Treat Customers as People, Not Users
In the early days of Apptentive, the founding team talked a lot about what the company is, what it stands for, and what it’s about. We focused on building the kind of company we wanted to work for and could really take pride in.
We noticed our focus was on the people behind the software: Each and every customer who uses the software is a person with feelings and a full life outside of the software experience. We believed early on that those responsible for making software should be more deeply connected with the end consumer, and still work every day to deliver that vision. It was obvious to us that companies need to think about their customers as human beings, not just as dollar signs behind their screens.
We know that people use the term “user” by default. The technology industry has been using the term “user” for decades. To argue for changing the terminology would be like swimming upstream.
But, we put a stake in the ground and said this is not about USERS, it’s about PEOPLE.
We believe that software is for everyone—every single human being on the planet. Day in, day out, software is a ubiquitous part of each of our lives. Yet it’s you and I that define the software, not vice versa. We create great technology to satisfy our needs and desires; we don’t create arbitrary needs for the sake of adopting great technology. At the end of the day, the software revolution is about people, not product.
The Impact of “People, Not Users”
In August 2012, Apptentive began the TechStars Seattle accelerator program, and for the first time, we were surrounded by other startups on a regular basis. As we worked in tandem with other young companies, it became obvious that our penchant for sayings like “People, Not Users” and “It’s all about Customer Love” were a bit out of the ordinary.
A funny thing started to happen: Over time, other people we worked around started to use those phrases, too. During a discussion of technology and product development, the term “user” was mentioned. Someone who wasn’t on our team interjected to say, “Hey, that’s a person, not a user!” Mentors referred to our company as the “Customer Love team.” It was hard to ignore our philosophy, and our language choices became infectious.
We believe in the concept of “People, Not Users” so much that we eventually printed shirts with the statement and started wearing them to events. We’ve always used t-shirts as marketing tools, but the reaction to these shirts is incredible. People around us started discussing how frustrating it is to be treated like a “user,” and we knew we’d hit a vein.
“People, Not Users” Changes How You Work
Today, our philosophy of “People, Not Users” is a part of our DNA. Growing a company in the environment of customer love we deliberately created has contributed to our success and is continuing to help us thrive. For our customers and in our community, we evangelize for the end consumer and help the brand we work with put their customers at the center of their product and purchasing process.
To guide how we can all live by these philosophies, we created L.O.V.E—an acronym that stands for Listen, Observe, Validate, and Engage. Spelling out processes and values is an important step in empowering your team to treat customers well.
(Learn more about the L.O.V.E. approach here.)
Listening is crucial to building relationships and earning customers’ trust, but only covers a small portion of the customer experience. This is where Observing, Validating, and Engaging all come into the mix. It’s important to take as many opportunities to observe how your customers interact with your offering—sometimes through data, other times in the real world. Validating that your customer’s experience is important and meaningful, and makes them feel truly heard and understood. In order to maximize the amount of customer interaction you’re having, however, you have to engage with your customers. You need to message proactively, call customers on the phone, see them in their workspace, and invite them into the process of building a better product and experience. When you truly love your customers and, more importantly, want to earn their love, you have to show up with authenticity and interest.
The thing we didn’t expect when we started emphasizing the importance of “People, Not Users” is how tripped up people get with their own language. One of the common challenges for new team members when they join Apptentive, especially on the technical side, is thinking about the term “user” every time it’s used and trying to replace it with “people” or “the customer.” It often takes a month or two at Apptentive before you stop feeling like the term people is a foreign word, even after you’ve fully embraced the concept.
What We’ve Learned
Living by our philosophies has proven to be fruitful for all involved: customers, team members, and our business as a whole. We’ve seen a 99% enterprise retention rate over the last year, and we’re confident that our “Customer Love” and “People, Not Users” style of doing business is driving force behind the success we’ve seen.
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Check out this blog post for more information on how implementing “People, Not Users” can help positively impact your business.