Customer Success

Everyone in SaaS Needs to Do Customer Support. At Least Until You Have 50 Employees. But Ideally, Forever.


Jason Lemkin

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 4.39.57 PMI’m not sure if you saw the rant of David Marcus, previously president of PayPal.  Complaining his employees weren’t using PayPal apps.

Well what do you expect?

Yes, you’re right.  It’s not cool your team doesn’t use PayPal every day.  But PayPal isn’t Google.  Or Facebook.  It’s not a service everyone is necessarily going to naturally use every day, or maybe even, ever.

And I bet in SaaS, that’s even less likely in your case.  If you’re building an accounting application for healthcare — how many of your engineers will use it naturally on a daily basis?  If you’re building say a HIPAA compliance app?  I’m not sure it’s something your sales reps would ever use if they didn’t have to sell it.  It’s not natural.

So what do you do?

It’s simple, if you haven’t done it before.  It’s something really you have to do.  I did, we did it, and it works.  I should have done it even more.

The answer: everyone in a SaaS company has to do a 2+ hour stint on customer support (chat, phone, whatever) once a quarter, minimum.  Everyone.

This is a trick I learned from my old bosses who came out of Intuit.  I’m not sure if Intuit still requires it or not, but apparently they used to.  Even up to the biggest corner offices.

Love it.  I implemented it, over some complaints.  And it worked magic.  It worked magic with engineers, who really heard the complaints.  They learned.  It worked its magic with the sales team (believe it or not).  While they used EchoSign ten times a day, they didn’t really see it from the customer side.  Even my most experienced reps loved the experience — and sales reps don’t usually want to waste time on anything that doesn’t make them money.

Today, there great tools like Front, Intercom and many others (please add in the comments) that make support social and can make this 10x easier to implement.

But whatever you’ve got for support, it’s easy.  Have everyone pick up a headset, take a chat session, whatever it takes, to do 2 hours of support once a quarter.  Your customer support team may not appreciate it, 100%.  Because they’ll have to answer a ton of questions, and basically do Level 2 support for your team.

David Marcus can make his team use PayPal.  I guess.  I’m not sure if you can make yours use your B2B app on a daily basis.  But everyone can still learn a ton about the real customers, the real customer experience — just by talking to them, even just over the ol’ internet.  And solving their problems.

I guarantee it.

Published on February 17, 2014
  • Love this post. Agree 100%. Would like to add that everyone at a SaaS company should also do sales for 2 hours a quarter (would prefer 2 hours a month but let’s get real). What a great way to improve your view, regardless of where you sit in the organization, on what it’s like to engage with future advocates.

    • It is a good idea, although I think, harder to implement. But having everyone do a “sales call” — including in-person ones, even better — once a quarter would be terrific.

  • ASG

    i’m afraid intuit no longer requires everyone to do customer support, which is a mistake.

    • that was my guess. still, they did it for a long time, well after IPO, I think.

      we learn more from companies through the time they are founder-led than after.

  • Hey Jason,
    great advice, as always! We’re doing this at close.io and it really helps every member of our team to understand our customers’ wants and needs better, and to create a much more value for them.
    A really powerful example of this Wufoo, Kevin Hale talked about this topic quiet a lot in this talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBWFfxE2658

  • Spot on, Jason. I did customer support and sales engineering for 2+ years before moving to do product marketing at my company. That experience, especially when you’re selling a piece of B2B software that satisfies technical requirements of a very specific market, was straight up invaluable to understanding the reality of how our product is used and the types of requests/issues customers have.

    I still comb through the support case queue at least once a week and am constantly chatting with the team, but you’ve inspired me to get my ass back on the phone every once in a while.

    Our product integrates with EchoSign, too. Boom!

    • This is great story. Yeah, get everyone back on the phone once a quarter! 😉 (& Tell everyone there Hi from me.)

  • Manu Pillai

    Great article Jason. Makes so much sense. This is great advice for any company and I certainly will implement with my teams going forward. Thanks!

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