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Startup & Scale-Up

Startup CX Primer: Why CX Should Be Part Of Every Startup’s DNA (And Where to Start)

CX is essential to every business, but can be critical to startups as you build up your brand. This guide details how to keep CX at the crux of your brand for built-in customer success.

Startups often rely on a small amount of staff to achieve big, bold goals. From developing and upgrading products, securing capital investments, exceeding sales benchmarks, and earning media, there are multiple - and often conflicting - goals to take care of. In this frenetic mix, customer experience can easily fall by the wayside.

This is often the first mistake a promising startup can make. Research shows 14% of small businesses fail because they ignore their customers. 

If that’s the case for brands with an established customer base, think about what that means for startups. Your customers are just getting to know you, and you haven’t yet earned real customer loyalty. Every interaction with your brand has to work towards establishing a positive relationship.

That’s why it’s important to start early on your CX program -- and develop your startup CX right alongside your product development -- that way, it’s embedded in the DNA of your brand, and can grow accordingly. 

So, how do you get there? Read on for details on how you can weave CX into the fabric of your brand from Day 1. 

CX Matters for Growth

Investing early in customer experience can be difficult, especially as you try to manage burn rates amidst a centralizing focus around your product. This challenge is especially prevalent because startups are often working to build up an initial customer base. The data below showcases the value of building a CX strategy alongside your product strategy:

  • Customer experience is more important than ever. Customer’s expectations for experience are growing with each passing year. A recent Microsoft report found that more than half of all customers said their expectations for experiences with brands were higher than they were the previous year. Startups have to push harder to keep up with the customer’s demands and more established competitors, and the earlier on your brand can deliver against these expectations, the easier it will be to scale as more customers come piling in.
  • Poor customer experience is bad for business. A Forbes Insight Report showed 83% of executives are staring down moderate to severe risks in market share because of failure to make the CX better. Even mid-size to larger brands lose business because of poor customer experience. A recent Ricoh Europe survey found that 1 in 5 office employees at companies with 1,000 or more employees thought their brand lost business during the COVID-19 pandemic because of poor customer experience. Building this in from the start should help avoid this as you grow.
  • Customers pay more for better treatment. American Express found that customers will pay 17% more to do business with a firm that provides top-notch service. A good experience is a key differentiating factor for any business, particularly new ones. 
  • Customer retention improves business performance. Many executives may be hyper-focused on closing new deals, but keeping old ones intact is absolutely crucial. Upping customer retention rates by 5% can lead to a 25% to 95% increase in profits, according to Brain & Company research

startup cx

How to Prioritize CX In Your Startup

As a startup, your list of priorities might seem never-ending — and it might be difficult to pinpoint where your focus is best spent, in priority order. Don’t underestimate the importance of setting up your CX strategy early on — startups with a strong handle on CX have a competitive advantage that allows their programs to grow and adapt as the business matures. Consider this your guide to tackling the challenge of startup CX, outlining areas to focus on and invest in, and ultimately build strong experiences right into your brand that will breed loyal customers.

Connect CX to ROI 

Providing a top-notch customer experience comes at a cost. You need to hire agents, develop self-service how-to guides, and implement digital tools like AI-powered ChatBots. It involves putting time and money into developing your CX channels.

Luckily, great CX can yield a considerable ROI. Happy customers will become your brand’s biggest ambassadors, while unhappy ones will often go out of their way to tell others not to do business with you. Customers are twice as likely to share a negative experience with other people than a positive one, according to CCMC

Meanwhile, a good customer experience can save a customer relationship, even if it comes after a single poor one. About 4 in 5 customers will forgive one bad experience if they received “very good” customer service, Qualtrics XM Institute found. But only 1 in 5 will forgive a lousy experience if they felt they received “very poor” customer service. 

Understand That the Customer Journey Improves CX and Product Outcomes

Before you even have a customer, you should know who they are, the journey they’ll take with your brand, and the potential issues they might have. As a startup, the possibilities are limitless. Think about your ‘why’ -- and how you envision a customer should experience, and interact with, your brand. Put this on paper by developing customer personas and customer journey maps. 

  • Customer personas define who your customer will be, what they will care about, what issues your product or service will solve for them, and how they will engage with your brand.
  • Customer journey maps visualize every touchpoint customers will have during their journey with your brand. Think about how they’ll come to your brand, how they’ll reach out for support, and try to anticipate friction points and fix them before you even get a customer.

Eventually, you will refine these personas and journey maps based on customer insights derived from KPIs. 

Customer support is essential, but customers typically only engage when there’s already a problem. Anticipating their needs and demands from the moment they purchase your product can bolster your relationship with them.

Use Data To Inform CX and Brand Direction

Beyond the product, think about possible pain points in the customer journey. Is it easy to get support? Are you providing omnichannel engagement options for different customer types? Is your website easy to navigate? All of these things can make or break a customer’s experience with your brand before they’ve even gotten in touch with an agent. Invest in omnichannel, 24/7 support and self-support options, like easy to find FAQs, Knowledge Bases, and How-To Guides. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and identify the areas where they might run into hiccups -- this will help you smooth out the experience. 

With a trained Business Intelligence team, you can unpack troves of data about how your customers are engaging with your brand. Below are some techniques to dive deep into your data:

  • Value Stream Mapping allows you to visualize all steps in your work process to analyze current processes, and help plan future changes, as it pertains to a product or service from the beginning of the process until it reaches the end customer.
  • Complexity Mapping analyzes the time it takes to implement, what processes are involved, and the incurred costs of a particular CX process.
  • Detractor Analysis predominantly relies on NPS data. Analyzing your NPS scores might uncover detractors, or unhappy customers who have had a negative experience with your brand. Integrating NPS scores into your CRM, adopting a closed-loop CX practice, and using other BI tools to predict if a customer is about to churn can help to mitigate detractors to your brand.

Put a CX Team In Place Before You Have Customers

Executives may question the value of hiring a CX team when the company doesn’t have any customers. The reality is, that’s the best time to do it. Again, it’s about being proactive, not reactive. It’s also about setting yourself up for success - don’t fake it ‘til you make it! You expect to have customers, right? And when you do, you want each one to have a first-class experience from the get-go.

When developing and hiring a team, keep these points in mind:

  • How you want people to experience your brand’s products or services when they use them for the first time
  • The way in which they will purchase your products or services
  • Packaging and instructions 
  • Support
  • Each touchpoint they can possibly engage with
  • What people will ask about and how the brand will support these questions through CX
  • How people will contact the brand for support
  • How CX teams will improve upon poor customer satisfaction

You can draw on anticipated personas and journey maps during this process.

startup cx

Develop KPIs That Make Sense For Your CX Strategy

Data is the way you glean feedback from your customers. It can tell you about pain points in the customer journey and help you fine-tune your CX. Some common metrics used in CX include:

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer dissatisfaction (DSAT)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Cost per call
  • Customer church rate
  • Call volume
  • Revenue per successful call
  • Repeat calls
  • Peak hour traffic 

Get Company-Wide Buy-In

At startups, people working on different teams may all know one another. The small, tight-knit culture can make for a friendly work environment. But the long hours can often lead to siloes, where CX teams are focused on their initiatives, product managers are focused on theirs, and so forth. The truth is, customers are the lifeblood of any brand, and their experience must be paramount and woven into the culture. CX leaders must prioritize creating a customer-obsessed environment where everyone feels responsible for providing the best CX possible. 

  • Highlight a case study. Ultimately, data will provide a full picture of the importance of CX. But at first, you may not have much of it. Highlight a win at an all-hands meeting, such as an upsell during a support call, to showcase the value of CX to the rest of the team. Be sure to call out other groups that may have contributed to the win, such as the person who developed the product. These small recognitions can help motivate all employees to focus on customer experience. 
  • Eventually, highlight data. Pulling these KPIs and presenting them in meetings with executives and the entire company can help you make a case for an emphasis on CX. It can also help reveal pain points, such as a bug in an update, that are detracting from the CX and need fixing. Centralize data on easily-accessed dashboards or Slack channel updates. Also, present it weekly or bi-weekly to keep CX top of mind.    
  • Be a team player. CX is essential and should be prioritized. But it’s also critical to work closely and amicably with other teams, including product and engineering. CX departments should create a hand-in-glove relationship with these teams. Slow releases to a select group of customers can allow CX teams to track the responses and alert engineering and product departments about any bugs. They can fix it and prevent these issues from becoming wide-scale. In turn, you may find that the product and engineering departments begin to think about customer reaction and experience before rolling out a product, tweaking it to avoid issues in the first place based on previous feedback.

Outsource CX Tasks

As your customer base builds, it’s essential to keep up with the demands. You’ve worked hard to establish relationships and build the foundation for customer loyalty. You want to retain these relationships as your business grows. Outsourcing CX tasks, such as customer support call centers, can help you rapidly scale your staff while cutting costs. You’ll tape into expert CX pros who have a wealth of experience engaging with customers and have knowledge of the latest tools, such as AI. It will also free up other CX team members’ time to focus on other core initiatives.

Be sure to get agents up to speed through a rigorous training process, which should include:

  • Scripting
  • Roleplaying to troubleshoot common issues and solutions, or the use of a training simulator that can replicate real-life interactions to better prepare your agents
  • Brand guidelines that have information on the tone, voice, and feel to be implemented across each touchpoint
  • Technology tutorials, such as ticketing systems

Choosing the Right CX Channels

As you invest in a CX program to jumpstart your startup customer success, it’s important to understand who your customers are, and where they are. What type of business, service, or product does your brand sell, and who are your target customers? That will help inform the channels they are most active on -- and which are must-haves as you build out your program.

One of the largest drivers for customers to feel connected to your brand is the ability to connect across multiple channels -- and in a 24/7 digital economy, customers expect to be able to reach your brand to get information, seek support, and resolve issues on-demand. And research by Accenture found that 83% of U.S. consumers prefer live agents via digital channels to resolve customer support issues. However, there are still consumers, especially in specific demographics or in certain industries, that will prefer speaking with a live person. 

In fact, PWC research shows that a whopping 82% of U.S. customers crave more human engagement in the future. Do your homework and find out what platforms are most important to your customers, and make sure you’re there to deliver, seamlessly. Considering this early in your brand’s growth will help to shape your program to your specific customers.


CX may be low on the priority list when a company doesn’t have many customers. But it shouldn’t be. Preparing to deliver a top-notch experience, starting with the first customer to interact with your brand, can set your business up for success. Customers can become ambassadors, recommending your products and services to others and helping you grow your business. Customers are also more willing to spend extra money just to receive an optimal experience.

Work hand-in-hand with teams across the company to weave CX into the brand’s DNA from its earliest startup stage. Presenting case studies and KPIs can prove the value of CX, and working with product and engineering teams to fix pain points and bugs can develop a culture of internal trust. You’ll want to have an anticipated customer persona and journey map at the ready and make it central to developing a seamless omnichannel strategy. Having a CX team in place before customers start trickling in is also crucial to ensuring your customers always have the support they need. At some point, it will be essential to scale your CX staff, such as by outsourcing agents. 

Whether outsourced or in-house, rigorous training of employees is crucial in maintaining a top-notch CX. 

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