One Way to Differentiate Your Startup: Customer Support

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Update: for another lesson on the imperative of customer support, spend a few minutes studying Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s decision this week to close hundreds of stores nationwide for 3 hours in order to retrain Baristas in good customer service. The Wall Street Journal: Starbucks Closes Stores To Retrain Baristas (Photo credit, from WSJ: Kurt Wilberding)

customer-service1.gifBen Yoskovitz is a very thoughtful founder, and we republish posts from his Instigator Blog here frequently. (See list at bottom). Yesterday, Ben put up an ode to his customers that is (OK) a tad mushy but, as always, material.

Ben points out an all-too-common shortcoming of cash- and time-strapped startups: a lack of attention on customer support. Maybe we’re overly focused on our code or our funding. Whatever the reasons, this is a weakness Ben argues — and therein lies a potential strategic advantage.

Of course it’s just good business to offer quality customer support. The fact that so few startups do so only compounds the value to you if you can:

Luckily for you, very few companies (especially startups!) provide anything remotely resembling quality customer support and so you can immediately use it as a differentiator

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Thought of the Day: Perfection is the Enemy!

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Recently I had a conversation with a Found|READ contributor about common pitfalls founders face. (Hint: I found this image of the Perfection Monster on the web.) Sure, perfectionists are annoying, but he addressed the dangers of such aspirations in a way that is especially relevant to startups, and I think it bears repeating:

“One of the biggest mistakes founders make is thinking [they] can only launch once. Wrong! We aren’t launching a space shuttle here! You can unbake the pie…[recognize your mistakes and make amendments, he meant]. Movies can only premier once. But your product can prelaunch, relaunch and postlaunch.”

This amplifies a piece of advice I got not long ago from my own mentor, first penned by VoltaireRead More about Thought of the Day: Perfection is the Enemy!

Cramming for DEMO, “A Test of Nerves”

450liquid25_triage.jpg Venture capital reporter John Cook of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer offers another great story for you about a young startup in the throws of preparing for DEMO next week. LiquidPlanner, which makes Web2.0 management tools is one of 70 companies chosen to deliver a 360 second-presentation before a crowd that will include investors and would-be partners. (Our contributor, Ben Yoskowitz is too.) As anyone in this business will tell you, DEMO can “make or break” a startup, so LiquidPlanner is “putting it all on the line,” writes the Post-Intelligencer:

What’s at stake? Just 22 months of hard work from the LiquidPlanner team, several of whom left cushy jobs at Expedia to test their luck with a startup company… Now, with just four days to go until the six-minute DEMO pitch, it’s crunch time… Executive Bruce Henry says he’s trying to remain calm, calling the buildup to DEMO both “exciting and terrifying.”

Read about LiquidPlanner’s pitch practices, their triage meetings and of course, their “nervous energy” <a href=” in John’s whole piece . You can also follow LiquidPlanner’s progress on John Cook’s blog. For more case studies and tips on presenting at such events see:
Presenting at DEMO:12 Do’s. 5 Don’ts.

Photo:LiquidPlanner CEO Charles Seybold, center left, with his team, leads a triage session on the Internet service that the 11-person Bellevue startup is launching at DEMO next week. (Photo credit: Seattle-Post Intelligencer)