Golden rule #1 for a startup – Never, EVER, surprise your customer! Golden rule #1 is often ignored by established companies, let alone startups. It causes dissatisfaction, defection and loss of revenue regardless of size, maturity or market presence.
This is not a rant – I was reminded of Golden Rule #1 by a number of events over the last few days and it reminded me of past lessons – a surprised customer is unhappy and spreads >10x the grief than a happy customer spreads the joy.
Surprise comes in many forms – you may think you've informed your customer of what your product or service provides (usually via the fine print of the terms and conditions) but don't think for a minute that your customer either read or understood what you told them.
Let me give you a couple of examples. My 4 year old computer finally gave up the ghost and prompted me to replace Ol'Faithful. No worries! I can field strip, clean and reassemble a PC in my sleep. All I needed was a new motherboard and CPU – transplant the hard disk (with all my applications, settings etc.) and back on the air – right?
WRONG! As I painfully discovered over the weekend, changing the motherboard, CPU or memory invalidates assumptions made by different vendors in the spirit of enforcing their "license" agreements. Want some examples?
- Change the motherboard, CPU, hard drive or memory that runs a legitimate, paid for, licensed version of Windows… and you have to re-activate your Windows license. Did you know you can only activate your Windows license ONCE via the Internet with a given product key? I didn't and neither did the first two CSR's on the Microsoft telephone support. I spent two and a half hours on the phone with MSFT support (located in Chenai, India – I asked where they were) repairing a Windows installation only to get a two minute "reactivation" of the original license.
- After installing every update to Windows, IE, Office,… for the last 18 months, I finally had everything back together. Time to chill out to Coldplay – but iTunes said that my computer needed to be reauthorized to play the music I already bought! Fine print on the iTunes T's & C's shows the same thing – change RAM, CPU, motherboard, disk etc and your old license isn't valid anymore. Can you manage individual computers that are "authorized" to play the music you purchased? No way – that would be too simple!
The fine print also said to "deactivate" the license before changing computers. Great advice… especially when you can't follow it!
Some lessons to take away…
- Be good to your customers. Don't surprise them in ways that make their life difficult.
- Expect the unexpected – stuff happens so make it easy for the customer to recover.
A happy customer tells maybe 2 or 3 people of their "happy" experience – an unhappy customer will tell HUNDREDS!
Which would you prefer to deal with?