This week, I left my gym and signed up with ClassPass. My other gym was fine! I liked the instructors, I was going often, and even better, I was making progress. By all appearances, I was a satisfied customer. But when a new opportunity came up, I didn’t hesitate to cancel.
This is the nightmare scenario that keeps customer success leaders up at night: customers who don’t set off alarms or any churn signals, but are still on their way out the door. There’s no big dramatic fall out, no Twitter complaints or any moment to point at and say: “That’s why she left.”
In other words, there is no smoking gun. These are customers who seem happy and rate you well, but then quietly leave.
So why did I leave? Well, a collection of little things added up: the increased cost of towel rentals, a new restriction for repeating classes, an email to the manager gone unanswered. All of these things built little hassles into my experience. It wasn’t enough to quit, but it wasn’t enough to actively complain about either. So while I would have said, “Everything’s fine!” there was plenty brewing beneath the surface.
Your success does not mean success for your customer
I was getting results at my gym, but at what cost? I was paying more, had more rules to follow but the new hassles didn’t add up to a better experience. What was in it for me?
My fellow yoga enthusiasts know how important a long towel is to keep your feet gripped to the mat. The gym should too. However, they wouldn’t rent out long towels. I brought it up with their staff, hopeful that the increase in rental prices would mean access to these long, useful towels. It didn’t.
Even my email to the manager asking about long towels went unanswered. The class was great, but the friction was building. Being stuck with those stupid short towels every week reminded me that no one was listening. They didn’t know this, but I was primed to leave.
Satisfied customers are loyal customers when you put them on the most effortless path to success.
You are the expert in your product. You know the best paths to success, and where they might face roadblocks. If you can guide them through and help them easily do the thing they want to do (in this case, a perfect downward dog) – you win!
Vanity metrics are tricky
If your support team is like most, you probably shoot for a low average handling time (AHT), a high number of tickets resolved and a high customer satisfaction ticket rating. I don’t blame you for watching these key metrics closely!
However, any metric that doesn’t link back to your customer’s success is a vanity metric.
These are some of the responses typically satisfied customers will leave on their cancellation survey. All of these example customers had their initial issue eventually resolved to their satisfaction. Notice how each customer statement starts with an “even though.”
“Because even though my questions are answered, every time I call, I need to listen to the same 9 options and then repeat my problems to another support agent.”
“Because even though I solved one issue, we had to call back and fix the second part of the problem.”
“Because even though Julie was great, we’re pretty sure we could have solved our question ourselves with a help article, and would prefer not to have talked to her at all.”
If you get a customer off the phone quickly, but leave them unprepared for the next steps, it’s only your vanity success metrics that are satisfied. Your customers might think they’re satisfied. They may even express this in a followup survey. Everything is fine, just fine!
However, they aren’t set up for success, and they will either call in again to get more information, or just stop using your product.
How friction breaks down the customer
What’s surprising is, while we always thought the phone support line was a customer’s first line of defense, it’s usually their last resort to get help when they can’t find the information elsewhere.
Your customer’s journey does not magically begin with a phone in their hand connected to the support line.
By the time a customer has called for support, they’ve already struggled at least a little.
At Payfirma, we had our support agents ask customers what path they took to get to us and documented the most common responses.
Exhausting, right? It’s kind of painful to look at too. This is friction.
All of these steps in the customer journey create friction on the road to success. Picture your customer sliding along sandpaper instead of teflon. Ouch.
It doesn’t matter how great your support reps are. There’s nothing they can do to recover the customer experience once this friction has occurred. Even if customers achieve their goals and even if everything is “fine,” they don’t forget what you put them through to get there.
In the subscription economy, there is nothing keeping customers from trying out something a little easier. If I can get a tasty, hot pizza and instantly send the delivery guy a thank you note without lifting a finger: why would I then lift a finger to get your product working correctly? Especially if there’s an alternative already waiting for me?
It only takes one exhausting interaction to break a customer’s loyalty. You might not even know how exhausted your customer is, but make it your job to find out. Those little hassles aren’t worth ignoring when a well-timed offer from a competitor loses you another customer.