Strategy

Scaling the Customer Experience During Rapid Growth 

07-13-2021
Written by

Zlata Faerman

Whether your organization is a budding young startup or an established brand with rooted customer loyalty, at some point along the way, you can expect growing pains. Fits and starts through these growth periods can negatively affect the customer experience, but, with a sharp focus on the end-game, you can power through and emerge bigger, better and wiser. 

Now, that’s a tidy summation of business growth, but it’s also a little on the rosy side. The truth is, sometimes growth is slow and steady, but other times it’s a wild ride — like, say, when you experience unexpected exponential growth during a pandemic, the way that Zoom, Door Dash and other tech companies did last year. 

Growth can be messy, uncomfortable and difficult to predict, especially when scaling quickly. Speed often becomes the driving force, while accuracy and quality inevitably slip through the cracks. Before you know it, the customer experience can start to erode.  But with a little forethought and a lot of strategy, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are 3 ways to keep your customer experience intact, even through periods of explosive growth. 

1. Think elastically

When your company grows, so too will your user base. You will need to increase your capacity to service your customers properly. But there is more to it than simply hiring more staff (although you’ll probably need to do that too). 

Think about the entirety of the user journey and how your brand and employees interact with customers. Don’t simply add team capacity to accommodate your anticipated growth — flex the capacity you have in ways that are meaningful to the customer experience and take a deeper look at the experience itself.

Back in September 2008 when Dropbox was a budding storage service with about 100,000 registered users, it initiated a growth strategy that also improved its user experience for current customers. It was one that would go down in history as one of the most famous examples of a successful referral program. The program was simple: Refer a customer to Dropbox, and when they join, you get additional free storage space. By December 2009, the company had 4 million registered users — that’s 3900% in 13 months. Fast forward to September 2017; Dropbox had 33.9M registered users, a $10B evaluation and $1B in revenue.

Not only did Dropbox’s simple but genius referral strategy support the existing customer experience during their massive growth — it actually improved it, giving customers more of what they loved from Dropbox. 

2. Fold in digital transformation where it makes sense

As your company grows, you’ll inevitably have more tools to manage. In the same way that we cannot simply add more staff and expect to meet our customers’ needs, we cannot simply add more technology and expect to meet our company’s needs. Here again, we should look to technology to add capacity when and where it matters most. 

Major retailer Target has made huge strides in digital transformation over the last few years, and if you’ve visited one recently, you’ve probably noticed. More than 400 retail stores have remodeled and reorganized to improve the shopping experience. These stores are also now equipped with new technology to support online ordering, curbside and grocery pickup, buy-online-pickup-in-store and more, all facilitated through the company’s highly rated user-friendly app. 

Target also aimed to become an employer of choice during this time, making investments in higher wages and better training for staff. To offset some of their labor costs, the company turned to improved supply chain management that features robotics and artificial intelligence to support warehouse teams by performing tedious, high-volume work, like sorting millions of products. And the strategy is paying off: In 2020, Target saw some $15B sales growth — a figure that outpaces earnings for the past 11 years. 

Not every organization will need such extensive overhauls, of course, but you should still be prepared for digital change and ready to implement technology when and where it’s needed. Be thoughtful about the resources you choose. Work with technology and marketing partners who recognize your state of growth and who can support you with tools and campaigns that can grow with you. Be prepared to reinvent how you do things, and keep simplicity — and your customer — in mind at all times.

3. Don’t over engineer the experience

When shifting from a fledgling startup to a bonafide business, or even from a bonafide business to a bonafide bigger one, the customer experience will expand. Even Fortune 500 companies are not immune to the tumults of scalability. As your experience stretches, it’s critical not to let things fall through the cracks. 

Once expected to go the way of other electronics retailers like Circuit City and Radio Shack, Best Buy might’ve been a goner just a few short years ago. But, thanks to an aggressive CX strategy beginning in 2012 that focused on relationship building and technology support, the company has not only held its own against Amazon, it’s thriving. 

While many saw the retailer as a brick and mortar store, the company didn’t view themselves that way. In a 2019 keynote interview with Shantanu Narayen, Adobe CEO, then-CEO of Best Buy Hubert Joly said, “We see ourselves as a company that’s obsessed about the customer.”

Between 2012 and 2020, this hyperfocus on the customer created a distinct emphasis on service, relationships and personalized advice. The company began price-matching Amazon, and instituted better product training. A revamped website with artificial intelligence facilitated better product search and more organized shopping. A new “On My Way” feature alerts stores that a customer is en route to pick up their order, facilitating better logistics and a smoother experience. And in-home advisors continue to support customers and their technology purchases.    

For their shift in CX strategy, Best Buy has enjoyed great success in the marketplace. In 2020, Best Buy’s revenue rose 8.3% to $47 B, enough to jump them 9 spots on the Fortune 500 to No. 66. For the last four years, the company made the top 5 on Barron’s list of Top 100 Most Sustainable Companies in the United States. In 2019 and 2021, it held the No. 1 position. 

By focusing on the customer experience, Best Buy was able to recognize what mattered most to its buyers and create an experience that elevated all those elements. Best Buy didn’t reinvent itself and it didn’t overengineer a new experience; Best Buy improved the experience by prioritizing it above all else. 

Get help for the journey ahead

As you expand your brand’s digital footprint, be sure to work with qualified partners who can help guide you through comprehensive marketing planning that will encompass every experiential touchpoint and provide a strategic roadmap for management.  If you’re facing specific challenges around scaling your company and managing your customer experience,  Let’s talk.

Featured image by Tom Fisk on Pexels.