Treat Your API Users as Customers
We’ve been talking a lot on this blog about treating your API as a product and all of what that entails. One aspect of API programs that is often overlooked is the treatment of your users – if your API is a product, its users should be treated just like all of your customers are treated. Every user of your API, whether it’s an internal employee, an external partner or a 3rd party developer, should feel as if they are your customers. Your API customers need to be supported throughout all their interactions with your program, from when they register through their successful integration of your API.
Sometimes, registering for an API program is the hardest part of actually using the API. Some programs have so many hoops and steps to get through that they lose potential customers along the way. That’s why it is critical to clearly lay out your registration process to your API users.
It is understandable if the registration process for your API isn’t just 2 simple steps – we are seeing more and more programs charge for access to their API and create business development deals via their API. You may require more knowledge about your partners before you issue them a key, even just to make sure you are giving them access to the relevant data & functionality. This is understandable and if done correctly, manageable for those interested in your API. The key is outlining and presenting all the steps that your prospects need to take to become customers. By laying everything out, you are telling users upfront exactly what they should expect from your registration process. This will save you from prospects getting frustrated and not becoming customers.
Once your customer has registered and you have approved them, you need to make sure that they are comfortably using your API. This means setting up documentation, FAQs, Forums, Twitter handles, etc. so that your API customers can reach you or someone in the community when they have a problem.
Go beyond the standard documentation and include code samples and SDKs to help your customers get started with your API faster. Provide inspirational use cases to showcase how your API can be used and to push your customers to think outside the box with your API. Set-up a Twitter handle specific to your API so that your customers can reach out to you directly. Update your FAQs and your Forums to have implementation specific topics and questions – and once a question has been asked more than twice in your forum, add it to your FAQs.
Most importantly, monitor your communication channels and keep everything up-to-date. If you have unanswered questions in your Forum, that won’t inspire much confidence in your customers that you will get back to them when they need support and also implies that you are not paying much attention to your API overall. Answer your customer’s questions, help them get integrated with your API and set them, and your API program, up for success.
Once your customers are using your API, your work still isn’t over. If you have agreements with them or they are paying for your API, monitor their usage to make sure they are within their limits. Engage with them to ensure that they are getting everything they need out of your API. Learn from them what is missing in your API so that you can improve your service.
Show your best customers some love by showcasing what they have done in an “App Gallery” on your portal. This will not only allow prospects to see all the interesting apps built off your API, but will also provide a nice way to congratulate and celebrate your successful customers and the partnership you have built. Keep engaged with your API customers, learn from them, listen to what they need and they will help you grow a very successful API program.