I have always believed that you can learn from your customers.
In fact, we have a quote posted on the wall in our Support department:
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” ~ Bill Gates
Today, one of our happiest customers was, at first, one of our unhappiest. They told me that the other day, when I asked them if they would recommend us to other companies. They said that a year ago they might not have felt that way, but have no hesitation to do so now.
It was tough, when I first spoke with them a year ago. It was tough for my team as well. But I told my team to embrace their feedback – no matter how tough it was at times – because “This is the type of customer that we want. They are on a mission and they are demanding. And that’s okay: we can learn from them. It will make us better.”
You see, this company was practicing something that I always felt we were pursuing here at Tailwind – but despite all the wordsmithing that I do, I hadn’t quite found the appropriate words to put to that particular feeling. At least, not until they sent over some copy material about themselves.
In it, they stated that they are in the ‘Relentless Pursuit of Continuous Improvement’.
I believe in continuous improvement. We believe in continuous improvement. Everyone would like to think that they are getting better every day. But the way they put it was rather more compelling: it was relentless. It was a pursuit.
The ability to continuously improve is at the heart of growing a successful business. And when you think about it, it is at the core of growing as a person as well.
There are two elements of this concept that we apply here at Tailwind.
Our goal is to continuously add features and capability to the existing tiers of our application – especially to our Enterprise tier. Since we released our online application just under 21 months ago, we have made over 274 improvements to the core application – that’s an average of 12 per month.
We do this because our customers have to compete, and the bar of competition continually rises in the logistics industry as new approaches and new technologies arrive on scene. We need to do this so our customers can continuously improve and evolve.
To take it one step further, we have an open API (Application Program Interface) on which our customers can further extend the capabilities of the platform through integration. We don’t want to hold them up if they feel that they need some additional capability.
Our Own Staff
We make a fundamental distinction in our business on understanding when someone is working ‘IN’ and when they are working ‘ON’ the business. EVERYONE needs to do both. We know that a business can’t scale if you can’t leave some legacy – some methodology, or documentation – that helps the next person following you in a position. We try to balance this at 85/15 – IN/ON – but we don’t get that right all the time.
My own personal learning is this. As a President I have learned as much from working IN, as I have from working ON the business. Only through over 1,000 conversations with customers – and doing the odd (and they were odd!) demo – have I been able to fully appreciate and understand what items we should be working ON.
This is the engine of personal growth within the context of a business. And the more you can figure out the IN and ON of your job, the faster your company will improve, and the faster your customers will improve.
It’s a virtuous loop, where continuous improvement spins off everything that you do.
Pursue it relentlessly.
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