If in doubt, speak to your customers

In times of doubt, I remind myself of the question a profitable business asks itself: “How can I be more useful to my customers?” (with an emphasis on ‘our customers’). Note that they aren’t asking “How can we be more profitable?”. Not focusing on your existing customers is inconsiderate. It’s like a rude waiter in a busy restaurant. You are seen to your table with a smile. But then the waiter is never seen again. Sometime later, you see them ushering new patrons to their seats with the same faux smile.

On the flip-side, overly attentive service is worth coming back for. This is only possible by understanding what a customer needs. The secret isn’t magic. The secret is to pay close attention. A Michelin-star restaurant has more waiters than might seem necessary. But when a waiter’s sole job is to make sure you always have a clean serviette, and another to top up your wine, the experience is remarkable. This attentiveness is only possible with hawk-eye observation. The wine cannot be chosen without talking to the customer, and it cannot be topped up without observing their empty glass.

The same philosophy applies to Software-as-a-Service companies, with their mantra being “retention, retention, retention.” The more useful the product, the more likely the customer will keep using it, and the bigger the company’s recurring revenue. The only way to find out how to be useful is to pay attention to your customers and speak to them.

And that’s what I’ve been doing over the past month for Workshop Tactics. I made it my mission to chat to as many of my customers as possible. At first, I was nervous. To me, my customers were an order confirmation email in my inbox. But one Zoom call at a time, I was able to put a face to a name. Most, if not all the chats I had, went on for longer than planned. It was humbling to speak with people who were as eager to talk to me about Workshop Tactics as I was.

As the days went by, a fog seemed to be clearing after every conversation. Common themes started emerging, and I was almost able to predict what I was going to hear. Now I feel like my brain is imbued with who my customers are, and what they need. This feeling of clarity is motivating. When it’s clear what you need to do, it makes it much easier to start. I feel like a waiter who has just seen how many empty wine glasses are waiting to be filled. Now I know how to be more useful for my customers. Time to get to work.