In 2021 Let’s Stop Calling Customers “Users”

I really dislike how the software world talks about “users.” In any other context this word has pretty terrible connotations. (Drug users anyone?) It has become the standard way that nearly all software companies describe their customers.

Calling a customer a “user” dehumanizes them. At the far end of our development, sales, and marketing efforts are people with real lives and needs. We hope that they are willing to give us some of their hard-earned money in exchange for the software and services we provide. When we lose sight of the people we allow ourselves to make poor decisions, starting with design and continuing all the way down the line to service and support.

This year, in a year we all hope gives us a chance to be physically together with more humans, spend time with more humans, hug and handshake and eat together with more humans, let’s also try to remember that humans are the ones buying our software. We may not be able to learn all of their names or talk to them one by one. Calling them customers will help us remember their humanity.

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What Is Customer Success?

The short answer: treating SaaS customers so they want to continue being a customer.

SaaS businesses have an interesting advantage over brick and mortar companies. Software doesn’t have physical costs and digital distribution is straightforward. Margins on SaaS software, particularly on subscription-based software, are great.

Customer Success is a new domain that emerged from the SaaS world in reaction to the scale and simplicity of the SaaS business model. Yes, you can sell software to a million people, but if that’s as far as your thought process goes you are in for some nasty surprises. Just because software is economical to produce and scales well, your customers are still human. The team that produces the software is also human. Your software will have problems and your customers will run into those problems and a million others you haven’t thought about. For customers to continue being customers, they need to have a good experience.

This concept, of reducing subscriber churn, is at the heart of Customer Success. Reducing churn means creating a great user experience, providing help when customers have problems, and doing all you can to delight them. It takes sales, support, product, design, marketing, and engineering working together to make this a reality. It’s hard work! The result of good Customer Success work is customers who continue to be customers, month after month, year after year.

If you aren’t striving for that then why are you making software?

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