[lead dropcap="no"]Mistakes are inevitable when you're running a startup.Here's what we learned from ours.[/lead]
We're far from perfect.
Sometimes, it feels like we're stumbling more than we're walking.
Everyday, we're learning something new. And along the way, we're constantly breaking things, and getting back up. Breaking things, then getting back up again.
"Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough." -Mark Zuckerberg
As big fans of the Lean Startup method that Eric Ries popularized, we believe in learning as fast as possible, and taking immediate action.
"The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else." -Eric Ries
Despite all of that, that doesn't excuse us from the mistakes we make. And we've had numerous experiences dealing with angry customers throughout our journey.
Here are 5 hard times we've faced through our journey at Rype, and what it taught us.
1. Confusing user experience
Being in the trenches can be as dangerous as it is helpful. When you're looking at the same website every day, and thinking about it all the time, it's easy to lose touch with how new visitors will navigate through it. This is exactly what happened to us.We were making too many changes on the landing page, and things got messy. New visitors had no idea where to click, and it was overwhelming for them.
How we fixed the issue:
When we revisited the website, we realized that there were too many call-to-actions on the landing page. We were telling people to share, speak with us via live chat, try Rype for free, enter their emails -- all at the same time. It was too much.So the first thing we did was analyze our heatmap recordings, scroll movements, and live visitor recordings through our analytics platform (we use Hotjar, but there are dozens of similar services out there). The surprising result we found was that hardly anyone was clicking the main call-to-action ('Try Rype For Free') when they visited the website. This is likely because we had too many distractions and an image ("Old way vs. The Rype Way") that was popping up above the fold.
We immediately cut anything that would distract visitors from the main call-to-action, and kept things simple and clean.
To make sure we were getting qualitative data, as well as quantitative data, we placed a short survey for all of our users to fill out when they joined Rype.
We asked as many open-ended questions as possible because we wanted to capture the words people used to describe their pain points, why they're using Rype, and what they were looking for. This is advice we got from New York Times Bestselling author, and CEO of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com, Ramit Sethi. Ramit shares that the most powerful copy you can have on your website or any advertising is not fancy words, but words that your customers are already thinking.
By asking open-ended questions, you can recognize a pattern of the same words that people are using to describe your product/service, and the pain points they have. For example, what we learned was that most visitors used words like "Unlimited, Curated, Convenience, Hand-selected" to describe our offering at Rype.
Never stop getting out of the building. If it's been more than two months since you had a conversation with customers and prospects, you're probably out of touch. Use quantitative data (i.e. heatmaps, analytics) along with qualitative data (i.e. interviews, surveys with open-ended questions) to find out more about what makes your customers tick. You'll be surprised with how much you'll learn from them.
2. Changing our prices
As an early startup, one of the best return on investments you can have is experimenting with pricing. It's very difficult to get it right the first time around, because you have no idea how customers will react to it, or who your target market is. Once we've gotten to know how customers are using our service, where the most active ones are coming from, and what their lifetime value is, we were able to understand how to best price our offering.[caption id="attachment_6723" align="aligncenter" width="811"]
Monthly Recurring Revenue Based on Location[/caption][caption id="attachment_6724" align="aligncenter" width="387"]
Customer Lifetime Value[/caption]Despite this new understanding of our business, it's never good news for customers when they find out we're changing our prices.
How we fixed the issue:
The first thing we did was to tell customers and prospects on our email list well ahead of time. This way, there's enough time for them to think about whether they're ready to join Rype before prices go up officially. The last thing we want is for people to be surprised when they hear that we've adjusted our pricing without them knowing.
The second thing we did was to keep current customers at their original pricing, and grandfather them in for life. The early customers were the ones that took the risk in trying out your product/service, and they should never be taken for granted.
If you're providing a solution that's incredibly valuable to your end-user, most people will understand the pricing adjustments; especially if you're transparent about it. You'll always be dealing with angry customers or visitors who weren't aware of the new pricing, but that's the reality of running a company.
3. Website miscommunication
As we shared in the introduction, we embrace learning as fast as possible in the company. This can sometimes come with leaving trails of confusion behind. As common practice, we update our Support Documents whenever we made new changes in the product. But during those short gap times, customers would often find themselves confused.
Or when we were launching new languages.
How we fixed the issue:
Luckily, most customers understand that there are bugs in any technology business, even the most reputable ones. That worked to our favor when we combined it with fast support to resolve the issues at hand. We've certainly made our share of mistakes when it comes to customer support due to lack of resources. Seeing the difference it has made in our customer satisfaction rate after building out our support team only encourages us to triple down on providing world-class support.
The other lesson it taught us was that most people would rather find the information they needed on their own, instead of reaching out to the support. This was critical for us because it would allow us to scale support and decrease the number of support tickets that our team needs to handle. In other words, more customers served, with less staff required.
To make sure our Support Section was easy to access, we placed a "Visit Our FAQ Help Section" underneath our pricing and checkout pages.
When starting a business, you'll inevitably screw up. The mindset to have is not to be afraid of messing up, but to ensuring you do right for the customer when you do mess up.
Several times a week, we get new requests to launch new languages at Rype. We've been careful not to launch anything new until we're fully confident we have the logistics worked out and that we can support the demand.
Sometimes it's hard to tame the optimism in us, and we've made mistakes in overpromising timelines that we've found to be unrealistic. Especially since there are truly passionate fans that are ready to sign up - today.
How we fixed the issue:
There's nothing revolutionary we did to fix this issue, as we want to do everything possible to be transparent with our customers. But the language we used did change. Before we would place somewhat specific timelines, such as 'early 2017' which could give people the wrong message if we don't manage to hit our timeline.Now, we're honest about telling people it's coming soon, without putting any timelines. What often disappoints people is not the result but the expectations that were built up in their heads, and we've been there ourselves.
It's easy to get excited when you know there's demand for future products or services you plan to launch. But over-delivering is always the best way to keep a customer loyal and excited.
5. Website down times
Website down times is one of the most frustrating events that an entrepreneur has to go through. It's something that's often beyond your control, because the server you're hosting your website on may be going through maintenance or running into some temporary problems.
What's more frustrating is when customers reach out, there's not much you can do but tell them you're in the process of fixing it. You can't promise it'll be fixed by time "X" because you're often not the one fixing it.
How we fixed the issue:
The best thing we could do was to react fast. We reached out immediately to our host provider, and CDN providers. In this specific case, it turned out to be a rare scenario that hasn't happened in the past. Luckily, they were able to fix it within the hour, and we made sure to verify that this issue won't arise again.
Yes, we probably lost out on a few customers, and we've had several people reaching out that the site was down. But we took action, fixed it, and made sure it won't happen again.
You have to be OK accepting the chaotic realities of unexpected events happening outside of your control. What's important is that you fix it, instead of complaining about it.
The cold reality of success
We've come a long way since we've started, but it's never been more clear to us that success is never a straight line. It's messy, tangled, and incredibly difficult. But if you learn fast enough, correct your mistakes, and continue running the marathon over the long-haul, it gets easier.
We're far from where we want to be, and we're just getting started. The lessons we share is not just meant to bring you along our startup's journey, but to help you. Whether you already have a successful business or getting a side hustle up and running, I hope that you'll save time and money by learning from our lessons dealing with angry customers.Now we want to hear from you. What were some experiences you've had dealing with angry customers in your business, and how did you fix it?