6 Customer Success Takeaways from SaaStock 2018

Sandra Pender
Oct. 19th, 2018

It was November 2015, team Akita was attending a SaaS meetup at Intercom HQ in Dublin, and co-founder of SaaScribe Alex Theuma let the crowd in on a little secret: he was planning a brand new conference for the SaaS community.

Fast forward three years and SaaStock is the biggest event of its kind in Europe, attracting over 3,000 attendees from 50 countries and Alex is as committed to his vision as ever.

And here we are at SaaStock 2018. Team Akita, once again among our SaaS friends, learning from one another, swapping emails and swag, and generally having a grand auld time in the RDS. We caught as many of the 120+ sessions as we could, naturally gravitating to the customer-focused speakers, and it has us all, e-hem fired up.

If this is all giving you a bad case of FOMO, fear not! We've put together our Customer Success takeaways from SaaStock 2018, so you can get fired up too.

6 Customer Success Takeaways from SaaStock 2018

1. Customers First, Then Success

During one of the sessions for startups, Michael Litt talked at length about the culture he has carefully cultivated as Co-founder & CEO of Vidyard. As part of this discussion, he shared his list of priorities, counting them off on his fingers for emphasis:

  1. Customers
  2. Employees
  3. Community
  4. Shareholders

Wondering how his shareholders feel about this? Michael says that they know they come last and they are happy about it because if he looks after items 1-3, success will come and his shareholders will be happy.

2. Keep It Positive

Like many other customer-facing roles, being a Customer Success Manager can be stressful. For some, they also have the added pressure of having to convince management, peers, and perhaps even their customers of the value of what they are doing.

Dave Blake, CEO of ClientSuccess gave a talk on the "Five Biggest Mistakes in Customer Success" in which he pointed out the tendencies of CSMs to be "fixated on the negatives". To hammer home his point, Dave presented a slide with two words on it–Negative Churn and asked the audience – "Why don't we say Positive Growth?".

Another positivity fan is David Darmanin, CEO of Hotjar. In his talk about the rocky road of bootstrapping his business, David touched on the topic of retention, stating that "at Hotjar we think of it as a retention opportunity, not a churn problem."

3. Be Honest with Your Customers (And Don't Be Afraid to Be Vulnerable).

One of my favorite talks was from Alison Morris of Honey. As the Co-founder and VP of Customer Experience, she has built her company while having to handle some serious f**kups (as she called them). One such incident threatened their relationship with an important Honey customer. Alison described how she wrote them an 8 paragraph response, apologizing of course but also explaining what had happened and owning the whole mess. That customer is not only still using Honey but is one of their most influential advocates.

"The strongest, most valuable customer relationships are rooted in vulnerability and honesty."
– Alison Morris, Co-founder & VP of Customer Experience, Honey

4. Collect Customer Feedback and Act on It.

Clay Smith
CEO and Co-founder of Akita

Our founder Clay Smith stressed the crucial role of customer feedback in the success of Akita. In an unusually candid talk for such events (see #3 above), Clay shared the story of our company in his session entitled "How I bootstrapped my company from $0 to $50 in MRR in just four years". One of the most important contributors to our startup traction was the insight we got from listening to our customers and prospective customers.

Another Co-founder who understands this is Hannah Chaplin, CEO of Receptive. Hannah's advice was to build a feedback library, not just a feature request list. In this way, you'll be able to refer to it again and again as you take on new projects in different areas of your business.

5. Build Your Company Culture on Values and Build Very Deliberately

Over the course of SaaStock 2018, many talks touched on the topic of company culture. At a pre-conference event in Zendesk HQ, Senior Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Khalida Ali asserted that "Culture won't happen on its own, and if it does, it can be problematic".

As the conference continued, so too did the discussions on culture and values. In Boaz Arbel's talk on the topic, he shared his experience of running the Customer Success team at Logz.io. I'll leave you with this gem:

“Values are so important–especially at times of crisis. If you own the values, you will probably make the right call.”
– Boaz Arbel, VP Customer Success, Logz.io

6. Be Friends with Your Competitors

This takeaway comes from our personal experience at the conference, rather than the content of a talk. We met with some of our competitors for the very first time during SaaStock. It was a real pleasure to meet them all and share some stories about the challenges of our industry.

At Akita, rather than worrying about the competition, we prefer to concentrate more on the needs of the customer and have no problem recommending another CS solution if we feel it is a better fit for them. If you'd like to read more on this topic, Sujan Patel has a great article on "Why You Should Be Friends with Your Competition".


We'd like to extend a big thank you to our customers–those we met with at SaaStock and those elsewhere–who are literally the best customers in the SaaS universe.

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