3 Smooth Moves in Applying the Customer Success Mindset
Customer Success is becoming ingrained in the daily operations of more Software-as-a-Service companies every day. This is very good news. I’m not talking about Customer Success as a team or a technology — but rather as a mindset, a culture, a way of thinking and doing business. It’s the recognition that you need to continue to earn your customers' business every month, and that you should harness the same creativity and discipline that you use to build, market, and sell your product. Here are three examples of how applying the Customer Success mindset is great for your customers and great for your company.
Smooth Move #1: Own Your Mistakes
“We got this one wrong.” So said the subject line of an email that the CEO of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, sent a couple weeks ago to his tens of thousands of customers. Buffer is an application that lets you easily snag content from websites and blogs, then write and schedule tweets about it. They'd just come out with a nice, time-saving feature called “Feeds” that lets you pull all content directly to your Buffer dashboard, and requires upgrading from a free to a paid subscription plan. So far so good.
The catch: with the entry-level subscription plan, you were only allowed to pull a single blog into your Buffer Feed. Kind of useless, and reeked of a bait-and-switch to force customers up to the higher-level subscription plans. And not surprisingly, it ticked off a bunch of Buffer customers. Here’s how Joel replied the next day as part of that email (bold italics are mine):
I wanted to get in touch to let you know that we messed up here. We’ve increased the limits from 1 feed on Awesome and 10 feeds on Business plans, to 15 feeds on Awesome and Business plans.
Many of you wrote emails, Tweets and blog comments to let us know that we had gotten it wrong, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your day to do that. We’re lucky that so many of you care enough to take that step and share your thoughts and expertise.
Sorry for letting you down here. We’re excited to keep making Feeds and Buffer as a whole much better over time. Thanks again for all your support. If you want to ask anything or have any more thoughts at all, hit reply to this email and we’ll be sure to respond quickly. :-)
In doing this, Joel and the Buffer team:
- Showed they were listening
- Showed they cared
- Came across as genuine, as a real person not a faceless company
- Opened up a dialog with their customers
All things that strengthen a customer’s bond with a company. So by applying a Customer Success mindset, Buffer turned this pricing/packaging error from a PR mess into what I’m quite sure will be a net-positive outcome for the company (and actually does a better job of marketing their new Feeds feature than typical marketing tactics).
Smooth Move #2: Nothing Beats Smart Onboarding
Many SaaS companies strive for a touchless experience when you try, buy, and use their application. The thinking goes: “Its scalable!” “Who wants to talk to sales people?.” “Look at what Atlassian does!”
Building an easy, self-service SaaS product is of course a good thing. However, taking a hands off approach when your customers are trying to figure out how to use your application and whether to buy it — that’s a lost opportunity, and one that leads to customer churn down the road.
Constant Contact sells email and marketing software for as low as $20 per month. But as soon as you start to kick the tires with their application, one of their friendly “coaches” immediately reaches out to see how they can help. Maybe it’s getting your list imported, or setting up your first email campaign, or getting your display template designed, or pointing you to some best practices... you name it. However, two things they are NOT doing:
- They are not asking you for an order, and
- They are not trying to set land speed records for quickly they can “close out” your issue.
Another example of smart onboarding program is from Influitive, a SaaS marketing application that lets companies organize and motivate their customers to advocate on their behalf. Influitive assigns an Advocacy Coach to all new customers for a structured, 5-step program. The nifty part: Influitive enrolls their new customers in their own advocate “VIP” program — a win-win move that lets the customer experience best practices from an advocate’s perspective as well be on the ready to advocate for Influitive, itself.
The end result from these two examples of smart onboarding? Higher conversion rates, higher customer satisfaction, and lower churn. Constant Contact can make this model work with pricing plans at $20 and $45 per month. Influitive has found a way to train its own customers by getting them to advocate on its behalf in social media and other channels. If there is one time where a little extra personal touch and a little extra creativity really pay off, it’s during that window of time when your customer is first figuring out how to use and gain value from your product.
Smooth Move #3: Celebrate Your Customers' Wins
We noticed you had some terrific fundraising results last week. Congratulations! You’re really accomplishing great things using Convio Common Ground.
P.S. Let us know if you want to share how you did it with others in our customer community.
Another opportunity for demonstrating a Customer Success mindset is when your customer gets strong results using your product. We sent this email at Convio to customers of our mid market application, which enabled charities and nonprofits to engage supporters and raise funds.
We did it by measuring the customer's weekly donations and comparing them to the rolling average of their weekly donation levels for the last month. A 3x spike triggered a personalized congratulatory auto-email to our primary contact for that customer organization. Once we got this working, we added a few wrinkles to handle things like variation from seasonality and new accounts. And we added a personal phone call on top of the auto-email for our highest value customers.
This accomplished a number of very positive things. It showed we were paying attention and we were rooting for our customers to succeed. It clearly demonstrated the value they were gaining from using our application, and gave them a specific example to rally around. Sometimes it was the start of a back-and-forth that let us share more deeply in our customers' successes. It also provided a way for us to identify potential references and customer advocates.
Now, depending on your product and your target market, sending a note when your customers accomplish something excellent with your application may not make sense, but I’d recommend it for companies whose product can be a part of delivering what feels like a “win” for its customers.
To Wrap Up
As the Customer Success mindset continues to permeate all our business operations, we’ll see companies applying more resources, smarts, creativity, and rapid responses to the mission of delivering and demonstrating real business value to their customers month after month. And like in the examples above, we’ll see that the benefits flow both to the customers and to the companies themselves.
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