People, Not Users
They say that when you’re starting a company, discovering and deciding what you’re not about is almost as important as delineating what you’re really chasing.
In the early days of Apptentive, it became obvious to us that there was something we were striving to create: a more personal connection with customers. We believed:
- That before the Internet and before the phone, there were just people doing business with one another, on equal terms, as people.
- That connections between human beings are enduring and necessary.
- That the mobile devices we are all carrying can help us re-connect companies with customers.
So, we knew what we were for: PEOPLE.
And, with that, we realized what we were not about: USERS.
The problem with most modern software and most company adoption of software is that it’s distancing: The technology seeks to automate and extract the human elements out of interactions. Even the terminology we apply further distances us, mentally. We quickly shift from thinking about “John, our customer with the adorable dog” and start thinking about “User 12167553, with an estimated Lifetime Value of… not enough money.” In doing so, we lose sight of the thing that really matters: our relationship with that customer.
At Apptentive, we strive to not think about our customers as users. We work to think about them as people. We do this to remind ourselves of our real jobs: To help the people who are our customers. Our job is to understand what motivates them, what they are looking for in successful relationships and how to make their lives better. In turn, we help them to do the same: To work with their customers and get to know them better, to communicate with them more personally, to really treat them as people.
The results of such an approach are extraordinary—our customers have gone from “Like” to “Love.” They cheer us on, they help us make the product better, and they understand when we make mistakes, because they know we’re working at always improving and are real people, not some anonymous company.
Building the kind of software company that treats its customers as people rather than users is an exercise in breaking old habits. Customers aren’t accustomed to this much care, concern, and investment. At first they might be skeptical, but within weeks, they are often huge fans of ours because they see how much we care about being connected and in contact.
We even created a Slack channel dedicated to customer feedback. It’s constantly full of praise from our customers telling us how much they love Apptentive, and letting us know they’re evangelizing our product in their communities. These pieces of feedback reinforce what we’ve known to be true all along: treating people like people, and not users creates a better product, and a better experience for all involved.
More importantly, though, our customers have been able to increase their connections, at scale, with their customers. From the large Internet retailer who always cared about customer success and interaction but didn’t know how to turn digital relationships to personal ones, to the century-old retailer known for service who wanted their values and beliefs to be reflected in their mobile experiences, we’ve found that treating customers as people, not users has led companies to a new way of taking digital business personally.
Treating your customers like people helps in myriad ways, with meaningful business results:
1. It shortens the cycle times for product development, because more of the company is in touch with the customer’s habits and needs. When you put the customer in the center of the product development process, as opposed to being at “the end” your development and iteration cycles shrink.
2. It increases the loyalty and retention rates for companies, because customers feel loved, appreciated and listened to. Customers who you communicate with are two to four more times likely to be around 3 months from now.
3. It drives higher monetization and more profit, because trust is crucial to commerce and in a digital space, Trust is crucial to conversion.
4. It drives higher awareness and more effective customer acquisition, because the best marketing plan is one that starts with a great experience, the kind that consumers want to share and brag about.
When companies LOVE their customers, when they treat them as people, not users, everyone wins: the company, the employees, and the customers.
Check out this blog post for more information on what it means to treat customers as “People, Not Users.”