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Why Happy Customers Leave

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Written by: Lincoln Murphy

We have to be clear on the distinction between “happy” and “successful” when it comes to our customers.

Happy is a feeling, successful is quantifiable. their customers have a goal, an ROI they’d like to reach, a Desired Outcome they need to achieve, etc. They’re either on their way to hitting that goal or they’re not.

Whether they’re “happy” along the way isn’t the point. If they don’t reach their goal, if they aren’t successful, they may be “happy” … happily looking for a vendor that will make them successful!

Obviously I want the people I work with – my customers, clients, and partners – to be happy on a human level.

But I know that if they don’t seem happy, are always pushing back on us, are asking for new features, for things to work differently, for more of this or that, and they never seem “happy” that this doesn’t mean they aren’t successful or on their way to being successful.

In fact, customers who are engaged in multiple ways with their vendor are the most likely to stick around; the more touch points the better. There’s a direct connection here, even if it seems counter to what you’d think.

For instance, someone that contacts support frequently – assuming they get their questions answered and issues resolve quickly (even if not with a positive result! That’s the really interesting part.) – everything else being equal, is more likely to renew their contract or otherwise not churn out.

This makes sense when they consider that frequent support requests means they’re becoming invested in the product and they’re likely heavy, active users, or they use their product in ways it wasn’t designed. All good signs.

Very often, the most successful customers – those least likely to churn and likely to buy more over time – are their most demanding customers; they never seem to be happy… they’re never satisfied. They always want more from their product.

It’s actually customers they label as “happy” – the ones they never hear from or interact with, the ones that never complain or contact support – that are the ones to be worried about, if for no other reason than they don’t know if they’re successful or not. They assume “happy” … and they assume “happy” means they’re going to continue to be a customer.

None of those assumptions are based in reality.

In fact, those customers that you never hear from are the ones that they probably didn’t set goals with or that they don’t speak with frequently to know whether or not they’re on pace to reach whatever the successful outcome is for a given timeframe.

And the kicker is that very often these are the customers that – according to product usage (they’re “active” you know!) – might seem just fine… who then churn out “unexpectedly.”

But if they understood that happiness isn’t the goal of the customer – success leading to loyalty is – then they won’t fall victim to wrongheaded thinking when it comes to success vs. happy and they’ll work diligently to create a health score for their customers so they can avoid these surprises.

Solve for “Success” not Happy.

I go into more depth on this idea in my article title Customer Success is not about Happy Customers.

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