What I Learned When I Talked to My First User on the Phone

Call Your Customers It was Sunday at 7:10pm EST.

Earlier in the day, one of my 20 users (I know, I'm getting there) emailed me because her data wasn't saving in our application (welcome to launching an MVP).

She emailed me her phone number at 7:05pm. Normally, support would wait until I was out of work the next day, but I picked up the phone and called her - on Sunday night. Because that's what you do to delight your beta users. You leap over volcanoes if you have to.

And this wasn't for just any user.

She's not a "numbers person" so she was psyched to find my company. Flat-out psyched. This was a customer I'd expect a testimonial from - a JACKPOT user, if you will. Like the guy first in line for the newest iPad. Not that this particular customer was more important than others - but, it was an opportunity to talk to an actual customer. Even if it was 3am, I'd probably still call them.

I talked with businesses prior to development, but this was the first person actively using my product. She wanted to figure out how our product best fit her needs. After the call, I jotted down notes about what I learned:

1. You can always make a process easier

"Our product is so easy to use!" Every company says that - and 80% of the time, it isn't. It's bulky, the user-flow is chaotic, and there's enough pointless features to sink a ship. I'm no where near the UX designer I should be (or want to be), but I understand experiences have to be friction free. Right now, we make our users think a little too much. The next stage is spit and polish - and a little less thinking. (Random, but "thinking" reminds me of this German communications commercial)

2. Customers will break your MVP (regardless of your QA)

Just when I thought we had a solid MVP, three customers quickly broke it. All is good now, but I learned no matter the hours spent in QA, it's never enough. Someone will always break your MVP. And they'll be frustrated. But, you can reassure them (on the phone), you're still working through the kinks and you promise to have the product up in running shortly. When you're moonlighting a start-up, it's super hard to fix something when you're on the clock at the job that puts dinner on the table. If we can minimize the "breaks", we can spend less time in customer support and more time in customer development.

3. Listen for pain points

Solving a customer's pain is a sure-fire way to get them interested. That means you've got to be tuned in and listening to your customers. What's driving them nuts? How does your product solve their pain? Even if you don't have the solution this minute, let them know you're working on it. Your early adopters would be happy to help you build an awesome product.

4. It's not hard to pick up the phone

Why are so many people afraid of the phone? It's like it's got cooties on it. At my last sales job, I was on the phone constantly talking to customers. Cold-calling leads, customer support, technical issues, irate customers - you name it. Once you start picking up the phone and talking to customers, you become less afraid. You realize the power the phone holds in building effective relationships half-way across the country. Suddenly, all you want to do is call customers. And that's what I'm doing. trying to talk with a customer a week - by phone, skype, screen-share, you name it.

What have you learned talking to your first customers on the phone?

Photo courtesy of Flickr