability to those first customers, do just that.  Make your customer a partner in the process.   Send flowers to the staff in the department using the product for the first time if appropriate.  Call the customer CEO and thank him for helping launch a product so very important to your success.

                The result of doing this right will be to blunt criticism, reinforce compliments and provide a solid user base to build upon.  And the alternative is a lost opportunity to shine, perhaps a first wave of negative public reviews that post and report across the Internet, and a loss of reputation and goodwill that will take years to overcome.

                I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to spend dollars reinforcing a great first customer’s experience than fighting fires in the marketplace after seeing negative reviews.  Make sure your entire staff buys into this mantra. “These first customers are critical.  You are personally empowered to do everything possible to exceed their expectations.”

  • Don Kasle

    Dave — Your focus on customer satisfaction is “right on.” As a retired bank CEO, I would share with you a study that was done by an independent organization on behalf of the American Bankers Association back in the 1990’s – when banks were more respected by their customers. This study found that bank customers who had problem that was very successfully resolved by their bank were far more loyal and willing to stay with the bank for years to come, that those who never experienced a problem. The study went on to point out that while the “no-problem” clients were not quick to leave the bank, they were more likely to do so (for a better interest rate or fee reduction) than were those that had a problem that was totally and completely resolved to the satisfaction of the customer. It goes to point out that if you have a customer service problem with a particular customer – you have an “opportunity” to not only make them happy, but also to make them far more loyal to your organization.

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