Alan Hall, a giant in Utah’s entrepreneurial and investing communities, likes to say that CEOs should spend 30 percent of their time talking to their customers. It makes sense on one level, but I still wondered whether I would regret giving my cell number out to 7,000 people.
I’ve written before about companies that try so hard not to be contacted. Maybe it is my background as a newspaper executive–where news companies are so transparent that they report on themselves, both with good news, but particularly with bad–but I’ve always felt that companies have the responsibility for earning the trust of their customers.
So in March, right after we acquired some software products for our suite of tools, I sent a personal email to the thousands of customers who were now eSilverBullet customers. I informed them of the acquisition, that they wouldn’t see a change in their level of customer support, and to call me personally if they had any questions or problems during the transition.
I think most of my colleagues thought I was crazy. I hoped I wouldn’t be swamped with calls, but I honestly had no idea what the response would be. I just knew that acquisitions can be tricky, transitions can be messy, and despite everyone’s best efforts, disruptions happen. And no matter how many people were involved in the acquisition (a lot), I was ultimately responsible for the success of it.
So I put my number in an email and sent it out. I’m glad I did.
Rather than being hit with a deluge, I heard from a handful that had specific concerns. We were able to work through each of those concerns in a hurry, and as a result, I believe we have a stronger relationship with those customers, and in a few cases, a better product. And it also gave me a chance to talk to some customers that I probably never would. I appreciated getting their take on our products and how they help their online businesses grow.
Although no transition is seamless, I feel like this one has been pretty smooth for us. And I believe honesty and transparency have helped with that.