You Need to Talk to Your Customers More

One of my favorite “old man” stories to tell my kids is about the computer science department at my university. I’m not really that old, but I am old enough that I remember watching CS majors in the computer lab using the dot matrix printers to print out their coding assignments. (I am old enough that I didn’t have my own computer in college, but then again I was a history major so as long as I had books and pen and paper I was well equipped for my classes.) The campus computer labs had the 3.5″ disk drives. When I moved out of the dorms the only internet I could get at my place was dialup.

At this point I can hear my kids groaning and telling me to “get off the lawn” so I’ll come to the point. Most of the things I do in my work each day were not only unavailable when I was in school, they weren’t even a concept. The cloud? 😂 Software as a Service? 🤣 In my day, sonny, software came in an actual box!

The internet has changed everything in a short time. It’s important to remember that. Your customers are running up against these changes and looking for tools to help them. That’s probably why they found your product. You need to talk to your customers so that you understand what they need and why. Listen to them and explain how you can help.

When we have conversations with customers we’ll know their needs and wants much better than we ever will through post-purchase surveys, NPS scores, or exit questions. Actual conversations give more insight than in-app tracking or heat maps. It’s sometimes hard, but talking to your customers will tell you so much that you didn’t realize and will make your entire business better as a result.


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Recognize Small Victories

One of the hardest parts of the work we do in customer success is, big surprise, dealing with customers. At times this is amazing and very rewarding. At other times it can be the worst.

Many support agents and customer success managers end up spending a lot of time with unhappy customers. The day after day grind of work can leave you feeling like all of your customers hate you and your product is trash. Intellectually you know that’s not true, but emotionally it can feel that way.

How do you avoid falling into this trap? One way is to consciously and consistently celebrate little victories. Here are some examples of how we do that at SpiderOak.

The User Olympics. (We should probably change this to Customer Olympics, haha.) When someone on the team finds a customer with something unique or outrageous about their account we add it to our User Olympics page. Have a computer with the system time 50 years out of date? Added 72 devices to your account? Contacted support 24 times this week? Congratulations! You’re on the way to a position of fame in the User Olympics!

Everyone enjoys the break and the humor of a user olympics announcement. Work stops while we ooh and ah at the absurdity of it, and we bond a bit during the break. Find something similar that works in your company.

Acknowledge Great Work. I run the social media accounts for SpiderOak, so I see the compliments and kudos that customers give. Screenshots go into our #staff channel so everyone at the company gets to see happy customers praising the team.

I also love making announcements to the company for big milestones like getting a big renewal signed, getting the support queues down to zero, or finishing a big project.

Shining a spotlight on small victories is even more important if your company works remotely. Little announcements and compliments about your team may be the only frame of reference other employees have about them. Make the time to shine a positive light on them and you’ll see great things happen as a result.


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Cleaning Up Documentation

Once a quarter it’s good to take a look at your documentation and other customer-facing resources. The new year is a good time to do a larger evaluation of the direction and scope of your documentation.

Here are some questions to think about as you evaluate the state of your docs:

  • Does your documentation facilitate self-service?
  • How good is the search function?
  • Can customers and others submit feedback?
  • If your docs include comments, how is the moderation?
  • If you have a forum, how is the moderation?
  • Do the comment system and/or forum bring value above and beyond the documentation itself?
  • Is your documentation compatible with screen readers and other accessibility tools?
  • How well do you address multiple learning modalities? (Do you balance text, images, and videos?)
  • What does your updating process look like?
  • What does your doc creation process look like?
  • What process do you use to change documentation when a new release comes out?

There are many more things to consider, but this is a good list to start with. This is foundational work, the kind of work that isn’t glamorous but pays huge dividends in the long run. Make the time to add this kind of a documentation check to your documentation system and your customers will thank you many times over.


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