I smile, reach out and fix the issue. I also die a little inside #Startups

Posted by Read 9 Comments

How do I react to a *customer* receiving Kshs 10,000 a month in free credit, consuming it all (asking for more actually) but actively telling potential customers not to use us because he is unhappy about some facet of our product he’s not let us know about? I’ll tell you how I react. I smile, reach out and fix the issue. I also die a little inside. We’re not perfect but if you let us know we’ll do our best to help. Kenyans, it seems, seem to suffer a similar affliction to the British.

This was written by a Kenyan cloud computing provider called Angani, in a blog post where they are reflecting on their year. The interesting thing is I used to think it was just a big problem here in Zimbabwe. Turns out most Kenyans too won’t tell you the truth you need to know to improve your offering. The association with the British is also interesting as both Zim and Kenya were colonies of the country, and I’ve heard people say maybe we inherited this culture from them.

I’m not sure how big a problem it is in other things in life, but to a company – especially a young one on a continent where first time entrepreneurs lack an ecosystem with established best practice to follow – getting no-BS feedback is critical to survival. The scenario he describes has happened to us at Techzim enough times we now make it a point to deliberately seek out the negative feedback and to assure those that give it that we’re sincerely thankful for it.

I know though that we don’t do it enough, but stuff like, “your site sucks on mobile!” or “It’s so bad we expect better from a company that blogs tech,” or “your ‘look and feel’ is old and tired,” or “I don’t read Techzim because your content’s not interesting enough anymore to me” etc… have all come from users of the product.


The conclusion for us is that if you show everyone that you’re always looking for the non-BS truth, they feel more comfortable giving it. Because it’s really about that – people think you will take the negative feedback negatively and they fear you’ll think they’re just trying to pull you down. This is actually the cause. Our culture discourages those that give negative feedback.

The result is that we’re stuck in the mediocrity of fake comfort and, collectively, we deny ourselves the challenge to improve. The startups fail and they have no idea how they failed when everybody gave very positive feedback. And because they learn little from the failure, the mistakes are repeated. An on and on like that we continue with unsaid negative feedback.

image adapted from globoforce.com


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  1. TheKing says:

    On the issue of no-BS-feedback, here is some from me:
    1.Stop acting like you are a Telecel groupie in your articles
    2.Stop operating like a tabloid, some of your articles have misleading headlines meant to attract traffic e.g. Econet buys Telecel
    3.On articles to do with coding(proper coding), your authors seem to know very little. e.g one was saying don’t read books, a college degree is BS. Now this is debatable, I know, but try to interview proper Dev companies e.g E-Solutions, CSS
    4.Stop hating on Econet

    1. lol, I suspected some feedback for us would come immediately! Thanks. Sincerely.
      The strange thing is actually that we have half the people accusing us of loving Telecel while hating Econet, and the other half accusing us of the opposite. it makes us think we have good balance, but this is a long discussion.
      Econet buys Telecel was a fun one to do and can’t promise we won’t do it again if Econet buys Telecel, again!
      We agree on the coding thing being debatable – I actually agreed with that author on a lot of things but would have added that, one always needs to go deeper to understand the architectural and data structure stuff to be as efficient as possible with the code they write, but I digress. thanks for the advice to reach out to the E-Solutions!

      1. zaniest says:

        Hahahhaha, you are a funny guy kabweza

    2. wwww says:

      we don’t hate on econet but it does treat customers in the wrong way and has some very substandard offerings

  2. G says:

    true that many people dont take constructive criticism, i believe that any type of criticism whether its said the wrong way or right way will be more beneficial to a start-up than people who just give u praises all the time.

    year end comments on techzim
    1. we need a good mobile interface for the techzim blog (html5 app &/or native apps for different platforms)
    2. a Zimbabwean/african crunchbase since this is difficult to monetize the best actor to facilitate such a project would be techzim or any other techstartups who earn their income from other sources

    otherwise u guys are doing a great job, doing what u do best, keep it up.

    1. Thanks dude! Working on the design and different platforms. you’ll see lots of new things from us in that regard and hope we don’t overwhelm you. long overdue yes.

      On the Startup/internet company base, we’re working on what we thing is a bigger picture but may satisfy that need too. Keep tuned in for this too in the next few weeks if the geeks work hard enough!

  3. Heeeeei says:

    The culture of not giving negative feedback applies a lot to our politics. Imagine wanting to be a president (very good negative feedback) results in being fired including your supporters who don’t even want to be VPS? Might be much easier and safer to give negative feedback to tech Sim?

  4. Sam says:

    Word! Anyone claiming to make a product or service for people and then not taking feedback from those very people for which the product is being made for needs to revise a few things, or to stop claiming they’re making it for the people

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