For many companies, it used to be that once you had sold something, it was ”thank-you-very-much-and-see-you-in-another-life”.
Today, more companies understand the importance of their customer base. They also understand the importance of the customer journey. I think nearly every company from every industry understands the importance of the “before” and “after” in the customer journey.
I am not going to discuss other companies in this article.
I am going to tell you a story about our company, Allseated, and explain why we not only know about the before and after, but we know a little something about how to make customers feel part of a community – and even more – we know how to make them feel as though they are an extension of our family unit and an actual part of our company.
Well over a decade ago when we first started Allseated, we did not have a single customer but we were getting ready to launch our website.
It was late in the evening and I called Daniel (my co-founder) and said to him, “I would like you to install a live chat on our website.”
He replied, “WHY? We don’t even have one customer, let’s wait and as we grow, we can add it then.”
I said, “NO! I want it now, I don’t want to wait. I want to be available for the first customer who comes to us.”
He laughed but knew there was no point in arguing and up went a live chat on our new website.
For the first few days, I kept checking the computer volume to make sure it was loud enough. I left my computer on by the side of my bed and on day four I heard it ring! We ran to the computer and started talking to our first customer.
Not only did we talk, we asked questions, we dived into the product with her, and most importantly we became friends. After that initial chat, she continued to ping us over time to give us advice and very often she would say, “it would be really cool if you had this feature,” and I would say, “let me see what I can do with our team” (which at that time was just Daniel) – and a few hours later, I would get in touch with her and say, “Hey, is this what you wanted?”
She was excited beyond words and you know what happened? She could not rave enough about Allseated to her friends and colleagues. In time, our reputation for great customer service grew and now, 10 years later, we have tens of thousands of users and a community of over 100,000 people!
But our story does not end here.
Our customer connections became our biggest resource for product development, user experience, and customer behavior. We encouraged all new employees to take live chat shifts with us (it was part of the onboarding process). We loved and appreciated the time we had to spend with customers, fixing issues and gaining knowledge in the process.
From the start, Daniel and I decided it would be a good idea to clone ourselves, if you will…or make alter egos you might say…so that our company felt a little bigger than it actually was.
Daniel became “John” and I became “Emily Sanders”.
Emily built strong customer relationships, has a rich history with our company, and is a voice for so many people. The interesting part of this story is that even though many different people took on the role of Emily, she always stayed the same. She answered questions honestly, passed on all the information to the right people, and never got tired of explaining how the product works. Her persona grew and developed into I guess what we would today call AI – but she always had a real person behind her. In fact, Emily is still a hugely serious part of the customer success team. She’s become such a “real” person that we simply cannot let go. She represents and stands for what I believe in when it comes to customer service.
I’m proud of the many people that took her over from me during the years. I love to see her name around and I love even more when we get posts or emails telling us how amazing Emily is in our company!
She really does exist – just with many different humans behind her!
I cannot tell you how to run your company or how to sell, but I can tell you that if your customers are not always on your mind, and the minds of all your employees, 24/7 then you’re not quite doing your job right.
I can also tell you that after I welcome and introduce myself during onboarding for a new hire, I tell them this customer story.
Customers mean everything to us and especially to me.
I am what you would call a pretty relaxed character. I don’t often get upset about things and have learned that you should wake up each morning and start each day fresh (I learned this from my wonderful mother who told me this my entire life).
HOWEVER, if I get an email or hear from a customer with a complaint, all of that disappears and I go on the hunt to find out what happened, why it happened, and how we can fix this.
I cannot let it go until we have solved the issue. That’s simply not an option.
For over a decade, I can honestly say that there weren’t a lot of messages like that that found their way to my inbox. But still, I make it a point to tell all new team members just how important it is to put customers first. It does not matter if you work directly with customers or not – each department works with customers whether it’s directly or indirectly. We always must understand the value and commitment/obligation we have to our customers. Our team members see the effect of that approach when they attend conferences, exhibitions, or parties and witness the genuine love and respect our clients in this industry have for us.
I am so proud and humbled by every email and message I get, thanking me for creating such a wonderful, caring, knowledgeable, innovative and creative company. And it’s all because we started on day one with the understanding and belief in our customers and that they would be the driving force behind this company I cherish.