Startups and the Customer Journey: Navigating the Path to Loyalty

You’ve launched a startup; you have a product you believe in; the passion and the verve to see it hit the market, and you have the infrastructure to support a large number of orders. You’ve also gotten lucky enough to have a team behind you who believes in your project and dedicates a whole lot of time and effort to seeing it succeed.

But there’s one thing that’s missing, one core component that is a lifeline for any successful startup: customer loyalty.

You’re providing a product that aims to address customer pain points, yet, as an emerging business, probably in a market with more established competitors, securing customer awareness (let alone loyalty) is a challenge.

A key differentiator, and the secret to building customer loyalty, is in how you cater to the customer experience. So, let’s break down how the customer discovery process works and how you can leverage innovative technologies to craft white-glove service experiences that cater to customer demands.

Customer Discovery: Before Entering the Market

Different audiences will have different preferences and pain points that your product will cater to. Before considering how you can meet customer demand, you need to first target a particular audience. This process, called customer discovery, is an essential step in going to market. If you’ve inadvertently skipped it, we’re about to break down how it works and why it’s so crucial to your success.

The customer discovery process is essentially only two steps long, and it includes:

  • Interviewing – sitting down with users from your targeted audiences to have a conversation about their pain points. Having open, free-flowing interviews with individuals in your market will help you fine-tune your build, identify profitable new pain points (that may be unique from the ones you intended to solve), and identify whether your originally targeted segment is the right audience for your product.
  • Pre-build validation – testing your build before it goes to market to assess readiness and viability. You can create a minimum viable product (MVP) and pre-ship it to market, run ad campaigns to gauge customer interests, and even cold-call other businesses to assess potential B2B markets.

The customer discovery process is really about refining where and how your product is deployed and adjusting expectations to boost your chances of success. By narrowing down your targeted audiences, creating buyer personas, and shifting the build to better meet their pain points, you can set the foundation for customer-centric development.

Voice of the Customer and Mapping User Journeys

Now we’re going to break down another key concept called the “voice of the customer.” Customer discovery addresses customer needs from a macro perspective, highlighting the markets your product will want to target and minor adjustments to your build. On the other hand, learning to hear and understand the “voice of the customer” is the micro perspective.

Firstly, to hear the voice of the customer, you’ll need to gather data on the user experience. This can be accomplished by:

Once you’ve collected enough information on your customers’ user experience, you can then create a journey map. Journey mapping is a visual representation of the user experience that allows you to identify the following:

  • pain points
  • elements that provide satisfactory experiences for customers
  • potential differentiators from your competition

With the customer journey laid out and problem areas exposed, you can then refine your build to smooth over the bumps in their journeys and amplify the aspects of your product that provide a competitive advantage.

Optimizing Customer Service and Encouraging Loyalty

Beyond offering a superior product, your startup’s customer service is perhaps the most essential aspect of encouraging loyalty. Customer reviews often focus on just how well a company responds when something goes wrong. If people have questions and they can find answers quickly and easily, they’re more likely to stick with you. Meanwhile, loyalty programs are a great way to encourage customers to make repeat purchases.

Here are some essential tips for improving the customer’s experience after the sale:

  • Send a heartfelt welcome email. You can use automation to welcome new customers, but make sure that your voice is genuine and that they can easily gather important info, such as where to go if they have a question.
  • Create a tech support forum. A forum on your website where customers can go and chat about your product as well as ask questions is a great resource. Assign expert staff members to monitor the forum and answer questions whenever they pop up.
  • Beef up the FAQ section. If some questions are more common than others, create blog posts that address them in more detail than the FAQs page.
  • Respond quickly and helpfully. No doubt you’re giving them multiple avenues to reach out. But it’s not uncommon for customers to email or direct message companies and have their comments languish in the inbox for too long. Prioritize speedy, helpful responses to all customer queries, complaints, and comments.
  • Make it easy. Don’t bury your contact info on the website, and provide phone support with a real human they can talk to. Not every customer wants to talk to a robot. At the same time, include a chatbot option on your website.
  • Start a loyalty program. A 2022 survey revealed that 70% of consumers feel loyalty programs are a top factor when it comes to securing their loyalty. Whether you’re incentivizing them to leave reviews or offering points that lead to discounts, consider how you can capture their loyalty with rewards.

You want to move the customer towards a place of comfort with your brand. You’re reliable, your product is stellar, and their experience with your brand is one they can’t get anywhere else.

Supporting a Brand-Unique Customer Experience with Technology

In refining your product, you may come across hitches in the customer experience that your current infrastructure cannot smooth over. This may seem like a stumbling block at first; however, it is really an opportunity to take advantage of the wide range of innovative technologies available to provide support.

You can increase your products’ accessibility and ease of use by:

  • Using a directory solution to make it easier for customers to navigate your website. Directory solutions are designed to improve navigation, reduce load times, optimize search functionality, and even deliver better order tracking.
  • Implementing a customer access management solution to give customers more access to their data. Giving customers a greater degree of control over how their data is collected and used, as well as offering them an easy-to-navigate portal, will help build your brand’s ethical reputation as well as improve their user experience.
  • Leverage a centralized CRM solution to allow customers one way to access their accounts, information, and orders across all of your sites. Customers dislike having to save three or four passwords for as many user portals; choosing to utilize one solution will save them some frustration.

Final Thoughts

Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a brand that thrives off of its loyal customer base.

Lastly, you can also consider how to leverage cutting-edge technologies, such as AI, to provide brand-unique experiences. These technologies are relatively new and may grant you a competitive advantage in a market that’s only just deciding how much to incorporate them.