Today we have selected Cory Brown to take his interview. He is Founder and CEO at Simplesat.
First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
We’re hanging in there! Our introverts, including myself, are enjoying the quiet. Not sure what the extroverts have been up to…
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?
I’m originally from Seattle, but I’ve been living in Thailand for over 10 years now. I moved to Thailand to start a marketing agency named Pronto Marketing with my dad in 2008. While building Pronto, I developed an obsession with customer satisfaction, realizing its critical importance for a healthy business. I was always trying to get more data, more feedback. Specifically, more negative feedback so our team and I would have more lessons to learn from. I wasn’t really happy with any of the existing customer satisfaction tools at the time, though.
Eventually, I commandeered some of Pronto’s developers and started the side project, which became Simplesat. We got to build the customer satisfaction tool Pronto had always dreamed of. It was an instant hit when we rolled it out to our customers, and the rest is history!
How does your company innovate?
There are two parts to innovation: creating something NEW and USEFUL.
In the context of our business, useful means that it needs to benefit our customers. So how do we know what benefits our customers? We listen to them! Customer feedback tools like Simplesat help us gather insights through feedback. We also share comments and ideas from support conversations, demo calls, votes on our product roadmap, or anywhere else customers are talking.
The second piece of the puzzle is how do we create something new. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we can develop features different from what’s been done before. When starting a new project, we ask ourselves, “How could this be different? How could this be better than what’s already been done? What would our customers love?” We search for ideas and inspiration from other products in non-related industries, for example, activity logs from GitHub or admin settings from Slack. Then, we can combine these different ideas into something unique for our customers.
How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
At first, things were scary! We didn’t know what was going to happen. But, we’ve all got a job to do, and we kept our heads down, focusing on delivering a product that would continue to benefit our customers throughout the pandemic. We immediately shifted our roadmap and built a Slack and Microsoft Teams integration to provide more visibility into incoming feedback while everybody adjusted to remote working. Internally, we’re enjoying more time to focus on our work and personal lives.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
We didn’t know how bad things were going to get. We decided to act fast to prevent long-term damage and losses. We enacted pay cuts across the board, a hiring freeze, asked for discounts from vendors, etc. These were tough decisions to make, especially when they impacted the livelihood of our employees.
Luckily, our worst-case scenario forecasts weren’t realized. After a few slow months, business picked up again. It turns out, the pandemic made so many companies realize how important customer satisfaction is more than ever. Without relying on face-to-face interactions, feedback tools like Simplesat help customers monitor the pulse of how things are going. The pay cuts turned out to be short-lived, and we paid everything back and more near the end of the year. So, we overreacted, but I’m glad we did.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
For tools, we use Basecamp for our central communication system. Slack for a chat. Github for dev-related collaboration. Figma for design and whiteboard with FigJam. Zoom for meetings. We’ve always had a culture of autonomy focused on getting things done and working toward common goals. So moving to full-remote wasn’t that much of a challenge for us.
How do you plan to stay in the game as competition increases?
We’re going to continue to focus on developing deeper and more personalized relationships with our customers. Simplesat’s small, and we intend to use that to our advantage as long as we can. We can stay nimble, which allows us to shift our roadmap to what’s important now. We will also remain silly and weird.
Your final thoughts
Businesses are starting to go back to the office. I agree we all need more face time but let’s not rush back to how things were before. This is our opportunity to set a new standard for a long time to come.