According to Lincoln Murphy, customer success is all about helping your customers reach a desired outcome and ultimately participate in their success. It implies understanding what your customers want to achieve, and how they want to achieve it, in order to truly meet their expectations. How do you do it, you might ask? That’s simple: go talk to your customers.
“Customer Success is ensuring your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company.”
Talking to your customers is key
We’ve all heard of Paul Graham’s best piece of advice when you start a company: Do things that don’t scale. Indeed, finding a great idea, getting the right people to work on it and building a great product is not enough. If you want to see your startup grow, you need to make it go.
“Startups take off because the founders make them take off.”
So as a CEO, what’s the first thing you do to find your first customers? According to Jason Lemkin, serial entrepreneur and partner at Storm Ventures,
“[Your] first few customers, you have to get yourself – you have to pick up the phone and do it.”
Trust me, there’s no better way to onboard the right customers and make sure you really deliver what they need than getting them one by one.
Whether your product is expensive or not, your first mission during the discovery phase is to bond with your customers, to start building trust. Indeed, meeting their needs is not enough. Before jumping in, your future customers have to outrun their underlying fear of change and all the trouble it implies – setting up a new account, understanding how your product works, including it in in your overall processes and tools, etc.
But even if your website visitors don’t know your product yet, all is not lost. There are multiple ways you can earn their trust:
Mention is a great example, they share their customers’ success stories using their web and social monitoring tool for all kinds of purposes, from reputation management to PR and community management.
However innovative your customers may be, it’s always reassuring to know other people are already using your product. Hubspot is doing a great job at using social validation for reassurance. Check out their homepage:
Last but not least, if you want to earn your customers’ trust, you must do everything you can to answer their questions in a timely manner. By setting up a chat support or even better a phone support, you can humanize your product and create a first bond with your customers. At Aircall, we share our phone number high up on our website, and we’ve discovered it helps our website visitors trust us better and convert more easily.
Ensuring your customers’ success
In order to fulfill your mission and drive your customers to success, you need to know what success means to them. What are they trying to accomplish with your product? What’s their use case? One way to do it is to ask the question during the on-boarding process. Another great strategy is Steli Efti’s from Close.io: he recommends calling every new user within 5 minutes of signup.
“Call within 5 minutes and your chances of reaching a lead will be 100 times higher than calling after 30 minutes of sign up.”
And once you have the information, act on it: drive your customers to what they are looking for.
Talking to your customers to make sure you really provide value to them might seem time-consuming, but it is definitely worth it – your customers will give it back by spreading the word on how amazing your customer support.
Asking for feedback
Helpscout shared in this blog post three great reasons why talking to your customers early on is crucial for a startup. According to Belle Beth Cooper co-founder of Hello Code, one of the most important thing to prepare and run while is beta is getting your users’ feedbacks. Talking to your very first customer sooner rather than later is key for understanding them and moving in the right direction. She recommends talking to them directly, either in person or over the phone, for better, richer feedbacks.
But even later, when you’re out of beta and flooded with thousands of customers, you still want to talk to your users. Regular feedbacks are the best (the only) way to make sure you’re strategy is still aligned with their needs and to keep improving your product or service.
How to talk to your customers
1. Run a survey
The very classical yet efficient way to talk to your customers: conduct a survey. If you’re hesitating between conducting it by email or by call, the figures speak for themselves!
We got 5% of answers by email and 75% when calling directly our customers!
In any case, I strongly recommend that you keep it short and easy to answer for your customers. Let them know how long it will take to go through it so that they know what to expect. And make sure you warmly thank them. For instance when we did a customer survey at Aircall, we sent out handwritten thank you notes with some funny stickers to all our beloved customers who agreed to participate.
— Jakob Marovt (@jmarovt) April 21, 2015
2. Set up your customer success team
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard when setting up your first customer success team is sharing the support ticket across the whole team – a.k.a. “all hands support”. According to Olark, all-hands support has been really helpful for the engineering team to understand customers’ issues, and spread the customer’s voice across the company. However, it doesn’t prevent you from hiring a dedicated customer success team. According to Jason Lemkin on this quora question, What is the right time to hire a head of Customer Success in a SaaS company?, you should hire a VP of Customer Success as soon as you can.
To set up your Customer support team, here are a few things to consider:
- Tools: which channels should you invest in? Chat, phone, email, social media? To help you decide, we’ve set up a small survey. Also, you want to choose the right backoffice tool to help you monitor your activity.
- People: hire the best – check out Zendesk’s guide to hiring great customer service reps
- Culture: instilling a customer success culture early on in your company is one of your top priorities. You won’t go anywhere if you don’t truly care for your customers.
3. Provide training to your customers
Once you’ve talked to your customers and understood their needs and expectations, the next step is driving them to success. Thanks to Learndot’s education platform, you can create courses to teach your users how to use your product – documents, videos, html… Once again, I strongly recommend using voice over written documents – and obviously, keep the line open to answer questions should they arise.