How to gauge customer success with an introverted customer base.

The guys answer a listener question about how to ensure customers are happy with your product and how to be proactive in finding out if they aren't. This can be especially difficult if your customers tend to be a little bit introverted...*cough* developers *cough*. Plus Ben reveals the number one reason customers leave Honeybadger!

Full Transcript:

Starr:              00:00          Yeah. I totally have been playing dumb this whole time as a strategy, 100%. It's not like I don't actually know anything, or I'm just making it up. It's 100% a strategy.

Announcer:          00:11          They're just three amigos making their way in the crazy old world of software as a service. Welcome to FounderQuest.

Ben:                00:22          In other news, I deployed the Logplex to Lambda, and it worked like a champ. Unfortunately the economics just don't work.

Josh:               00:31          Again, bit by the economics again.

Ben:                00:34          Yeah. I penciled out the math and it worked. You know you can allocate the amount of ram to the function, right?

Josh:               00:42          Yeah.

Ben:                00:42          I did the math based on 128 megs of ram, which is the lowest option, because it doesn't use that much. It uses about, I don't know, 30. The problem is, the performance and the concurrency was such that we were running, like, hundreds of concurrent Lambda functions in order to service the level of traffic, well, one-third of our production traffic. AWS has a soft limit of 1,000 concurrent Lambda invocations. You can of course get those soft limits raised if you can justify it, but of course, that comes with money, right? More invocations means more money.

Ben:                01:19          I was like, "Okay, 600, 700 concurrent indications, that's really not great. Let's see if we can get that down a bit by increasing the ram," which increases the CPU allocation as well. That works, but at that point, the economics didn't work. Yeah, it was just the combination of concurrency and the amount of time taken to actually process each request.

Josh:               01:46          I've taken a shot at this, and now, Ben's taken a shot at this. You guys are Seinfeld fans?

Ben:                01:51          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Starr:              01:52          Sure.

Josh:               01:52          Katelyn and I have been watching Seinfeld, re-watching it because she's never seen it. Last night, we were on the episode where Newman learns about Kramer's failed Michigan recycling scheme, where they basically like take the bottles in New York, which are worth 5 cents, and they have to figure out how to work the economics out to truck them to Michigan to get 10 cents. I feel like Ben and I are kind of like Kramer and Newman. Yeah, Logplex on Lambda is kind of like our Michigan recycling scheme.

Josh:               02:31          Well, in the Seinfeld episode, the way they solved the recycling problem was that, Newman works for the U.S. Postal Service, as you know, and on one day of the year, on Mother's Day, the U.S. Postal Service has overflow, they had a fifth overflow mail truck that goes to Michigan. On one day of the year, they could co-op that mail truck and fill it with recycling, and get a free truck which changed the math in their favor.

Ben:                03:05          We need Amazon to provide us a mail truck.

Starr:              03:08          The solution to our economic problems is fraud. That's what you're saying, Josh, isn't that?

Josh:               03:14          Yeah. Amazon does have a truck. What is that truck that you can like move your data center with?

Ben:                03:24          Snowball.

Josh:               03:24          Yeah, Snowball.

Ben:                03:25          Snowball, yeah.

Josh:               03:26          It's like the world's biggest USB drive, right? It's like this semi truck, and it's got a little bit of USB jack on the back of it, and you stick it in your computer.

Ben:                03:34          Yeah. I think our customers and might have some issue with the amount of latency that would introduce.

Josh:               03:38          Yeah.

Ben:                03:39          Oh well.

Josh:               03:40          We just need to find a Newman at Amazon that has access to a Snowball truck, and there you go.

Ben:                03:47          Yeah. You know those Snowballs actually have like an EC2 environment on them? It's pretty wild.

Josh:               03:52          Could take this show on the road.

Starr:              03:56          Oh, man. Today, we have another listener question, and it's from, let's see, I can't find this name on here. Tony. It's from our old friend Tony. Tony asked us another question back a couple of episodes ago, and we answered it, and so we're back for round two. The previous question was all about marketing to developers and stuff like that, and now we're on to customer success around developers. I'll just read it. How about that, instead of me just making stuff up?

Josh:               04:34          Sounds good.

Starr:              04:36          It says, "For an early stage startup in the developer tool space, it's important to talk to customers, get product feedback, build social proof with testimonials and stuff, provide top notch support and love." I like the love part, you know? I like where Tony's coming from. "However, engineers are busy people and do not want to talk to someone," I totally understand that sentiment, "Unless something is broken or if they want to cancel." Yeah. Personally I still don't really want to talk to people.

Josh:               05:06          Yeah.

Ben:                05:06          I was thinking the same thing. I still don't want to talk to someone.

Josh:               05:09          I don't want to talk to someone if I have to cancel.

Starr:              05:11          It says, "I find it especially difficult with new signups that come through Cloud Forecast to get them to engage with us early on, even with qualified leads. What are some approaches that Honeybadger's taken to ensure that potential customers and existing customers are engaging with us, that we know that we have a good feel on the heartbeat of our customers?" How do we do that? How do we do that guys?

Josh:               05:35          I don't know.

Ben:                05:37          I think the story is different where you are in the stage of your business. When you are prelaunch or you just launched, I think it's relatively easy at that point to have good interactions with customers, because typically your customers are people you already know. We've talked about this before, like your first 10 customers. They want to see you succeed. They're participating in what is probably a Beta. They are enduring a buggy product, because they like you and they want you to succeed. They're happy to tell you where things are broken, or things could be better, that sort of thing. If you're that early stage, just reaching out is easy, no matter who your customer segment is, whether it be developers or not. That's probably not what he's talking about here. I think he's probably already got that covered.

Ben:                06:26          It's those customers that come in that you don't know, people show up on your doorstep who don't have any relationship with you. I think that's a tougher nut to crack. I totally agree with you, Starr. Like, I just don't want to talk to people. If I'm trying out your product and it doesn't work for me, I'll probably just go away, rather than talk to you about it. It's an interesting problem to solve, when you have developers as your customers.

Starr:              06:53          Yeah. I just want to say like, we also have had issues with this, right? Yeah. We've got a ton of great loyal customers who we can call up on the phone and they'll talk to us for hours, but you know, when we are trying to engage with people who maybe have just signed up, and they're not maybe making it through our funnel and we're trying to figure out, okay, what's happening to these people, and we try to reach out to them. A lot of times, we also have trouble with that, right?

Josh:               07:24          Yeah, that's tough.

Starr:              07:25          Didn't Ben Findley do something?

Ben:                07:28          Yeah. I think we've tried a number of times to reach out to people, especially who are trialing or who just had their trial expired. The response rate on reaching out to those people is almost zero. They just don't want to engage. I don't know that we have a solution for that, because we still have an almost zero response rate. Then there've been times that we just gave up. Like, "Okay, they're not going to talk to us. We're not even going to try." Yeah, that's a tough one.

Josh:               07:57          Yeah.

Starr:              07:59          Those are the people who haven't reached out to us, because when somebody signs up and they're trying to get our product to work for them, maybe they run into some problem and they contact us. Then, we have a chance to talk to them and figure out what's going on. The people we're specifically talking about are people who just show up, sign up for a thing, and then immediately disappear and never ...

Ben:                08:24          Yeah. I think, Josh, you had something to say on that.

Josh:               08:26          I was just going to say it's hard. Like I think we've talked about trying to bribe them, or at least more seriously try to bribe them, like a $50 gift card or something, or more. That might get some people to reply, but yeah. We haven't gone to those lengths yet.

Ben:                08:46          Well, we do bribe them. We do have the T-shirt offer that you started.

Josh:               08:50          Yeah. I bribe people with swag, but that's like a $10 bribe, versus like, if it's actual cash money, that's a little different.

Ben:                08:59          It works.

Josh:               08:59          It does, it works.

Starr:              09:00          Tell us about the T-shirt swag thing.

Josh:               09:03          Well, the T-shirt offer is something we send to trial users during onboarding, so people who have signed up who are currently using Honeybadger or trialing Honeybadger, because we don't want to offer it to just every single person who comes and creates an account. Because like Ben said, I think some people are just kicking the tires or checking. They create an account and go away immediately. We send this email after they have created a project in Honeybadger and actually reported an error to us, which means that we know that they've actually installed and they're engaged in the trial. We know they've gone through the hardest part, which is installing our code, which actually means they have to go and physically make some changes in their application and deploy it.

Josh:               09:56          After we know that they're at least committed to that level, we send them an email and it offers them a free T-shirt if they go and add their payment information early in the trial, versus waiting until the end. We've had a pretty good response rate on that. I think it's been around, maybe, 30, 40% of people have actually converted. Well, actually, I think that might be the response rate, and it might be slightly lower for the conversion rate, but it's pretty good.

Ben:                10:27          Yeah, it's worked out pretty well. We didn't start off with that, right? We came to that over time. That was an experiment at first, where we just did a certain segment of the trialers. Then, you kind of rolled that out as we saw that. Yeah, that was really successful.

Josh:               10:41          Yeah. Well, it started out as an experiment, and it started out just for Ruby trials, because our T-shirts actually said Ruby on the back of them still. It kind of limited us. Like, we didn't want to send Ruby T-shirts to non-Ruby developers. We were like, "Okay, we'll try this on Rubists," which we know is our best segment in general. Yeah. It was an experiment to the point where I literally said, "Hey, I'm trying this weird thing," like in the email, "I'm trying this thing where I send a T-shirt to new trials, if they will add their payment information early." Then I explained, there's no risk, they can still cancel their trial and it's not going to charge them or anything. Yeah, and actually, I haven't changed that copy since. It's still kind of, it's pitched as an experiment, but yeah. It's an experiment that we just left running, and now it's making us money.

Starr:              11:42          Would you call that a weird trick?

Josh:               11:45          I don't know.

Starr:              11:45          Can we say that this show has one weird trick?

Josh:               11:48          One weird trick, that's just to send ...

Ben:                11:52          It's funny that you say that, because I didn't have that thought at all, but at the same time that Josh was talking, he was talking about how this is a trial, and he put that in the message, like, "This is something we're trying out." I think that's part of our approach to not just marketing but also customer success, is being upfront and real with our customers. Like, "Hey, this is what we're doing. Let's see if this works. This is not like a weird trick that we've masterminded, and we're like all these evil genius hackers that are come up with all these awesome things to try and manipulate people."

Ben:                12:27          It's like, "Hey, our email that bills people, that gives them a receipt for their charge, it says at the bottom, "Thanks for supporting us. We're three bootstrap guys, thanks for supporting our business." That's part of our whole messaging, part of who we are. It's not like some charade or something that we've made up. We're being real here.

Josh:               12:50          Yeah. It also gives that message, a similar thank you message, when you install the Gem and your Ruby project too. It outputs it in your console. Like, "Hey, this is who we are."

Starr:              13:03          You know what's funny is that, when I first started doing business-y type things, even when I was in high school on to, I don't know, 10, 15 years ago, before Honeybadger, I was always concerned with looking like a professional, big thing. I didn't want to just use my name. It's like, I had to have a business card printed up with some company name on it, and all that. Now that I have an actual business with you guys, it's just like, "Hey, we're just three fellows. Please be nice to us."

Ben:                13:40          Like, "Yeah, we're just chilling over here, running our business. Hope you like it."

Starr:              13:45          Yeah. The thing is, that sort of honesty and candor is going to meet with people being a little bit nicer to you, I think, unless they are at another big company or whatever. If it's pretty obvious that you're a human being, and you're sending them like real stuff, like you're not just spamming them and whatever, yeah, people are going to be a little bit nice to you. I don't know. I hope this doesn't stop working, because a lot more people are getting into this semi-personalized email marketing B.S., where it's like, everybody's suddenly now like, "Hey, Starr, we're best friends. I've never met you. Now, why don't we have a call about your deepest, darkest thoughts and desires?"

Josh:               14:37          People do seem to know us a lot better than they used to.

Ben:                14:40          Yeah. Well, I think as long as we're not sending out emails saying, "Oh, you must be trapped under a bus because you didn't respond to my email," as long as we don't do that kind of-

Starr:              14:47          Yeah. Oh, you're still pissed about that.

Ben:                14:49          Oh, man, I hate those emails.

Starr:              14:51          This was a cold email that somebody kept escalating.

Ben:                14:53          Yeah.

Starr:              14:54          After you didn't reply, they kept escalating even more dramatic, or something?

Ben:                14:57          Right.

Josh:               14:57          I've heard people advocate this in conference talks. Like, "You can use these tricks to close more sales," and it's bullshit.

Ben:                15:06          I think developers have highly refined B.S. detectors. That works for sales emails, like those that we just talked about, but also for the customer success stuff that we're talking about in this episode. If you're a founder and you are trying to find out, "Why aren't people responding to my emails about their trials," are you being sincere and personal in your outreach, or is it just an automated thing that you just set it and forget it? There's that whole struggle versus, "Well, it doesn't scale," versus, "Do things that don't scale." I think in the early days, and I think where Tony's coming from here is, "I am reaching out individually to these people, and yet they're still not responding. How can I get more responses out of them?"

Ben:                15:52          Assuming that we're at that base level of, yes, you're being genuine and you're being personal and you're being real, I guess from that point then, how do I get more success when I'm not trying to be a sleazebag or as scammer?

Starr:              16:05          When you're trying to convince somebody to do something, it's important to show them how that will benefit them. It may be impossible to do if somebody is a new trial signup, they're not invested in you, they don't really care about you, but if somebody's been using your service for a little while and you want to get a feel on what they're thinking about maybe some new feature, or maybe pain points in your service for them, you can just be like, "I'm writing you because I want to fix things." Like, "I want to make your experience better. You can tell me what you don't like or what you do like, and we'll try and do less or more of that."

Ben:                16:40          Yeah. You reminded me of Kathy Sierra. She said it's about making your customers awesome. It's not about making you awesome as the provider. It's about making your customers awesome.

Starr:              16:50          We're already awesome.

Josh:               16:51          Yeah, we don't need any help.

Ben:                16:56          Your customer is using your product for some end goal, right? There's something they want to accomplish in their lives. They want to be better or do something better. They don't care about your product, they care about them. I think if you focus on them, like you said, Starr, your email is, "Hey, I want to make this better, not because I just want to be better, but because I want to make your life better. Help me help you," kind of thing. I think that that definitely helps grease the skids there.

Josh:               17:22          I usually have Starr edit my copy when I write articles or website copy and stuff. Half the time, his main feedback is just, "Stop talking about us, and rewrite this in terms of you." I try to do that. I try to remember that every time.

Starr:              17:39          That's just my auto-responder. I've got a rule set up in Gmail.

Josh:               17:44          Yeah. No, it's helpful. It's like, you default to talking about yourself, versus talking in terms of the user or the person you're talking to. Yeah, I like to think that I'm starting to default to the other way, a little more often anyway.

Starr:              17:59          One other technique that you can do here is to try and collect user feedback and interact with the users in a way that's maybe not just an email. Maybe you can move that interaction to someplace that's closer to something that your users are actually trying to do. For example, we have a little text box right next to our cancel button. If somebody cancels ... I don't know if they still have to, we had it so that they had to enter in a comment, but it may be optional now. I don't know. Yeah, we get comments, and a lot of the comments are crappy, but some of the comments are actually useful. It helps to keep an eye on, like, why are people canceling?

Josh:               18:38          I want to say it's required because some of the comments are just, like, dot.

Ben:                18:43          Yeah, I think it's still required.

Josh:               18:44          Or, like, "Bye," but some of them have been very good.

Ben:                18:49          Yeah, and we struggle with that, actually. I remember when we first put the cancellation little text box out there, it wasn't required because we hate that as developers. We hate when someone makes us do something, but we got, like, zero responses. People just canceled and nothing. Fine, then we're like, "Okay, well, let's just make it required so we can get something." I think that was a good decision because occasionally we get the useful info about things that could have been better.

Josh:               19:16          I'd say it's more than occasionally. A lot of times, people will at least be willing to tell us that they're switching to a competitor, or if there's a reason. We get competitors' names a fair amount of the time, which is really useful to know. If people are switching to someone else, it's nice to know who. I think the reason that we actually made that compromise, even though we don't like having to fill out those boxes ourselves, is that, it's so important, and that is one of the few places where you can actually make contact with those users before they leave forever. I think we decided, we'd kind of set aside our disgust for that one thing, just because it's so valuable.

Ben:                20:00          Can I reveal the big secret, our number one cancellation reason?

Josh:               20:04          Please.

Starr:              20:04          Sure.

Ben:                20:05          It is, "Business ended."

Josh:               20:07          Yeah.

Starr:              20:09          Oh, damn. You're saying that using Honeybadger makes people go out of business?

Josh:               20:12          Oh, gosh.

Starr:              20:13          We shouldn't put this on the air. One thing I was thinking about, I've been thinking about this for a while, is that, it might actually be good to have a similar form right after somebody signs up, just to try it, just to test it. Like, "What are you trying to do?" It would need to be a little bit more well thought out than that, because we'd get a bunch of smart asses being like, "I want to track errors."

Ben:                20:34          Yeah.

Josh:               20:35          Yeah.

Starr:              20:35          I think we could possibly collect some information there that might be useful, and that might be a decent strategy for Tony or whatever. Just put a form in the signup or onboarding flow.

Josh:               20:48          That would be a good experiment.

Ben:                20:48          Yeah, I think that'd be good. One thing we did try, it wasn't during the onboarding flow, but it was during the normal day-to-day usage of the application. We did try putting up an NPS survey, a net promoter score survey.

Starr:              20:58          What's that?

Ben:                20:59          The NPS is basically a measurement of how much people are satisfied with your product. You've probably seen this out there. It gives you a little pop-up and says, "Would you recommend us to a friend?" There's a scale from, like, one to 10, one being, "No, I hate you," and 10 being, "Yes, I would tell everyone about you." Then, if you answer that, then it asks, "Okay, is there anything we can do better," or whatever. There's a followup question. Some people swear by this, like the NPS is their metric upon which they are paid. Like, marketing people had this as part of their customer sat score or whatever. Anyway, it was kind of a real big rage a couple of years ago, and it's still around.

Ben:                21:43          We had this time where we were like, "Oh, NPS, that's a cool idea. Let's see what our rating is, and let's see how people like us." We put that pop-up on there, and it was useful. People would actually respond. They would interact with it and they would give us a rating. Oftentimes the rating was great, and they would even put in additional comments, and we still have those. Some of them great, you know, like feature requests or whatever, but some people got pretty annoyed by that. They were like, "You know what, you're popping this up in your UI, and I'm just trying to get my job done. Get rid of this thing." I guess there's a balance there you have to strike.

Josh:               22:17          I think that's why we haven't done a ton of Intercom pop-ups either. We have I think one or two, but we don't have some sort of in-app.

Ben:                22:30          Maybe we should do the NPS thing again some time, but not as a pop-up, maybe as an email.

Josh:               22:34          Yeah.

Ben:                22:35          I don't know. It was useful information, but it just got in people's way when it was in the app.

Josh:               22:38          One of the areas that I think that we have talked the most to our customers out of anything, probably by a lot, is support. Our approach to support is, I think, a little bit more hands on than a lot of people do, in that, we are the founders of that company and we are still handling a majority of our support tickets in the business. We have since day one.

Josh:               23:10          I think that's really put us close to a lot of our customers who have contacted us for support issues, because we're also looking towards customer development or product development, so we know the questions to ask, or we know if there's an opportunity to learn something that we're curious about from a customer. It's like, they're right there. We're already talking to them, we're helping them with some maybe small issue, but we can put in, "By the way, what do you think about this?" More often than not, we're already helping them, so they're more likely to respond.

Starr:              23:47          One thing that's interesting is, I noticed that when we switched away from a traditional email ticketing support system and moved over to Intercom, I noticed that the sort of tenor of the conversations with users changed, because Intercom has much more of a chat feel to it. It's not really chat, people don't expect an answer immediately, but I don't know. I felt like we had a lot more discussions as soon as we moved over. I mean, we paid dearly for it. I, for example, have given my firstborn child to Intercom. They're named Intercom now.

Josh:               24:28          Yeah, mine is too.

Starr:              24:30          But you know, well, it might be worth it.

Ben:                24:33          Yeah, definitely, I agree. It did help improve the conversation that we had with the customers, as opposed to just getting a random request or a complaint or something. Like Josh was saying, when someone's on there saying, "Hey, I'm trying you out, I'm a Sentry customer," we'd be like, "Oh, that's interesting. Why try us? What's different enough to make you want to come and try it?" We get that information that we wouldn't get any other way.

Starr:              25:01          I think because the support widget is kind of built into the app itself, like you can just click a link and it pops open a widget, and you type in your requests, I think we get more casual support tickets than we would if it was email.

Josh:               25:19          Sometimes they'll just say, like, "Hi."

Starr:              25:22          Oh, yeah.

Josh:               25:22          Those are my favorite, because I'll reply with, like, a bunch of Emojis or something.

Ben:                25:26          Well, and it's really cool for me, being as agile as we are, being able to turn on a dime, do whatever we want, is when we have a customer who's on chat and they're like, "Oh, I wish you would do this," and be like, "Okay," and an hour later, come back and be like, "Okay, it's done. It's deployed." They're just blown away that we got this feature.

Starr:              25:48          Yeah, you're the master of that, Ben.

Josh:               25:50          Yeah.

Ben:                25:50          I love doing that. It makes me smile.

Starr:              25:52          That's because you've got everything on a branch. We have a little private joke here at Honeybadger that Ben has every possible feature on a branch, and so, all he has to do is merge it and deploy. Because half the time, he does. I don't know how.

Ben:                26:06          It's magic. The thing that I think is really neat, aside from that endorphin rush that you get when you make someone happy like that and they're all excited, that turns into a testimonial. The person is so excited at that point, you've given them such a good experience, that they're keyed, they're primed. They are just super ready to be able to give you a glowing testimonial, and so you ask them. As soon as you're done helping them like that, you say, "Hey, glad you're happy. Could we use that as a testimonial?" Of course they say, "Sure."

Ben:                26:39          Then, it gives you a chance later, you might come back to them later and say, "Oh, we would like to talk to you more about how you use Honeybadger. Could we do a case study, or talk to you more about what you like, what you don't like?" That deposit that you put into their emotional bank account, that happiness that you gave them, it translates into them being more willing to give you some of their time.

Josh:               27:02          Yeah. I think that ties into why I'm thinking, like, customer support is such a good place to get customer feedback or testimonials, or any of that sort of stuff, just because if you are doing it right, you are providing them with a great amount of value. If you can go above and beyond in your support and give them a good feeling and a good response, then like you said, they are primed for helping you in return. People want to reciprocate. I think it's a good place to do that, and I think it's probably overlooked, because a lot of people, support is the first thing they want to automate away so they don't have to do it, but if you just put a support operator on support that is just trained in triage and solving the immediate issue, they're not going to be looking for those opportunities unless you've specifically trained them for that, which I guess you could do, but it'd have to be intentional.

Starr:              28:02          Yeah. I think people can tell when they get a response that is completely tailored to the question they ask, and it's not like a canned response. Recently, I say recently, this is six months, a year ago, I don't know, we did a bunch of interviews. We hired somebody, Shane, to do some interviews. How did we get people to sign up for those? Were those mostly people that we knew through support, or did we send out just a mass email, or what do we do?

Josh:               28:32          I did a customer research project to figure out who we should send those surveys and ask to interview. Actually, the whole idea was kind of a system that Clair from Userist.io had put together and presented at MicroConf. It was basically, she had templates and even like interview questions, and how to conduct the whole survey thing. Basically, what I did in the beginning was, I went through and I did a spreadsheet on some of our top customers based on things like what plans they were on, how much they were paying us per year, what their engagement with various features was, so like, are they using specific features of our app that we consider high-engagement type features. Then, I think I just ranked. Once I got it down to around 200 or so, I just ranked it a little arbitrarily, probably like on top annual spend or something.

Starr:              29:36          Since you did a study to figure out who to contact, what was your goal? Like, who were you trying to select?

Josh:               29:43          I was trying to select, probably like, people that are using Honeybadger the most, so like, the most engaged users. Because I figured, the people that are going to care the most about what we're doing at Honeybadger and maybe helping us out, are the people that are getting the most value out of our product. I just figured I'd find the people that are engaged as much as possible with the features that I'm curious about, and go from there.

Starr:              30:10          Then we had Shane follow up with them, like he did Skype interviews with them?

Josh:               30:18          It was a two-part thing. We did a survey first, and that was to a majority of the users. I took the top 40 users and set them aside for later, and I took the bottom 160, and we sent the survey to them, and so we got some survey responses. Honestly, that was a little tougher, to get people to answer the survey. We got some good responses but it wasn't like 80% of them responding. We did that, and then after the survey, we took the remaining 40 people and we sent a separate email to them, which was like asking them to do an interview with Shane. I think in the email copy, we mentioned that, like, we noticed they're power users and would like to pick their brain about how they use Honeybadger and what they'd like to see us do with it in the future.

Ben:                31:12          When you sent that, did you say, "Hey, we're going to incorporate your feedback into the product," or was there some sort of incentive that you gave for talking to Shane, or just like, "Hey, please talk to Shane?"

Josh:               31:23          I didn't do an incentive. I think we did give T-shirts or some swag to those people, like as a thank you, but I'm pretty sure, I don't think we offered that in the actual email that we sent them. I think it was just, like, "Hey, thanks for doing the interview." I don't know, we might've mentioned it, but yeah. I think it was really just kind of like, it explained who we are and what we're doing and kind of humanized us again, like, "We're a small team, we really could use your input on the product. It's going to make a really big, observable impact. It's not like we're just something big customer success team or something that's just doing a random survey."

Ben:                32:08          We talked a few minutes ago about how these automated emails that are really scammy feeling and stuff, and you can see right through that. I just remembered, there was this one service I signed up for, I don't remember what service it was, but I remember getting the welcome email. It was obviously automated, it was from their system, but it was from the founder, and it said, "Hey. Yes, this is an automated email, but I am excited to hear about whatever your thoughts are about the product. Please, reply to this, and I read all the replies that come to this," or something along those lines. "I read every response."

Ben:                32:46          That, for some reason, connected with me. I was like, "Oh, someone who is telling me he will read my reply." He just gave that. I don't want to say, quote, "That's a great line to use in your emails," close quote, but it worked really well for me that at that time.

Josh:               33:05          It's a great thing to be. If that's who you are, it's a good ...

Starr:              33:08          That also takes the whole interaction away from this idea of, "Wow, I'm doing a big mass emailing, and then I expect you to respond to me," or it's a big campaign. It basically makes opportunities for interaction all over the place. Whenever you send transactional email to somebody, they have the opportunity to reply to that and let you know what they're thinking. It's kind of unusual. Not many places do this. Most places have, like, noreply@whatever.com. I know people reply to our automated emails and we listen to them.

Ben:                33:44          Yeah.

Starr:              33:47          We read them.

Ben:                33:47          We read every one, yes.

Josh:               33:49          Yeah. Well, we get replies to emails that are, like, for our newsletter that we've been sending. I've gotten some pretty good replies every time I send a new article to our newsletter. That's been cool.

Ben:                34:00          Yeah. I wanted to mention one thing on Tony's question. He mentioned building social proof testimonials and case studies. I think the thing that we did early on that I think everyone has to do, I think it's table stakes, is, those first 10 customers, they have to give you testimonials. You have to work with them enough so that they're happy enough that they're happy to give you some sort of endorsement, and then you can just use those forever. We used Mike's testimonial since day one, and we're still using Mike testimonial.

Josh:               34:27          Yeah. Mike's not even a customer anymore, but he's still our top testimonial.

Starr:              34:32          Well, that's because he doesn't really have a big Rails app anymore.

Josh:               34:36          Yeah. I wanted to ask Ben just one thing, going back to, we were talking about maybe testimonials and case studies, but you mentioned the emotional bank account thing.

Ben:                34:51          Yeah, yeah.

Josh:               34:51          Remind me, I know that I read that book. What book was that again?

Ben:                34:55          Man, I don't remember.

Josh:               34:56          You don't remember? Okay.

Ben:                34:56          It could have been John Gottman, the marriage professor from University of Washington.

Josh:               35:01          Okay.

Ben:                35:02          I'm not sure that it was original to him, but yeah. The idea being that every interaction you have with people either causes a credit or a debit to their emotional bank account with you. Yeah.

Josh:               35:11          Yeah, or maybe it was a blog post. Yeah. I remember reading, yeah, whoever originally came up with that. It was really a good way of thinking about it. Because you can make withdrawals, in addition to making deposits.

Ben:                35:26          Right.

Josh:               35:28          Over time, I think that's one thing we've done really well, is, through our customer support and through our customer-driven approach, I feel like we have a pretty good selection of users now, who are even friends, who we have a very high balance with. Maybe that's why now it's a little bit easier to solicit customer feedback or ask for things, because we've created such a good track record of treating our customers well.

Ben:                35:59          I think one thing you can do before the interactions happen, even before someone contacts customer support, is provide a lot of value to them. I know I was shopping for a service recently, and I just started on Google, or DuckDuckGo as we discussed last time. I just searched for the thing that I'm interested in. People showed up in the list, and I started clicking, and one of the providers just had a ton of useful information out there. I grabbed their .pdf, which did not require me to give them an email address to download. When I go to buy that service, they're going to be number one on my list of potential providers.

Ben:                36:36          I think if you're struggling with the idea of, "Yeah, I want to have this awesome relationship with my customers, but they haven't been around long enough to talk to support, or they haven't signed up at all yet," I think leading out with the value, give them something. Whatever your expertise is, share it. That will cause that first credit in their emotional account.

Josh:               37:03          Totally.

Starr:              37:04          Well, I'll tell you what, boys, every time I talk to you guys, my emotional bank account is totally full.

Ben:                37:10          Aww.

Starr:              37:10          Overflowing. Yeah.

Ben:                37:12          That's so nice.

Starr:              37:16          Should we wrap things up?

Ben:                37:17          Sure.

Starr:              37:18          All right. Well, I'll talk to you guys next week then. All right.

Announcer:          37:24          FounderQuest is a weekly podcast by the founders of Honeybadger, zero-instrumentation, 360-degree coverage of errors, outages, and service degradations for your web apps. If you have a web app, you need it. Available at Honeybadger.io.

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