Make set up as smooth as possible: For businesses offering products that take set up on the customer’s end, this is a crucial beginning point in the customer experience. A slow and painful process can really turn customers off, whereas making things as smooth as possible is a great first step in customers’ overall experience. This is why we’ve focused on automating our installation and set up process as much as possible. We often receive positive feedback in this regard
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stefan Chekakov who is the CEO and co-founder of Brosix Instant Messenger (IM). He’s a tech aficionado who turned his passion for secure communication into a successful business. His career started in the IT field back in the 90s. At the time He was working on many cutting-edge projects with multinational teams, and he noticed how inefficient, not to mention insecure, much of the communication was. Collaboration at the time involved emails, sending separate files and using a public, consumer-oriented Instant Messaging applications.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
The original idea for my business, Brosix IM, came to me in the late 90s and early 00s. At the time my brother and I had a business for software outsourcing, and we were doing quite well working on projects for international clients. Often times these projects involved coordinating teams in multiple locations, which we did use public IM and email mainly. It occurred to me that there should be a more efficient and secure way to communicate within teams, particularly when they’re spread out across different places. From that point on, my brother and I started developing our own security team communication solution, which ultimately became Brosix IM. So you could say that Brosix was born out of our real-life experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
At first, we started working on Brosix in our spare time, meaning using our time off from other projects that we should have spent resting. We had no time to focus and do it properly, as we were spreading ourselves too thin. We also were trying to do everything in the business, from product development to marketing. At some point, we realized we should focus only on one project at a time, and then Brosix started to grow. It’s not perhaps what many would consider a funny mistake, although looking back I do see some humor in the fact that we thought that we could do everything ourselves while balancing other projects.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Svetoslav, my partner, and brother has been with me from the start. In this line of work, it’s rare to have two brothers launch and successfully run a business, but we couldn’t have done it without each other. We honor that in the very name of our company, Brosix. The ‘Bro’ comes from brothers, and the ‘six’ comes from ‘Asterix,’ a favorite cartoon of my children. This is an homage to the importance of family in our work.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
I tend to view great customer service and experience in a few lenses. On the one hand, this is what will build loyalty to your business. People like to do business with people that make them feel valued and meaningful. Given that, regardless of the sector, there are many options for customers to choose from, providing good customer service can really set a business apart.
On the other hand, we live in an increasingly connected world where people are quick to share information, including how they were just treated by a customer service rep. This can be both a curse and a blessing. A curse if the customer had a bad experience, as this will be shared widely within their personal network and beyond. A blessing if the customer had a good experience, as this is basically free advertising. So providing a customer with good service can be one of the strongest tools for positively affecting a business’s brand.
Lastly, I would just mention that I personally believe in the old adage of doing to others as you would have them do to you. In my opinion, this makes the world a better place overall, so I try to make sure that we live this idea when it comes to our customers.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I think that this mainly comes not from bad intentions, but rather a lack of serious preparation and focus. I have yet to come across a business that doesn’t speak to how important providing good service to their customers is. It’s often one of the first things you come across on a business’s website in fact.
Yet it’s one thing to put some language to this effect on a website, and quite another to truly embrace this idea and make it an essential part of how a business operates. This makes building an organizational culture centered around the customer, as well as concrete training and support of staff. Unfortunately, many businesses are either unwilling to invest in this or are woefully unaware of how to pull it off.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
I definitely believe that competition helps in this regard. If anyone doubts this, they should pay a visit to some public institutions in different countries and see how they approach customer service. They will certainly notice some differences, to say the least.
Competition helps to push businesses to constantly innovate and improve in all areas, particularly when it comes to customer experience. I see this not as external pressure per se, but rather as a constant reminder not to take your customers for granted.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
We received the following written feedback from a customer during our early days:
“You have built a great app that facilitates collaboration better than any other I’ve seen! Brosix is what Skype wishes it was! Great software!”
Given that Skype was the leading competition at the time, this was important feedback for us to hear. We were focusing on the collaboration elements of our product, as we saw this as one of our most unique added values to our customers. So it’s safe to say that this type of feedback validated a lot of our efforts and gave us the energy to go forward.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
As I mentioned, this was the feedback we received early on in the business. The early days of any business are a time of great challenge and uncertainty, filled with questions like: are we doing the right thing? Is our product relevant to our customers? Etc. Receiving this feedback, along with other such feedback at the time, really helped us to continue with what we were doing. So you can say that the great experience we provided this customer was, in turn, a catalyst for our own team.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Make set up as smooth as possible: For businesses offering products that take set up on the customer’s end, this is a crucial beginning point in the customer experience. A slow and painful process can really turn customers off, whereas making things as smooth as possible is a great first step in customers’ overall experience. This is why we’ve focused on automating our installation and set up process as much as possible. We often receive positive feedback in this regard.
- Build a sense of community: I’ve found that people increasingly want more than just efficient customer service, they want to feel like part of something bigger. That human connection is best captured in a sense of community, something we try to build with our customers. We do this by tailoring much of the content we create, and our overall communication strategy, to the needs and interests of our customers.
- Listen to your customers feedback and integrate it: Active listening is a key feature to providing great customer service. Encouraging customers to share their needs is the first step, but a business also has to be ready to act on that feedback. That means making changes when necessary, as in the following quote from one of our customers: “A compliment to the Brosix team: I am happy to see features being implemented that solve our actual problems. Last year I wrote you that we can not use Brosix voice and video features because there is no way to set which audio devices should be used …. With Brosix now offering the settings we need it’s just a question of time until we’ll switch to more voice and video which of course will really help our productivity.”
- Constantly find ways to add value: Wow! customer experience should have one question at its center: how are we adding value to our customers? This could be through traditional customer service, i.e. helping customers with any issues that arise, but we try to take a broader view. The content we create and share with our customers is geared towards adding value by touching on relevant topics. We also try to capture customers’ own experience with our product in order to share it with the wider community. In this way people find different ideas for how best to use our product.
- Empower your customers to provide excellent customer experience themselves: If you’re a ‘Software as a Service’ business, make sure that you provide customers with the tools to provide their own Wow! experience to their users. In the SaaS business model, you’ll not have direct interactions with all of the users of your product, so it’s crucial to include features that allow administrators to effectively support users. Example- One of our customers in the payroll services industry commented on the following: “My favorite aspect of Brosix is the ability to assist users from a distance by helping them change passwords, setting up PCs and many other admin duties.”
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Yes indeed, and I’ll share an example. We recently ran a campaign on a website for reviewing and finding different software called Capterra. It was crucial for us to have our customers share their real experience with our product, so we set up a way to incentivize any of our customers who would like to leave a review.
Of course, we encouraged them to share honestly about their experience with us, which means that there was a chance that the experience may not fall into the Wow! category. However, we had faith that we’d done our job well in the customer service area, and that our customers’ reviews would reflect that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m thinking more and more these days about the environment, and the many challenges we all face regarding climate change. There’s been a lot of grassroots action on this, and I think that people as individuals have begun to think much more about how to modify their daily behavior. I’d really like to see a movement where businesses take some bold action on this front. I think it’s an opportune moment since consumer demand seems to be moving in the direction of sustainability.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!