The CEO Tour: What I Learned Walking in our Customers Shoes

What a 30-Day Trip around the UK Taught Me About Business Success.

Last autumn, I set out on a 30-day trip around the UK, in a motorhome the likes of Jamiroquai’s, with a crucial message to deliver — for SMBs around the world it’s time to think global.

New places, workshops, interviews, presentations…. This trip had plenty. But its most remarkable part was the opportunity to spend time with our customers, sit by their side and see our product through their eyes. For 30 days straight, I had a unique chance to walk in our customers’ shoes. On this trip, I felt a lot like a doctor finally meeting the healthy patients. Just like doctors mostly deal with sick people who require treatment, we usually talk to customers who need our help with a query or an issue. In business, it’s easy to go down the reactive road, while what we really need is to focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong.

 

 

I met these brilliant users of OnePageCRM and got to know them, their origins and captivating life stories, their businesses and unique needs.

 

 

There are some things that you would never get from an email, a phone call, or a web form. How is our platform actually being used? What features work for our customers best and which ones they haven’t even tried? What puzzles them and how can we make them more productive?

Being able to form a complete understanding of our customers’ requirements in the context in which they use our CRM was priceless. It’s the gift that will keep on giving.

 

This trip was a huge learning experience and the knowledge I got during it will become the driving force for providing the best possible experience to our customers and making OnePageCRM the best version of itself. Here’s what I’ve learned on the road:

Shut up and listen

If you get an opportunity to meet with your customers, spend the time wisely and listen to what they have to say. Learning from it is the key to your growth. Sometimes, you don’t even have to ask questions — if you just listen, they’ll tell you.

Observe

Observing your customers at their place of work is powerful and will give you a chance to feel them. You might not even be able to imagine their concerns and they will rarely put it in an email. Little things, like being afraid to click on a button, will reveal themselves only through an observation.

Never assume 

Back in 2013, Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz, ran an interesting experiment. For a full week, he traded professional lives with a founder of Sierra Interactive Will Reynolds. They lived in each other’s apartments, answered each other’s emails, and effectively ran each other’s companies. In this unique position, they could see their companies through the customers’ eyes, experience their pain points, and feel their struggles. Since then, Fishkin tries to ‘never assume’ — his product updates and produced content all come directly from customer’s feedback or raised questions.

While I might not have taken over our customers’ homes on this trip, the lesson I learned was the same. I realized that something that might seem obvious to me just because I’m so used to it isn’t necessarily the first choice for a customer. Assuming that I know what works best for them can actually backfire.

Don’t build brand personas

…until you meet your customers. We often build personas that are benign. The fears, the insecurities of people you’re selling to make up an important part of their image. And these can only be seen in person.

Tune out the noise

Sometimes it’s helpful to get away from the day-to-day running of the company. You get so engrossed in small details that you might lose sight of the bigger picture. Getting on the road helped me to tune out the ‘noise’ and focus on listening to the customer.

Always explain the ‘why’

When we build a new feature, there’s always a reason as to ‘why’ we built it the way we did. I discovered that this might not always be obvious to our customers. It’s important to explain the ‘why’ in a way that is simple and not overwhelming. As a result, we’re now putting more focus on video in our learning experience. It’s always easier to show than tell.

Give to give

That is the philosophy we live by at OnePageCRM. The energy I got from meeting our customers and brought back home to our team was more than I could ever imagine. I found that sales managers are the most positive people in the world. They are the buzzing centre of businesses and, as one customer put it, “You’ll love a sales person until the day you fire them.

This trip was a revelation. I had a chance to actually see the impact that we’re making.  I met a company that took their Net Promoter Score from -6 to +46 by using OnePageCRM. They qualified as finalists of the UK Customer Experience Awards for Best Small Contact Centre & Customer Satisfaction. The experience of walking into the room with OnePageCRM simultaneously open on 20+ screens and getting to hear how it’s used by 40 users, across the departments from sales director and marketing to support and sales reps on the road was incredible.

Inset: Some of the team at Birchwood Price Tools

 

Another customer adopted our CRM to his super simple sales process of buying leads and nurturing them through follow-up’s using our system. He had a healthy conversion rate of 100/1.

Don’t get me wrong, the trip had its bumps. Google maps led me down roads that were not suitable for motorhomes. Finding WiFi to catch up on the work at home or just jot down some feedback was an adventure in itself. Traffic was pure madness. And the length of meetings was completely unpredictable — they could take anywhere between three and six hours. But in the end, it was all worth it. Throughout the trip, I met amazing, interesting people. From those who managed the campsites and were always very welcoming to small business owners selling ice cream from shipping containers. And, of course, the feedback I got from our customers, the lessons I learned were priceless.

I came back home with a wealth of knowledge and action points of how we can make OnePageCRM better. We have the best customers, and we’re proud that they’ve chosen our software to help them grow their business. Seeing and hearing it first hand was overwhelming. One Sales Manager said to me, “You’ve no idea how much your CRM makes for us!” and that just blew my mind.

Thank you all for allowing me to peek into your work lives and experiences, sharing your stories and giving me the unique opportunity to walk in your shoes!

 

Michael FitzGerald
Michael FitzGerald
As CEO of OnePageCRM, Michael is passionate about Getting Things Done! A champion of startups, Michael's goal is to help SMEs be more efficient and effective in business. Get in touch by pinging him on Twitter or connecting on LinkedIn.

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