How to acquire customers and keep them happy. These topics, acquiring and retaining, are at the heart of business growth, and the panel are drawn from the worlds of physical and digital business.
Elaine O’Hora, Founder of Munchies; Dav Waldron, Community Manager of Boards.ie; Niall Byrne, Manager of EMEA & APAC customer support for Hubspot, Maurice Knightly, entrepreneurial specialist at The Innovation Academy
David Kerr, Founder of Bonkers.ie, and Dr Johnny Ryan, Executive Director of The Innovation Academy.
This was an interesting evening where Johnny Ryan tried to move the conversation beyond the touchy feely aspect to ‘be nice to your customers’, to hard actions to take. Elaine O’Hora emphasised the importance of her staff interacting positively and engagingly with customers, at the cost of losing trade if this was not done. Maurice Knightly described the same experience working for O’Briens and being as good to your customer as the last coffee you serve to a customer.
The thing is, regardless of whether the speaker came from the tech or the food industry, they still emphasised how important the human element is, in dealing with customers. With the ability to quickly go on line and look for alternatives if you are unhappy with the service, time and time again it comes back to the human element which often decides who you give your business to.
Even Niall Byrne from Hubspot, which you would consider to be a company using a more scientific, measured approach to strategy, still emphasised that they had made a lot of mistakes and were constantly adapting and improving the service they offered. David Kerr spoke about the importance of listening to your customers, and trying to give them what they ask for, whenever possible. While at the same time having to pull back from offering rural broadband services due to the costs becoming higher than the ability to deliver in a timely and efficient manner. He also mentioned the experience of Digg, where the company failed to respect their community and consequently losing them to Reddit.
Dav Waldron spoke about the interesting evolution of users to moderators on boards.ie. Especially with the process of becoming a moderator, with the rule of thumb that if someone actively puts themselves forward to be moderator then they are probably looking to do it for the wrong reasons. Dave described boards.ie as “a bus you can get on and off at any time”. He said that of the original 400 members there were about 20 still active. This seemed understandable as the site had gone through a number of iterations, serving different users at different times, from Quake gamers, to tech heads, to students, and then on to the much wider and varied user base it is today. With a natural exodus of the early adopters moving on to other sites.
Overall it was great to have a mixed and varied panel, who emphasised the vital importance of listening to your customers feedback, and adapting accordingly if you want to stay alive in business.