Evolution Not Revolution
You’ve probably heard the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote is usually offered up in defense of the singular visionary who is able to foresee the unmet needs of customers. And even though Ford was initially successful with this mindset, his disregard for customer needs can be summed up in another famous quote:“Ignore your customers, and they’ll go away."
Ford’s innovation was to compete on cost and price. He was famous for decisions like “any color - so long as it’s black” But in the 1920’s another company took the opposite approach to Ford’s strategy and designed cars based on customer research to meet the needs of distinct market segments. That company was General Motors. Even after GM entered the market, Ford continued to demonstrate a deafness to the competition and more importantly the changing needs of the customer, and as a result suffered the consequences.
In 1921, the Ford Motor Company accounted for approximately 2/3 of all the cars built in the United States. Six years later Ford’s market share had dwindled to 15%. Customers had spoken, and while initially they may have wanted faster horses, they quickly realized they wanted better cars that were easier to buy.
I offer this piece of history not as a means to spark debate between blind innovation and listening to customers, but as an example of why successful organizations need both. At RealtyMogul.com, our innovation stems from a deep obsession with understanding and responding to customer needs. We are constantly integrating the customer into every decision we make from our investor facing platform to internal operations, data science, marketing, and customer service.
Here are 5 ongoing initiatives we have implemented to help ensure we create amazing experiences for our investors.
1. Meet Nick and Anderson
Customer personas have been around for a long time and lot of organizations have them, but not a lot of organizations use them. Personas, a fictitious representation of your typical customer(s) help to put a “face” to the customer and humanize the experience. We’ve focused on keeping our personas, Nick and Anderson, accessible to the entire organization. We even did a quick vote on the name for Anderson. Our personas are based on research and answer key questions like what are our customers’ motivations, frustrations, and experience with technology and investing. You know you’re in a customer-centric organization, when you’re in a meeting and the CEO asks “What would Nick think about this?"
2. A Council for Our Customer
One of our newest initiatives is a customer council. We’ve created a cross-functional “customer satisfaction council” that has representatives from the executive team, technology team, investor relations, asset management, and marketplace operations. We discuss all issues that are impacting users so that we can address any shortcomings in our technology or our processes in order to improve the overall customer experience.
3. Customer Facing Values
In the organization, every member of the team learns the acronym A.E.I.O.U. This stands for:
- Investor Protection
- Organizational Excellence
- User Experience
4. Service is and Should Be Personal
When our customers need help here is how we respond:
- Our Investor Relations team starts at 6:00 am to service the east coast
- Investor Relations team members provide personal cell phone numbers
- We’re integrating an improved help desk to ensure all customer requests are addressed in a timely manner
5. Customers Inform our Decisions and we Inform our Customers
We are a data driven organization. We use data to better understand our customers, inform the products we offer, and validate decisions we make.
We work hard to engage with the public to educate the country about investing opportunities which have just been legalized in the last few years. We create Newsletters, Blog Posts, Industry/Regulation Change Updates, and Social Media Interactions to continuously inform our investors.
These are just some of customer-centric efforts done daily to help deliver on our promise of “Real Estate Investing. Simplified.™” Like the lesson from the story above, our innovation is fueled by an ongoing mission to understand our customers and respond to their needs.