For scale-ups, delighting customers means engaging in meaningful relationships with them. Talking to your customers allows you to adjust your value proposition to their needs and encourage them to spread the word about your product. But how to maintain personal relationships with your customers when you have hundreds of them? 

“We used to know their names”

At the startup phase, your company only had a few customers. You treated them like your personal friends and family, “hugged them”, as one scale-up CEO put it. Another CEO recalls the times when the company was still small and he knew the names of all their customers: “What customers liked about us in the beginning was the fact that we worked really hard and they felt like we were there for them, fighting the same fight. We had lots of fun together”.

When the company is scaling, it becomes difficult to personally engage with a growing number of customers. You want to delight your customers with the same personal attention and quality as a start-up, but you need to do it for many more customers and for lower costs. How to keep personal connection while scaling? 

maintaining customer relationships while scaling is a challenge

How to maintain personal relationships with your customers when you have hundreds of them?

“A magic mix” of tech touch and human touch

A lot of companies are using automatic tools to personalize their customer communications. For instance, Elon Musk sends personalized emails to all Tesla owners. It creates a sense of intimate relationships, personal connection and encourages a sense of exclusivity, but at the same time it is scalable. 

One of the scale-ups has created a ‘magic mix’ of automated communications and personal touch: “We have started to automate communications with clients. It is easy to give it a personal touch, to write a little note that says: ‘It was a nice project because of this and this…’ A bulk of it is automated, and only a little bit is personal. And mixing it is magic. Customers appreciate these little personal touches.”

However, automation can backfire. One scale-up used an automated email signed by “Julia“, which significantly increased the response rate of their customers. Some customers even sent personal responses to “Julia” hoping to meet her in person. To avoid misunderstanding, the company had to change the signature to “Virtual customer assistant Julia“. 

Intuition and creativity

When you automate customer relationships, there is a risk of becoming too mechanical. According to one scale-up CEO, “Mechanical things don’t delight customers. They are delighted by authentic attention, intuition and creativity.” 

Scale-ups can bring in intuition and creativity by hiring people who think differently and empowering them to be creative and to surprise customers. One scale-up engages with their customers by giving them information about the person who manufactured their product: “We put a little card in it with a signature and a date, and a customer can connect with us on Instagram or Facebook. Then the relationship starts, and customers have a personal attitude to the product and a personal story to tell about it.”

The scale-up way: Making your customers partners in crime

Scale-ups dream about going viral by delighting their customers. However, the reality is that they struggle to even deliver on their promise. Learn how you can turn your customers into accomplices in ScaleUpLab‘s full article on Delighting Customers.

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*Research on delighting customers in scale-ups is conducted by ScaleUpNation and supported by the Goldschmeding Foundation and Europees Fonds voor Regionale Ontwikkeling (EFRO).