How to Leverage Customer Service to Bootstrap a Beta Product

March 25, 2016 - 3 minutes read

customer service for iPad app developers

Bootstrapping is hard. Ridiculously hard. (Trust us, we all worked on startup teams for years before going into iPhone app development full-time at Dogtown Media.)

Even if your app idea is completely new and innovative, it’s bound to spawn competing iPad app developers the second you go public — and those competitors will have the advantage of learning from your missteps.

So, how can a small app development team with little more than an idea and a semi-functional prototype take on the harsh realities of the Apple App Store?

It may surprise you to hear that the answer isn’t always having the best app or cheapest price tag (although ultimately you’ll need at least one of these for long-term success). When funding is limited, customer service can be just as effective a tool for winning loyal users.

Customer service and the small startup

There are three core methods for startups to differentiate themselves:

  1. Be the cheapest.
  2. Be the best.
  3. Be the friendliest.

Being cheap isn’t always realistic when you’re a small company up against larger, fully-funded companies. Being the best isn’t always possible if you can’t afford the best Los Angeles iPad app development company. But being the friendliest? That’s possible no matter what your budget.

SaaS (Software as a Service) startup Zapier provides an excellent example of how to leverage customer service to beat the odds. Rejected by Y Combinator and faced with a situation where they had no funding, limited time, and a buggy prototype, the core Zapier team decided to focus on customer service above all else to gain loyal, paying beta users.

Even without a functioning UI (co-founder Wade Foster spent the early days setting up integrations one-on-one over Skype), within a few years the startup had grown to a team of several dozen and one of the biggest success stories in SaaS.

While this strategy is highly contrary to the “grow fast and make it free” ethos driving many iPhone app development companies, virtually any business can stand to benefit from improving customer service. For early-stage startups, it can even mean the difference between entering the Apple App Store… or fading into obscurity.

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