Eric Shapiro | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Eric Shapiro

Background:  

Eric Shapiro is the co-founder and CEO of San Francisco–based ArcTouch, an app-development studio that helps businesses such as Saleforce, Audi, CBS and Adidas engage with their customers on personal devices such as televisions, wearables and phones.

The Mistake

I made the assumption that the people my company hired would treat the business as their own and do the same kinds of things I would do.

When we started the company, [which specializes in] helping other companies build apps, there were two of us on the business management side and two engineers—just four of us. Every customer had my cell phone number and the cell number for my co-founder, Adam Fingerman. Depending on who the customer was, they’d reach out to us, day or night, and we would have answers to questions they might have and could take immediate action.

The customer success from that standpoint was very good. The customers really got a sense that we were partners with them and that they could rely on us at any time. The problem is, that’s not scalable.

We took all the responsibility on ourselves. As we started to grow the business, we started hiring specialists, a product manager, an engineer, etc. We thought each person would take the same approach to customer success that we had taken — and that just wasn't true.

During the middle of 2015, we were experiencing the most dramatic growth in our history. With the increased demand for our services, we couldn't hire fast enough. And while everyone on the project team was ultimately responsible for the quality of their work, we didn't have any one person who was responsible for customer success.

One of our clients, a well-known crowdfunded startup, was getting set to publish their iOS and Android app to the App Store. We believed we had completed a successful project. Our head of marketing had written up a blog post, but when he sent it over to our client to review, we received a surprising email back. To quote:  "[The app] just didn't meet our quality requirements for what we want to deliver to users… In light of this, we don't feel that it makes sense to go ahead with joint marketing right now."

Our whole approach is to turn our customers into heroes. 

The Lesson

That was jarring. And it certainly escalated the need for creating process and standards around customer success. Shortly thereafter, we created the position of vice president of product delivery.

He made several key changes to our process. Most important, he instituted weekly check-ins for members of our exec team — outside of the project teams — with the clients. This ensures that we are getting a regular stream of open feedback and early insight on potential problems or concerns before they become bigger issues. It's also another checkpoint to make sure our clients and teams are completely aligned.

Our whole approach is to turn our customers into heroes. If we can make our customers, the ones who hired us, into heroes, then they look good to their co-workers, to their boss and then they recommend us to others to do projects for them.

Follow ArcTouch on Twitter at @ArcTouch.

Photo courtesy of Eric Shapiro

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