10: Building Customer Success and Support For Your SaaS

For bootstrapped SaaS companies, service can be a massive differentiator against your larger and well funded competitors. Aaron and Darren look at customer support and customers success, their differences, the building blocks and what to pay attention to as you grow how your service and support your customers.

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FULL SHOW NOTES

[intro music]

00:10 Aaron Weiche: Episode 10: Building Customer Success and Support for your SaaS.

00:16 INTRO: Welcome to The Saas Venture podcast, sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrap SaaS company. Hear the experiences, challenges, wins, and losses shared in each episode, from Aaron Weiche of Gather Up and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Let's go.

[music]

00:44 Aaron: Welcome to The SaaS Venture podcast; I'm Aaron.

00:47 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.

00:49 Aaron: And we have hit double digits, my friend.

00:52 Darren: This is it. We've finally made it, big time.

00:55 Aaron: Let's just shut it down.

[chuckle]

00:58 Darren: 10 episodes; this is our final episode.

01:01 Aaron: But somebody that's just listening thought we maybe meant 10 years, but no, we just mean 10 episodes, but that feels good for five months into doing this.

01:12 Darren: Yeah, we're gaining some traction. I think we're building a following, and I'm having a great time; it's been good.

01:18 Aaron: Absolutely; I agree. So, hey, what's been going on with you since we last talked on the last episode?

01:26 Darren: What's been going on? Let's see... Well, I have a fun story to tell. Just the other day I was waiting for Violet and Jill to arrive at the gym, at the gym that I work out, and so that's also where Violet does her jiu jitsu class. So I'm on the treadmill and I'm running, just waiting for them to show up. And I never ride the treadmill, it's just that it was right by the door so I could watch. So I pressed the Stop button on the treadmill when they pull up and I go to get off. But because I don't ride the treadmill I didn't realize that it has, like, a slow down process. [chuckle] So I turn around to get off the treadmill, I realize it's still going as fast as it was when I was basically running full steam, and I was, like, full... Like arms, legs in the air, and landed hard on my back. [chuckle] And there were like three people come running over to see if I'm okay; I'm totally fine. I go to the car, and Jill is, like, in tears; she can't even speak because she saw the whole thing happening.

[laughter]

02:27 Aaron: Oh, perfect.

02:28 Darren: And she's laughing non-stop. Thankfully I didn't really hurt myself, I just kinda got like a rug burn-type injury on my elbow, but I wish I could get the security camera video for it 'cause I would love to see it.

02:44 Aaron: It would likely be a YouTube sensation, or make it into one of those compilations that you see on Facebook of exercise fails.

02:52 Darren: I think it was worthy of that, for sure, yeah.

02:55 Aaron: Well, I'm glad that your elbow is the only injury because, man, I've seen people... It looks like they... You can get knocked out if you fall on your head.

03:05 Darren: I think so, yeah. So I was fine, just my biggest injury was my pride. I felt like a bit of an idiot at the gym there. But yeah. [chuckle]

03:13 Aaron: Now, have you ever seen people who will walk on the treadmill, and it's set up where they can work... They're on a laptop while they're walking?

03:20 Darren: Yes, I have seen that before, and in fact, one of my employees, a developer that used to work with us, he had a setup like that in his office. And he would walk something like 15,000 steps a day. [chuckle] He was just, like, walk all day long while he was on his laptop.

03:34 Aaron: Oh my gosh, I don't think I could pull that off. I would probably make it five or ten minutes; my focus would go elsewhere, and I would be like you. And then even at a walking speed I would end up down on the ground somehow.

03:46 Darren: Yeah. You gotta really train and get used to that whole thing about working while walking. It would just be awkward, really, trying to type, I think.

03:54 Aaron: Yep.

03:54 Darren: Yeah.

03:55 Aaron: Well, we gotta keep you upright, so let's leave the treadmill alone for a while.

04:00 Darren: So we launched our new service, that Google My Business service that we were talking about last episode, and so I'm pumped about that. We were a little bit... We sent the email out to our mailing list on July 3rd, where I think most people were like, "Yeah, I'm gonna be gone", 'cause most of our customer base is in the US, and so maybe it wasn't the best time for a promotional email, so we're going to circle back on that in a couple of weeks. And we're trying to just do more promotion and build up the service; I'm excited about that.

I'm also very excited about how our new account system is coming together, so with the Stripe integration and rebuilding all of our order forms, and just that whole user flow of signing up for our software or our services. So all that's being rebuilt in Stripe; that's awesome. And then of course, getting ready for MozCon which is next week. Can't wait to see you in person there. I should get my presentation finalized and all done here.

04:56 Aaron: Yeah. By the time this episode airs we'll both be in Seattle and at MozCon; you speaking, GatherUp's there as a sponsor, but we'll get some time to hang out in person, and we're gonna try to record episode 11, in-person as well while we're in Seattle.

05:16 Darren: Yeah, I can't wait; it's gonna be fun. We have to figure out where we're gonna do that recording.

05:20 Aaron: It's gonna be a very top-secret location so that we don't, all of our fans aren't trying to break down the door to talk to us.

[chuckle]

05:27 Darren: Maybe we should at least have a window where the fans can watch.

[chuckle]

05:30 Aaron: Totally. Like some morning news show where they're just, like, screaming and holding signs.

[chuckle]

05:38 Darren: Yeah, totally.

05:38 Aaron: We could pay somebody to do that; that would be the only way that would happen.

05:42 Darren: I think, yeah, we would have to pay, definitely. How about you? What's up with you?

05:46 Aaron: On my side, I'm catching up after enjoying an awesome Fourth of July week where I was out of the office the entire week, just probably spent an hour to two hours each day on email and keeping some things moving, but it was a lot of time off, a lot of time with the kids. Time on the lake, which was awesome. But it always makes... The week you get back and all the things you kind of put off or said, "Schedule the call next week", now I'm basically living with the headset on the last few days, but all good.

06:21 Darren: I was gonna say, it's like you get punished for taking that time off.

06:24 Aaron: It is. It's double the work before you leave, and double the work when you get back, and that's right. You gotta make it count when you're gonna be out. It's like if you're gonna take all that punishment, then make sure you enjoy it.

06:34 Darren: Totally.

06:36 Aaron: Amazingly, we've talked a lot about my need and the work; we've had a specific episode on sales, but we have hired two outbound sales positions that start for us in the next couple of weeks.

06:50 Darren: Amazing.

06:50 Aaron: Yes.

06:50 Darren: Yeah, I'm very curious to hear how this goes. Outbound sales, it's a whole new world.

06:55 Aaron: Yes. So I'm incredibly excited; we got two great people. Both from referrals of one internal team referral and one from outside and few different things had to happen to get everything to align, but they're starting at the same time. So, a lot of my week... This week when I have spare moments is on materials and trying to get as much together for them to hit the ground running. So, plenty of work to do along those lines. And then related to the product, a really big piece that we've been working on for months that this is probably the first time we've had a feature big enough where we've built an Alpha of it first, usually it's a Dev Server in a Beta and pretty workable solution once we get going, but we've created an insights report that we have tied in with IBM's Watson to do natural language processing.

07:53 Darren: Yep, that's nice.

07:53 Aaron: So, you'll be able to... Yeah, understand sentiment of reviews... 'cause you might have a four-star review, where the customer talks about three really great things about the business, but then maybe has two things that weren't as good, and we wanna start to separate those kind of things out for you, instead of just attaching all of that content to a four-star review. We want you to understand what are the impact of, what are things that go on in a five-star experience compared to a two-star experience, so you can try to close that gap as a business and understand what those differentiators are. And then trends, what's happening on a week or a month or a quarterly basis that's increasing or decreasing, good or bad within how customers are talking about your business. So really big feature, a lot of work behind the scenes. We will be showing it off at MozCon and... Yeah, excited about that. And we're kind of targeting for the end of the month to get into an Open Beta with people.

08:51 Darren: Great. Well, I'd like to get in on that Open Beta, check it out.

08:55 Aaron: Yeah. No, I'll have a lot of fun giving you a demo with it. So, that will be fine.

09:01 Darren: Yeah, I know it's Watson, is that a paid API you have to tap into?

09:06 Aaron: Yep, yep. Paid API, so we just have to tie into it, which that part obviously is already done. And now, you just get into the training part. We evaluated probably four or five different natural language processing APIs and theirs, I guess, kinda out of the box so to start with. We had two things going for: One, one of our engineers was already familiar with it, had used it in another capacity. And two, when we did some sample test results between these four or five solutions, we felt like it had just the most accuracy out of the box in the way that we were looking for. And no matter what... I mean, it's all about training, right? So you have to train the machine and everything else. But we felt like it was just a better starting point with it.

09:56 Darren: Really cool. Yeah, awesome.

09:58 Aaron: Yeah. And with that, new features are all about trying to make things better for your customers, the topic that you brought up I think is a fantastic one to address even deeper as taking a look at customer support, customer success teams, what do you need to do to build the right criteria, pieces, elements, processes, team, everything else to support your customers and to lead your customers to success.

10:31 Darren: So I brought this topic up because I think we do a pretty decent job of it at Whitespark. If you look at our reviews, a lot of people talk about the excellent support that they get at Whitespark. We have good processes in place, we have a good ticketing software and live chat software that we get through Zendesk. But I wanted to bring this topic up 'cause this is gonna be an episode where it's like Aaron teaches me all of the awesome things. [chuckle] 'Cause I think that you've thought really deeply about this at GatherUp and you've really taken things to a next level and so, I wanna learn from you and I'm gonna be the question asker I think, and you can help me see some of the great ways that you guys have really taken your support to the next level.

11:15 Aaron: Oh, I'm on the hot seat.

11:16 Darren: Yeah, a little bit. Not really. I think that this will flow more naturally than a straight Q&A. But honestly, I really feel like you've got a lot to share here and that's why I want to bring it up.

11:27 Aaron: Yeah, and truth be told, it's an area where we... It was probably almost two years ago now, where we realized we wanted to put a lot of focus into it. To your point with Whitespark and how you guys handle it and customers talk about that, I really think as a bootstrapped SaaS company, like "You have to win there," right?

11:49 Darren: Yeah, for sure.

11:49 Aaron: You're not gonna win feature battles, you're not gonna have the 100 person sales teams, all these things that larger VC companies that can scale faster can have. You have to win with service and support as a bootstrapped SaaS company. We looked at and realize we need that to be a differentiator because some of these other things. We can build smarter features/cooler features, but they're gonna be able to build 50 to every five that we build.

12:19 Darren: Yeah, exactly.

12:21 Aaron: So, in looking at that it's like, "Yeah, you need that as a differentiator." And we realized that a long time ago. And to me, the biggest arc in this that yeah I'd love to talk about what we've done in questions you have but just this arc, right? It was a couple of years ago and funny enough, we were actually in Seattle. I think we were... I can't remember if we were at one of the... When they used to have MozCon Local. I think maybe it was at that, but we stayed a day or two later and we actually used Moz's offices to have an exec team meeting and we white-boarded out this timeline of what the arc looked like between customer support, which is completely reactive and customer success, which is completely proactive.

13:08 Darren: Right.

13:08 Aaron: And we tried to mark along those lines, like what are steps that we can take to continue to add more proactive and prescriptive things to what we provided and to make our team... We realized we needed more focus on customer success, as well as support but we really needed to make that entire piece the focus of GatherUp.

13:31 Darren: Yeah, that's the interesting thing and I think this is where WhiteSpark can certainly improve and that's that proactive approach. Moving from Customer Support, which is when people are asking new questions to customer success, which is you're proactively reaching out to them and onboarding them, helping them out with things, noticing when they're not active in the tool. All those kinds of things that's where I'm really excited about, the potential for support and customer success. And I wanna hear more about what are some of the things you guys are doing like what... Do you actually divide them up into two teams at GatherUp? Do you have people that answer incoming questions and people that are trying to be proactive and reaching out to customers.

14:17 Aaron: Yeah, so from a labeling standpoint, all the same team but we have started to... We look at where people's talents are and things like that and we are more giving them roles or responsibilities of this person based on experience, knowledge, personality. They're a great support person. They're great to answer email tickets and do these pieces and whatever else, where someone else like, "Okay, their level of understanding is really deep. They have a lot of confidence to recommend how to use features and they can be a little bit more leading with the customer. Like they're better fit for a customer success role. So we kinda call everybody the same, but we have started to differentiate what their main duties, what the majority of their time is spent on within that process.

15:09 Darren: Yeah. And then I'm also curious. So tell me this, what percentage of your customers get a proactive outreach? Do you have to have a certain number of locations in order to sort of fall into this bucket where we're gonna proactively reach out or do you do that with everybody?

15:26 Aaron: Yeah, based on our pricing model, for us it is multi-locations. So the biggest thing for a new client, if we sell a multi-location that's almost always gonna be one-to-one demo and then we're gonna try to do a SOW with them to get an agreement to try to get them on an annual contract and part of that is an onboarding process. And then making sure we get everything set up right. We walk them through, we make them aware of features and all those other steps. And then what we've recently... And I know I've mentioned a couple of other podcasts, we had our team and then we hired a VP of Customer Success and Taylor came on and looked at like "Alright, great. You have this great set up and onboarding process but it kinda stops right at launch". And what he added was a 5th phase to it that's like, "Alright. Now, let's make sure in the first 90 days that you're hitting success metrics and you're getting value either statistically or emotionally out of the product and then graduating and then setting up quarterly business reviews to like, are they still hitting the things that you need them to? Are you on track to do the right things?

16:37 Darren: Yeah, that's that whole next level. That's I think really valuable when you start to tap into your best customers and really making sure that they're getting the most value out of the software. And then that also is a really great relationship building with your best customers where they just feel like you actually care. You're taking the time to reach out to them and they just feel really great about working with GatherUp.

17:00 Aaron: Yup. And you discover so much about them when you have those types of conversations and when you get knee-deep in their data as well. And it's given us a more formatted approach. All the time in the past, I'm constantly jumping in and out of accounts and looking for signals on are they doing well, are they doing great, are they struggling, is there a challenge that I can see that I can reach out to them with. And now we're just building more and more of a system around that. We've talked in past episodes and we're just getting into this where we're gonna bring data to the table to help tell us more of those things more in-app analytics. That's still the piece of the story we're missing there. But now for our more valuable accounts, we're doing those types of things.

17:45 Aaron: And then the other challenges then on the small business like the one location side, how do you wrap in when you have support opportunities to still provide them a little bit of success with it and as well provide them with as many resources as possible to be successful so that there are things on demand when they need answers or easy ways to talk to the support team I think are really important when you can't give all of yourself to a $40 a month customer or a $75 a month customer but you can give a little and also put them on to "Hey, here's a ton of content or tutorials or other ways that you can get your answers and be successful.

18:29 Darren: Yeah. I think that's where we do a pretty good job. We have an email funnel. So when someone signs up for an account they're gonna get their welcome email, their next steps and then there's a series of emails that they're gonna get that sort of tell them about features of a tool and guide them through using the software. And it's pretty self-served. And so if they're not reading those emails, then we don't know. And the one thing that we don't do is we don't segment based off of account size and I think that's an opportunity for us. So if we did segment and we put a little bit more time into those higher value accounts, that's really a good take away for me, personally. And this one is to get a process in place to identify those accounts and then how are we gonna reach out to them and how we're gonna support them a bit better.

19:13 Aaron: Yup, yeah. I would say that segmentation is really important and then the outlining exactly what you're talking about. How you can get to 'em. That has definitely been a game changer for us and it makes our customer success team is now in charge of renewals when they signed a one-year or two-year deal when that comes up for renewal. As we say, we should know with 99% certainty that they're gonna renew because we've been talking to them every quarter about of things are going.

19:39 Darren: Absolutely.

19:40 Aaron: You're not crossing your fingers. Will they renew or not? It's like, no, no we know how they feel about the product and how things are going and that we're a core part of what we're doing or we know like, hey this account is in trouble. We need to make an impact and a change quickly or they're not gonna give us any more runway to make an impact.

20:00 Darren: Right? And your account man... You think you have an account managers, they're customer success people, but they're also account managers, and they're responsible for what 20, 30 different accounts that they have to keep an eye on.

20:12 Aaron: Yeah, and that's some of the stuff we were just trying to... It'll be really interesting for the rest of this year and we're definitely gonna have some talks but how do we start to understand what each customer success rep can handle within their mixture of things especially is now we have sales people that are hopefully bringing more accounts that need to be onboarded, but we wanna try to get some amount of framework in place, so we know, when this happens, if we're sending out this many SOWs, we know this is the likelihood they're gonna close and so we know the likelihood we're gonna need additional help at this point in time, so we can just be ahead of it instead of reactive, where the team is like, "Hey we're buried. Please send help". That's usually when it's too late.

20:56 Darren: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about this fine line between support and sales. Like at my company, we don't have a dedicated sales person, we have our support team, which is basically frontline sales for us. People come in, they have questions about the product, our support team answers those questions, will send them links to sign up for things, they'll make recommendations about what would make sense for them. So they kind of become the sales people in a lot of these cases. If it's a large looking account, they send it to me, or to Nick. And we handle more of the SOW type account set up. In your case, like how do you do that? Does your front... Does your support offer sort of sales stuff for signing up ike the one-offs, is that how it works at GatherUp?

21:48 Aaron: Yeah, so our customer success team will do a couple of our single-location demos within a week. And there really isn't a hand-off at all for them. 'cause it's more of a give demo, answer questions, if there's any straggler questions, answer those, then it's self served to go sign up and then they'll reach back out if they have questions. We have the process things to what you alluded to drip emails, a quick start guide, we have a very in-depth user guide, we have a number of ways to help them start with this minimal human touch as possible and then the support team is there to answer questions as they need it.

For anything larger, our hand-off is basically when that agreement is signed, so when the SOW is signed, then I will go to Taylor and say, "Alright, here's what the deal is, here's what it looks like." and a lot of times we're even having conversations before that, but then we're like, Alright, here's the person, our team is gonna handle it, we have a little, small internal information hand-off and then I'm reaching out and saying, "Hey great news. Here's your customer success rep, is gonna be Josh. He's gonna schedule your first meeting, and layout what onboarding looks like for you. And now, I'm here just to ride along if you have any overall questions or whatever, but you're in great hands and move forward. So we use that intro email and scheduling that kick-off meeting as the handoff from sales to customer success.

23:15 Darren: Yeah, that makes sense. And what's your you cut off? So let's say, how many people will self-serve that happen to have 20 plus locations, do they just come through the website and, "Oh wow, they just signed up."

23:27 Aaron: Yeah, yeah very few. [chuckle] And we really find some of the things that we've done to help identify that. We have our multi-location pricing is behind a gateway. So you have to put in who you are and how many locations when you're looking at something. So we use that to reach out and be like, "Hey great. You looked at our pricing you saw it's completely competitive and very valuable. Would you like a one-on-one demo?" So we use that to get them into the sales process at that time and the majority come in that way and we really sell... I would say the biggest differentiator we do customer success with anyone that's paying a set-up fee.

24:07 Aaron: If someone says I just wanna handle it myself and do whatever else then we might back off it a little bit, but we find most people like, "Hey I'd rather pay the fee and I get a tour guide, I get all this one-on-one support, I get a process that really is gonna help me get the value out of this." and then we know that customer is pretty serious too so that format has worked really well for us. We will get on occasion, a 5-10-15 location that comes in and they do sign up themselves and put stuff into it themselves and if we run across it, we'll likely ping them. And just, what are things looking like? Is there anything we can be of help with? Would you like to jump on a call to know more? So we will try to intercede with that, but we really find the majority of them end up coming through our sales process.

24:52 Darren: Yeah, that makes sense, especially since you have it behind a form. So if you've got multiple locations, you wanna see that pricing they're already in that funnel where the next step is to set up a demo and then it leads to SOW and a set-up contract and all that, stuff.

25:06 Aaron: Yeah, and we had a lot of internal debate when we moved to that when we rebranded we went to that method for our reseller pricing and our multi-location pricing, and I ultimately settled like, "Okay we're showing our one location pricing, this is as expensive as it gets per location. And see the other... Who are you, your email, your business and the number of locations, the minute you submit that you see the pricing right then and there you can bookmark that URL and review it as many times as you want. And our sales process isn't... We reach out with one or two emails max just to make sure that they understand everything correctly. Do they have questions on pricing, would they like to see a demo? So we're just trying to be helpful, we're not gonna over inundate them. There's a few on our team that were a little apprehensive and it's worked incredibly well for us and...

25:56 Darren: Oh, that sounds great.

25:58 Aaron: Yeah, haven't had any push back on why can't I see all of your pricing, and to some extent a lot of our competitors don't even show one location pricing, you have no idea the cost at all until you talk to somebody. So...

26:10 Darren: I hate that, whenever I go to a website, it doesn't have pricing and I'm like, Well, no, obviously it's too expensive, so I'm not gonna sign up. There's only one reason why you wouldn't show me your pricing. It's because it's like $20,000, I don't want it, so that's how I think about it every time. [chuckle]

26:26 Aaron: Yeah, totally.

26:27 Darren: I think your approach is really smart actually. And maybe, I don't know how prevalent that is, but showing the single-location pricing and then for multi-location pricing, fill out this little form. Now you've got the great lead-capture and you have delivered the pricing to them up front. They still feel good. All they have to do is just enter their name and email, they're gonna get that pricing immediately, and then you have your customer success team outreach to them. Now, those will be sales leads, right? For your new sales team.

27:00 Aaron: Yep. Which is perfect to give them a handful of those coming in even though my new sales people, their main focus is... They're outbound, they're gonna be generating their own love in the world.

27:12 Darren: I got so many questions, but we'll save that for the next episode on sales. Let's keep talking about support. I wanted to ask you about support contracts. This has come up. We have a number of multi-location clients that are unbelievably time-consuming on support. Like seriously, five hours a week, we spend answering their questions, going back and forth, re-answering the same question six times. It's just like some of these clients, we love them, they're great, they are awesome people, but they really need a lot of hand-holding. And I'm wondering... Right now, we do not have support contracts. How do you deal with this, with these really needy customers that need a lot of time and hand holding? What do you do at GatherUp?

28:00 Aaron: So we're just starting to address this as well, our last exec Summit, a month-and-a-half ago, this was one of our topics. And coming from the world of agencies, you had some of these same things as well. And you try to build those into retainers and kinda have it factored out that way, but I think support contracts are really important and I think most of it has to do with how you position it right up front in the process. And the best way to look at it is you outline... You're able to outline for... In our case, the initial conversations we had was something around like three tiers of support. And I guess I should maybe go one backwards. You're probably in the same position as... You offer amazing support and as your company gets bigger, that amazing support becomes harder and harder to be equal all the way across the board. 'Cause where you were doing it for dozens or hundreds, now maybe it's thousands of customers.

29:02 Aaron: And to get the same responses within hours and outcomes and all those different kinda things becomes increasingly hard. And I feel the best way to handle it is to kinda say, "Alright you have three different options in working with us," like "Here's the software fee, but then we also have support that you can decide to purchase or not purchase. And if you don't purchase it here is kind of our standard rule of thumb: You'll get a response within 24 business hours or 16 business hours." But something that gives you leeway for them to understand. "Hey, I'm not gonna get something in an hour and I have to live with that, I want it included I want it has a for free, and I'm willing to live." And the right expectations have been set.

29:52 Darren: Yeah, that's the key. That's sort of differentiating is 'cause this is the thought that someone may have is be like, "Well, can't I just get support? Why are you offering support to all these other people? Why do I have to pay for support?" And so I think those different tiers is where you can actually make a case for a support contract. That makes a lotta sense.

30:10 Aaron: Yeah. Because you end up showing them like, "Hey if you really value this and you want fast turn time and you want guarantees and things like that, well then you can have it, you have to pay for it." It's like anything, if you want a better version that is bigger, better faster, whatever that might be, there's value attached to it, and so you're willing to pay for it. And then when the expectation is off, then you're at least able to say like, "This was communicated, you declined that. You said, 'I'm willing to live with two days or three days to reply for no additional money.'" So we'll see. This is in theory. And we used to do... I've done similar things like this in agency before around development contracts and e-commerce, and website builds. And they worked really, really well in those scenarios. It's just getting all of it to be done up front.

The most important part is selling it upfront instead of having them get in and then when they have a problem, and then saying, like, "Oh, well, you can pay to get help faster." And then they're like, "I would've paid from the get-go, now I'm mad because it didn't meet my expectations. You didn't set proper expectations." That's when you get into trouble if you don't have that available, and they didn't make that choice, then you're just making where, "Oh, it is an option. You never asked, so we didn't tell you."

31:34 Darren: Yeah. So absolutely getting it in advance is the best way to do it. So I have a client or two now that is quite needy, that I would love to get on a support contract, but it is a very awkward conversation at this point. And then the other potential concern I have is, you have this client who they send you, once a week, a 15-point list of really long complicated obscure edge casey questions. It's like the most obscure stuff you could ever imagine. And even if they're on whatever a free support plan is they're like "Yeah, I don't need a response in 36 hours, I can wait till next week." But man, they just sent us seven hours of work, so much time to go through, look at what their weird edge case concern is, playing around with the software, going back and forth with the dev team. It's just, it's frustrating when you have these specific clients.

32:37 Aaron: I would say since you have that historical data, I would use that to your advantage and say, "We've looked at this, we want to serve you at the right level to make you successful and based on our interactions in the last three months, six months, year, this is the amount of interaction, this is the amount of emails and tickets and request... You would be smart to pre-purchase five hours of support a month for us at this rate, otherwise we will have to look at going to a time and materials with this just because of the amount that it is and it's all to ensure you're successful. So it isn't easy but you have to realize what it takes. Ann a good customer and a good relationship, they'll realize that anyway and if they don't, then that's starting to send you some other signals like they have no problem taking you down with them. [chuckle]

33:32 Darren: Yeah, I think that they're probably in the back of their minds are like "Boy, how long are we able and get this free support for Whitespark?". Because they know they're sending us so much extra work to do it. They must know that they're just waiting for the email to come where we suggest we're gonna have to start implementing hourly fees for all of this stuff.

33:53 Aaron: Yeah. There's always a way to address it when you have history. I think you use that history to your advantage. These are knowns.

34:00 S2: Yup.

34:01 Aaron: We're not guessing how much you might need, these are complete knowns and here's how we can continue to help you at this level, Now that we understand the level of help your requesting all the time.

34:11 Darren: I like it. Thank you. I will take that approach. How do you measure your... At Whitespark we use Zendesk. So Zendesk has this really great dashboard for statistics. So we can see how many tickets and what are the common things. One thing I really love in the dashboard is the search queries. People that are searching our help center, that's a gold mine of ideas of what people are looking for and what problems they're having. So what do you guys use at GatherUp? I'm just curious how you measure and measure success and what's important in support.

34:50 Aaron: We use Help Scout and have for a long time and it's at the point where I'm not in it daily, does everything that we needed to and same things you're talking about. Response times, ticket close times, all of that information is available to us. We obviously have it wired in, integrated to a ton of things from everything from... For live chat we use Olark and if Olark's... If we're offline with live chat then it automatically goes and creates a ticket in Help Scout so we can address it that way. And then the same... Right, using tagging, we also do the same on who's asking, what are they asking about.

So we track very, very heavily and we share it in our weekly team meetings. Here's the amount of support interactions in total, here is the amount of support interactions from small business, from multi-locations, from agency resellers and then here's what people are asking about. Like review widget is always one of our leading topics. And then we look at other ones? And that's really great 'cause that helps inform us, do we need to do more with some of our other support features like user guide documentation or something in our emails or do we even need to look at something in the product based on popularity or what are they asking about or what's confusing?

36:16 Aaron: So that has definitely led to us doing a number of things to try to be proactive by taking that reactive data with it. So can we decrease those numbers or be of more help? And even the support team. If they have just one link, they can drop in like "Yeah, your question. We get asked all the time. Here's a very detailed user guide post on this with screenshots. Go to here, and this will help you do exactly what you need to".

36:42 Darren: Have you built a email response templates at Help Scout where for really common questions, you've got a template you just fire it up and hit send for the most part?

36:51 Aaron: Yup. They have a few of those put together for the most common ones because there are certain ones it's like, "Yeah, we're gonna get asked what review sites do you monitor?". Boom, here's the answer and here's the link to that full list. So absolutely, efficiency plays are huge.

37:08 Darren: That's actually gave me a thought right now. Anywhere we have a template, that would actually probably be a good auto email. So for all customers, when they sign up it's part of the email funnel. It's like email number five is most commonly asked question number two. Right? So just putting all of those frequently asked questions that we have templates for into the auto email and so preemptively giving those to customers that might be wondering.

37:36 Aaron: Yeah, totally, totally a good idea that having that information makes you smarter about what people are likely gonna hit as a point of confusion or needing some education or needing to be better is huge.

37:49 Darren: Yup. I also was thinking about... I picked this up from that podcast we listened to and talked about last episode about proactively showing more obscure features and ways to use the software into that email funnel. So email number seven in the funnel is like "Did you know that the software can do this? And here's a quick little video on how to do it". Right? I like that a lot too in Email funnels.

38:14 Aaron: Yeah, that's something we could definitely be better at because we have so many features. We kick so many out. It's like how do you expose those to more and more users and expose them at the right times for them. Getting smarter around all that stuff is definitely an area I have massive interest in. How do you produce great targeting, right message at the right time for them to be like, "Oh yeah, this is exactly what I should use" or "This will make me more successful with the product".

38:44 Darren: Yeah right.

38:45 Aaron: Couple other things that I think have been really helpful for us, one, we actually use our own product that after a support instance we send that out to gather feedback and then also request reviews.

38:57 Darren: Right.

38:58 Aaron: So first surface level, yeah, it's great 'cause we find out is a customer happy with that answer, where they serviced timely, was the interaction with their rep great. But secondly, we have driven more Google reviews for us because you're asking for a review, when somebody's just had a great experience of being helped and again, when we talk about that differentiator as our support team. We see that over and over again where people are like, "Yeah, and man, I loved working with Gatlin. So Gatlin was awesome, helped me do all these things, whatever else. And now I wanna go write a review and I'm talking about Gatlin or I'm talking about this other team member." And that's been really huge at not just getting feedback on the support experience, but people saying, "Yeah, your brand and your service are awesome and I wanna tell everybody about it." So that's been really interesting.

39:50 Darren: So wait a minute, are you saying that when a customer support ticket closes in Help Scout, they get into a GatherUp funnel where the GatherUp is spinning the how did we do email? That's coming from GatherUp, not from Help Scout?

40:05 Aaron: Yep. Yeah, so we have our... We basically, our customer success has its own profile within GatherUp. We added that as a location. So the wording's different, the survey questions are different and everything else. And then it allows us to look at what is the net promoter score for our customer success team. And then within the last couple of weeks, Taylor and the customer success team has implemented this for onboarding as well now. And we've just got a couple of those in and that's been great to see where, "Hey, here's how I felt about the level of detail and the timing of it. And man, this person was so helpful in onboarding us." And when you're able to read that feedback from a 200 or a 300 location client, that's a very good client for you and you realize what a differentiator that is. And now that's content you could possibly share with your next prospect, "Hey, here's this company. This brand name and you know this brand name really well. Well, here's what their team said about our team and getting started with our products." So not only do we know the same thing that GatherUp does for other customers, we're producing marketing material to inform the next buyer.

41:11 Darren: Oh man, I love that. We're gonna do it too. So we basically, right now we just have the default Zendesk email that comes out that rates customer satisfaction, which is not bad, but GatherUp is so much deeper and so much more valuable. So I'm curious, how are they connected when a customer support ticket closes do you have a Zapier connection? Is that what you've done or do they manually go and enter that person?

41:39 Aaron: Nope. I would believe we have it automated. I don't know specifically if we're using our API or we're using a Zap for it.

41:46 Darren: Yeah, I can figure that out 'cause I gotta figure out how I can get Zendesk now talking to GatherUp so that I can integrate that.

41:55 Aaron: Yup. Nope, you can absolutely make that happen.

41:57 Darren: Cool, well maybe I'll talk to the helpful people at MozCon when I come and visit your booth.

42:01 Aaron: [chuckle] There you go. Let's look at it. Let's figure it out.

42:05 Darren: Yeah. Well that's awesome. How do you know... Are you measuring ticket volume and using that to identify when it's time to hire another support person? How are you figuring out or you're just waiting for your customer support head, your director of customer support to tell you "oh we need to hire some more people"?

42:28 Aaron: Yeah. This... It's kinda the same to where we were talking about with customer success. We wanna have framework for this. We definitely track support volume that same... In our weekly meeting, customer success department has their section and they're gonna say, here's how many tickets, here's how many conversations, here's how many phone calls, here's how many live chats. We break down all of those things by the medium that they're being handled on.

But we don't have anything yet that says this is too much, this is too low. We track the flow of where those are. And sometimes we'll zoom out and say, "All right, what does this look like over the last 12 months?" But being more predictive by using those numbers is definitely a next step for us so that we're able to say, "Alright, where we're at here, one rep full time and two part time on support with the rest of their time on onboarding, we're fine, but the minute we hit this, then we need another and the minute this increase then we need another." We'd like to get it to be a little bit more regimented and predictive.

43:30 Darren: Sure, yep. That makes sense. Yeah. For us it's just like we just start to feel it. It's like, we're getting overwhelmed and our response time is taking longer. We've just got too many tickets coming in and then we hire again. But so far we're doing fine right now, but we'll see as we grow.

43:46 Aaron: There you go. You never know. What do you feel like is your guys's biggest challenge within your support team right now?

43:53 Darren: I think the challenge is being more proactive. So I don't know if challenge is the right word, but it's the next thing we need to do. Moving from a reactive support position to a proactive success position. And I think we have the resources right now. I don't believe that the support team is completely booked all of their time. And so getting a process in place where we can be more proactive and identifying those high value clients and really trying to reach out to them and help them get set up. There's a big opportunity there that I really have to focus on.

44:29 Aaron: Yeah, no, that's exactly where we were two years ago. And the first thing is just identifying it, making it a priority so that everyone understands it and then you lay out what are these, if being proactive is the strategy, what are the tactics that support that that we need to put resources into or make sure we have tools to do. And yes, just you stair step and start picking those up and move up the ladder one at a time while you keep everything behind it at the same level it's at and you can get there. We're two years into that and we still have a ton of way to go. You're always trying to perfect it.

45:09 Darren: For sure. It's interesting when you think about you talk about the difference between a bootstrap company and a VC funded company like you see these companies like Yelp and Yext that have invested so much into their sales force and not much into their customer support. And it's just like, it's a complete switch of values. They're just focused on signing people up, not supporting them. And it's such a backwards way to approach business, it seems to me.

45:36 Aaron: Yeah. Well customer acquisition gets all of the love and depending upon what size you are, how much does retention make an impact for you? And when you're in a smaller bootstrap company, retention is massive because you might not have the resources to do acquisition all day long. For us we're over five years into the company and we're really truly building. We've had one salesperson on the agency side, I do our sales, but only a very small percentage outbound. But now five years later, now we have resources and we have the right fit with our product where we can very confidently say, "Yeah, now it's time to put fuel on the fire and take the fight to people and go and be outbound sales with it as well." So when you don't have the ability to do that, retention is really huge because as much as you need to land those next clients, you need to keep the ones that you have.

46:36 Aaron: Obviously we spend a whole episode on Churn. You could do a whole podcast just on Churn all by itself. But yeah, no, it is super important. And yeah, for some people, I think the bigger they get, the numbers become so macro that a lot of it seeps through the cracks. And we're seeing more and more of that in the space right now where people are coming from some of our larger competitors and they're saying," Yup. I spent a year or two years with them. I didn't get a lot of love. I was paying for features I didn't even utilize. It looks like you guys aren't trying to have everything in the kitchen sink and you absolutely have what we need and you have a few other things that they didn't have because you're a little more focused on the SEO and the local search end of things and wow, it seems like people are raving about your service. So let's work together and that's fabulous. I want that to happen all day long.

47:24 Darren: Yup. Well, we should keep that happening all day long for all of our services and products.

47:31 Aaron: Totally.

47:31 Darren: All right.

47:32 Aaron: All right, my man. That's a wrap.

47:34 Darren: We did it. We're gonna see you next week and we'll record another episode. Dan, I can't wait for that. It's gonna be great.

47:40 Aaron: Yeah. All kinds of fun in Seattle awaits us. And yeah, we'll find a way to hide out and record episode 11 at MozCon in Seattle. And I don't know, we'll have to bring something really festive to the table with us being in the...

47:56 Darren: Something, yeah.

47:57 Aaron: The same area to record. I don't know if we can sit face to face that might not work, but we just might be like a hotel room away from each other.

48:05 Darren: Or back to back.

[laughter]

48:10 Aaron: Totally. We might have to include some video clips of this.

48:14 Darren: [chuckle] Totally. Alright.

48:14 Aaron: Riveting stuff.

48:15 Darren: Good. Well thank you. It was a good chat. We'll talk to you next week.

48:20 Aaron: Alright. Thanks everybody. Remember to subscribe to the SaaS Venture podcast or share the SaaS Venture podcast with someone you know that is interested in sales, SaaS anything to do with software products. We appreciate building our audience more and more and it's all thanks to you guys. So thanks everyone and have a great week. We'll talk to you next time.

48:41 Darren: Talk to you next time.

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The Saas Venture Podcast from Aaron Weiche and Darren Shaw