What most founders get wrong about customer happiness.
Metrics to track, how to hire for your support desk, and how customer happiness contributes to your business value.
By Niko Vergis
Customer Success Manager
Launching your business and landing your first customers is only the beginning of the journey for a bootstrapped startup founder. Mastering customer happiness to understand what customers love (or hate) about your product or service while building loyalty and minimizing churn is a huge part of the process.
And most successful bootstrappers nail this early phase. But eventually, as the business scales, if you don’t also find a way to scale support, it can hold you back from the next stage of growth, and negatively impact your SaaS’s value.
Customer happiness is one of the areas we bring a lot of focus to when we acquire a company. And it’s worth talking for a minute about why we call it customer happiness, instead of “service” or “support.” We think service and support imply doing the bare minimum — you reply to questions, you answer your tickets, maybe you even consider customer requests when you map out your product roadmap.
Customer happiness means we want to wow our customers so that given a choice between our product and a competitor’s, they’d stick with us because we’ve gone above and beyond. And it’s not just a catchphrase — it’s a mindset, because it impacts what we measure, how we hire, and how we manage our whole customer journey end-to-end.
This is real feedback that came into one of our desks. Empowering our reps to make customers happy — beyond just providing support or service — is a real competitive advantage.
Second to marketing and growth, customer happiness is also one of the areas we hear technical founders find the most challenging as their business grows. To be transparent, it’s an area we struggled with in our early days, too. So consider this post a “what we’ve learned” from a friend who’s been through it, and feel free to borrow from it to make your own playbook of customer service tips.
Avoid these common founder missteps to seamlessly grow and scale your customer support team.
1. Personally working your support desk for too long.
This one’s important, so I’ll repeat it. When you launch, most bootstrapped founders start by doing their own support, which makes a whole lot of sense, not just because it’s cheaper, but because it also helps you define your product roadmap and uncover your most valuable (and least valuable) features.
But as you start to scale and bring in enough revenue to think about hiring, support should be one of the first things you think about off-loading from your to-do list. Why? It consumes a lot of time and mental space, and if you’re answering tickets all day in year three or four of business, you’re working in your business, not on it.
Plus, if you ever want to take a vacation, start another project, or take any time away from work, you need that desk covered by someone who knows the product and can keep your customers happy. The best time to find that person is long before you want (or need) to take time off.
And finally, if you plan to sell your business at some point in the future, having customer support covered by someone who’s *not you* makes your business more valuable. (Even if you don’t plan on exiting, we always recommend that every founder has an exit strategy because it’s really just another way of saying “resilience plan.”)
In the absence of having a support person on board, having clearly documented processes will mean you’re ready to hire when you can swing it. Or if you decide to sell down the road, it makes it easy for a new owner to hire (which makes a sale go more smoothly).
If you don’t have the revenue coming in to justify hiring out for support, take a page from Danielle Simpson and Arvid Kahl’s book, and document your processes well.
2. Making it hard for customers to contact you.
If your contact information isn’t readily available on your website and/or in your app, you’re risking missing out on potential customers — and frustrating your current ones.
No one should have to hunt down a contact form or support email when they need to get a hold of you. Many founders overlook this detail at first, but it does make a difference — and it’s a super simple fix.
On all of our sites, we make sure a “contact” button is easily visible in our navigation, and we have chat buttons if someone needs to get in touch with support or has a question. And to ensure customers know who’s working behind the scenes, we have pictures and brief bios of our team.
Monitoring and updating your social media platforms is a must, too. While you don’t have to Tweet ten times a day, you should have your profiles up-to-date with your website and contact info.
You don’t have to monitor social media 24/7 but do set up an auto-reply to let people know how to reach you.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on DMs and posts you’re tagged in so you can answer questions that way, too. These days every social media platform is also a review site. If you don’t have a dedicated team member to monitor your accounts, set up an auto-reply that shares a way to contact your support team.
3. Not measuring support metrics just like you would financial ones.
Keeping track of your performance in customer happiness is one of the most impactful things you can do for growth and scalability. In other words — you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
However, you shouldn’t just rely on your judgment here (as a founder, you may be a bit biased on how easy your product is to use). To get direct and honest feedback, you should allow your customers to use support ratings to tell you how you’re doing.
We like Help Scout for managing customer support, since it gives all of our customers a chance to rate their conversations, and we can easily see if the majority of our interactions are going well from our customers’ perspectives.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to aim for perfection here. While 100% positive ratings would be ideal, we’re all human and we live in the real world. Our benchmark is 80%. Sometimes a customer wants a feature we just don’t offer, someone’s just having a bad day, or something unforeseen comes up.
In addition to gathering data with support ratings, you should consider measuring these metrics:
- Time to first reply – How long it takes the support person to get back with the customer for the first time
- Resolution time – How long it takes the support person to solve the problem and close the ticket
- Replies to resolve – How many times the support person replied to the customer before getting the issue resolved
As you’re deciding on what stats to keep track of, beware of misleading metrics and counterproductive goals. While you want some benchmarks on things like time to reply, and replies to resolve, getting too aggressive here can cause more issues than it solves. Some bigger companies track things like call time and tickets answered, which can lead to a pretty terrible customer experience. Keep your focus on customer happiness, set attainable goals, and you’ll notice a big difference in customer satisfaction and churn.
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4. Not digging deeper on cancellations to understand churn and get win backs.
Figuring out why customers are canceling each month is crucial. You can guess all you want about why people are leaving, but the best — and most enlightening — way to gather that information is to simply ask customers in a cancellation survey.
Being mindful of how you roll out the survey is key, though. After all, these people were ultimately not completely satisfied with your product or service.
Many SaaS companies will offer a survey with pre-populated drop-downs when a customer cancels. However, this is the quickest way to pigeon hole yourself. The answers in the drop-downs are typically reasons why founders assume their customers have canceled, which doesn’t leave room for customers to offer transparent, honest feedback.
Instead, use a required, open text field that asks, “Why are you canceling?”
This way, you give the customer the mic without swaying them with pre-filled entries. Inevitably, you will get some “asdfg” or “…” entries, as well as ones that talk about things like pricing, but many members will write out a sentence or paragraph about why they left, what they wish you offered, and how you can improve.
By having that invaluable information, you can make necessary business/product adjustments and fixes.
With cancellation information, you can also create a Trello board and tag cancellations with common themes/features, so if you add a feature people mentioned you can reach back out and let them know. (Learn more about this customer win-back strategy in our Founder interview with Mike Janeczek of GrowthHero.)
5. Assuming your product is easy to understand.
Your product is your baby, and you built it, so it’s only natural to think it’s a piece of cake to navigate. But new customers aren’t going to feel as confident, so they’ll need some guidance at first. By offering a simple, yet comprehensive onboarding experience for new users, you’ll give people a positive experience with your product right off the bat and increase the chances of them upgrading their memberships.
Start by creating a set-up or onboarding video to introduce your product to new customers, then offer them a library of digestible videos that walk through the most important features of your product. Whether they’re 30 seconds or five minutes, these self-help tutorials will mitigate your support ticket volume and make navigating your product much easier than just throwing text on a support center document and expecting customers to read through it.
Don’t worry too much about your production quality in the beginning — you can start with some simple screen recordings you make with a tool like Loom.
In addition to onboarding videos, you can also offer things like:
- Free live webinars (speaking of, if you’re a bootstrapped SaaS founder curious about valuation, check out ours)
- Drip email series explaining your product
- Free or paid set-up assistance
In short, set your customers up for success, and everyone’s lives will be easier (including yours).