The Happy Customer Experiment

Todd Sullivan

At Flightfox we are most interested in growing through word-of-mouth. This is the cheapest, stickiest and most fundamental way to grow, but it's also often the most difficult because it requires a huge number of happy (and talkative) customers.

By Todd Sullivan · April, 2014

Flightfox is a new breed of business travel manager. We combine technology with human expertise to help your team travel better than ever for less.

Request a Demo Now!

The Idea

We're out to prove whether a fanatical focus on customer happiness is a great way to build our business. Sounds innocent enough, right?

Well, there's a catch.

By definition, true fanatics are extreme and uncritical of their core belief, but neglectful of everything else. They can't have balance, otherwise they wouldn't be fanatics.

If we want to be fanatical about customer happiness, what will we neglect?

By default, everything except our team and customers. No conferences, no conversion rates, no complexity, just good old-fashioned fundamentals: happy customers and growing revenue.

"But you need balance!"

Bulldust. You may need balance, but we aren't balance people. My co-founder spent 52 days crossing the Gobi Desert entirely on foot; where's the balance in that? :)

In all seriousness, we're doing this to deconstruct conventional wisdom. In fact, a lot of wisdom talks about focus, but very little talks about willful neglect. We're here to study both: what should we do AND what shouldn't we do?

The Metrics

We will report two metrics:

  • Monthly Superfans (64%, Apr 2014)
  • Monthly Revenue ($18,265, Apr 2014)

These metrics are proxies for customer satisfaction and growth. While revenue isn't growth itself, viewing it as a time series will show the context of growth.

Superfans?

A superfan is a customer who returns again, refers their friends and drives organic growth. When asked, they indicate at least a 90% chance they'll refer us to friends.

The crux of The Happy Customer Experiment is to prove whether superfan growth drives material revenue growth.

Creating superfans is theoretically simple:

  1. Deliver great value
  2. Deliver a memorable experience

We don't decide if we meet these objectives, the customer decides. If the customer decides we've fallen short, we assume the cost. A fanatical focus on customer happiness means we never push the cost of our failures to the customer. That goes for all customers, even those who make mistakes.

"But, a focus on customer happiness isn't new."

Sure, many businesses (e.g. Zappos) have done the same and been supremely successful, but we plan to be the most transparent with our progress. We'll share our ideas, experiments, findings, numbers, everything.

Please believe this isn't a weekend whim or contrived marketing campaign. We've already begun the experiment and the results have blown us away.

The Backstory

We launched Flightfox in 2012 as a crowdsourced flight search marketplace. We were the first to have freelance flight experts competing to build the best itineraries for customers around the world. They produced amazing results.

While most of our friends flew coach, we flew business and paid even less.

We gained thousands of customers quickly, but we struggled to satisfy such a wide demo. No matter what we tried, we couldn't get Monthly Superfans above 30%.

Then, we got desperate.

***

Walking to the office after Christmas, I'd never felt so rested, yet so exhausted. Ah, the weight of the world. We had money in the bank, supportive investors, a great team, but not a remaining fossil of conviction.

It was time to tell the team, "We've failed. It's over."

Fast forward 10 long minutes, 1,000 heavy steps, and there it was, a mirage. No palm trees, no blue lagoons, no piƱa coladas, just the early signs of a plan.

I wondered, "As a crowdsourced marketplace of freelance experts, what's the most aggressive thing we can do to recover?"

Hmmm,

  • Drop the crowdsourcing (maybe move to consulting)
  • Drop the freelancing (maybe move to salaries)

That's exactly what we did (I'll explain more in upcoming posts). Monthly Superfans grew from 45% to more than 70%. Monthly Revenue more than tripled.

Hot damn!

This was groundbreaking. We'd previously wasted spent many months A/B testing features and optimizing conversion rates only to debate whether a 1.7% change was statistically significant.

FFS, what were we thinking?!

***

We were thinking of doing everything right. We wanted high conversion rates AND effective marketing campaigns AND comprehensive user analytics AND maximum customer happiness AND... the list goes on.

The result? A deep, long, trough of sorrow. By trying to be great at everything, we were good at many things, but masters of nothing.

And so here we are, The Happy Customer Experiment.

Will it work? Is true fanaticism the answer? How will we grow? We'll talk about all of this and more on the Business Strategy blog.

Best,
@todsul

Flightfox is a new breed of business travel manager. We combine technology with human expertise to help your team travel better than ever for less.

Request a Demo Now!
comments powered by Disqus
We just refueled the jet (updated the system). Please click here to refresh and continue.