Almost every conversation about innovation and growth I have with corporate execs and startup founders alike, eventually circles back to Customer Experience – because it’s a game changer that sets standout successful companies apart from their competitors.

On May 9th, I had the pleasure of interviewing two superpowers (and Xcelerate advisors) on the topic of customer experience at Fishburners in Sydney about: How to Hack Your Customer Experience.

Most Australian founders will know all of these companies: Spreets, brandsExclusive, MadPaws, Marley Spoon. They have two things in common: they are B2C startups, and they had Rolf Weber. Rolf is currently the co-founder & CEO of Marley Spoon, and has an incredible knack for starting and rapidly growing companies, in Australia and abroad, with a number of successful exits and a stack of war stories to tell in the process.

Andrea Culligan, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Redii, has started seven B2B businesses; four of which were multimillion dollar companies and she has two successful exits under her belt. She’s worked with the top 200 companies in Australia as well as additional arms in Canada, the UK and the US.

They laid down the truth plain and simple: customer experience is a make-or-break feature in every business they come across.

From our discussion, we’ve collected the top six tips on how to hack your customer experience:

#1 Build the Customer into your Vision

At BlueChilli, we always tell our founders that the customer and their problem is the only foundation to your business. Without that, you do not get to pass GO, and you definitely won’t be collecting $200. Yet, it’s remarkable how many companies do not have the customer as part of their vision statement. Your vision statement should be the ultimate north star driving your company – the place you look to when you are truly stuck with making a decision. If the customer is absent from your vision statement, then chances are they are absent from the cascading culture and operations.

#2 Talk to the Customer!

The distance between you and your customer is a measurement of how vulnerable you are to disruption. Every inch between you and your customer creates a gap for a competitor to step into. The best way to close the gap is to talk to them, spend time with them.

The simplest, easiest most effective way is just asking the simple questions. It’s literally picking up the phone with customers that aren’t buying and customers that are buying and finding out why. Your job isn’t to offer solutions, your job is to listen deeply.

Rolf talked about how at Marley Spoon, he subscribes to the product himself, and watches like a hawk every time it arrives and how his family interacts with it. He notices their behaviours, their smiles, their scowls. His deep interest in his customers’ experience of their product permeates through the company and sees them doing regular feedback sessions with their customers.

#3 Breakdown Team Silos

If you think talking to the customer is the responsibility of a ‘department’ locked somewhere in a basement of a call centre, think again. If anything, you should expect your teams to be bumping into each other trying to be the custodians of the customers.

“The customer has to be central to every part of your operation. Every team member should have them front and centre.” – Rolf Weber

The customer is the thread that joins the entire company together; you have to respect them as being that important, and build your organisation around the customer being the main objective for every team, and every employee.

#4 Make it easy by enabling a Single View of the Customer

One of the biggest opportunities that the panel identified (and I saw many of the audience nodding along) is for entrepreneurs is to start looking at creating solutions that provides a company with a  single view of the customer. (hint: if you have ideas for how to do this, then submit an application for Xcelerate here.

“As you grow you might use one system to start, and add another system, and then switch systems again. I hate to break it to you, but that never stops. In fact, it gets worse as you get bigger.” – Andrea Culligan

Pay close attention as your business grows that your back-of-office systems are encouraging interactions with customers instead of preventing them. Make sure your systems are talking to each other.

#5 Track & Measure indicators of Customer Experience

Sure, you can look at data from your live chats, or do NPS surveys or use tools like Sentiment. But most of that would be overkill for early stage startups.  

Rolf advises startups to get into a habit of tracking every rotten tomato. It might seem ridiculous – this will only ever go wrong once, right? Not really. You might not notice how many times the same problem occurs across the business unless you are tracking each one of them, and then allocating regular times to go through each of the stuff-ups to see if it’s something that can be fixed with better process, or communication, or training, or systems (the Marley Spoon team does this at their weekly standups).

#6 Join the dots between customer experience and brand

When listening to both Andrea and Rolf talk about their experience in building companies, I remember during one of our advisory sessions with the SheStarts founders last year, Adam Jacobs (MD of the Iconic) told the founders: “Your brand is not your logo, or your tone. Your brand is the sum of how make your customers feel at all the touchpoints they have with you.”

Those customer touchpoints are the breadcrumbs of the journey the customer goes on with your business, and the sum of those touchpoints is the customer experience.


Have an idea for a startup that could help improve customer experience and rethink the way we do business? Pitch it to the Xcelerate accelerator program before Monday 14 May to receive up to $538,000 to make it a reality.


Applications for the Xcelerate program close very soon on Monday the 14th May. Make sure you get your application in before then!