Don’t Confuse Your Success for Customer Success

Data is awesome. Scientists have known this for a while now, but now we have Big Data, which some are going so far as to call a “Natural Resource” – watching a site like Growth Hackers only confirms that we are more interested in our data, and what it can tell us, than ever before.

This is a cautionary post. I love Google Analytics. I take great pride in being a part of a data-informed company, and I think solid data analysis and the drawing of insights from that analysis has a place in any modern business.

That part we can all agree on. That part is easy.


What I want to distinguish here is the difference between your success as a company, and the success of your customer. It is harder to focus on customer success when your data provides actionable insight that could trade their success for yours. I don’t mean to preach to you which one you should prefer: I’m a pragmatist, I can appreciate that sometimes to keep the doors open you have to make compromises. I’d encourage you to be honest with yourself, and simply recognize when you’re acting for your customer, and when you’re acting for yourself.

Maybe some examples would help illustrate what I mean.

  • Pop-up ads were gone for a while – remember? But now they’re back. Visually disruptive ad campaigns are the easiest example in this category. They may lead to more clicks, to additional ad revenue, but they are clearly not leading your customers to success. They are on your site to engage with your content and your products – obscuring those things with an external (or internal!) ad is putting your success ahead of theirs, plainly.
  • Opt-out or cancellation buttons and screens that include passive aggressive or semi-threatening language are becoming popular – “I don’t want to maximize my income.” “Leaving now may leave you at risk!” – these are, again, plainly putting a win for the company ahead of a win for the customer. You may minimize loss, but you’re not only putting aside hospitality, you’re being a bit of a bully. url
  • A/B Testing is a huge part of growth engineering and data collection. A button placed differently, a header image removed or altered, testing adjustments to see what converts, what leads to more traffic. Try to construct your A/B tests with customer success in mind. Their success is not usually tied as closely to conversions and page views – I can’t tell you what their success looks like, but they sure can!
  • When defining your Goals in a tool like Google Analytics, the same sort of thinking applies: yes, knowing the path your customers take to the final purchase confirmation page is important, but it is also worth considering the (much larger) group that does not convert. Identifying where they drop off, and using a tool like Qualaroo to find out why they leave, would help focus on their success.

Keep collecting data. Keep drawing actionable insights from it, but remember: the data doesn’t tell the whole story. Additional conversions, decreasing customer churn, these may look great on a quarterly spreadsheet, but you need to dig deeper to see if they are really giving your customers the best experience they can have.

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