What we’ve learned about customer success including the danger of bad-fit customers.

Last updated on June 13th, 2023

Pardeep Kullar
Pardeep Kullar

What does customer success practically mean for a startup like Upscope? Below
are key lessons learned when applying customer success practices.


Upscope is a co-browsing service (think
screen sharing but instant, one way and without downloads) and is used by
customer support and sales teams who support customers using live chat and

Identify bad-fit customers early

What is a bad-fit customer?

See Lincoln Murphy’s
definition below.

A customer should be considered a Bad Fit when you cannot deliver immediate
value, nor can you — based on where you’re at today, your available resources,
etc. — realistically deliver future value in the required timeframe for these

Bad-fit customers cost you money, time and even product vision

For Upscope, bad-fit customers are people who signed up to trial the product,
they might even pay for it for a couple of months but inevitably they’ll
unsubscribe because they did not really need it for the long term.

It’s time badly spent for both sides

We educate them on how to install and use the product but they don’t really
need it. They may find that out quickly or they might find out in a few months
but inevitably they’ll cancel.

They distort our conversion stats because they’re false positives

They’re harmful because they mess up our analytics and conversion stats.

They suggest that we have a market in an area but we don’t.

For example, if someone signs up for Upscope to use on a website with just a
simple landing page and one input box for someone’s email, we know they’ll
churn. They have no need for a co-browsing product that is made to guide
customers through a web app.

They’re a temptation

Bad-fit customers are a short term temptation that always sours. They’re
immediate and identifiable revenue. It’s very easy to sign them up and say
‘Hey, look, we are closer to our target’ but when they cancel it’s just

The root of all evil

It’s also possible, if we fool ourselves about the real long term truth and
value of a customer, that it will impact every decision and lead to ups and
downs that have nothing to do with the core product.

In fact, it will suck time away from good clients.

Yes, not being honest about who uses your product, why and whether they
achieve the success they came for, is the root of all evil in a startup like

Email them and call them because they’re not doing what you think

We actively call people to specifically talk about their problem after they
sign up. No sales bullshit, just an absolute focus on their problem so that we
can document it and understand it further.

We add that to a spreadsheet and review it every once in a while at meetings.

Why did this become so important?

People don’t use the product for what we thought they would.

We based Upscope on our own initial needs of basic customer problem solving
e.g. ‘Which field should I select to upload this file’ or ‘why is my search
not working’. It takes far too long to ask 5 questions to get to the root of
the problem when a quick look at their screen solves the problem.

However, it turned out that after we spoke to customers, many were using it
for onboarding their customers
which is one part problem fixing and one part
actual guidance. In fact, some customers had full time support staff guiding
all new users through the site.

It helped identify bad-fit customers. When a customer is not sure why they’ve
taken it up it’s not a great sign. While some of them do learn how to use it
effectively and did have a need for it, many simply did not need it.

People like talking about their problems, they don’t like sales calls

Companies vary. Some people at some companies are OK with receiving a call.

The Brits differ from the Americans on this. Brits don’t like to talk as much
on the phone and Americans are more likely to say ‘Lets jump on a call’.
That’s not universally true but certainly in relative terms it is.

What is quite universally true is that, once they realise it’s not a call to
push a sale, everyone is happy to talk about their own problems and give
guidance about what they want.

Most will ignore the call

I get calls several times a day from numbers I don’t recognise and I know from
experience that they’re nonsense. 9/10 people will ignore any phone call they
get but that 1 in 10 is gold when they have time to talk.

NPS surveys work

Personally, while I understood the value of NPS surveys, I thought we might
get false positives from the few that do like the product.

Instead, we got feedback from important customers and they were honest about
how they felt.

They gave us a rating out of 10 and when someone put 7/10 and explained why it
was not a 9 or 10, they were damn right. Upscope was not working properly on
their site. We did not know or were not fully aware that it was a technical
problem that we had not considered.

Related: See all of Upscope’s onboarding

Also see: Why our customer success manager removed a discount that

Pardeep Kullar
Pardeep Kullar

Pardeep overlooks growth at Upscope and loves writing about SaaS companies, customer success and customer experience.