Customer Success

I Never Lost a Customer I Actually Visited'

Jason Lemkin

There’s a lot to talk about in customer success about churn, and about upsells.  Together, they are one of the most critical topics in recurring revenue business models.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 11.15.31 AMTo all that, I wanted to add one very tactical insight:  of the 1000s of customers we closed when I was running EchoSign … while we lost a few over time for many reasons, indeed we lost some great customers … we never lost a single one I actually visited. At least not on my watch.  Not one.

Why is that?  Is it my scintilating conversation?  My electric personality?  No, and no.

It’s because we generally, naturally, misunderstand why we lose customers, and where to spend our time.  My somewhat non-obvious learnings:

  • Complaints are not, directly, an indication of a customer at High Risk.  Whiny customers will stay.  It can be alarming, blood-pressure raising, when a critical customer complains about your product, your features gaps, your team, or even, ahem, talks about switching to the competition.  But it turns out, complaints = engagement.  Your customers that complain, they do care.
  • On the other hand — satisfied customers will “mysteriously leave”.  Some of your highest-utilization, least-complaining, never-raised-an-issue, maybe even gave-you-a-testimonial customers … will leave.  Seemingly out of the blue.  Maybe your competitor sold over your champion’s head.  Maybe there was an RFP you never even were a part of.  Maybe change came from the CFOs office, or the CIOs office, or the GCs office, or somewhere you don’t have great ties.  You turn around, and your reasonably — or even super happy — customer is gone.

It can get even more extreme that this.  At EchoSign, in particular we had a lot of customers that bought us together with Salesforce, SAP or other systems at the time they were implementing them.  They’d buy Salesforce, buy us inside of Salesforce … and then a year would go by, and they’d never deploy Salesforce.  Because of that, they’d never use us.  And yet — they’d all renew.  Often even for the third year.

So what’s actionable here, if you can lose happy customers without a hint of notice, and magically keep both angry ones and ones that never even deploy?  I don’t have all the answers.  Measuring everything helps (and luckily we now have software tools to do this for you).  Building deep relationships across the organization with your customers helps too.

But it turned out for me, at least, one thing always worked, as a founder CEO.  Flying to visit the customer.

Because in the enterprise, customers aren’t just buying bits.  They’re not just buying software, as it exists today.  This isn’t on-prem software.  It’s SaaS.  It evolves.  A little every quarter, a lot every year, and dramatically over time.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 11.44.04 AMSo when your prospects and your customers actually meet you, they’re buying you.  Not just your product as it exists today.  But also — your vision, your strategy, and your commitment to making the product better and better over time.  And they’re buying, and getting, your social contract to deliver for them over time.  So they get a win in the organization.  Not just some tool.

If you get on a plane, I can’t guarantee you’ll win the deal.  But I can guarantee two things.  First, your odds of closing it go up if you show up and your competitor doesn’t.  And maybe even more importantly, given how critical second-order revenue is in SaaS … if you go there, and you present your vision, passion and commitment … and you maintain that connection over time … I don’t think you’ll ever lose that customer.

Not never.

Published on October 6, 2014


  1. Another good proxy for individual travel is a strong presence at key events in your market. It gives you a great chance not just to win new business but solidify, in person, existing relationships en masse.

  2. Love this post, any guidance on the break point of what ARR this can support? We are $3K ARR/Customer and took your advice and hosted our first international meet up with great success. Now we’re considering a “roadshow” to get face to face with customers in the major cities. The “one to many” tactic of an event and then while in their city visit as many customers as possible. Do you support that theory or is my ARR too low to justify the time?

    1. Realistically it’s going to be hard to visit customers in the early days that you have to fly (vs drive) that don’t pay five figures, and then later, six figures — for an individual trip. But as a general rule, I’d try to find a way to always visit your Top 10% most important customers, measured by potential ACV (that you can grow account to), not just today’s ACV.

  3. Amen, brother. Gotta get your ass on the plane as often as is possible. This becomes more challenging as you get bigger, as you have a team that effectively sells, services, and supports customers. Especially if your customers are generally happy. There is no specific “need” to visit with customers, but it is absolutely one of the best things you can invest in as CEO. Not necessarily for the ACV, or the renewals. As the CEO, you will, more often than not, hear the strategic view on why your customer values you, and will continue to do business with you over time (or not). Those insights and anecdotes are incredibly valuable. Internally, everyone wants to hear what our customers really think about us. Externally, these are the differentiators that matter and need to be shared with the sales team, the analyst community and with press. Good post…thanks for sharing.

  4. We are a startup in Digital Marketing and Web Development company ,we started are company in the month of august this year ,we have all 7 clients ,clients like big clients with the god grace and our hard work we have converted all 7 of them and they are happy to work with us ,i loved your blog of 100% conversion hope we l have the same days ad best of luck from

  5. Yes, I completely agree with the statement that odds of closing a customer increases if you visit them and tell about your product and its future implementations that can help grow their business. They actually buy YOU not the product.

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