The Gnosis Coach in  
a year ago

How insights from a disgruntled customer led a startup to achieve record sales in under 1 month

"This product is sh*t! I've wasted so much time trying to make it work that I’ve thought about NOT using it at all," he told me. 


He was a CEO of a tech company and a loyal customer who had agreed to test the new product. I was conducting a user experience study of that new product for a tech startup. 


At the time, the startup had a perplexing problem. The new product was far superior to any in the market based on price point, features, and capabilities. The startup had a large existing base, but sales of its new product took longer despite its being the same price as the older models. 


"I'm so glad you are telling me all of this. I'm sorry we didn't connect sooner. Please tell me more!" I said. 


I silently thanked the “Research Gods” for sending him my way. 


Customers can tell you a lot about your product offerings. Happy customers will like your product, but the disgruntled ones will tell you how to improve it, if you ask them the right way.


The CEO was very angry but candid and passionate about the product, which meant he wanted the company to thrive. 


At that point, I decided to pivot my research strategy and instead analyze the CEO’s experience from an ethnographic lens. Rather than focusing on the product features, I started probing how the product as a whole failed to meet his needs and interests. 


We spent the next two hours discussing his business, goals and aspirations, and what value he had expected the product to have for him. Then I discovered that the CEO was not concerned with the new features, price point, or how the product was better. 


He wanted impact. 


So, I ran various statistical modeling from disparate data points of other disgruntled customers. I wanted to quantify the outcome of impact (or lack thereof). I triangulated email campaign data, sales data, NPS scores, customer support exchanges, website visitation, and other quantitative surveys. 


The result: the one factor that predicted impact was time spent with the sales and support team. 


The early, consistent communication with the customers yielded improved product training and troubleshooting. As a result, these more engaged customers were able to leverage the product fully and realize a tangible impact on their organization’s results. 


On the other hand, the disgruntled customers had fewer interactions, reported more troubles with setup, used less of the product, and were less likely to be satisfied. 


I then worked with the sales, marketing, and product teams to revamp their customer touchpoints. The startup shifted its resources from awareness to acquisition, messaging from product features to product impact, and the sales process from prospecting to product training and troubleshooting. 


My conversation with the tech CEO profoundly shifted my mindset about how I was studying disgruntled customers. I have to admit the process was intense and emotionally draining, but the result was worth it. 


After one month of implementing the new strategy, the startup reported record sales and reduced its sale cycle length by 60%.


Lessons from a disgruntled customer:

  1. Having a quality product (feature, product-market-fit, and price point) sometimes is not enough.
  2. Happy customers will tell you this like your product, but to improve and grow, you need negative feedback as well.
  3. Validate every insight with other data sources so you can be as certain as possible for a more holistic strategy.
  4. Being open to pivoting your strategy is key to growth.

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JanElectrical Engineering at Czech Technical University in Praguea year ago
Sometimes you learn the hard way, this is discussed in the The Mom test book, where it is described how to ask good questions.
GnosisCoacha year ago
Good point! Hard lessons are sometimes the most profound and the most impactful.