Moving Beyond Customer Support: Focusing on Customer Success

Posted by Greg DeVore

customer_support_to_sucessOver the last couple of weeks we have been thinking a lot about customer support vs. customer success. For the purposes of this article and several follow-up articles I plan on writing I am going to the define these two terms as follows:
  • Customer support: Helping your customers solve problems they encounter when using your product. This includes addressing bugs as well as providing information about how to accomplish specific tasks with your product.
  • Customer success: Helping your customers improve their business, their organization or their lives by using your product.

Customer support deals with small, focussed issues. Customer success deals with the macro application of your product to achieve larger goals. To create real evangelists of your product or service you need to have great systems in place for supporting your customers, but you also need to have systems in place to ensure their success with your product or services.

We are really good at customer support. We have great systems in place that help us address support issues quickly and consistently. But our results with ensuring customer success are more mixed. We have some customers who are fantastically successful with ScreenSteps and ScreenSteps Live and who evangelize it regularly while other are simply satisfied customers that are happy with the product.

To a small company like ours the value of a thrilled customer who shouts our name from the roof tops vs. a satisfied customer who occasionally uses ScreenSteps is huge. If we were to put a monetary value on those customers the difference would be literally thousands of dollars vs. a one time $40 or $80 purchase.

What is the main difference between these two types of customers? Our "satisfied" customers just use ScreenSteps to create documentation. They are using it to complete one of the tasks that need to get done in the course of running their business or organization. Our passionate users use ScreenSteps to *change* the way they run their business or organization. ScreenSteps and/or ScreenSteps Live don't just change their documentation. They change their business.

To one group we have offered great customer support. To another we have somehow ensured customer success.

Our successful customers are evangelists. They tell everyone who will listen to them about ScreenSteps. The results to our business and bottom line are significant. Here are just a few examples:

We have one customer who read about us through a blog post, downloaded a trial and then reached out to us. We have had great interactions with him through telephone calls and web meetings where we have talked a lot about not only how to use ScreenSteps but how to successfully implement ScreenSteps in his organization. He is part of a major division at a Fortune 100 company. They are now one of our largest ScreenSteps customers, are looking at deploying ScreenSteps across the entire division and have other divisions evaluating ScreenSteps and ScreenSteps Live as well.

Another customer who was attending the Dreamforce conference noticed that there was going to be a session on training. She told one of the speakers that he needed to check out ScreenSteps. The speaker reached out to us and we spent some time showing him ways to create successful training with ScreenSteps and ScreenSteps Live. As a result he made ScreenSteps a major part of his presentation to a standing-room only audience at his Dreamforce session.

Another one of our customers contacted us last week to let us know that he was recommending that all of his customers get set up with ScreenSteps Live. ScreenSteps Live helped him communicate more clearly with his customers and helped his customers be more successful with the services he was providing them.

Look at what we received from these three examples, all with zero dollars spent on marketing or direct sales:

  1. Deployment of ScreenSteps across a major division at a Fortune 100 global organization. 
  2. Prime presentation time to an audience who are prime candidates for benefiting from ScreenSteps (Salesforce administrators) at the premiere Salesforce event of the year.
  3. Steady stream of referrals from a customer creating repeatable, recurring revenue for us.

Even fantastic "customer support" wouldn't have been enough to create the type of customers I have listed above. Those customers are passionate not because we solved customer support issues they might have had with ScreenSteps but because we made sure that they were *successful* with ScreenSteps.

The good news for us is that our customer support process is established, effective and repeatable. The bad news is that our customer success process isn't. Every customer that uses ScreenSteps or ScreenSteps Live only occasionally or who only uses our products to "create documentation" is a customer success failure on our end and a lost opportunity. The questions for us are as follows:

  • How do we replicate the experience that our most passionate customers have had with our happy but less passionate customers?
  • How do we create more evangelists?
  • How do we ensure the success of more customers?
  • How do we make customer success a standardized, repeatable process? 

We are running some experiments in this area right now. I will let you know how they turn out in a future post.

I would love to know what your experience with customer success has been.

  • What companies have done a great job of making sure you are successful with their products or services
  • How have you helped your customers be successful?
  • What has been the result?

This is a major area that we are focusing on right now so anything you can share in the comments would be great.

Topics: Customer Support, Customer Success, Entrepreneurship