Blog Post

One Way to Differentiate Your Startup: Customer Support

Update: for another lesson on the imperative of customer support, spend a few minutes studying Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s decision this week to close hundreds of stores nationwide for 3 hours in order to retrain Baristas in good customer service. The Wall Street Journal: Starbucks Closes Stores To Retrain Baristas (Photo credit, from WSJ: Kurt Wilberding)

customer-service1.gifBen Yoskovitz is a very thoughtful founder, and we republish posts from his Instigator Blog here frequently. (See list at bottom). Yesterday, Ben put up an ode to his customers that is (OK) a tad mushy but, as always, material.

Ben points out an all-too-common shortcoming of cash- and time-strapped startups: a lack of attention on customer support. Maybe we’re overly focused on our code or our funding. Whatever the reasons, this is a weakness Ben argues — and therein lies a potential strategic advantage.

Of course it’s just good business to offer quality customer support. The fact that so few startups do so only compounds the value to you if you can:

Luckily for you, very few companies (especially startups!) provide anything remotely resembling quality customer support and so you can immediately use it as a differentiator

What is more, tying in to our post yesterday on the perils of pursuing product perfection, Ben points out that providing good support can compensate for the inevitable glitches, bugs and necessary tweaks that you — and your users — will be dealing with post-launch.

Invariably your product will be rough around the edges, bugs will emerge and there will be a shortage of features. On top of that, you’re the new kid on the block, so customers may look at you with a bit of concern (especially in a B2B market.) “How long will they last?” “Can they really provide the level of product quality and service we need?” To assuage those concerns, and balance against the shortcomings of an early product, use great customer support.

So this is how, Ben concludes, what must of us think of as a “cost-center” actually becomes a value-creator.

Read all of Ben’s post, I Love Customers , and for more of his writings, see also:
* DEMO Went Great, Then “All Hell” Broke Loose.
* Presenting at DEMO: 12 Do’s. 5 Don’ts.
* Are you a leader?

* This is Your Brain. TiYB when fundraising…
* How-To Create the Perfect Company Blog

Image credit: CartoonChurch.