Why Happy Customers Leave

Don’t let the door hit ya…

Lincoln Murphy
Feb 3, 2015 · 3 min read

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. Your 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 you 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 you 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 those customers that you never hear from that are the ones that you probably didn’t set goals with or that you 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 you understood that happiness isn’t the goal of the customer — success leading to loyalty is — then you won’t fall victim to wrongheaded thinking when it comes to success vs. happy and you’ll work diligently to create a health score for your customers so you can avoid these surprises.

Know what success looks like for your customer in the context of your product and as it evolves over their lifecycle as a customer — and work to help them achieve that success — and you’ll keep them longer, grow their use, and create advocates.

Solve for “Success” not Happy.

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

I help grow SaaS and Subscription companies at Gainsight by focusing on Customer Success. Follow me on Twitter @lincolnmurphy.

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