The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten on Smash Notes

The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten podcast.

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life. The show hosts, Steli Efti and Hiten Shah, are both serial entrepreneurs who have founded multi-million dollar SaaS startups. Being busy CEOs of fast-growing companies, they know the value of your time and make sure you get the most out of each 22 minute episode. Tune in for new episodes every Tuesday and Friday.



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In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to communicate with your customers during a crisis. Hiten shares how Crazy Egg handled a crisis with humor and how Steli used his recent crisis as an opportunity to become more transparent with his customers and build trust. Tune in to find out the importance of staying truthful to your customers during a crisis, why it’s not the time to make promises, and the art of being empathetic, not apologetic in handling a crisis.

Time Stamped Show Notes:


00:09 – Today’s episode is about how to communicate with your customers during a crisis

00:44 – Crises happens in any company

00:51 – Learning how to communicate in times of crisis creates a huge difference

01:00 – It is valuable to talk about a crisis and one just happened to Steli and Hiten recently


01:08 – One of the technology providers of Steli’s had major downtime that affected a massive amount of their customers

01:28 – Steli wasn’t in control of fixing the issue because they relied on the provider


02:06 – For Steli, it was funny from 2 perspectives


02:08 – First, it was amusing how the tech provider communicated with Steli

02:20 – Second was how Steli communicated with their customers


03:00 – Hiten had a crisis with Crazy Egg which was built on Ruby on Rails


03:18 – The technology on Ruby on Rails wasn’t multi-threaded

03:28 – It was challenging to keep certain parts of the website up

03:40 – They had a flash loader that let people view their reports

03:55 – They were using Ruby on Rails because of its advantages

04:03 – The site would go down while they’re still doing some challenging things

04:12 – Twitter also had issues with Ruby on Rails  

04:41 – Every time the website went down, they would flash a message

05:07 – The website went down more often than usual and their engineers had to do more work


05:29 – One of the engineers who was also a game designer, thought of putting a game on the website when it went down


05:45 – When there’s an issue, you want the experience to still be engaging and almost distracting

06:03 – Having the game isn’t about communication, but about lightening the load of the problem

06:20 – Don’t be so dry; be humorous about it


06:55 – People tend to lie and be dry in answering about issues or a crisis


07:20 – Don’t lie and make promises because the pressure will be on you

07:31 – A crisis isn’t a time to make promises you can’t keep


07:52 – Don’t write to customers like you’ve consulted a lawyer before replying


08:03 – Talk to your customers like a human being


08:21 – Steli would email their customers personally, like he’s talking to them personally

09:11 – People tend to hide when there’s a crisis


10:05 – The most powerful thing you can do during a crisis is to show up and be available

10:33 – People won’t appreciate someone who doesn’t reply


11:38 – Don’t use corporate speech and tell people what happened

12:09 – Don’t give your customers a timeline unless you’re 100% sure you can beat it

12:44 – People will lose their sh*t when they realize you’re lying

13:35 – There’s a way to say politely how you are working on the problem

13:56 – “Communicate what happened”

14:33 – Do not apologize because it doesn’t help you, only apologize if you truly believe you did something wrong


15:03 – Find a language that is not apologetic, but empathetic

16:00 – “Only apologize if you’re willing to admit fault and blame and don’t be lazy and use it as a way out”


16:26 – Once you resolve the problem, the work isn’t done yet


16:34 – You have to let your customers know what happened in detail


17:14 – Being in a crisis is a risky situation,

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