Customers are precious

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends” – Jeff Bezos

It’s easier to keep a customer than get a new one – about 5 times easier. And customers are much more likely to tell someone in social media when they have a bad experience. You need to respond to those bad experiences so that customers don’t leave. You can’t fix every bad experience, and finding out what caused that experience and solving for the root cause is one of the best ways to make sure that problem never happens to another customer.

Customers are precious. To keep them, start by putting yourself in their shoes and understanding what ensures a great experience. Sometimes the key is a small thing – making sure the customer always has someone to talk to regardless of whether there’s a problem. Other times the solution isn’t immediately apparent. When there isn’t a great experience, it’s really important to find out what happened and make it right for the customer. That starts with seeking the root cause. And after the fact, you need to figure out whether the customer is likely to stay or leave.

A customer who is moderately happy or moderately upset doesn’t always tell you directly whether they will stay. Learn more about customers as a group by asking them a few important questions. First, ask them whether they will buy from you again. This is a simple measurement that tells you directly whether they appreciate the service and product you delivered. Second, ask them whether they would recommend you to a friend. The Net Promoter score (you’re looking for the percentage of 9 and 10 answers on a 0 to 10 scale, minus the 0 to 6 answers) tells you in one number whether you’re providing world class service.

You need to learn whether customers are likely to leave. Until it hurts, call every customer. Then keep calling to hear the feedback first hand. At scale, you will be sampling responses, responding to negative reviews, and making at least 20-30 calls a week to talk to people and hear their responses first hand.

Here are a few other things to do every day to remind yourself what customers are feeling and thinking:

  1. Call every customer.
  2. Respond to every email as fast as you can while responding fully.
  3. Start with the customer in mind.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

This is post 3 of the 100 posts in 100 days challenge

Do some customers deserve better service?

illustration by
illustration by

Which customer would you rather deal with: the one who tells you what’s wrong or the one who buys faithfully and then leaves without prior warning? While you might not see the warning signs of the customer who’s unhappy immediately, it’s important to identify when your customers give you extremely positive or negative signals. Some of these customers (especially at the beginning) warrant and deserve extra service from your team, even if maintaining that service for the long term doesn’t scale.

Some customers do deserve better service. They are the customers who need you to explain the process to them. They are the customers who wonder why your product or service works the way it does. And they are the customers who make sure that when something happens that doesn’t work for them that you know about it. They are your best customers because they are giving you the feedback that you need to hear. One way that you’ll know these customers is when they give you high NPS (promoter) and low NPS scores (detractors.) Another way you’ll know them is to read every response you get from customers and respond.

When you think about your customers, you might (and should) evaluate them in different ways. Who is easy to engage? Who challenges you to think differently? Who is a high value customer by dollar amount? And who is a high value customer by virtue of the questions that they ask and the way they use your product? You won’t know this at the beginning of your business, and you can use your past experience to help guide the way.

Getting to a Customer Success process that works

In my experience, there are a few things you can do right now to make sure that your best customers (and the ones you don’t know are your best customers yet) can get the help they need.

When you define customer segments and identify the most likely people to need help, you take a giant step towards solving the same problem for the all of the people who don’t ask for help. For example, if your product requires a small business owner to understand how email servers work for the purpose of connecting your product to their email, you’re likely to be disappointed by the email knowledge of many small business owners.  On the other hand, if you identify that many small business owners use Google Apps and you create an integration to Google Apps Mail, you’ve removed a barrier to adoption for that customer.

When you take that customer segment and make it part of your service process, you can then make sure that the persona (Small Business Owners, in this case) has a consistent experience during the time you handle their issue. You can then create a clear escalation path that this customer segment understands and know how many of your cases are in a state of escalation.

Future You will Thank You for Identifying Challenging Customers

Designating an individual customer as part of a segment may not be good enough, so one additional thing you can do is either to dedicate an individual Customer Success Agent or Team to that customer or to add a flag or field to your customer relationship management system that indicates whether a person needs “white glove service.” What white glove means to your organization is up to you – it usually indicates that the person requires extra reassurance and politeness when they call.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

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