Tech is a difficult — and fickle — beast to manage these days. Many companies are focused on building something flashy or rendering their competitors obsolete. That’s great in terms of elevating competition and pushing the industry as a whole toward innovation. As long as brands are in the business of getting press, something new will be created.
But that never-ending focus on showmanship overlooks one key stakeholder: the customer. As some tech providers become more invested in competing with or impressing those “in the know,” they run the real risk of losing revenue. If the end user doesn’t find their product or service useful, no amount of industry accolades or media attention will change the impact on their bottom line.
For those looking to assess tech brands’ prowess, it might be best to look to customer reviews. While awards and viral tweets can communicate a certain level of expertise, customers can give firsthand insight into what works — and what doesn’t.
A Lack of Ulterior Motive
To be clear, there’s a real upside to tailoring communications to those outside a user group. That’s how up-and-coming brands win investments, gain name recognition, and earn a following beyond word of mouth. That kind of momentum can fuel progress toward company goals, whether it’s hitting a certain revenue amount or getting acquired.
The problem, for the end user, is that those are still self-serving goals. When it comes to what’s “impressive,” all that really matters for the customer is whether a product streamlines their work or makes it possible. There’s no ulterior motive; it’s a simple question with a yes-or-no answer.
That doesn’t mean, however, that prospects can look at online reviews and call it a day. As The New York Times reported, research determined that online reviews are becoming less reliable, despite more people leaning on them. Lauren Dragan, the audio tech products reviewer at Wirecutter, says three-star reviews are actually the most helpful. From people gaming the system to one up-voted review taking on outsized importance, online reviews have to be taken on the whole. They’re anecdotes from a mix of reliable and not-so-reliable narrators.
A true lack of ulterior motive comes from reliable narrators, and there’s one way businesses can find those: through direct interactions. It may sound old-school, but many leaders still get their best product recommendations from fellow executives. Industry experts who have run into the same obstacles, reporting issues, and process-driven snags can give the most accurate insight into how well a service addresses a problem.
An executive I interviewed said, “The best budgetary decisions I’ve made have been a result of listening to other leaders who have been in the same boat and trusting my gut when it came to advertising.”
Too Good to Be True?
That begs the question: How do leaders know which businesses deserve to be considered? Asking others for feedback on specific offerings or brands is a lot easier than casting a wide net for recommendations. There’s still a lot of false advertising out there.
Here’s what trustworthy, customer-focused tech brands tend to do:
Treat customers as partners.
Tech brands that approach problem-solving as a joint venture, not a byproduct, tend to experience high customer satisfaction. Arkenea, a software development service, offers a good example: It promises to partner with its clients as consultants, from the moment an MVP is created until after a launch has been completed. It puts its money where its mouth is: “Our testimony is in our clients’ success.”
Prioritize customer satisfaction.
I’m a big believer in companies that champion the employee experience, but the customer experience can’t be overlooked when it comes to tech offerings. Buffer, the social media management app, has underscored its priorities by renaming its customer support team the “Happiness Team.” The shift in terminology highlights employees’ focus on answering customer questions and finding opportunities to enhance their experience.
Work to retain customers.
As any B2B manager can tell you, if you need a platform to handle a task, you’ll easily find dozens of options. Switching services — plus retraining teams and absorbing sunk costs — isn’t easy, however, so smart tech companies help customers see that they made the right choice the first time. McKinsey & Company dug into SaaS companies’ tendency to focus on customer acquisition. Its most interesting finding? “Lower net-revenue churn is correlated with higher growth.” Brands that retain their customers are able to grow their product lines as they accumulate honest feedback and two-way investments.
The best way to identify a tech company worth working with is to determine whether its customers are satisfied — or feel disposable. Impressing industry insiders and garnering media attention is great for growing a company. But if customer feedback is bad, what will sustain that growth?