Playing it safe is risky

Large companies with massive head counts, mountains of cash, and endless expertise, are rarely successful in creating truly differentiated experiences. Paradoxically, it’s the smaller companies with just a handful of employees and very little capital who are able to deliver the highest quality and most differentiated customer experiences.

But why?

There are many factors that restrict the ability for large companies to create differentiated experiences, but it usually boils down to one thing: the larger you get, the higher the stakes.

As a company grows, appetite for risk diminishes and a rational decision making process of risk mitigation takes hold. The more you have at stake, the more you’re compelled to focus on reducing risk instead of maximizing the potential upside that differentiated experiences can enable.

The music and film industries are notorious for this sort of dynamic.

Producing and promoting an album is expensive and time consuming. Like any hit driven industry, just a handful of artists generate the majority of all earnings. But there’s a ceiling on the number of albums a single artist can produce. As such, it’s in the interest of the label to do everything they can to ensure that new albums are successful.

It only makes sense that they’d rely on safe bets: songwriters who have written hit songs, producers who have produced hit songs, backing bands who have recorded hit songs, and sounds that are currently trending in hit songs. In an effort to reduce the risk of a flop, they’re forced to play it safe and create albums optimized to sell, not break new ground.

If it’s ground breaking music you seek, look to indie artists. Unlike their publicly traded, corporate-backed counterparts with demanding shareholders, these artists have nothing to lose. Producing songs with the same formulas used by larger labels, without the marketing war chests to back them, will inevitably lead to them being lost in the shuffle. Indie artists need to cut through the clutter by producing work that is special and unique.

In the film industry, where a single release can cost upwards of $350,000,000 to produce, simply breaking even is critical. Anything less could jeopardize the health of the company, and at the very least, be career-ending for the executives involved. The stakes are astronomically high. As such, there is a strong incentive to do everything possible to ensure that every film is as broad-reaching and palatable as possible. This leaves very little room for untested, original ideas. These films lean on safe building blocks: franchises with built-in fan bases, tried-and-true stories, recognizable actors, gratuitous special effects, and battle-worn directors.

Independent film makers, by contrast, rely on raw creativity, unique storytelling, and a healthy dose of luck. The Blair Witch Project was a $250,000,000 worldwide phenomenon that had a budget of only $60,000. Having absolutely no resources for marketing or advertising, the filmmakers’ only option was to generate as much buzz as possible – and buzz comes from great experiences that people want to talk about.

When you are starting a company, you have nothing to lose – no money, no customers, no revenue, no product, no fan base. While this may feel daunting, it’s your biggest advantage. It affords you the freedom to take big swings – something for which larger incumbents won’t have the stomach.

If you want to avoid mediocrity as you grow, it’s important to focus on making something special and unique. Don’t let capital investments drive how you make decisions about the resulting experience. Sometimes this may even mean investing less. Constraints breed creativity and can help you and your team feel more comfortable with failure. And not fearing failure can often be the key to success.

10 ways to do more with your promoters

We’ve previously written about why you should be following up with detractors. This is standard practice for anyone running a successful NPS program. But we often see companies overlook the massive upside of leveraging promoters to their advantage. Promoters are your biggest fans, and they’re willing to go to work for you! They can amplify your strengths, drive referrals, coach new users, and even help guide the product roadmap.

We’ve put together 10 ideas from our customers to leverage the power of promoters.

1. Reach out to them

Loyal customers like to be acknowledged. Chefs and managers of the world’s best restaurants make it a point to forge personal relationships with their customers, especially their regulars. You can apply this same philosophy to your business. Have an executive on your team reach out to promoters with a personal note, thanking them for being a customer. The simple act of writing a personal note will go a long way towards deepening the relationship a customer has with your company.

2. Provide a way for promoters to promote

Once a promoter has recounted their positive experience verbatim, this is the perfect time to provide them with a low friction way to promote your company. The experience is fresh in their minds, and they rarely need more than a nudge to share that experience with the world. Provide them with a pre-filled tweet, Facebook post, or link to your “refer-a-friend” program.

3. Solicit feedback on upcoming products

Promoters tend to know your product better than anyone else, and will often have great insight into where the product could go in the future. These are the people for whom your product perfectly addresses the problem they are trying to solve. Not only can they help you build better products, they are often excited about any opportunity to shape the future of the product they love.

4. Give them exclusive access to limited edition products

Some of our ecommerce customers grant promoters early access to limited stock products – typically items that will see a larger public release in the future. Promoters are thrilled to be among the first to try out a new product, and the company can test reception of the product before a wider rollout. Promoters who are active on social media can generate buzz for the new product, priming demand for the release.

5. Give them exclusive access to beta features

As you develop new features for your product, you’ll often want to test them with real users before releasing them into the wild. Promoters are perfectly suited for this sort of role. As we’ve noted above, promoters are often more than willing to help shape the product they know and love. They are also less likely to be sensitive to rough edges. They’ll often provide rich actionable feedback and criticism that comes from a supportive and knowledgeable place.

6. Ask for a review

Online review sites can be an important factor in the buying process for prospective customers. Reviews on sites like Yelp, Trustpilot, G2Crowd, or StackShare can make or break a customer’s willingness to try your product. Politely asking promoters for a review can lead to significant increases in the quantity and quality of reviews. However, avoid asking for reviews too often as this can negatively affect the relationship.

7. Hold round table discussions

The conversational nature of round table discussions can bubble up insights that don’t often reveal themselves in one-on-one feedback sessions. Customers love sharing tips and tricks with other people in their field. Great starting topics include: how they were solving the problem before they were a customer, unique tips or processes they have in place to maximize value, and a deep dive into specific features they love. These discussions can generate great content for guides, FAQs, blog posts, and more. They can take the shape of a simple video conference, a visit to your office, or even a nice dinner in a nearby city.

8. Have them participate in a case study

Do you have a customer with a particularly interesting story? Consider asking them to participate in a case study. Use the case study to dig into the challenges they were having before using your product, how they’re currently using your product, and the value they are seeing as a result. Case studies provide social proof and instill trust in prospective customers. Companies often welcome an opportunity for positive exposure and are eager to tout their focus on customer experience to their customers. These profiles are most common in the B2B world, but even companies like Apple will do interviews and produce video testimonials highlighting how people use their products.

9. Be a customer reference

In the B2B world, prospective customers, especially in the enterprise space, often want to speak with existing customers about their experience before selecting a solution. Your promoters are a great source for these conversations. Reach out to a few of your promoters in different industries and see if they’d be open to occasionally speaking with prospective customers. Promoters know how to maximize the value of your product, and are uniquely positioned to enlighten others on how to do the same.

10. Hire them

Training a new hire to be as deeply familiar with your product as you takes a long time. When you find someone who already has a high level of familiarity with your product, you can save months of onboarding time. Not only are promoters typically highly familiar with your product, that familiarity comes from actual time spent using the product. This sort of deep, real world immersion can be a huge asset, and is rarely achievable by the people creating the product.

It’s easy to focus all of your attention on detractors. After all, promoters are happy customers. And as the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But promoters can be immensely valuable in ways beyond simply spreading the word about your product. Let them help you – you’ll likely find that they’re eager to do it.

Good isn’t good enough

When is it safe for a company to let up on the gas when it comes to improving customer experience? This is a question we hear a lot at Delighted. Should you continue to invest in customer experience if your customers are satisfied with the current experience? It’s common for a company to create a unique experience, gain early traction in their market, then shift their energy from improving that experience, to scaling and driving efficiencies. After all, why invest in increasing the quality of your customer experience if your NPS is already 10 points higher than your competition?

While it’s important to know where you stand against your competition we caution against letting competitors define your investment in customer experience. It’s always better to benchmark against yourself, and continuously take advantage of opportunities to increase the quality of your customer experience. Put another way, you should be focused on improving your experience to protect against future competitors that may not exist yet, but will almost certainly crop up in the future.

There is always an appetite for a better experience – be it a service experience, a quality experience, or a product experience. Because of this, the best experiences today will be table stakes tomorrow. Once a level of customer experience becomes the norm, people will look for newer, higher quality experiences. And the most discerning customers – those willing to pay a premium for a better experience – are the first to seek greener pastures.

This opens the door for competition.

This is the critical junction – when an experience begins to reach normalcy and stagnate – where new players enter an industry. They’ll peel off early adopters, leaving customers who are less willing to pay for differentiated experiences. The incumbent is forced to adjust to their new reality of lower revenues and profits, by cutting costs and corners. This further widens the gap between the old experience and the new, more desirable one.

Coffee shops are a great example of this phenomenon. Starbucks realized there was an opportunity to create a much better experience around the daily ritual of coffee. They created an experience that recreated the atmosphere and sophisticated drink selections of Italian cafes. They were able to steal the most valuable segment of the coffee drinking market, by providing a experience people were eager to pay a premium for. But over time, as Starbucks grew more and more ubiquitous, their core coffee experience stagnated. As a result, the same early adopters of the Starbucks experience were ready for something new.

Enter the artisanal roasters/shops.

Companies like Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and many others, have picked up where Starbucks left off. They’ve begun to court the discerning coffee drinkers for whom Starbucks is no longer appealing, by offering an even better atmosphere, more skilled baristas, and higher quality coffee – often using ultra fresh beans roasted in-house. For instance, Blue Bottle has invested heavily in the quality of their coffee, and never sells beans (brewed or bagged) that are older than 2 days from the roast date.

Another example industry is fast food. In a market dominated by McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell, companies like Chipotle, Sweetgreen, Lyfe Kitchen, and others, have recognized an opportunity for something better than traditional fast food, but less formal than traditional “sit down” restaurants. They’ve begun to chip away at fast food restaurants’ market share by attracting customers who want higher quality food, a more welcoming atmosphere, and healthier menu choices – and they’re willing to pay for it.

The car industry in the United States changed dramatically during the 1980’s. Japanese competitors Honda and Toyota began to gain market share in an environment where customers were looking for higher quality vehicles (not to mention smaller and less expensive) – the sort of vehicles that GM, Ford, and Chrysler were ill equipped to produce. U.S. automakers were slow to respond and consequently lost market share year after year. The U.S. automakers went from nearly 80% market share in the late 1970’s to 45% market share by 2010. Honda and Toyota raised the bar for quality to such a degree that they were able to leverage their early success in small cars to larger cars and SUVs over time – the most profitable and highest volume segments of the market.

The appetite for better experiences is insatiable. There are always customers who will pay for a better experience. It’s this constant search for the best that provides a foothold for new companies to exist and grow. By definition, new companies exist because they provide an experience that their customers can’t get elsewhere. When deciding when your experience is “good enough” it’s important to remember that to stay relevant over the long term, you’ll need to invest in improving your experience.

The best coffee cart coffee in 1970 is nothing like the pour over you can get at Blue Bottle today. The cheeseburger from McDonalds in 2000 hasn’t improved much at all, yet tastes have become more sophisticated. And the best selling Ford in 1980 would be a complete flop if released today. Customers will always demand better experiences, and they will find the companies that can provide them. To stay relevant focus on continually improving your own experience so customers continue to choose you in their quest for the best.

When to send your NPS survey

Selecting the precise moment in which to solicit feedback from your customers can have a huge impact on both the quality and quantity of the feedback you receive. Survey too early and your customers may not have a full story to tell. Survey too late, and you lose the raw emotion felt during the experience, as well as those critical details that tend to fade away over time.

The key to running a successful NPS program is your ability to maximize the number of people who provide feedback, as well as the completeness of that feedback. Survey timing affects both of these simultaneously. With a bit of careful planning, you can vastly improve the quality and quantity of feedback you receive.

The old way

Many companies conduct their feedback programs on an annual or quarterly basis. They typically involve long and complex surveys sent to nearly all of their customers, past or current, in one large blast. Administering feedback programs in this manner is time consuming and complex. Companies rarely want to go through that pain more often than is absolutely necessary. And sadly, the results typically don’t scale with the effort put forth.

Customers are asked for feedback at seemingly random times and often cannot recollect the finer details of their experience. Requesting too much information at the wrong time is a recipe for disaster in the world of feedback. Companies who survey in this manner typically see only single digit percentages of customer participation, usually with very little verbatim feedback.

A better way

With modern feedback platforms like Delighted, you have the flexibility to survey customers at the most optimal moment in their journey. That moment varies by business type, but is always centered around the point where a customer has experienced enough of your product or service to be able to confidently recommend it, or not.

We’ve put together a few guidelines on how to identify the right moment to survey your customers:

Retail and E-commerce

When a physical good is involved, survey timing is relatively straightforward. You can typically pinpoint the optimal survey point by starting with the delivery date and adding just enough time for the customer to fully experience the product.

In the case of a consumable like food, that point would be soon after delivery. In the case of products with longer evaluation windows, like mattresses, you may want to wait a few weeks from the delivery date to survey customers, as the evaluation of a mattress typically doesn’t happen overnight.

Men’s clothier Bonobos surveys customers a few days after their new clothes arrive, giving customers time to try them on, while allowing a little extra time for customers who don’t open the package the day it is delivered. Another approach is to stagger surveying, asking some customers for feedback shortly after the product has been delivered, and others a few weeks later. This can give you a wide angle view on the customer experience.

Surveying doesn’t have to be limited to first-time buyers. However, the tempo of surveying should track with the relative uniqueness of each order. The more unique each order is from the last, the more often you should ask for feedback – within reason. If each order is totally unique, surveying folks every couple months is reasonable. If your product does not change, you probably don’t want to survey your customers more than once a quarter to 6 months, just frequent enough to make sure you’re maintaining the experience you’ve been delivering.

B2B and SaaS

The buying process for business customers can take much longer than it does for consumer customers. This can make deciding on the right moment to ask for feedback a bit tricky. It can be helpful to break the customer journey into two phases: the early phase, and the on-going phase.

In the early phase, you’ll ask for feedback once a customer has successfully onboarded and has started to get value from your product. Many SaaS companies will ask for feedback a few weeks to a month after a customer subscribes to a paid plan, while service-oriented companies will typically survey shortly after completing a job or project for a client.

For on-going relationships, you can ask for feedback on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. The time period you choose should be aligned with the stability of your delivered experience. If your service rarely changes, you’ll want to pick a longer time period – a short time period could result in duplicative feedback. If you are a young software startup with a product and support team that is changing rapidly, quarterly surveying may be more appropriate.

On-Demand

For companies that deliver an experience or product at the push of a button, survey timing is critical – but the same general principles still apply. Rental car company Silvercar surveys customers shortly after they return the vehicle. At this point they’ve experienced the entire service lifecycle including booking, pickup, driving, and returning.

HotelTonight sends their surveys the day after a guest checks out of a hotel. HotelTonight cares about both the booking experience in their app, as well as the complete guest experience at the hotel. Neither of these companies will survey customers again for a few months. This blackout period ensures that they’ll be able to collect feedback from these customers in the future.

Consumer Products

Companies that produce physical products should start with a similar approach to retail and e-commerce – giving customers enough time to experience the product they’ve purchased.

One recent trend is the increasing use of companion web services and mobile apps in conjunction with physical products. Customers will often have to register or activate the product on the manufacturers website or mobile app. This can enable a much better understanding of product usage patterns, as well as provide a direct method of communicating with the customer who may have purchased the product from a 3rd party retailer.

As with retail and e-commerce, the optimal point to solicit feedback will vary with the type of product. While some products allow for snap judgement, others will require the customer to more deeply integrate the product into their lifestyle before they can form an opinion – like a new smart thermostat or home audio system. In those cases, if you were to survey the customer when the product was registered or activated, you’d miss the key insights that can only be gleaned after weeks of use. Even worse, customers who are surveyed before they’ve fully evaluated a product, are likely to give you a low NPS score, even if they go on to eventually become a loyal promoter. People typically won’t feel comfortable recommending something they have not yet fully vetted.

Summary

As we’ve discussed, choosing the right moment to survey can have a profound effect on the quality and quantity of the feedback you receive. While the specifics around when to survey vary with different business models, the core principle remains: think about when a customer will have had a complete experience with you, and survey shortly after that. With a bit of simple planning, you can dramatically improve the value of your customer feedback program.

What is a good NPS score?

One of the most common questions we hear from companies first embarking into NPS is “How do I know if my NPS is good?” There are two methods you can use to help contextualize your score – the absolute method and the relative method. The absolute method involves comparing your score to a loosely agreed upon standard for what a good score is, across all industries. The relative method involves comparing your score to other companies within your industry.

We’ll go into both methods below, but for the relative method, we’ve created a simple tool that allows you to compare your NPS with others in your industry. Simply enter your NPS score, select your industry, and we’ll show you how you stack up. You can also get a bird’s eye view across all industries and see how they compare with each other.

The absolute method

The official NPS specification deems anything above 0 a good score. This means you have more promoters than passives and detractors. Anything under 0 means that you have more detractors and passives than promoters. But while 0 is considered a positive NPS, companies with scores of 0 aren’t actually providing a good experience in absolute terms. Here’s a breakdown that can help you approximate how well you’re doing:

-100-0: The majority of people experiencing your product or brand are having a bad experience and are spreading the word that you should be avoided.

1-30: This an acceptable range to be in, but there is a lot of opportunity to improve.

31-50: This is where most companies tend to live. A company in this range places value on a quality customer experience and are generally delivering it.

50-70: These companies are doubling down in customer experience and it shows. Some of the most beloved brands have an NPS in this range.

71-100: This is the Holy Grail of NPS, and rarely attainable. The range is reserved for the absolute best companies in the world.

The relative method

The second way to know if your NPS is good or not is to compare your score relative to industry benchmarks. Average scores vary widely across industries.

Some industries are notorious for providing less than stellar customer experiences, but they continue to thrive in spite of their low scores. This can happen when a company provides a critical service, or has very little competition – think utilities, cable providers, etc.

Other industries live and die by their NPS and could not exist without delivering a high-quality differentiated experience. These companies are either in highly competitive markets and must compete on a differentiated experience, or their core product is inherently experiential – think luxury consumer products, hotels, etc.

Let’s take a look at some of the highest and lowest average industry scores. To provide more context, we’ve also included the range of scores observed.

Here are some industries with the highest average NPS scores:

Auto dealers

GM, BMW, Honda, Cadillac, Ford, Buick, Chevrolet, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Audi, Chrysler, Subaru, Jeep, Kia, Dodge, Toyota, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus

Software

Adobe, Microsoft, Google, Intuit, Sony, McAfee, Activision, Apple, Symantec, Blackboard

Computers & tablets

Lenovo, Sony, Compaq, Gateway, Dell, eMachines, Barnes & Noble, Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Amazon, Apple

Here are some industries with the lowest average NPS scores:

Health plans

Aetna, Anthem, Humana, Coventry Health Care, Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Highmark, CIGNA, Medicare, United Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Medicaid, TriCare

Internet service

AOL, AT&T, Verizon, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications

TV service

Comcast, DirecTV, AT&T, Cablevision Optimum, Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Verizon, Dish Network, Cox Communications

A word of caution about benchmarks

NPS industry benchmark comparisons are great for knowing how you stack up against your competition, and can help you understand the amount of incremental investment you should be making into improving the customer experience. However, anchoring on your competitors’ scores will place an artificial ceiling on your potential.

Breakthrough companies often compete on a differentiated experience, allowing them to grow through word of mouth while stealing market share. If you stop improving your customer experience, a competitor will inevitably seize the opportunity to surpass you. Just because customers have tolerated a poor experience to date, doesn’t mean they will forever.

No matter your industry, we believe it is worth striving to deliver a perfect experience to every customer, turning them into avid promoters of your company. The best companies focus on continually improving their own customer experiences – benchmarking against themselves vs. peers or industry standards.

12 reasons to follow up with detractors

Running a successful NPS program is more than simply asking your customers for feedback. It’s about using that feedback to fundamentally improve your product or service. But an often under valued aspect of doing NPS well is rigorously following up with detractors – folks who didn’t have a great experience and wouldn’t recommend you. We’ve worked with thousands of companies who have seen the power of following up with detractors and we’ve compiled the top 12 reasons you you should follow up with your detractors.

1. Convert detractors into promoters

The audacious goal of any customer focussed company is to deliver a perfect experience to every customer, every time. A lofty goal for sure, and it’s unrealistic to expect you’ll be able to meet this level of experience each time. Knowing that you’re almost guaranteed to miss the mark sometimes, then you should view detractors as gift not to be squandered. You’ve successfully unearthed a tangible opportunity to right a wrong (or series of wrongs). It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll likely find that some of your most loyal customers are former detractors. A detractor’s expectations are already low, which means they have high upside. Simply showing them that you care is often enough to turn them around.

2. Hold you and the team accountable for each customers’ experience

As your company and customer base grows, it’s all too easy to drift into thinking about the customer experience in numerical terms, instead of real human experiences. You begin to say things like: “1% of customers experienced a late shipment”, or “3% of customers were affected by this bug”. This sort of thinking leads to a disconnect between what you deliver, and what your customers actually experience. When you follow up with folks who didn’t have a great experience, it’s impossible to escape the fact that you let a real person down. Having a one-on-one conversation with a customer, forces you to own the decisions you’ve made. You can either stand behind them, and risk losing the customer, or you can fix them. Whatever you choose, these one-on-one conversations serve as a mirror for the experience you actually deliver.

3. Fill in the blanks when a detractor does not leave a comment

Detractors may not always leave a comment with their score. And if they do, they may not share the whole story. When you close the loop with them, you have the chance to learn more about their entire experience. What caused the issue? What were they expecting? Were they told something that wasn’t true? This is invaluable for both helping the customer in the moment, as well as providing your team with a complete picture of where you can improve.

4. Connect with people who may never have contacted support

Many issues, like a slightly late package, or a couple small bugs in a piece of software, don’t usually warrant an email to customer support. But these experiences add up! And they will slowly turn people into detractors. If you’re not actively looking for detractors, you may never know they exist. Only a small percentage of your total customer base will ever contact customer support, but a much larger percentage will happily share their experience with you when asked in a simple way.

5. Stop issues from becoming unsolvable

As stated above, people don’t typically start out as detractors. They come into the relationship hopeful that your company will help them solve their problem. Sometimes there’s an acute issue that triggers someone into becoming a detractor overnight, but the more common scenario is an accumulation of small issues – each one amplified by the last. Annoyance turns to frustration, and frustration turns to rage. Following up with detractors as soon as you identify them can help stave off negative snowballing of irreparable harm.

6. Open a line of communication for any future issues

Once you’ve turned a detractor around, they will remember that positive experience. If they should encounter any new issues, they’ll feel comfortable knowing they can reach out to a real person on your team who cares. This is incredibly valuable. It gives you the opportunity to head off any future problems before they have chance to sour the relationship.

7. Show you care and that you are listening

Providing feedback to a company is much like tossing a penny into a fountain – you hope something good will come from it, but don’t expect much. When you follow up with a detractor, you’re sending a very clear signal that your company actively reads and responds to feedback. Even if you’re simply apologizing for a minor annoyance, this is far beyond what most companies are willing to do. When customers feel under appreciated, they adopt a less forgiving posture. Issues are met with hostility and fervor. People have been trained that this sort of reaction is the only way to get the attention of a company. Responding to detractors in a timely fashion can disarm them, and pave the way for a much more constructive conversation.

8. Solve problems proactively

Detractors are often upset about things that can be solved relatively quickly by your support team. Maybe they can’t find their tracking number, or they want to return something but missed the window by a day. Maybe they’re requesting a product feature that you happen to have in private beta. Many of these acute issues can be resolved by your support team instantly. They can respond with the customer’s tracking number and info about when it will arrive. They can grant an extension on the return policy and include a free return shipping label. They can invite the customer into a preview of a feature that has yet to be launched. There’s nothing more rewarding than realizing that you already have a solution for a customer. These customers are often the easiest to convert to promoters.

9. Share upcoming improvements

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to address the issues of your detractors immediately. But some feedback will illuminate “soft” areas of your product or service for which there is no quick fix. These typically surface when an otherwise happy customer happens upon a blind spot, or takes a path outside of your finely optimized core experience. While you may not be able to fix these issues immediately, it’s still good practice to acknowledge the pain the customer is feeling, and share any upcoming improvements that could address their concerns. The key here is to open a channel of communication that you can use to inform them of any new developments, and give yourself more chances to retain them.

10. Find the root cause

You may find that a seemingly innocuous piece of feedback actually speaks to a much larger systemic problem within your organization. As you follow up with detractors, you’ll have the opportunity to dig deeper into each particular experience, and uncover details that would rarely be shared in customer feedback. While these problems are trickier to identify, they typically solve an entire class of issues for people once they are resolved. For instance, you may find that many first-time customers don’t buy again or are confused about policies around returns. As you dig in, you may come to learn they are unsure of the quality of your products and are nervous about your return policy. This may lead you to create a whole campaign about how you offer a 100% happiness guarantee.

11. Minimize fallout

Some detractors are more vocal about their negative experiences than others. They leave feedback on review sites, forums, and other channels where word-of-mouth testimonials can carry a lot of weight. Reaching out to your detractors as soon as they leave feedback can help you nip any potential fallout in the bud. Once they know you actually care and are working to fix their issue, they’ll be far less likely to share their initially bad experience with others. Better still, they may share the positive interaction they’ve had with you.

12. Get a better grasp on churn risk

Detractors carry higher churn/attrition rates than passives and promoters. However, not all detractors are equal. Some may have just tipped into being detractors, while others maybe be on the verge of calling it quits. Following up with detractors can help you prioritize your efforts, focussing first on the most at-risk customers.

Following up with detractors is a critical step towards improving your NPS and providing a world-class experience for your customers. It’s easy to be excited when the feedback is flowing in and you are working to improve the experience behind the scenes. But as we’ve covered, there are many great reasons to follow-up with detractors the moment they reveal themselves. It will certainly take extra energy, but the benefits are multi-dimensional. You’ll speak with more of your customers, learn more from them, convert many into loyal promoters, give them a great reason to stick around, and better prioritize product improvements – all leading to more revenue and growth.

Remember me?

You walk into your favorite coffee shop – you’ve been here dozens of times before. You order your typical cappuccino, and wait for the barista to ask for your name. You’re not quite sure if they remember you. This is when some baristas will simply ask, “What’s your name?”. Some will soften it a bit and ask, “What name should we use?” – a minor adjustment that avoids the full concession that they don’t recognize you. After all, maybe you have a nickname you sometimes use, or a name you use when ordering where there could be potential conflicts.

But there’s a better alternative. One that draws you in and makes you feel as though they know you, but are simply having a momentary memory lapse…

“Remind me of your name again…”

It’s a subtle difference, but it matters. And it’s a great example of the holistic thinking that produces outstanding customer experiences.

Of course, the ideal situation is that they actually remember you and your name. Bonus points if they pre-empt your order and ask, “Your regular cappuccino to go?”.

But not every barista will remember every regular customer, let alone a customer who’s only visited once or twice before. The interesting question is, how could you make the customer feel like a regular, regardless of how often they buy from you? “Remind me…” phrasing bridges the gap between feeling like a totally anonymous customer and being recognized and known by name. It allows the barista who recognizes the customer, but can’t recall their name, to engage them in a more personal way.

Now, we certainly wouldn’t find it thoughtful or endearing if we knew that the person asking us was a new employee who couldn’t possibly have helped us before. It can’t be used as a trick. But when used appropriately it’s quite a nice enhancement to the experience. Especially in response to such a common and mundane exchange.

The best companies think about customer experience from end-to-end. And they understand that new and repeat customers are different, each deserving of a tailored experience. The hospitality industry has always led the way here. Four Seasons kept index cards (before computers) with guest preferences – from pillow fluffiness, to preferred brands to stock in the mini bar. All in service of making the guest feel more comfortable and taken care of during their next stay.

Where in your business is there opportunity to turn a mundane interaction into something more thoughtful and endearing? Where could you acknowledge your loyal customers more and make them feel recognized?

The microwave curse

A microwave oven is supposed to be a convenient way to heat up a meal, pop some popcorn, warm some milk, or myriad other simple cooking tasks. It’s a welcome alternative to much slower options like an oven or stove.

First introduced as a device to save time for specific cooking tasks, the microwave is now an appliance that aims to perform every cooking task. You’ll often find highly specific settings for things like cooking a turkey or adjusting the power level in individual percentage point increments. It’s not uncommon for the modern microwave to have more than 30 buttons. It’s gotten out of control.

The modern microwave is a case study for a product that has continually added new features and capability without reconsidering the holistic experience and the usage patterns of customers. While each individual addition may have sold an incremental microwave, they weren’t later held accountable for the complexity they brought to the whole.

How many of the features added to microwaves in the past 40 years are used by the majority of microwave users? Are people really cooking a turkey in their microwave? If they are, is it more than once per year? Do they really need to be able to set the power level to 43%?

Not only are the additions likely underutilized, they complicate the process of using a microwave for the everyday use cases. When you try to address every use case, you end up not solving any of them well.

What if your microwave only had 3 buttons – one to add 30 seconds, one to remove 15 seconds, and one to cancel? That might seem extreme, but it would likely get closer to how people actually use these appliances instead of trying to solve every possible use case.

Even well-intentioned additions to a product or experience, that give people more options or capability, will eventually lead to a complex, unfocused product if not reconsidered and pruned from time to time.

Don’t ask your customers if you already know the answer

Haphazardly crafted surveys are everywhere. It’s an epidemic. Surveys can suffer from a variety of issues, and they all result in the cardinal sin of squandering customers’ precious attention. One of the most notorious time wasters is when a company asks for information they already have.

Consider this all too common scenario:

You book a flight to Maui for a long overdue vacation. You land, check your email while taxiing to the gate, and find a customer feedback survey from your airline waiting in your inbox.

Here are the first 3 questions:

What is your email address?
What was your flight number?
Which airport did you depart from?

Right off the bat, you’re asked 3 things that the airline certainly already knows. They sent you the survey via email, so they have your email address. They knew when to send the survey – after you landed – so they know your flight number. And if they know your flight number, they know your departure airport.

Why are they wasting time collecting information they already have? Customer feedback is a gift, not a right. Don’t squander that gift by asking superfluous questions. At best it’s a missed opportunity – at worst it’s offensive.

So why does this happen? To be fair, the likely reason is that the people administering the survey simply can’t muster the engineering resources required to build a survey that is deeply integrated with existing customer data. As a result they fall back on a hodgepodge of antiquated tools that makes correlation to customer data virtually impossible. While unfortunate, that’s no excuse! Customers don’t care about office politics or the deficiencies of your tools. That’s your problem.

The easiest way to avoid this sort of mistake, is to move away from hand-crafted surveys, and incorporate a modern customer feedback product into your arsenal. These allow you to attach any amount of customer data to surveys upfront, so you’re not hoisting the responsibility onto your customers. Even better, the best products allow you to deliver surveys directly from the place where your customer data lives, by integrating with CRM tools like Salesforce, or payment processors like Stripe.

Respecting your customers’ time is the key to running effective customer feedback programs. Removing superfluous survey questions leads to increased completion rates, happier customers, and higher quality feedback.

What’s the secret to growing your business 240%?

Silvercar is a premium rental car service operating in 15 markets in the United States. We spoke with them about how they got started, lessons learned along the way and how Delighted has contributed to their growth.

Silvercar was founded in 2012 when the founders got stuck renting a white minivan for a golf weekend. They realized there was an opportunity to remove the hassles of the typical car rental experience so they created a premium car rental experience with silver Audi A4 cars and other amenities. “It’s not just about renting a car and having the process not suck,” says Allen Darnell, chief technology officer at Silvercar. “It’s about how we use technology to fix that process and deliver a great experience.”

Delighted is one of the technologies that has spurred Silvercar’s growth because of the immediate access to actionable customer feedback. This allows the Silvercar team to connect with customers, address pain points, share best practices across all locations, and constantly improve.

Read the case study to see how Delighted helps Silvercar continually increase customer loyalty as the company grows, drive industry change, and maintain an NPS of 80–85.

4 case studies to prove the value of Net Promoter Score

Many organizations that are new to Net Promoter Score® and are considering putting a program in place want to understand how such a simple question can lead to real business results. They want to know if promoters really help them grow and are loyal to the brand. There are countless reasons why listening to customers and improving based on their feedback is important, but when it gets down to it, does improving NPS lead to more repeat customers, more referrals, and overall growth? We’ve put together 4 case studies, from companies of different sizes and industries and their results with NPS.

NPS boosts American Express shareholder value

In 2005, American Express needed a customer service overhaul. When Jim Bush began as Managing Director he felt a more interactive conversation with customers would be a game changer, so he tested his hypothesis by transforming customer conversations with call center operatives from structured and often hurried experiences into relaxed and engaging experiences. While his competitors maintained their transaction-oriented customer service, Jim implemented conversational customer service and began to appraise service reps with NPS. Acting on the insights received from NPS led to increased revenue with increased customer spending and reduced customer churn.

In a 2012 interview with Fortune magazine, Bush noted that spending by promoters who are fiercely loyal to the American Express brand went up by 10–15% and customer retention increased four to five times. “We’ve been able to show that increased satisfaction drives increased engagement with American Express products, and that drives shareholder value. Great service is great business.” In 2012, American Express had an NPS of 43 and between 2012 and 2015 American Express grew their NPS by 16 points.

Airbnb connects higher NPS to more referrals and rebookings

Worldwide accommodations leader, Airbnb started using NPS towards the end of 2013. Airbnb wanted to see how Net Promoter Score could add value to their feedback program and establish if there really was a link between NPS score and the likelihood that the guest would return to book another stay, tell family and friends about the unique service, and resist attractive deals and offers from the competition.

The research involved feedback from 600,000 guests who booked a stay with Airbnb between January and April of 2014. Two-thirds of guests, who submitted feedback were promoters – over 300,000 of them awarded Airbnb a score of 10 and just 2% of guests were detractors.

Airbnb found that guests who were promoters were statistically more likely to both book another stay and refer a friend or family member (via their invite a friend feature). Interestingly they also discovered that while a guest may not have been satisfied with a particular stay, 26% were still promoters of Airbnb, reinforcing the need to go beyond just CSAT on a per transaction or booking level.

British Gas Services reports 30% growth per year

A few years ago, British Gas Services (BGS) had issues with its home heating installation unit. The leading gas supplier in the United Kingdom had the goal of making this business unit profitable as it was losing money. BGS introduced NPS and drove the process by instituting a thorough feedback process, which involved a daily NPS rating for each individual installer and sales adviser in all of its 75 districts. The results? Their NPS increased to 75 in just two years (from a baseline of an NPS of 45). In addition, customer complaints were reduced by 75%, bad debts went down more than 90%, profit margins improved greatly, and the service grew 30%. As of 2015 British Gas Services had an NPS of 70.

Temkin Group research on customer loyalty and NPS

In 2016 the Temkin Group published research that found a strong link between NPS and customer loyalty. After analyzing 291 companies in 20 industries such as – grocery, delivery services, health, finance, fast food, technology – the study established the long held value of NPS. The research showed that promoters are a business’ greatest asset and are:

  • Likely to recommend an organization to at least 3.5 people
  • 5 times more likely to purchase more goods or services
  • 7 times more likely to forgive brands for errors
  • 9 times more likely to try new product offers from businesses they love

NPS helps businesses make smart, informed decisions. However, as we’ve stated before, NPS is just a calculation of how you are doing today in the minds of customers. The key to NPS success starts with ensuring that everyone in your company has access to customer feedback, you implement processes to address customer feedback, and you continually close the loop with your customers to let them know how you have implemented their feedback.

Want to learn more? Attend our webinar or sign up for our free 14 day trial. Your NPS success story is just a click away!

4 ways Net Promoter Score can boost your business

We started Delighted just over 3 years ago and we’ve seen growing interest in Net Promoter Score® (NPS). The interest has ranged from those who are very familiar with the methodology to those who are looking to build a business case to start using it, to those that have no familiarity with NPS at all. Even though NPS has been around for over 10 years, there is still a limited amount of helpful information on how to get started with NPS. We decided to create a primer and provide examples of how the NPS methodology can help any type and size of business.

What is Net Promoter Score and how does NPS work?

NPS is used to measure customer loyalty, a critical metric for business success. Bain & Company introduced NPS in 2003. It’s become widely accepted since then, with businesses using it as a standard for tracking customer loyalty and satisfaction. NPS helps you measure customer loyalty by asking a simple question:

How likely is it that you would recommend Company X/Product Y/Service Z to a friend or colleague?

Customers leave a score from 0 to 10. Based on the score they provide they are bucketed into three groups: promoters, passives and detractors. Promoters are customers that give a 9 or 10 score, passives a score of 7 or 8, and detractors a score of 0 to 6.

In addition to the rating question, the NPS asks a follow up question where customers share the reason for their score, in their own words. It is this open ended feedback that represents the voice of the customer and provides invaluable feedback for any business.

A bit about the three groupings: promoters, passives, and detractors. Promoters are fiercely loyal to a brand and willingly recommend it to friends and family. Passives have neutral feelings or experiences with a brand. They’re not likely to harm a business with negative word-of-mouth, nor are they likely to recommend the business. They’re just unenthusiastic and may switch to a competitor who offers something new or more interesting. Detractors are not happy with the company and are likely to share their negative experience online and with friends and family.

Once you have collected responses from your customers you are ready to calculate your NPS. The NPS calculation is simple – you subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters. NPS scores differ from industry to industry but generally speaking a score of 50 or higher is a good score.

NPS fuels business growth

Implementing NPS across your customer base ensures your team gets a varied and steady flow of feedback – both positive and negative. Positive recommendations are crucial to growing your business. In the original Net Promoter study, Fred Reichheld found that the response to the “willingness to recommend question” had the strongest link to customer behaviors that boost repeat purchases or referrals. Word of mouth from your best customers (i.e. promoters) have a powerful influence on purchasing decisions. In 2011, Harvard Business review reported that a referred customer is 18 percent more loyal than a customer acquired through other channels; a referred customer also generates 16 percent more in profits.

An NPS program will help you identify your promoters whom you can connect with using a variety of marketing programs. Your promoters can create a ‘referral engine’ for your business by recommending your business to their family and friends, thereby bringing new customers to your business with a stronger sense of loyalty at a lower cost of acquisition. Conversely an NPS program will help you identify your detractors and give you the opportunity to turn them into passives (which is a worthwhile effort because they are less likely to damage your brand) or promoters (which is the ideal scenario because they are ambassadors for your business).

NPS delivers valuable, unfiltered customer feedback

In terms of customer feedback, long, complicated surveys typically don’t accomplish much. In Scoring Success, a paper by David Whitlark and Gary Rhoads, the professors discuss the benefits of including open-ended questions so respondents can freely express their opinion of your business. The open ended follow up after the initial scoring question is key to the success of an NPS program. Customers are empowered to speak their mind, and it’s these comments that allow you to improve your business processes in order to continue to build loyalty amongst your customers.

In 2013 Munchery, a food delivery service, underwent one of the riskiest processes for any business: a complete overhaul of its brand. Using NPS, Munchery monitored the reaction to the changes in real time. Based on customer feedback, Munchery decided to move to biodegradable packaging. The feedback helped ensure the re-brand was smooth and integrated the feedback customers had been sharing.

NPS can improve your product development process

Used correctly, customer feedback can have a tremendously positive impact on your product development process. In many organizations, product development teams are not exposed to direct customer feedback – the feedback is either sanitized or summarized by another department before it reaches the development team, or worse, the feedback never even makes it to the product team. By implementing insights gleaned from NPS, you will uncover opportunities for new features, changes to your policies, deeper understanding of how your product impacts customers, and help your team better empathize with your customers. Every company wants to be customer focused and NPS provides a reliable way to actually be customer focused day in and day out.

NPS offers practical business insights to improve customer experience

In 2006 Phillips, the global electronics manufacturer, started using NPS. Soon enough, Phillips discovered the need to have support for customers on weekends. The team found a way to offer support on the weekends and customers have been thrilled.

While Phillips has been using NPS for over a decade, Tuft & Needle, whose mattress is rated five stars on Amazon, started using NPS more recently. Started in 2013, Tuft & Needle was inspired by a poor mattress buying experience, and the founders wanted to ensure that their customers had a dramatically better experience. Tuft & Needle was receiving feedback that the mattress setup process was good, but not great. The team was able to discover that customers were opening the mattress boxes in their living room – where there’s space – and then moving the mattress to the bedroom. So Tuft & Needle added strong handles to the mattress sides and also added more information to let customers know they should open the box in their bedroom.

Whether you’ve been using NPS for years, or are new to NPS, both these examples illustrate that companies of all sizes, and in all industries, can use the NPS methodology to improve internal processes and create an experience that customers love.

There’s no point to NPS without action

While NPS delivers valuable feedback, your business must be committed to act on the feedback. NPS has the power to deliver great insights, but there’s no point to the insight without action. A Bain study discovered that organizations that deliver consistent customer value grow at more than twice the rate of the competition.

If you don’t yet have an NPS program here are a couple ways to get started – learn more at our webinar or sign up for our 14 day free trial. If you’re new to NPS start small . Begin by launching NPS in one department. This way you won’t become overwhelmed with feedback, or overwhelmed by any changes in your processes that may be required to address the feedback. Once you have seen initial success it will be easy to use NPS to make an impact across your organization.

Introducing Web and SMS – two new ways to gather feedback with Delighted

We started Delighted to help businesses deliver great experiences based on feedback. Customers want to share their experiences with businesses, and in turn, businesses want to use customer feedback to improve. Before we started Delighted we noticed a problem; the feedback experience was often frustrating – poorly timed surveys that were far too long, contained irrelevant questions and were hard to use on mobile devices. We wanted to fix this, so we set out to create the best possible experience for providing feedback.

We focused on email first. Businesses like Uber, Bonobos, Blue Bottle Coffee, Slack, Cisco, HotelTonight and countless others use Delighted, delivered via email, to gather actionable feedback from their customers.

But email is just one of many ways businesses and their customers connect and communicate. And we want to ensure that sharing feedback can happen anywhere and anytime.

That’s why today we are launching Web and SMS – allowing you to gather feedback directly on your website and from customers instantly via text message. Now, you can gather feedback across the three major platforms of email, web, and SMS all within a single, unified, easy to use product.

Let’s dig in to each new experience:

Delighted Web makes it simple and easy to gather feedback directly on your website or in your web application. You can gather feedback from visitors even if you don’t know their email address, opening up a whole new group of customers and potential customers who can now share feedback about their experience. With Delighted Web setup is easy, with a simple JS snippet you add to your page, and you’ll be collecting feedback immediately. Plus you can rest assured that folks won’t be over surveyed with our Adaptive Sampling and Throttling features. Whether you’re a B2B SaaS company that wants to gather feedback from everyone inside your product, or an ecommerce site that wants to gather feedback at the end of the buying process Delighted Web can help.

Delighted SMS is the instant way to gather feedback. If you already communicate with customers via SMS it’s the perfect fit. Plus it works across all mobile devices – from flip phones to smart phones. It’s tailor built for SMS with a conversational experience so customers simply reply with their score and then share their feedback; emojis and all. And we’ve created Smart Scheduling so you won’t be accidentally annoying customers at 2am by buzzing their phone with a request for feedback (we automatically schedule the texts to send during the day).

Delighted Web and SMS are available right now, all you need to do is sign up or sign in to your account and click “Survey people”. Pricing is simple, and we offer plans for either a single or all three platforms and usage is based on how many people you survey each month, just as it has been with Email.

We’re excited to launch these new experiences for gathering feedback and can’t wait to hear how you’re using them. Sign up for your free trial today!

Good or familiar?

As creators we are surrounded by work that influences how we perceive our own: admired work of respected peers, work aligned with current trends, or simply well-executed instances of well-worn patterns. But the work around us has gravity, and it pulls us towards similar solutions, and clouds our ability to assess our work on the basis of its own merit.

Creators don’t set out to emulate, but they can drift towards familiar and recognizable options in the vast sea of possibility. The familiar is comforting. When we successfully emulate aspects of work around us, however inadvertently, our minds fool us into thinking we’ve created something good, when in fact we’ve simply created something familiar. It feels correct. We’re lulled into accepting the recognizable.

But this is when we should push further.

It’s a lonely and scary place to be, creating something new. There’s nothing with which to compare the work – no shelter of the familiar. But this untethered feeling precedes breakthrough. New work by definition won’t be familiar. It demands a leap of faith. No great work came from someone playing it safe.

Join us

We believe small teams can accomplish great things. We’ve focused on building Delighted with a concentrated and efficient team. Since day one, we’ve been a team of three. Now we’re ready to add a fourth member.

We’re looking for the right person to help accelerate our engineering efforts and make Delighted even more useful for our customers.

If you’re looking to do your best work on a team dedicated to great customer experiences we’d love to chat.

Read more

Thanks,
The Delighted Team

We’ve launched

Delighted is out of private beta and officially open to the public!

We’ve spent the last year working closely with customers like Design Within Reach, Bonobos, Eventbrite, Goodreads, TaskRabbit, HotelTonight, Munchery, and many more, to create an extraordinarily useful tool.

Delighted is built around the simple truth that great products come from companies who deeply understand their customers. We want to help companies form that level of understanding, and use it to make great decisions every single day.

If you’re already a Delighted customer, we’d be grateful if you’d tell anyone you think we could help. If not, it’s a great time to give Delighted a try.

Thanks,
The Delighted Team

Perks

These days it’s common practice for tech employers to tout lavish perks in their recruiting efforts. A top spec Mac, huge displays, free drinks, snacks, laundry services, in-house barista, etc. You name it. It’s all been done.

As supplementary support for people doing extraordinary work, these things can be very helpful. But when perks become the primary focus of recruiting and retention discussions, that may be a sign you’re lacking the environment great talent is actually seeking out.

Great talent isn’t looking for free snacks. They’re looking for meaningful work, clearly defined (and matching) values, brilliant peers, and an environment where they can do the best work of their lives. They want to be operating at their highest level of performance possible, free from distraction and friction.

The right environment reduces friction.

While perks can alleviate the very top level of friction, the deeper sources of friction are much more debilitating. Things like fuzzy goals, conflicting values and directives, picking up the slack for poor performing peers, and distracting office politics. No amount of perks can make these tolerable. Furthermore, if you do manage to land a great candidate, you’re not likely to retain them for long in this sort of environment.

Finding great talent is hard. And while many great companies offer impressive perks, the causation must not be confused. Offering perks isn’t a shortcut to attracting great talent, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg.

Rules

Businesses often create frustrating rules when customers behave in unexpected ways. Here are a couple examples:

It goes like this: The business feels pain from an unanticipated customer behavior. But instead of taking responsibility – addressing the mismatch on their end – they pass the pain down to the customer by way of a rule. Often expressed in a contemptible manner, these rules preemptively scold all future customers regardless of whether or not they exhibit the offending behavior.

They create friction.

The best businesses aim to eliminate friction. They set aside blame, and seek to go with the grain, creating a path of minimal resistance for customers. They believe that their customers shouldn’t be subjected to the complexities of merchant account fees, or how laundry is sorted behind the scenes of a hotel.

Great businesses realize that frustrating rules are merely band-aid solutions for localized problems. They often only apply to a small group, yet chip away at the integrity of the overall experience for everyone. In short, these frustrating rules benefit the business at the expense of customers.

The team is the product

Every product is a reflection of the team behind it. Just as user interfaces are the conduit between humans and the functionality of products, products are the conduit between customers and the team of people solving a particular problem.

There are no good or bad products, only good or bad teams making products. The product is an extension of the team. Each delightful detail or frustrating interaction is the direct result of decisions made by the team.

The age of shrink-wrapped software is over. It used to be that when a product did what the customer wanted, they could use it unchanged, indefinitely. The point of view of the team behind the product mattered very little. If the shoe fit, you wore it.

But these days, software products are living, evolving organisms. Now, the customer rides shotgun on the road trip of a product’s development. This shifts the focus away from the present state of the product, and towards future iterations. Where will the team take the product next? How will they make the hard prioritization decisions? Will core workflows change? Customers are at the mercy of the team.

Customers are no longer buying static products, they are buying into the point of view and values of the team behind it. They now must trust that the team deeply understands the problem at hand, and will not leave them high and dry with unexpected curve balls and poor prioritization. The line between product and team is blurring, and now, more than ever, the quality of the team is just as important as the quality of the product.

Care

Truly great products and experiences come from people who care. It’s that simple.

When people don’t care, it’s evident. Products are confused and lack a point of view. Customer service representatives are more interested in going home than helping you. Good enough, becomes good enough.

You must push beyond what’s considered a rational amount of effort or time if you intend to make something great. This comes at great emotional and monetary expense. But money alone is not enough. Money won’t magically motivate people to care about making something great. Caring can’t be bought.

People who care are a scarce resource. This is commonly why the largest companies in the world often struggle to create great things, even when they have deep pockets, global reach, and well-paid teams. The people who care, ultimately leave to work with others who care as much as they do.

Creating something great requires that you surround yourself with people who will do whatever it takes to get it right. It’s an obsession, and it’s fueled by caring. Finding these people is hard, but they are supremely worth it. When people who care attack a problem, magical things tend to happen.

The right way

There’s no shortage of advice on how to build a company. With so many pitfalls and challenges, it’s tempting to seek out the “right” way. When advice comes from someone with some form of success, it’s easy to assume their advice must be right.

The truth is, good advice can be the wrong advice for your company. More specifically, the right way depends entirely on the type of company you are building.

What does success look like for you? What do you value? What are you good at? What do you want to be doing on a daily basis? What impact are you looking to make? How long do you have to get there?

The answers to these questions are different for everyone. Yet they are the key to understanding if a given piece of advice is one you should heed or disregard. Just because it’s worked for someone else before doesn’t mean it will square with your values and goals for the company.

When you know who you want to be as a company, you’ll be in a much better position to select advice that gets you where you’re trying to go. Follow someone else’s map, and you may not like the destination.

Simple

There’s a little sandwich shop in Palo Alto, CA called Simply Sandwiches. We like their sandwiches and what they stand for.

The shop is postage stamp tiny and is run by a husband and wife. They’re open four hours a day, Monday through Friday. They’re closed weekends. They do one thing – sell sandwiches at lunch time.

A basic sandwich is $5. You can get a fancier one (with things like bacon or avocado) for $6.65. No salads, no wraps, no hot dishes. Only items you can fit in a small paper lunch bag.

They lovingly prepare every sandwich – one at a time. Every weekday, at lunchtime, there is a line out the door.

They’ve been around for 28 years, they’ve sold over 750,000 sandwiches, and are smiling every time we see them. They know who they are.

Low-hanging fruit

Low-hanging fruit is a phrase tossed around in meetings when someone wants to do something they believe to be obviously high leverage.

The problem is, the use of this phrase is an insidious method of concealing two critical assumptions: that the best solution to the problem is obvious, and that it will be quick to implement. Neither of which are necessarily true. It’s a trick. A trick that not-so-subtly disrespects the process of building something great.

Building great things is hard, and there’s always a certain level of diligence required to unearth the optimal solution. It’s intellectually dishonest to label something as low-hanging fruit with the intent of short circuiting the typical rigor you’d bring to bear on solving a problem.

There are no shortcuts along the path to great things. If you want something great, you must be willing to explore the paths others lacked the will to travel.

Pursue perfection

“Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

— Voltaire

It has become fashionable to deem perfection a dirty word. The argument goes, if you strive for perfection you’ll never ship anything. But like all platitudes, the truth is much more nuanced.

Move one rung down from perfection on the quality ladder and you find “good enough”. “Good enough” sets a quality bar, and a quality bar quickly becomes a quality ceiling. Over time, doing anything above the bar is considered “a waste of time”. It’s easy to see how this mindset spirals into mediocrity.

If you really want to do something great, aim to do it the best. Every time. Anything less, and the gravity of familiarity and compromise drag it into the realm of sameness.

Shooting for perfection has the funny consequence of causing you to continually improve each micro decision. Compromises that would typically be allowed, that drag an experience from stellar to average, are not tolerated. Everyone on the team is focused on doing their best work and can’t imagine letting the team down by giving anything less.

Perfection isn’t an end-state, but an ideal. An ideal that inspires continual improvement by posing the question, “How can this be better?”. An ideal we believe is worth pursuing.

Bloat

We’ve all heard the advice to simplify, simplify, simplify. Yet, many products are bloated and confused. Why does this happen? What’s the disconnect between the stated goal of a streamlined product and the reality of overstuffing it?

In a word, fear. The team is afraid of what might happen if they don’t offer X or Y. This leads to rationalizing the bloat.

Teams that don’t understand who they’re building for, and why, are prone to make bloated products. They can always imagine situations where someone might need a given option. Each possible product choice becomes a lengthy debate, and inevitably they cave to adding more. They can’t make the trade-offs.

It feels safer to keep as many options as possible; more options, they reason, equal more chances to be happy. Unfortunately this dilutes an otherwise good product. It foists all those additional options onto the customer, who ends up doing the hard work of editing the product for themselves.

It’s one thing to say you want a simple, uncluttered product and something entirely different to actually make one. When a team understands who they’re building for, they have a much better chance of delivering on that goal.

The choice to leave out an option is never an easy one to make, but it’s easier if your team shares common values. And what’s more, it’s your job. You need to make the hard choices for your customers. They’ll thank you for it.

Brick walls

“The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

— Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

When creating a product, you’ll likely encounter obstacles that require an extraordinary amount of time, energy, or tenacity to overcome. When you truly understand the problem and know the game you’re playing, these can be opportunities in disguise.

Obstacles are a chance to gain a meaningful advantage over those who yield to them. Companies that lack strong priorities can’t separate the obstacles that are worth overcoming, from those that aren’t. They’ll say “It can’t be done,” when what they actually mean is “We’re not sure it’s worth it.”

Choose your battles carefully, then embrace them wholeheartedly.

The compromise trap

Compromise is a widely used method of reaching consensus around two differing viewpoints. But in a design process, compromise between stakeholders when defining intentions almost always results in a suboptimal user experience.

Playing tug-of-war with design intentions will ultimately result in solutions that are neither here nor there. Splitting the difference is a trap.

The best way to avoid a compromised design is to commit to an intention and see it all the way through, even if there are hesitations amongst team members. If you find the intention was wrong, try the other one. Never mix intentions. Not only will this result in a much more appropriate design, but you’ll also have a much clearer idea as to why. And in design, learning is king.

Understand the problem

Design is about solving problems. And great design solves problems elegantly – utilizing as few, highly leveraged elements as possible.

The catch is, for everything you keep, there are far more things you must give up. You can’t have it all. Trade offs must be made, and embedded in each is a choice. A choice about something being more important than something else. So, how do you know what’s important and what isn’t?

You must understand the problem. Deeply and completely. Who is this for? Why do they need it? How are they doing this today? What can’t they live without? This is where the most amount of energy and time should be spent, yet this is where assumptions and dogma tend to trump exploration and deconstruction.

Glossing over this part of the process is dangerous. You’ll build on a foundation of assumptions. This leads to solutions that, while possibly well executed, miss the mark. In contrast, when you dig deep and break down the problem to its most essential, you can then build from bedrock. And build what’s actually necessary. All your energy is focused on improving the small set of things that actually matter. Creating the opportunity for an experience that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s no surprise elegant designs are often simple. When you deeply understand the problem you build what is absolutely critical. It turns out, what’s critical is often quite a small set of things.

Start with values

Enduring companies are capable of adapting to a changing external environment. We believe this capacity, to excel through continuous change, is rooted in a deep base of shared values.

Many interesting companies come and go either because the market opportunity evaporated, the team dynamic broke down, or the technology matured into a commodity.

Values are timeless. They are the bedrock of a company and don’t change even when everything else does.

We founded Delighted because of the values we share. They are the starting point for everything we do – from the products we build, to the people we hire, to the customers we seek out. Everything is shaped by our shared values.

Play your own game

It’s commonplace for companies to use sports strategy and metaphor when discussing competitors. Some think of competitors in the gladiatorial sense – an opponent they must destroy in order to win the customer. Such zero-sum thinking is common. Competition in sports is well understood – someone wins and someone loses. It’s simple and satisfying.

However, this framing leads to the false belief that in business there is a sole winner and that winning requires being stronger, faster, and better than a competitor. But business isn’t like sports at all. There is no single winner. Only companies that are attracting customers and making them happy and those that are not.

There’s no limit on the number of companies that can be successful, because there isn’t a universal definition of success. Some companies strive for the lowest prices, others to provide the most jobs, some to be the most efficient, and some strive for the highest possible quality. There are endless possible combinations. And that is a great thing to be celebrated.

A company needn’t model its behavior on what other companies do, because it doesn’t have to attract the same customers or value the same things. It isn’t as simple as declaring an enemy and beating them.

At Delighted we believe our passion for great design and empathetic software will attract those that share our passion, allowing us to serve them long into the future. We don’t particularly care what others choose to do, because we know the game we are playing – and we quite enjoy it.

Introducing Delighted

Every customer has a unique experience, but only a small fraction of those stories have the chance to be shared, and fewer still are heard. We want to change that.

Delighted is a new company that helps businesses connect with their customers – to learn, improve, and delight. We know the profound effects of asking customers to share their experiences, their frustrations, and their wishes. We are building thoughtful tools to help businesses get closer to their customers.

We believe businesses deserve great products and experiences. We believe everyone wants to be heard. We believe companies who truly listen will win.

Thanks, Caleb, Mark & Mike