Want Happy Customers? Implement the 5-Visits-Plus-2-Badges Rule. For Your Customer Success Team — And You.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.15.55 PMIf you are a SaaStr reader, you’ll know how passionate I am about Customer Success. For one simple reason: Second Order Revenue.

Upsells. Renewals. Word-of-Mouth. Champion Change. What it all means is that if you do it right, you’ll make 6x or more the revenue from your customers after the sale itself. The details on that math here.

And I passionately believe about measuring things. Churn, upsells, renewals, and all that, and compensating against it. And about measuring and identifying Almost Churn. And I’m very pleased next generation tools are helping us do a lot of this with software now (kudos to Gainsight for its recent $20 million venture round in the space!).

Having said all that, there’s one thing everyone that’s sold into the enterprise knows — the personal touch still matters. If you really want to close that big deal, you’re probably going to have to get on a plane. At least, to maximize the deal size and odds of closing.

And it works just the same with your customers after you close them — only more so. You have to meet them. Talk to them. Hear their concerns. Share your vision and roadmap. And show them respect for having chosen — and often risked a bit of their career on — you.

Generally, as founders we do a pretty good job of doing whatever it takes to get a big deal closed. But often a suboptimal job of everything after that. Because we’re often off then to help with the next fire, the next drama, on the Next Big Deal.

But let me suggest that once you hit $1-$2m in ARR at least — that that is a mistake. Instead, you need to implement the 5+2 Rule. For not just your customer success team, but yourself as well.

The 5+2 rule is simple:

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  • Every Co-founder including especially the CEO, plus every Customer Success Manager, Must
  • Meet On-Site with 5 Customers a Month, Every Month, or 60x a Year
  • And Get 2 Customer Badges. Every Year for a Bonus.


I’m guessing you are failing this test, as is 80% of your customer success team, however big or small it is. For the CSM team, it can seem like there are just way too many in-bound requests every day to get out into the field 5 times a month. And for the CEO and co-founders, it can seem like just getting the new customers in is all the bandwidth you have.

But trust me. A phone call is not a meeting. You know this. A phone call does not build attitudinal loyalty. A big customer event every year can help (you need to do this, too). But everyone, every month, should pick 5 of your best customers — and go meet them. Especially the ones that are within a drive.

What if I have nothing to say, you say? No problem. Just show them your roadmap, and ask for feedback on it, and on issues they are having today. That alone will fill the meeting.

And you’ll learn something magical:

  • First, customers love to meet the CEO. Even if it’s just a CEO of a 10 person start-up. They love it. They never get to meet the CEO of their own company.  But they get to meet you.
  • Second, they’ll never churn as long as they are reasonably happy and you go visit. If you don’t let them down, and they get to know you personally — they will never churn. At least, almost never.
  • Third, you’ll learn which customers are actively using your product — but are unhappy and at risk. It’s easy to see risk once usage or log-ins decline. But usually, that’s too late. What about if your customer is angry, but a prisoner, stuck still actively using the product — for now? They may not tell you on the phone. You won’t see it in the metrics. But they will tell you in person. It may not be a fun meeting. But — you’ll then be able to save them. If you visit.

It all builds Attitudinal vs. mere Behavioral Loyalty. And beyond the above benefits, Attitudinal Customers are worth about 3x those who only use you because they are stuck with you.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.28.21 PMAnd if your CSMs do their job the right way — at least two of their customers will give them a Badge by the end of the year. A real, physical, get-into-the-front door Badge. Because they won’t want to have to check them in all the time — once they’ve become part of a team. So don’t require this. But pay a bonus for it.

So net net, once you have a bunch of customers — it’s actually a much more lucrative use of your time to spend time with the ones you’ve closed, not the ones you are trying to close.

I know the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I know it seems you need to spend all your available customer bandwidth getting more new customers in the door.  But enforce the 5+2 rule. For your Customer Success team — and just as importantly, for yourself.

I guarantee you’ll see huge results 12, 24 and 36 months out.

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There are 12 comments

  1. Arie Shpanya (@ArieShpan)

    Spot on as usual. thanks for writing this Jason.
    Question is how does founders with limited time balance between meeting new prospects and trying to convert them to clients (prospects also like the “CEO” touch and being visited)

    -) How do you define important clients (what’s the min ARR/client required to justify visits).
    -) Let’s say you have a 10K ARR client, and you think there is a 25% chance you’ll upsell him to 50K+/yr if you visit him. Should you visit him?
    -) Does 1 visit a year for 25K+ client, 2 visits a year for 50K+, 3 visits a year for 100K+ customers will suffice ?
    -) 5 clients per month, means that you can allow 60 clients visits a year (if you include 50k+ & 100k clients, then you actually visit about 30-25 different clients a year). Is that means that after you cross that number it’s time to hire CSM to conduct on-site visits (again, as you say, it’s not like when somebody from the founding team visits you).

  2. Ashish

    Great, though provoking post, Jason. I love this insight – ” it’s actually a much more lucrative use of your time to spend time with the ones you’ve closed, not the ones you are trying to close.”

    Could you talk more about how to start building a Customer Success team in 5 person startup? I know founders should be the biggest CSMs but what kind of things should we be looking at when we do the first CS hire?

  3. Sheraz

    I can personally relate to few points in this article except that we haven’t up scaled too much to skip the practice yet. We were an mobile app product company before and we felt a great need for a customized customer support system that would link us (primary stakeholders) directly to our app users, not just the support team.
    We built one for ourselves that would keep us linked to customers and their issues/feedback. Things have improved since then and its shaping up well, I admit its slow and painstaking at times but its worth it. Totally agree to Jason Lemkin! Keep it up.

  4. Faryal Hassan

    This was really insightful. I completely agree with the points you have mentioned. Retaining customers is most crucial and also proves to be rewarding. In order to retain the customers that you already have, I agree it is necessary to focus on the after-sales services that you can provide to them in order to make them feel that you still care. A quick message from the CEO himself is always welcome of course! Who wouldn’t like that?! :)

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