I have always had the entrepreneurial itch. In fact, when I was 12 years old, my best friend and I started a fan club for our favorite band. I charged teenagers all over the U.S. $18 for a homemade "Welcome to the New Kids on the Block" fan club folder that we made in my parents' print shop one weekend. We made more than $1000 in profit, reinvesting the money earned into creating a competitive Olympics event for our neighborhood, which in turn, funded our next young venture. So, it's safe to say that the entrepreneurial spirit has always been a part of me.

Over the course of my many ventures, I've learned a thing or two about how best to run a business. And while I'm still constantly learning every day, with every growing pain comes an opportunity to improve. What I've found is that the key to success all boils down to aligning with the success and happiness of your customers.

The truth is, obtaining your first customer is hard. But once you seal the deal, it's important that you treat them as your greatest asset. Customers want to be heard and feel valued, so frequent check ins and accessibility go a long way in making them feel like it's a collaborative relationship. Companies that are successful don't have to shout their achievements from the mountain tops, instead their customers do the talking. There is no greater sign that you're doing things right than when a customer recognizes how invaluable you are to them.

1. Capture Customer Feedback

With strong relationships with customers comes the opportunity for feedback - both good and bad. Something that's worked for me and my team was to establish a customer advisory board that captures feedback on our product, team and even processes. This helps shape a roadmap of how likely customers are to stay with the company. Hearing directly from your customers on what's working and what's not not only benefits those current customers, but also allows you to apply best practices to future customer relationships.

2. Deliver on the Feedback

Deliver on customer feedback. Nothing resonates more with an existing customer than having a direct impact on your product roadmap or process improvements. This progression shows that the feedback you received is valued and gains you a champion within an organization. In most instances, you will recognize feature requests or process feedback trends across customers. If you're able to move quickly to address these gaps, both you and your customers are mutually rewarded with a win.

3. Create a Customer Success Team

CEOs who understand that customer success needs to be a team effort will thrive. I've found that establishing a dedicated customer success team is one way to ensure that customers remain the top priority. Furthermore, a customer success team's goals should align with customer Key Performance Indicators to foster a longstanding business relationship. By having insight into what customers' goals are for their own business, customer success teams can better understand where they need to focus their efforts in order to get them there. After all, a customer's success is the business' success.

Entrepreneurs are often experts in product development and overall company growth. However, if customer success isn't at the heart of the business, the company is sure to fail.

About the Author

Neha Sampat is the CEO of Built.io. With more than 15 years of experience in enterprise software, Neha has led product marketing, cloud computing and online experiences for companies like Sun Microsystems and VMware. She is a proponent of diversity and an outspoken advocate for nurturing women leaders in her industry. As an acclaimed entrepreneur, Neha can be found appearing on keynote stages or expert panels discussing her experiences as an entrepreneur, a female leader or how Built.io is changing the world through automation. Neha was named a "San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40" honoree and one of "50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley" in 2015.

Neha holds an MBA from Santa Clara University and a B.A. in French and Mass Communications and a minor in Leadership from the University of Denver.

Published on: Aug 9, 2017