I am a fan of the web service Survey Monkey. But for about a half-hour last week I was a hater. Now I am a fan again. And in the fluctuations of my fandom lies a key lesson for all of us in business.
In short, the lesson is this: the customer drives your offense. In fact, at my company weíve actually given our customer a name.
We call him Tom Brady.
The half-hour of non-love for Survey Monkey was the window of time when they auto-renewed my subscription, which I wasnít expecting, and I got annoyed and self-righteous about it. I figured it was likely my fault. They probably told me during the sign-up process that they would do this and I probably just didnít pay attention.
But I still felt like I might have been tricked, and I was annoyed at the prospect of going back to investigate all of this in order to build a rationale for why they should remove the charge.
Instead, I did no investigation. I just took the chip off my shoulder (for a minute) and sent a short email saying I wasnít expecting the auto-renewal and asking that they remove the charge. A few minutes later I received an email saying that yes, the auto-renew approval had been part of my sign-up process, but no matter, Survey Monkey was happy to remove the charge and allow my account to sit as a free account until the next time I needed to use their premium features.
And now here I am blogging about it. And other people will likely tweet this post and share it on Facebook.
The point is this: your customers are incredibly empowered, and if you treat them like people and treat them well, it is very easy for them to share those experiences with your brand. Which gets you new customers. In other words, your customer drives your offense. And in todayís hyper-connected world, happy customers can move you down the field faster than you can say Mr. Bundchen.
Itís worth noting, by the way that your customer is also Vince Wilfork, and Iím not talking about him being a secret touchdown machine. Iím referring to the fact that really great customer engagement is also what drives your defense. Itís what keeps empowered, highly informed, super-mobile customers from going to your competitor, and itís what keeps competitors from turning your business into a pure commodity where price is the only differentiator.
So engage with your customers in ways that feel personal and human. Listen to them and respond directly Ė like SurveyMonkey did here. And they will reward you by sharing their enthusiasm and delight with the other people in their social graph. And you will find yourself in the end zone. At the Super Bowl. (Go Pats!)
Dave McLaughlin is CEO and Co-Founder of Vsnap, a Boston-based startup that makes it easy to send short video messages as a more personal alternative to email.
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