Competitive Positioning: A guide to beating your top competitor with better customer service

One of the biggest things I am grateful for while working on AccelerList is how active our community is.

Our customers are always chatting it up in our Facebook group, suggesting feature requests on Canny, and frequently pinging us on Facebook Messenger with new ideas for our app.

It wasn’t always this way…

When we first started it out in 2016, it hard just getting users to even try the damn thing.

Imagine slaving away for weeks coding up a product, having just a few people try it out, and having little feedback on what we should be building next.

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It sucked.

And it took a lot of trial and error building features to test the market, throwing them away and rebuilding them in a different way, and iterating over and over and over again.

A year in we were still not really better than our competitors.

But we did find one angle that we were way better than them at, which was that our software had a more efficient workflow and we found product market fit within a specific niche.

That allowed our first set of customers to become our best cheerleaders.

Talk to your customers and you’ll always win

So once we found product market fit, we really got the chatter started.

It was still only a few people who truly found the product super useful during our beta, but these people would ping Travis and I on a regular basis to tell us what we should build next.

Bingo!

So then I would go out and build the features right away if I could (most were small changes), and our customers really felt heard this way.

After all, when was the last time that the founders behind a product talked to you directly, built a feature for you the next day, and messaged you back on Facebook Messenger?

It may feel weird to communicate with your customers this personally at first, but making your beta customers your actual friends will pay big dividends in goodwill.

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You got nothing in the beginning

It’s probably one of the few things that your big competitors can’t beat you on, which is personal and direct support.

Especially when the competitors are running basically a self-serve tool and not offering great customer service to begin with.

This level of support allowed us to peel away customers one at a time, slowly and gradually. 

Fast forward to today and we’ve stolen (and earned) $25k in monthly recurring revenue that could have been our competitors revenue.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to implement a great customer service program within your company for far less than $250K a year?

Pay attention.

It’s a mixed bag, baby.

Being transparent also means you have to answer to every bug and problem that surfaces.

Which is a mixed bag, to say the least.

I can’t count the number of times that our customers have pinged us at 2AM in the morning about something not working – and it’s on us to make sure it doesn’t spiral to a point where people are trashing our product

It’s not fun and I’ve learned to take a deep breath before I check my chats in the morning.

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When that happens the best thing, as a developer, has been for me to own up honestly to the problems, fix them quickly, and get the customers back on their feet as soon as I can.

Every software will have bugs.

It’s not about buggy software, it’s about the overall customer experience when a problem does happen.

When you are putting in a lot of effort for each individual customer they really notice it – the bigger companies out there would never do what we do.

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And what about scale…

It’s a good way to equalize the playing field and get your customers to say, “OK they’re young and small but they have a lot of hustle and they’re almost there, so I’ll keep trying them out.”

And it sure does feel good when you wake up to this some mornings 🙂  

competitive positioning

Over time the bugs get ironed out.

You have fewer people yelling at you about the problems and more people remembering the times we stayed up late on a Saturday night to fix their specific issue and thanking us for the personal support.

I’ve learned transparency and having a really personal way to connect with your customers can help improve customer feedback and grow retention.

Jeff H.
Engineer from the Bay (Uber, UC Berkeley) - Now bootstrapping e-commerce SaaS businesses from the ground up. During my time at Uber I hardened our pricing platform, improved our algorithms to lower ETAs, and learned how to build technology at scale. I love fancy sushi with fish I can't pronounce. Let's make magical user experiences together.

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