Listening To Your Customers

Posted by Amy Wallace Amy Wallace on .

Amy Wallace is the Customer Happiness Worker Bee at Updatey. This post is one in a series about the joys and challenges of building customer happiness at a startup. _These are her thoughts and experiences as she considers how to provide the best customer support. You can take a look at the other posts here and you can ask her questions by emailing her or saying hi on Twitter._

In last week's post, I discussed some reasons why you should make sure to think about providing great customer happiness team when building your startup. One of the sections was about the way you can learn an incredible amount about improving your business by listening to your customers. I'd like to go into this idea in a little bit more detail today because it really is an important part of building a successful startup.

Customer happiness is, of course, about supporting your customers when they are running into difficulties or when they want to let you know about a feature they wish was included in your app. But while helping them, you can also make great strides to improve your app or website.

This is because you can learn something from your interactions with your customers, even while the main aim of your support team is to answers customers's questions. You'll get messages from customers that range from happy and in love with your product to confused and angry. So what can you learn from each of those kinds of messages?


Unless you've built the perfect site or app, you're going to come across tweets and emails from users who are confused. If they're confused, particularly about something simple, then you might feel discouraged, especially if you're just starting out with your startup and see these emails as criticism of your hard work.

You should quickly brush away that initial moment of feeling discouraged though, because you can use that confusion to learn a great deal about how your customers are interacting with your product.

You might have spent months designing something simple and 'intuitive' but remember that your outlook will be different from your users' exactly because you've been working on the product for so long. You can take advantage of these points of confusion to help you gain a regular pair of fresh eyes on your app.

The key here is that while you've spent all your time trying to think of the best and most aesthetically pleasing ways to display your app and its features, your customers are coming to it with no experience or prior knowledge.

Of course, people also think differently so no one element will necessarily feel intuitive to all your customers. But if you're seeing one overwhelming thread of confusion, or even two, you can begin to see how your customers are approaching your app and what knowledge of similar products they are bringing with them.

This is invaluable knowledge that you're collecting here, and if you view it objectively, rather than as a hurtful insult to you and your product, you can use it as the equivalent of having beta testers who alert you every time there's a bug.

In each confused cry for help then, your customers are giving you buckets of market and product feedback, without you even having to ask for it.

So if, for example, you're getting repeated messages about how to delete a project, add an account, or any other element that's part of your product, this implies that there's something that's not as obvious as it could be, at least for some users.

When several customers write in to say that they don't know how to change their subscription or delete a file, you might think about finding a better place to put the links or buttons needed for these tasks.

If you have a great feature in your app but you're repeatedly being asked whether or not you have it, you could consider the fact that you should make its existence more evident, highlighting it within the app itself.

You want to make sure that your unique, most exciting or most attractive features are readily available for your customers and listening to the customers who are confused can help you understand which to promote and how to display them.

More than that, if you have a customer evaluating your web app during a trial period, you want them to be able to see the best elements of your app as quickly as possible so that you can hopefully see more conversions.

While you won't necessarily be able to make these fixes overnight or even find a simple solution for them, simply being aware of the pain points that your customers are facing is vital to making sure your product is as strong as it could be.

Don't be discouraged when you get several emails from people who are confused. This is an opportunity to make those changes so that your best features are shown off as well as possible. This, in turn, should better help your conversion rates, especially if people can more easily see the best elements of your app.


You're bound to get some emails from customers who are angry for one reason or another. The subject of angry customers and how to respond to them is one for another blog post but within the context of this post, you can learn a lot from your angriest customers.

If the messages are particulalry angry rather than just confused, you can often get more detailed and pin-pointed thoughts. While it's not true in every case, an angry message can lead to a very honest interaction where you learn a lot about the issues your customer is having. You can ask them for more detail and they will be able to give your very clear reasons why they feel let down or angry.

It's not about convincing an angry customer that you're right and they're wrong, or converting them back to loving your product, but about genuinely understanding where things went wrong and how you can fix things for that customer.

Of course, having angry customers is never something you want, but when interacting with someone who is having a difficult experience with your product, you can take the opportunity to learn from that honesty and experience to ensure it doesn't happen again in the future.

This will not only make your app or product better but it will hopefully mean you have fewer angry customers.


While you're going to get angry and confused emails, you'll also hopefully get messages from customers who love your work, have shared it with their friends, and want to tell you how great they think you are.

You might not feel that you can learn very much from happy messages from your users who are simply sharing what they love but there is. It won't be a case of having anything that you need to fix but messages about how much someone loves this or that feature can highlight what the best elements are and what you might want to make more prominent.

When you're creating your website, you'll have an idea of what think of as your best and most powerful feature, but sometimes your users will find other elements more useful or exciting. Tweets will come in saying that they love your product and that they just discovered a particular and amazing feature. It might even be something that turns a customer's enjoyment of your product into love, and help them spread the word to friends and family.

You could take advantage of that information to make more of those particular features, espeically if people are telling you that they've just found it after months of using your app. They might be less crucial to your product as a whole but enough to make a customer happy enough to write or tweet you.

So, while not as crucial as listening to confused or angry customers, taking into account the positive encouragement you get from 'I-love-your-product' emails can help you understand what your users are getting most out of your app and how to emphasise those qualities.

Learning from customers

Remember that for every message you receive, you're bound to have customers who aren't writing in and are either abandoning your product or just not letting you know what might be confusing them. Take advantage of what you're learning from those customers who are writing in to make the experience better for everyone.

Some users are naturally curious and will try to figure things out by playing about with your site or app but others might not do the same or even write in when confused, so it's in your business's interest to make changes that will prevent that particular element of confusion from creeping in.

If you can collect and understand all this data and make the necessary changes to your app or product, you'll not only be ensuring that far fewer of those same questions are sent in to your customer happiness team, but you'll also be making your app better, full stop.

What's the most important thing you've learnt from listening to your customers? Have you changed your customer happiness strategies to learn more from your customers? I'd love to hear about your experiences, so do say hi in the comments below or by email.

Photo: Sam