Behind the question of whether a billing system can help your SaaS business grow is the question of what it means for a SaaS business to grow. This guide tackles both — it creates a model you can use to approach SaaS growth and a 360-degree view of how your billing system fits into it. Read More >
A question that children are infamous for asking a zillion times a day. A question most of us have stopped asking, somehow, somewhere along the way.
Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief - WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? - Simon Sinek
Once Justin Rosenstein, the co-founder of Asana, found one of their star engineers, slowly but steadily losing his spirit. He took him for a stroll, and instead of a customary pep-talk, he inquired about the project that he was working on. And for every response from the engineer that followed, Justin fired a “Why?” in return, until they reached the ‘breakthrough’.
“I looked at him, and he looked at me, and it was just like, okay, he was ready to get back to work.” - Justin Rosenstein
Purpose. That has always been the true north of our lives. To find ourselves being useful, to find ourselves making that little dent in the universe of happenings.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” - Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
When your work is aligned with your sense of purpose – while most part of the gratification stems from within – you’ll inevitably be presented with extrinsic rewards as well – in the form of defining moments, moments that in turn foster your zeal.
And we decided to record those moments that left an impression in the lives of a particular breed of SaaS humans, who’ve made it their purpose to make others smile - the customer champions.
Over to them.
Going the extra mile (in 48 hours)
Director of Customer Success at ChartMogul
Earlier this year, we were working with a challenging trial customer who wanted to utilize one of our APIs to integrate with an external system. We provided him with a great deal of assistance. However, he had a really hard time following the complex instructions and was getting increasingly frustrated.
Realizing that his patience had nearly run dry, my team ended up building a basic integration and wrote a comprehensive tutorial explaining how to implement it. We completed the project in less than 48 hours. The customer was so impressed by this level of customer service that he purchased a subscription right away and has been a happy customer ever since. The tutorial we created for him ended up helping many more customers. Being able to turn a bad experience a customer is having, into an excellent experience, is highly rewarding.
Caution: Defuse with care
Support Lead at Zapier
A recent memorable experience came when a user replied to an automated email we have, warning them that they were near their Zapier plan’s limits. They were really angry about the ‘dishonest’ content of the email, saying that they hadn’t used Zapier and therefore wouldn’t do business with a company that used such tactics. Since I know we don’t send fake warnings, I checked our email logs and found that email wasn’t sent to the address of this user’s account. With that info in hand, I did some searching for that user’s name and domain, and found an account that appeared to be a previous email address. Sure enough, it was close to those plan limits and had triggered that email.
In replying to that user I made sure to phrase my findings in the form of a question (“Is it possible that this email went to this other address and was auto-forwarded?”) as to not be overly combative. Realizing what had happened, the user was very apologetic and was able to continue using the product. These types of misunderstandings are common in the Support world, and we’ve found that taking this approach to pass along information with as much clarity and humility as possible can help defuse even the most contentious of situations.
The roller coaster weekend
CEO at ProcessStreet
It was actually the weekend that we first rolled out our paid plans for ProcessStreet. So we’ve been running the product for a year or so on a free version, everyone was on the free plan, we had hundreds of active companies that were using our platform, and we got to the point where we felt that we should start charging for our service, and so we rolled out the Premium plan.
We had tested things on our end (I guess that wasn’t enough), and we also stupidly rolled it out on a Thursday. We did a whole ramp up for the launch; we marketed to all the active users, we prepared them, we told them that on this day they were going to switch over. And it turned out, on the day that we launched, the entire billing system that we had implemented, did not work. What would happen is that people could put in their cards successfully, they were getting charged successfully, but they weren’t getting put on the correct plan, and were basically getting locked out of their accounts after they paid.
We had marketed to all these people, the customers would get a pop-up that asked them to pay to keep using the product, and after they paid for the first time ever, they would get locked out of the product and weren’t able to access anything.
We launched the plan on Thursday, and the conversions kept rolling through the whole of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and then finally on Tuesday, we were able to push the fix.
So throughout the weekend, it was non-stop support, non-stop looking after customers that were coming in and assuring them that they weren’t locked out, that they didn’t lose their money, and that they were going to be able to access the processes, and non-stop working on manually fixing every single conversion that happened.
I was trying to do this as fast as possible, because people were in a state of panic; they were logged into the app when they paid, and they were trying to get access to their processes at that very moment, and so we had to be really responsive about trying to make sure that their plan was updated correctly, and that they were able to access the platform within minutes.
So we were pretty much just sitting there – me and another teammate – on call, for about four days, through the entire weekend, just making sure that as soon as somebody converted, that we jumped on it, switched them over to the right plan, sent them a message telling them what had happened.
In the end, we didn’t lose any of the conversions because of it. Nobody wanted to back out because they couldn’t access their processes for a few hours, which was awesome. But at the time, it was a very scary concept when you’ve been working so hard to give all those customers a good experience, and then suddenly, all of that is put in jeopardy.
Make someone’s week - check
Support Pro at Basecamp
A few months back, I was working with a customer who was having a really rough day. She couldn’t find some files in her project. Like anyone in that situation, her first email to us was full of anxiety and irritation. I knew it was an interaction that would be best handled with a phone call.
I called her up and before I could ask the first question, she was venting about all the problems with finding those files. After ten minutes or so, I was able to get in a few questions that helped us figure out where the files were. They ended up being deleted by someone on her team so once we restored everything, all was right again. I left my direct office number and told her to give me a ring if I could help with anything else in the future.
After the call, I sent a gift over to her office. It was some flowers or maybe some snacks. I can’t remember exactly. But the next day, she called to say thank you. She went on to explain how that small gift turned around what was starting to be a rough week.
It’s easy to see every customer email as just another email in the inbox to get through. But behind every email is a customer whose week can be changed just by a small action from us.
Support, from the other side
Support Lead at Freshdesk
One of our customers, a global e-commerce company, have multiple departments from different regions using Freshdesk. I was working on onboarding a new department from another region, and wanted to show them how one of their existing departments was using it. So I got in touch with this person to check if they are okay with me sharing that information and invited her to join the meeting as well.
What happened next was a surprise. Our customer said, let me show how much I learnt from Freshdesk support. She conducted a complete product demo and also showed them how she has configured the product . She had all answers up her sleeve and also suggested a few workarounds to achieve their intended workflow. It was a perfect call and we never had to pitch in anywhere.
The good drug dealer
Director of Customer Support at Typeform
This incident happened shortly after we changed a free feature to a paid feature - the ability to customize your Thank You screen is a Pro feature, but in the past it was a part of our Basic Plan. One customer wrote to us saying that they can’t figure out how to make their form public. So when you’re using a Pro feature but you’re not paying for it, it automatically makes your form private.
Someone from my team was explaining that it was because it was one of the Pro features, and that they were using it, and the customer goes, “Oh! What a sick move, Typeform. This is uncool. You just want to take my money. I’m going to use a different platform from now.” The customer was passed along to me, and I started by saying, “Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate that you’re one of our valued loyal customers. I understand your frustration. We knew that making the Thank You screen a paid feature would be unpopular with some users, but as you can understand, we’re a business, and we also need to generate revenue so that we can continue to improve our product and deliver a great service.”
But given her circumstances, I gave her a coupon code with a discount, after which she replied, “Mr. David Apple, I’ll take you up on your offer, you’ll make a good drug dealer. Give them the taste and they’ll likely come back and buy more. I like Typeform and your design, so I’m super psyched by your offer!”
Array of sunshine
Head of Support at Trello
There was a customer that I once had who did not understand how the API worked at all, but was really keen to get some information programmatically that she couldn’t get otherwise. I worked with her and her team to teach her Python (at least minimally) and help her get a script up and running that would get the info that she needed out of our system.
The whole experience took several weeks, and I know that it would have been easier to just tell her that it was out of scope, but it felt good to see her have those “Ah ha!” moments.
The unexpected customer
Director of Support at HubSpot
I’ve worked my way up in the customer support world since college and in my very first role as a technical support advisor for AOL I had my most memorable moment ever. A gentleman called into the support line looking for help. We typically helped our users get connected to the internet over dial up modem (pre-broadband days) as well as basic internet use, though this customer wanted to build a personal website. He had very little knowledge of how to go about this, but really wanted to build something to create his online presence. It was something that was going to consume a lot of my time but it was in the evening and we didn’t have any other customers waiting so I decided to help him get started.
We built out the basic framework of his site and I showed him how to edit the pages so that he could add content. It was only towards the end of the call through our conversation about the content that I realised who I was talking to. I’m a big motor racing fan and in particular I love Formula 1. I was over the moon when it emerged I was helping Formula 1 legend Sir Stirling Moss build his first website. I’ll never forget that call because I got to speak with one of my heroes.
Today in HubSpot Support we take the same attitude towards customers and it’s built right into our culture. Regardless of how big or small the issue is, regardless of how long it takes, whether they’re our hero or not, we aim to Solve For the Customer, every time.
Never say never
Customer Success Manager at Chargebee
There are so many that I find it difficult to name any one instance - but this one is on top of my mind. One of our customers from the UK, who was using Worldpay as a payment gateway, reached out to us about supporting the gateway for UK. At that point of time, we supported Worldpay only for the APAC region.
In an ideal world, we should have turned away the customer as we don’t support something he needs. But we took a risk, tried setting up the account and as expected it failed. We tried troubleshooting, but to no avail. So we decided to reach out to Worldpay UK and took their support in setting up this customer. As a result, we not only won a customer, but we went beyond our call of duty and so we offer Worldpay for UK as well.
The invisible support
Director of Customer Support at Intercom
All of my most memorable experiences are actually negative experiences. I think the good experiences fade quickly because the best experiences in support are the ones that are almost invisible. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to fall over customers and give them roses and chocolates for them to have great experiences and a great opinion of your brand. My experiences with American Express have always been 100% along these lines. Super fast, super efficient, and nearly zero effort on my part.
I guess that’s sort of the point. There isn’t much story. I’ve had to call them to up my credit limit, to ask about having the card blocked while traveling, and to request a duplicate card and each time it’s been quick, efficient, and friendly. No endless phone menus, and every person I talk to is empowered to handle my questions fully.
There. Your turn now.
What’s your true north? What are those indelible moments in your life?
We’re all ears.
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