A Missed Customer Success Opportunity

I don’t want to out any company or specific person, but I wanted to point out a classic missed Customer Success opportunity that I experienced yesterday. I think it’s a good reflection of the difference between Customer Support and Customer Success.

The Backstory

While using a SaaS product (that operates as a Gmail plugin), I was looking for some information about a specific feature. I decided to look for an answer in their help section.

But…I couldn’t find a help section. I searched the plugin interface on Gmail - nothing. I even went to their website to see if I could find a link to a help section. Nope. I did find a support@<productname>.com email address. So I emailed them.


Yes, I could have asked my question about the feature directly, but I guess I was so surprised that I couldn’t find their help section, that this is what I ended up emailing in the moment.

And their team responded pretty quickly and very politely. I got an email back from someone on their support/success team within 20 minutes with an answer to my question: 


Yes, he answered my question perfectly. Yes, he did it in a timely manner and with great energy. 

I give him an A for his Customer SUPPORT.

But I give him a D for his Customer SUCCESS.

And here’s the difference:

Customer Support answers questions.

Customer Success delivers value. 

A Customer Support mentality works like this - 'He asked a question, I'm going to answer it.' Very Pavlovian. 

A Customer Success mentality, on the other hand, works like this - ‘He asked a question, but that may not be the root of his problem. Let me make sure I solve the issue he’s having and make sure that he is maximizing his value from our product.’

In this specific instance - yes, I was looking for their Help section, but I wasn’t looking for their help section because I wanted to confirm that they have one. I’m not a Zendesk sales person. I was looking for their help section because I had a problem using their product. 

By telling me where their help section was, he may have answered my immediate question, but I then had to click on the link he sent & go through the process of searching for an answer to my question. And of course…I didn’t find an one :(  

Problem - NOT solved. Did I email him back to tell him I couldn’t find my answer? Of course not…I had already spent enough time on this issue and it wasn’t worth additional time. But it does mean that I won’t be using that feature. Which may mean that I’m not getting the full experience from their product. Which may mean that I’ll be a churned account sometime in the near future. 

How would Customer Success approach this?

Someone with a Customer Success mentality looks at my question and:

  • Recognizes that I’m not looking for a help section. I’m looking for an answer to a specific question (a solution to a problem).

  • Recognizes that I might be frustrated because I’ve gone though the process of trying to find a help section, couldn’t, and ended up taking the time to write an email.

  • Is grateful that I didn’t just give up after not finding the help section and actually took the time to have a direct interaction.

  • Understands that this is an opportunity to not only solve a problem for me, but also to establish a relationship.

  • Recognizes that my experience may be indicative of a bigger issue that needs solving.

Someone with a Customer Success mentality responds to my email this way:


This response does a few good things:

  • It tells me they recognize my frustration and makes me feel appreciated. Which…immediately eases my frustration. 

  • Points me to the help section for my reference, but shows me that he realizes this isn’t the root of my email. He shows me that he is really interested in solving my problem.

  • Starts a dialogue with me. Which could very well lead to showing me additional features that would secure my loyalty and/or growth.

I absolutely would have responded to this email and asked my question. And he would have been able to answer it. And my problem would have been solved. I would have started using the feature and getting more value from the product. 

I know this may sound subtle and just a matter of semantics, but I assure you, it’s not. For every business, especially SaaS businesses, success is a GAME OF INCHES. And the seemingly small differences between a reactive Customer Support effort and a proactive Customer Success effort may just be the difference between winning and losing…

[Bonus point for the Customer Success person who takes my request and figures out an easier way for users to access the help section.]