Many startups are innovative not just in their products but in how they approach the customer experience. What lessons can more established companies learn from startups’ CX strategies?
To help answer that question, PwC spoke with Patrick de Zeeuw, a Dutch entrepreneur and the founder of Startupbootcamp, which connects emerging companies with established ones.
PwC: A big takeaway from PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey is that companies must focus more on the experience that they deliver to consumers. Is a focus on the customer experience essential to startups, too?
Patrick de Zeeuw: Absolutely. If a startup doesn’t deliver the right customer experience, it will fail — or at least lose — most of its potential market. Customers will prefer an inferior product, if the experience on the better one isn’t optimal.
PwC: What are some signs that a startup is taking the right approach to the customer experience?
de Zeeuw: An important step is to look at leadership, the startup founders. Some founders have fallen in love with an idea. But even if the idea is great, there is a risk that no one will want to use it. Innovation is not a goal in itself. You want to achieve growth.
What we look for are founders who have experienced some problem in the marketplace themselves, and they are desperate to solve that problem. They have fallen in love not with an idea but with a problem, so to speak. These are the ones who will focus on the customer and develop not just the idea but a strong interface that people understand, an experience that they like, and a real solution.
PwC: How do successful startups develop that experience and that solution?
de Zeeuw: Through iteration and a focus on data. We always say that if you’re launching a product that is completely finished and everybody already loves, you have launched too late. It’s better to launch earlier and get data. Then, based on that data, you start optimising the customer experience.
What the good startups are really good at is running hundreds or thousands of experiments on- and offline to get the data so they can really understand different customers’ problems and expectations. They can then determine which customers to target with which messaging, at what moment, where and how. Whether it’s online or offline, they are constantly measuring and optimising, before and after the product launches.
We advise all startups to build and launch what we call an MVP, a minimal viable product. It’s the smallest version that will solve the customer’s problem. Then launch it, even if it has flaws, to see how consumers will actually use it, experience it. You may discover that the interface and experience is really crappy. But then you can optimise it based on real data.
PwC: PwC believes, based on findings from its survey, that rather than just spending on advertising, successful companies should be working to create and deliver ‘magic moments’: online or physical experiences that create loyalty and enthusiasm. Are you seeing that in startups, too?
de Zeeuw: The actual experience that a customer has will always be much stronger than the impact from advertising, whether that’s on TV, or online or wherever. And startups, because they usually don’t have a lot of cash for advertising, are by necessity looking more to the experiences they create.
Advertising can be still be effective — if the experience aligns with it. If advertising has one message and the experience does not match it, there could be a big loss.
So it’s important to measure the customer experience offline, too, and there are some startups that are doing that. They are trying to create as much data about the customer experience offline as a digital retailer can get online. There are also, obviously, plenty who are active on the analytical side of user experience online.
PwC: PwC also thinks the end-consumer experience is superior at companies where employees are more satisfied with their own experiences. Are there any ways startups motivate employees that more established companies could learn from?
de Zeeuw: In some ways, a startup’s employees are its first customers. They have to believe in the project. And if they are not happy and motivated, they won’t be able to deliver to customers.
Startup founders are driven. They have an emotional connection, they want to make an impact, they love what they do, they go the extra mile, and early-stage team members are also driven by the purpose of the company. But as organisations grow larger, that drive can become more challenging to sustain.
So we are looking for ways, a dashboard perhaps, to measure employees’ experience — to see if their own experience is off track or on track. Everything is going to become more data-driven in the next few years, including my team’s experience coming to the office each day and working with me and with our clients.