As a startup, one of the most important things you should never lose focus on is the customers. Although it’s hard to start from scratch and sometimes be cut off financially, it will ultimately make you much more successful in securing your company’s future.

Entrepreneurs and CEOs know that their startup must be customer-centric, but how does one ensure it? Industries the world over—whether they’re B2B or B2C—are building their livelihoods from a perspective of bottomless consumerism.

To build customer loyalty, it is important to know your customer’s needs. This will allow you to be proactive in innovating, solving problems effectively and understanding what they need most—customer advocates.

We’ve compiled a list of eight ways your small business can succeed from day one—all by putting the customer first.

1. It starts at the top

As a CEO of a startup, it is important to establish your company’s philosophy on customer success from the beginning.

Employees are often willing to go the extra mile for employers, but this is especially true if there is a culture of customer-centric values from early on.

When your business is committed to its customers, the culture of customer-focused practices continues to grow as your company grows.

Successful startup executives know how to balance their time with customers in order to nurture and maximize relationships. When a customer is signed, it’s not just for the number on the contract—it’s for what that number will grow into.

Building relationships from day one with customers helps build loyalty that lasts long-term—and leads to referrals.

So where do you start? There are numerous ways for startup executives to be involved personally with each of their customers.

CEOs who choose to focus on loyalty will see recurring revenue which is based upon loyal customers. The relationship between these customers and business are continuous, so touchpoints are hugely important for businesses in order to succeed.

You may not think you’re spending time reaching out to your customers, but it’s worth setting a block of time on your calendar each week

Suggest that customer success managers provide an executive summary to their CEO about the current lifecycle of their customers monthly (or weekly!).

As the CEO, be sure to take notice of your customers’ successes. It is important to make time for acknowledgement in order to stay involved with your customers.

Being an early-stage company CEO comes with a lot of responsibility. Whether you’re building your business from scratch or taking the reins from someone else, there are two things that will make life easier: frequent customer engagement and concrete goals.

Doing so will show customers that the company genuinely cares about them from the top down.

2. Empower everyone to use the “emergency stop” cord.

Having metrics in place to ensure the entire team is accountable to the goal you have set for your startup is great. However, a truly successful startup takes it one step further and ensures their team of employees are each accountable on an individual level – not just collectively as a company group – by holding each employee individually responsible for his or her contribution and

Giving employees the autonomy and responsibility they need to do their jobs well is a great way to increase morale.

As a leader, it’s about providing your team with the tools they need to succeed.

Due to the demands of their work, leaders often feel like they have to oversee every part of the assembly process.

The greatest challenge in managing your employees and their projects is knowing what tools to provide.

Remember, as a startup the business is moving fast. You need every leader on board to ensure success.

3. Keep an escalation plan

No matter how many safety steps you take, or what proactive steps are taken to avoid a problem, customer service will inevitably escalate— especially for the first group of customers.

Whether a client wants to complain, needs help with technology access, or just isn’t satisfied in general, you need a framework for handling these issues. Don’t just have this map out on a handbook that’s handed out at the start of service: Keep it clearly visible at all times.

It is crucial the company has an escalation plan that doesn’t just cover customer requests, but also supports new employees.

What does the process look like? There are a few steps in this plan that require good communication and transparency.

Set up three basics to any solution:

1. The problem or issue is to identify.

2. Progress: Clearly define the steps to reach a resolution.

3. Prevention: Put preventative measures in place to hopefully avoid the same thing happening again.

In order to be successful, your escalation plan must have a solid set of stakeholders for each phase.

Showing your clients that you not only care, but have a plan for their success – even when things go bad – transforms you from merely a vendor, to a partner.

How you handle an escalation could be the deciding factor in truly gaining the customer’s loyalty and advocacy.

4. Early customer journeys will inevitably have some rough patches.

If you’re a startup, however inexperienced or experienced you may be, it’s vital to remember that your first clients are guaranteed to face some challenges.

The key to success is understanding what your customers want and catering to their needs. If you’re still new in the industry, remember that not everything will work out perfectly right away.

Even when you have a few problems, there will be success stories as well. Making winning moments even better is how you handle those hiccups. You might not know what I need, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth figuring out. Building loyalty and customer satisfaction is making sure you go the extra mile to provide a solution for them.

Rather than wishing for flawless paths, make yourself a better driver by understanding the challenges of unpaved roads and their occasional hazards.

5. Calling all CEOs: You don’t have to do everything on your own.

Great leadership starts with understanding the strengths of each member on your team and trusting their abilities to do a good job.

CEOs must not do everything themselves, they need to focus on the entire team and include different people in their projects.

Employees at a startup company wear many hats, with the CEO wearing all of them.

If a CEO tries to solve every problem, the rest of the organisation will come to rely on him or her. You want your CEO to nurture other team members’ abilities.

If you don’t build the ability to successfully scale your business, then no matter how big it is today, it will never grow past a certain point.

This is particularly true when the customers are mid- to senior-level decision makers. You want to help them solve their own problems, not be a point of escalation for those who can’t do it themselves.

6. Map out the journey your ideal customers take

The most successful companies understand the customer journey from day one. Because of this, all employees are focused on meeting the needs and challenges that people have right when they start as a client, versus just showing up when there needs arise (like many other firms).

Ensure that your product, services, and sales team are aligned with the customer lifecycle.

As you know the various steps in your customer journey, it becomes easier to identify what goals need to be achieved across your organisation. Which then means that each team will know how they can contribute towards those goals.

Know your customer’s desired outcome and you can anticipate their needs.

Always understand the customer’s perspective of their journey not only in terms of how it will help you but also to make sure your idea aligns with theirs. Grow with your customers so that you can refine what your ideal journey looks like over time.

7. Treasure your most active customers

At the outset of your business—as well as later down the line—you’ll have customers that want to provide feedback, whether you like it or not.

The best startups do not shirk away from their loudest or most demanding customers. They prioritize customer experience and improve accessibility to accommodate anyone with a challenge, regardless of size.

Feedback from customers can be a mixed bag; some of the feedback will validate your work and give you the confidence to keep this path while other feedback might provide lessons for improvement.

Encourage your team to have conversations with these vocal customers to understand their pain points. If you can address those, problems sufficiently, you will most likely solve issues other customers care about as well.

The most important customer feedback comes from those who have experienced your product or service.

Building customer loyalty can be a daunting task for any company, but it is especially difficult when your customers don’t feel heard.

8. Know what to Prioritise

As an early-stage company, how do you balance staying hyper focused on executing your company vision while still satisfying customer requests

It’s easy to make the mistake of chasing what your customers think they want instead of delivering what your customer really needs.

Recognize that your business isn’t necessarily stacked to compete in every category, and set these customer expectations accordingly.

1. You need to maintain a balance between customer service and your other priorities in order to succeed over the long term.

2. Companies should plan is to include the vision, and consider how it fits with their current projects so they provide an ideal service.

Once you have identified your team’s strengths and weaknesses, it becomes easier to know what you need to start doing more of and less of.

No task, project, or program is successful without a measurable success.


Consider why your startup originated: To solve significant problems for your customers and this industry. Customers also feel the same way about their company.