This is the third of a series of interviews with CEOs that were included in a book I wrote in late 2010 called RARE Business. It was a collection of thoughts, ideas and strategies to help businesses ‘build better relationships with their customers and their people’.
The interviews were included to supplement my own thoughts and experience and add richness, depth and context. In the interviews, I asked them what they have done to drive their business’ success, customer focus and how they have built their employee and customer engagement.
The first interview was with Andrew Beale of Beales Hotels and is featured in Longevity of ownership and staff service are two main keys to building customer retention and loyalty The second interview was with Stephen Waddington of Speed Communications and is featured in Honesty and transparency with clients and prospects builds better retention and loyalty
The third interview in the series was with Stefan Töpfer of Winweb. Stefan started WinWeb.com (http://www.winweb.com/) in 1994 to help home & small business get online in a process he likes to call “Globalization of the Kitchen Table”. In 1995 his focus changed slightly and he went onto build Nacamar Group PLC (today part of Tiscali/The Carphone Warehouse), into one of the biggest ISPs in Europe. He sold this at the peak of the dotcom boom in August 1999. In 2000, he went back to work on WinWeb and developed the On-demand Small Business Infrastructure, now rebranded as Business Cloud.
The company has grown to an organisation of around 25 virtual employees over the last 10 years and has small business clients all across the world. He also writes a very popular small business blog (www.sme-blog.com), which is a Top 100 Business Blog and his ambition is to drastically decrease the mortality rate of small business, which currently runs at a horrendous 50% in the first five years.
Stefan agreed to talk to us and share some insights about what has made his business so successful in retaining customers, building a great team and driving repeat business and growth.
In our interview, Stefan shared some insights on what he believes they do, at Winweb, that has helped them build a truly customer-focused business and team. Here are some of his insights:
- Don’t compartmentalise customer service. Winweb are extremely strong on customer service as it’s not compartmentalised. Everyone in the business is involved with customer service, helping customers and dealing with issues even Stefan (I talked about this in another post called Does your CEO deal with customers directly?). This creates a great customer experience, which, in turn, generates word of mouth both online and offline.
- Make a difference. The standard mortality rate for small businesses is 50% in the first 5 years. Winweb’s client mortality rate is only 35%, a huge achievement, and this is a key differentiator as they work to help their clients survive and thrive.
- If you try to do too much you can scare your customers. If you have a wide range of services, presenting all of them in one go can scare customers. Presenting ‘modules of services’ according to their needs is a better way of communicating and not scaring our customers when presenting our full offer.
- Make sure your pricing matches expectations. Even if you can sell cheaply make sure that your pricing matches expectations. If your prices seem too cheap or too good to be true this can undermine your credibility to deliver.
- Our team delivers not our software. We may provide software but we understand that people are essential to its delivery. Further, we run a virtual team so we understand that communication between team members is essential. Therefore, we are in constant communication. The result is that most employees have been with the company for around 10 years which provides a a great degree of continuity as a team and for our customers.
- We aim to create partnerships but this takes time. Our long, average employee tenure has meant that business relationships with our clients have developed over time into partnerships. However, this cannot be rushed and takes time. Our approach is that we help them as much as we can and they, in turn, help us.
This is another great example of an established business that is leading its industry, empowering its team and delivering value for its customers.
Can you learn anything from their approach?