So I’ve written a bit about a topic that a lot of folks challenge me on. But look, it’s true. Customer Success has gotten worse over the past few years. Much worse.
The best Customer Success teams are still amazing. They jump on a problem like a grenade. They truly solve your problem. Often, in a way the software itself can’t. They are amazing. They are the great gifts in SaaS.
But most CS folks don’t do this anymore. The quality of the average CS experience I’ve had over the past decade has deteriorated as SaaS has grown.
Four examples from this week alone:
#1. A Huge Vendor Asked Us If We Were Even a Customer. This week we had a minor issue with an app, and the very senior success leader asked me, “Are you even a customer?” This was after the issue, not at my request, was escalated by a senior executive. Seriously? I don’t know if they were too lazy to look up if I was a customer, didn’t care, or didn’t even have an internal system to know (despite being worth billions). I know I just didn’t even know what to say.
#2. A second multi-billion dollar vendor gave us 8 days to pay a massive price increase without notice. Oh, loved this one. We were on a very legacy plan, agreed. But out of nowhere, we got a plain and clear threat email. If you don’t pay us five figures immediately, we shut off your service in 8 days. What did we do? Where was the notice? The 30-day grace period? Even a basic heads-up? I’m sure this team was under pressure this quarter to find revenue. The way this public company did it was — awful. I hope it’s worth it to help make the quarter.
#3. A head of customer success at a unicorn this week asked us for a meeting after turning over the team — and literally knew nothing about us. Turnover in CS is never fun. But the leader asked us, “Can you send me your notes, I don’t really know anything about you.” What? We’ve been a customer for 6 years, and referred you multiple five-figure deals. You know nothing about us? Why is your turning over our account lead our problem? And why do we have to send you notes on us? Seriously, how lazy can you be?
#4. A customer success lead asked us for $40,000 extra at the last minute to migrate from another vendor. Oh, man. We were working on upgrading an analytics product we use to a newer, seemingly better vendor — a process that has taken months with a ton of senior time and attention. At the last minute, the vendor told us they’d not only charge us twice what our prior vendor charged us, but wanted $40,000 to do the migration. That’s the entire annual price we were paying the prior vendor. Of course, we didn’t switch in the end.
This was just this week! I know many of us are under stress and pressure these days. But this isn’t the way to show it.
In any event, three suggestions to the founders, the VPs of Sales and Success, the CROs, and more out there.
- First, most importantly — listen to these calls. Please. Everyone has gotten good at listening to sales calls through Gong, Salesloft, Outreach, etc. I don’t think we audit and listen to enough customer success calls. You might cry if you do.
- Second, rethink your core KPI for Customer Success. While historically, I’ve been a fan of NRR as the #1 KPI, I’m wavering. More and more, I think NPS or at least GRR are better. Making upsell implicity the top goal of CS, which is part of NRR, corrupts being customer-centric. More on that here.
- Third, rethink who Customer Success reports to. Reporting to sales or a CRO is usually a bad idea. As Brett Queener, ex-COO of SmartRecruits and ex-Salesforce, notes above, this has become a trend. And we both, and many others, think it’s a bad trend to report to a VP of Sales or even a “CRO”. Why? The job all ends up becoming about upsells. That’s important, but happier customers and high NPS are far more important. Likely, some of the above 4 sad tales are due to incentives where CS reports to sales. Don’t do it. At least — think twice, and understand the incentives. And really, sales usually knows almost nothing about customer success. Nor does it really care. More on that here.
These stories aren’t anomalies. They all happened last week. With top, leading SaaS vendors. Beware. You may be providing much less customer success than you think.
And a super deep dive in 100s of comments from VP of Customer Success, Sales, and more leaders in the comments here.