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Real customer success goes beyond the free trial

Director of Customer Success and Support, Moz

Nick Sayers

@nlsayers

When you’re focused on growth, it’s not unusual to dote on your trial customers in hopes they will convert. However, it’s a mistake to assume that just because a customer’s paying you, they’ve got it all figured out.

What follows is a guest post from Nick Sayers, Director of Customer Success and Support at Moz, a provider of SEO software, as well as other tools and resources to improve marketing. He writes about how using Intercom transformed Moz’s support team (that’s them pictured above) into a true customer success powerhouse.


The Customer Success team at Moz is all about helping our hundreds of thousands of marketing customers succeed with our tools, content, and community, and to learn what makes them happy. Customer success here differs from Sales, Account Management, and Support in that we focus on proactively creating better customers. This increases their lifetime with Moz and gives them a fun experience with our brand. We’re more about education and less about creating dependent relationships that don’t scale.

As we built out the CS team we ran into a few problems. We knew chatting with customers on their first day helped them move from our free trial to being paid customers, and we knew sending a follow-up email with their unique data impacted this conversion rate even more. The problem was we relied on two different systems to send messages to customers, and there was little consistency between them. To make things worse, we had no insight into customer usage or demographics, and had no ability to target folks.

We looked at many solutions but most required a steep implementation or were just as fractured as using too many tools.

In the end we went with Intercom for three key reasons:

  • an elegant way to talk to people within the app
  • email and chat abilities, and
  • lightweight CRM features we could use to target customers

Bonus: Intercom also allows our Product team to gather feedback on features, and our Marketing team to transition some of their communications to take advantage of Intercom’s custom event triggers.

Free trial period: proactive onboarding reduces churn

Intercom was the first way we onboarded people beyond their free trial period. Getting a good flow with triggers, email check-ins, and in-app conversations was crucial to our success. The team brainstormed and used customer feedback to create a flow based on actions we felt a customer could take to show they are “onboarded.” Our engineers set up triggers to send to Intercom, and we created messaging to guide these users to certain actions. For instance:

Our success with email outreach pushed us to find a scalable way to target people in the free trial. Matt Peters and his data science team analyzed users in the free trial and defined what a “qualified user” looks like with a demographic score. The demographic score takes information about email domains and previous relationships with Moz and predicts if customers are qualified or not. Next, Matt built a tool to asses risk score, based on how well someone is or isn’t using Moz’s tools. We used the lists of highly qualified users that had risky usage for another email test.

The analysis for reaching out to risky users wasn’t initially what we were expecting: the free trial impact was slightly negative. Once we took a closer look at the results, though, we saw that retention rates in later months for users who interacted with the Success Team were higher than the control group. Users who vested after building a relationship with us were more likely to stay through their first month. These results pushed us to develop a retention score so we could continue finding risky users at any stage in their life cycle.

Beyond the free trial: targeted touch points increase relationship duration

It was never our attention to focus only on the free trial period. So we started talking to customers in our Non-Loyal cohort (months 1-3). This gave customers a chance to ask questions, explore data, and give feedback.

More than a quarter of our customers responded, and we were able to follow up with those giving us neutral or unhappy faces. We also discovered that a lot of our non-trial customers asked the same questions as folks in the free trial, suggesting one month isn’t enough time to onboard someone.

The combination of free trial and Non-Loyal outreach has yielded extremely promising results and proves the Customer Success Team does keep customers with Moz longer. Customers who engage with our team retain at a much higher rate than customers in the no-touch control group.

As these customers roll through their life cycles with Moz, a continued relationship with the team keeps them with Moz longer. We are now going to develop outreach for the remaining cohorts, Loyal and Lifer. Improving customer retention rates will be essential to continuing growing the Search product.

Reducing response time by 65%, aka “Intercom has spoiled our new customers”

Before Intercom we used five separate platforms to chat with new users, provide support, send onboarding emails, message them in our app, and target people for these communications. This was “normal” for the team. We were constantly switching context and tools to support our customers. We had really never realized how much time we wasted with channel fatigue until we switched to Intercom. Now we use it for support, outreach, targeting, and surveying our customers.

Honestly, it has spoiled our new customers with a great way to get a hold of us and a consistent way to receive onboarding messages. That’s what we want: an amazing experience with our success and support interactions.

Scaling all these channels into one platform not only made us more elegant with our interactions, it actually helped save the team a lot of time talking to customers. Before Intercom, we’d have ~2700 interactions a month and a median response time of 13 hours. After we consolidated support in one platform, Intercom, and channel switching was eliminated, we were able to talk to more customers (~3000) as well as reduce our median first response time to 4.5 hours.