So recently, I’ve had a few somewhat frustrating experiences with a few apps we use, or at least, have tried to use.  I used them as a case study to learn from:

  1.  In one case, we simply could never get an app we paid for to work on our stack.  Even though the sales rep told us it would.  We are now halfway through the annual, pre-paid contract and have gotten zero value. The customer success team blamed us for using a non-supported stack, and gave us raw code to use on our own.  The sales rep who either lied or was 100% mistaken?  Ghosted us.
  2. In another case, a vendor changed our billing and charged us 5x more for the enterprise edition.  We eventually caught it, but they didn’t offer to change anything or make an adjustment.  I asked the CS team why they’d done this.  They said, “You were billed for an edition for very large customers.”  Why?  Why was that OK?
  3. In a third case, we bought a product that took us 4 months to deploy because it was so much harder to get going than we’d expected.  Zero usage for the first 4 months.  Zilch. I asked them for either a partial refund, or a 4-month extension of the contract, in part just to learn. The answer was No.  The contract was the contract, “and everyone has a hard time getting going, not just you.”  Aha.  I see.
  4. Finally, in a 4th case, a vendor charged us for a second year for a product we never once used.  I didn’t ask for a refund for year 1, but I did ask they credit us back for year 2.

Now, none of these products were so expensive that the fact that we “overpaid” was going to break the bank.  I dug in as much to learn about how customer success and other teams deal with these issues nowadays than anything.  And looking back, as a SaaS CEO, I didn’t really dig in enough on these issues myself.  I should have.

What I can tell you is I was deeply disappointed:

  • Customer Success teams insisted on putting me through painful reviews of slides showing how great our usage was, but never fully acknowledged the issues.  In one case, I had to sit through a 30-minute account review for a potential $100/mo refund.  Which I never actually got.
  • Sales reps ghosted us when we followed up on the issues.
  • No one — none of these 4 leading vendors — offered us a true credit or adjustment of any form.  OK, one sort of did, but only if we did a full follow-up call months later and “dug in on features we might benefit from.”  Seriously?  I don’t have the time.

Was it worth it for them, to do nothing about these deals which ended up bad for us?

All of the CS teams sort of blamed us.  They said we bought what we bought.  Which is true.

But if any of them ever ask me for an update, a case study, a recommendation, or a promotion .. it won’t be coming.  No matter what, I’ll never love any of these vendors, at least, never again.

A few thoughts:

  • Empower your CS team to make adjustments, or at least, to be able to request them when utilization is low or zero.  Otherwise, you end up with CS team mainly looking to collect kudos.  That, in the end, does no one any favors.
  • Consider not even billing customers until they are able to deploy your app.  This may sound radical, but if you think about it — it isn’t.  Why are you charging your customers before they can actually use your app?  In the end, in SaaS, all that matters is your current and future revenue anyway.  Not your past revenue.
  • Don’t just listen.  Do something.  It’s exhausting to “be heard” but see no change at all.  No, I didn’t feel better after 4 CS teams forced me to go through presentations but not really address my concerns.  I lost 4 hours for nothing.  At least do something.  I’ll also note none of the teams followed up with me after.
  • A happy customer is always worth far more than a frustrated one.  Was the billing practice truly fair?  How would you feel, if you were the customer?

A related post here:

It’s Never the User’s Fault



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