I Don’t Believe in Happy Customers

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I’ve been spending a lot of time with Medical professionals lately. No, it’s not because I’m developing an illness, but it has come with the territory of dating someone in Medical School. Guaranteed at least one person at Medical social functions asks “So are you in Medicine as well?” Hah. No. But once that question escapes their mouths, they’re about to hear something new – I work in SaaS Customer Success.

So naturally, after their brains stop thinking that I fix people’s computer problems and have an attitude, I start to explain Monthly Recurring Revenue, Lifetime Value, and Customer Success.  To which most people always respond with one more statement that is hard to swallow:

“So you keep customers happy.”

“No. I keep customers successful.”

I’m absolutely not in the business of happy customers. Happy customers like me. Happy customers have fun. Happy customers churn.

A few years ago, I decided to take the plunge and switch to T-Mobile. I loved it – they gave me a free router (which I still use), perks, were cheaper than Verizon, I got to upgrade my phone a lot more, their customer service was fantastic, and wasn’t locked into anything. It felt great. Plus John Legere is fantastic. I was happy. But when I drove from Seattle to Portland or Astoria, OR (a common trip during that time of my life), I wouldn’t hold an LTE network all the way through. So I switched back to Verizon. I hate Verizon. Their support sucks, they keep charging me more and I don’t know why, and I was locked into what felt like everything. But their product – what I actually use them for – delivers for me.  When I go to remote vacations in Maine and the WiFi fails, I can count on my phone to tether. I was a happy T-Mobile customer who churned. I’m an unhappy Verizon customer who, at least for the time being, won’t churn.

Now, all that being said, I just spent the last week in the Bay Area meeting with customers. I love hanging out with my customers – they’re fun people who I get to teach about something for which I care deeply. Most (not quite all) like me, which feels great. But ultimately I want them to be successful in their careers. I want them to get recognized for buying our software and making good use of it.

Even in a commoditized business, such as the services industry, while you’re building on relationships, you’re also trying to renew on success. Success always comes as the first indicator of customer health, not happiness.  You have to check that “Success” or ROI box first before you even want to think about more projects or a renewal.

But the nice thing is that if you have empathy and treat your customers with respect, happiness will always follow success in your customer base. If you are making them look good, or providing what is expected or more than expected, then your customers will be happy, as long as you don’t make them feel terrible every time you talk to them.  Otherwise they’ll find the first instance of not having success and jump.

Oh and if you were wondering, those doctors always roll their eyes.

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