SaaS Customer Success: Technology Will Fail, but Service Must Never

As a SaaS  company focusing on Customer Success, you are in a unique position to offer proactive support to your customers; anything less is unacceptable!

Alternate title: SaaS Vendors Should Learn What NOT To Do from Citrix

So, I’m not sure if you heard (you probably did if you follow me on Twitter!), but the SaaS Pricing Page workshop scheduled for earlier this month didn’t happen due to technical difficulties. Some people have attempted to point out the irony of a “SaaS workshop” failing due to a problem with “the cloud.” I don’t think that is ironic – technology fails, though trying to keep that to a minimum is obviously the goal, ultimately it is how you handle that failure that matters. In this case the vendor – Citrix – failed, not SaaS, the cloud, etc.

The workshop played out like this. Twenty minutes past the scheduled start of the workshop, and after scrambling around, switching computers, moving from VOIP to the regular telephone, shutting down and restarting the webinar, etc. much to our collective frustration (the 30+ attendees and me), technical issues with the audio portion of Citrix’ GoToWebinar service kept us from progressing. The really bad part was that it was not clear what the problem was while all of this was going on!

The webinar itself seemed to be up-and-running, but there was no sound – and no errors, feedback, or anything indicating something was not working (except the absence of sound). As far as anyone knew (myself included), it was operator error. Yep, to the attendees it just said I was muted. So why couldn’t I just “unmute” myself, right?

Now, let me be clear, I take fully responsibility for this since it was my webinar and I had no backup plan. Well, I sent the slides in PDF form to the attendees ahead of time just in case we lost video – which has happened before – but didn’t take into consideration the failure of audio. I will no longer have a single point of failure for webinars and workshops and I would recommend the same to you.

I guess it was a tiny bit of relief though that it turned out – thanks to an attendee for sending a link to the not-so-obviously-placed status page (what good is it if you can’t get to it or don’t know about it) a little later – that Citrix was having issues with their audio service at the time of the scheduled webinar. So, you know, its all good.. Wait, they were WHAT? OMG WTF?!?! Are you serious!?!?

So lets take a step back and analyze this situation with a clear head…

It would seem that Citrix knew the following:

  1. I had a webinar scheduled for 3:00PM Eastern.
  2. They sent an email reminding me that I had a webinar scheduled for 3:00PM Eastern
  3. I had OPTED IN to using their integrated audio service for the webinar
  4. They were having issues with their Audio Service before and during the scheduled webinar

So, knowing all of that and obviously having the capabilities to email me, why did they let me move forward with the webinar? What compelling reason is there for a user to be able – without warnings along the way – to continue to use a service when it is down? Why would the vendor not tell me? This is simply incompetence – not knowing their proper roll as a cloud vendor. Perhaps this is a legacy mentality shining through.

This is a perfect example of a company that is network-centric but has yet to embrace modern SaaS or cloud methods. Whatever it is, Citrix’ competitors would be wise to understand that you are Software-as-a-Service providers, with an emphasis on SERVICE.

Let me lay it out as clear as possible: as a SERVICE provider, you owe it to your clients to be proactive in support – anything less is inexcusable and will hurt your business! In fact, I wrote a post back in 2009 about Netflix and their proactive customer service titled “SaaS Vendors Should Learn from Netflix”. Its an oldy but a goody and is still – if not more – relevant today.

As a SaaS/Cloud company, you are in a unique position of having visibility into both system status and the user operations within your offering. While we can consider options for integrating status API calls into a native client like GoToWebinar uses, or loading UI frameworks from separate networks while pulling in status messages for web UIs, its simpler than that. Don’t over think this. It doesn’t have to be that complicated, and you can implement something like this RIGHT NOW.

Think about it… Citrix could have sent an email 15 minutes before the scheduled webinar saying “we see you have a webinar scheduled in 15 minutes but we wanted to let you know that as of right now, we’re having problems; here are your options.” Yes, one of those options might have been to cancel and reschedule, but that is proactive. That would have saved the attendees frustration and time, saved me embarrassment and revenue, and possibly saved Citrix at least one customer – maybe more. Remember, this was a workshop with many participants – a lot of folks saw Citrix’ GoToWebinar fail miserably that day.

Needless to say, I immediately cancelled my account with Citrix and they were kind enough to give me a full refund. Sure, the $90 Citrix returned to me did little to cover the lost revenue (since I immediately offered refunds to the workshop attendees) or the potential damage to my reputation, but it gave even further proof of their reactionary, legacy customer “service” model.

Horror stories aside, because of the time of year it is impossible to reschedule the workshop, but I still want you to be able to prepare for a successful 2011. So I’ve put together an amazing package deal for you.

Let’s Improve your SaaS Customer Success

For immediate consultation and advice on SaaS Customer Success, schedule a 60-minute meeting with me via Clarity. If you feel a more involved engagement is required for me to help you, email me with the specifics of your situation (as much detail as you’re comfortable giving) and we’ll setup a meeting to work through the particulars.


About Lincoln Murphy

I invented Customer Success. I focus primarily on Customer Engagement. Learn more about me here.