Hello everyone! We have with us is Founder and Director of CROFTi, Lucas Meadowcroft. Lucas is an Australian entrepreneur and focuses on business innovation, offshore consulting and helps companies with strategic inputs on technology adoption or offshore team building. With more than 15 years of experience in the IT domain, Lucas is steering ahead the CROFTi boat with an amazing team in-house. Check out his views and thoughts on business innovation, customer service, product development and outsourcing.

We are glad to mention that this is the first audio interview for Chief Magazine. If you want to save your eyes from reading the whole post, then please listen to Lucas below in the SoundCloud link.

 A small introduction about yourself

This is Lucas Meadowcroft, from CROFTi. Business Innovation is the name we gained later and I have been in the IT industry for nearly 14 years. When I interact with companies, I see that they believe opting technology and setting up offshore offices as their silver bullet to solve away their problems just like a silver bullet, which will actually not work when your business process is not improved or structured. So what we do is providing consulting on the best business process to set up inside you organization before you plan to adopt new technologies and ideas or setting up offshore offices. That’s what we have been doing since last three and half years now, with work experience of lots of companies across diversified domains from different countries. We help organizations to strive to be better than they are currently now and better than their competitors with the best business process in place.

Now in my personal life, my hobbies are running, meditation and anything that helps to keep you motivated and also connect better socially; then use self-development approach to be better in business innovation.

As an expert in Business Development yourself, how would you advise those entrepreneurs who are planning to launch a product to adopt business development tactics and make business development strategies?

This is a very common struggle for companies, not only with startups who are launching their product into the market but also with large companies who are launching new ideas within the existing company. This is a very common theme or issue we see across all sectors and this is all related to the startup methodologies. When you are trying to launch a new idea or product, you are doing two things really quickly – Building a lean product development model and Getting customers on-board.

Where I heavily believe that the startups, product innovators, entrepreneurs or product developers go wrong is that they scope out the entire product, they build it and then enter to the market. Then they wonder why they are not getting enough customers. This is because they have not even investigated or challenged the idea on whether it is going to be accepted by customers or not. On the flipside, they push the product to the market and they ask the customer whether they like it or not. Of course the most chances is that the customer is going to say that “yes I like the product”, but what the innovators are not testing is whether the customer is willing to pay for the product/idea or not. It has completely two different meanings when a potential client says “I like you product” and “I will pay for it”.

A great person in Australia came up with methodologies, which will help you to test your idea really quickly. It is called “The 7 Day Startup”. The 7 Day Startup is a great aspect of taking your idea to the market and does not mean that you will build the entire product. It actually tells you to create the idea, build a small portion of the idea and go to the market to test it, presenting it is as a viable product. This way you will know whether the idea or the concept is acceptable by customers or not, before spending way too much time & money in building the whole thing.

I would advise product innovators not to go building their product into way too detail before testing the market.

How to ensure the best customer service as a startup, with a small team?

“Are you asking questions to the customer? Are you listening to the customers?” If you want to be the best with your customer service, find what difference you make compared to your competitor’s service. The main aspect is to listen to your customers and take home what they say. If you are having an online chat platform, then interact with your customers as they want to be heard and simultaneously you adapt in what you are trying to deliver. Keep in mind that, you don’t need to keep all the customer engagement through one medium or one platform. Adapt and evolve with your customer service based on your customer response and slowly adopt different mediums for engagements like chatbots, emails, Skype, etc. So the ultimate aim is to listen to your customers and improve what you trying to deliver based on your customer responses.

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What are the biggest challenges faced by companies to ensure higher customer satisfaction rate and how to overcome such challenges?

The biggest challenge for companies in today’s environment is to know “where to start” and on top of that “why to start”. When we talk about Digital Transformation and millennial coming to the workforce, companies need to understand the meaning of digital transformation and why they need to adopt it. So right now this is also one of the biggest question before companies when they try to solve away customer service issues. Companies need to open their mind to adopt technology as a tool to overcome such challenges, as in the coming 25 years most of the business will be disrupted by technology. Companies who will not adopt and believe technology adoption as an overwhelming effort, might opt for selling the business and move out.

As a startup and having a small team, customer service is a huge effort. Should startups choose to outsource customer service segment to other companies?

Well, yes only if it suits to the model of the customer. As long as outsourcing your customer service is not affecting the delivery or expectations of the customer, it is a viable option. It really depends on the delivery and communication process. Companies need to look upon the different mediums of customer service and need to decide based on the effectiveness, by knowing whether it should happen internally or through outsourcing. So, the answer to the question is yes, companies can outsource the customer service segment as long as it is done the right way, ensuring the expected outcome is being achieved by the other company.

Should companies outsource their product development?

Yes, as I mentioned earlier – it does not matter who really does it, ensuring the standard methodologies and process has been followed and the delivery is not affected. So you need to judge the effectiveness of the delivery for both internal development and outsourced development, before you take a decision. At the same time, you need to look upon the values being provided by the outsourcing organization when they develop your idea.

When an outsourcing company develops your idea, investors show little less confidence on you as you don’t have the skills or expertise to build and you are getting it built through a different company. How to address this as a startup founder?

Yes, that’s a genuine concern and to deal with it, what startup founders can do is to host or operate their application in a server and provide access to the outsourcing agency. There should be limited access to download codes with proper agreements signed across by both the entities in order to ensure the key business relationship is intact. When we talk about trusting your idea with another company, the key business relationships really matter. So I would suggest host and keep control of your application, IP (intellectual property) and give limited access to the outsourcing team. There is a platform which is called Codebots, which supports this model, where the bots are actually doing 90% of the coding and 10% done by the developers.

Now, the final question is – What is the key to business success?

“Listening to your customer.” Most of the startups move into wrong direction by focusing more on business plans, marketing efforts and building the product, without listening to the customers or exploring the market acceptance. So my advice is start simple and don’t be concerned to give your idea out there thinking that someone is going to steal your idea. You will actually get feedback really quickly and don’t hold on to the original idea as it will be going through several iterations. The quickly you can get customers on board, the quickly you can iterate, implement and move on to the next series of improvements with your idea.