Peek inside HubSpot’s customer-centric strategy: how to build a customer-obsessed culture  

Q&A with Michal Redbord, General Manager, Service Hub at Hubspot

Previously we have shared how you can build a customer experience management processes in your company. We continue diving into the secrets of the most successful tech companies and this time we talked with Michael Redbord, General Manager, at Hubspot Service Hub about how HubSpot does things, their failures, successes and the most common practices. 

Michael started at HubSpot, when they were slightly less than a hundred people (now HubSpot employs more than 2000!).  During the last 10 years HubSpot has gone far in building a truly customer-centric culture, a fantastic product and the community, that many love and are proud to be a part of. 

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Chapter 1: Everyone and everything is customer experience.

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It’s simple. Customer-centricity is one of the core values of HubSpot.  

Customer experience touches every aspect of company’s work including the back-office functions: HR, legal and finance. 

"At the end of the day, everything, that you do inside a company, creates some effect outside the company.”- concludes Michael. 

You might want to check the culture book of HubSpot, as it just concludes and confirmed customer-centricity from the operations deep inside. What the recruiters are looking for in every potential new HubSpot team member are two things: if they are result-oriented and customer-obsessed. . It’s summarized with a very precise idea: “For every decision we should ask ourselves: what’s in it for the customer?”  

Chapter 2: Revenue and growth is a function of happy customers.

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“Most companies aim to grow with some financial metrics. The philosophy, that we developed over the years, is that revenue and growth is a function of happy customers. It’s not about selling or upselling but delivering exceptional value.”  

HubSpot realized that when a customer starts using the software, there has already been a long journey to this point from initial discovery, blog articles or marketing and sales e-mails. Getting a user profile is not the day #1 of HubSpot for that customer, it might be the day 30 or 100 of their customer experience. 

If you're inspired by HubSpot, you might want to check our upcoming webinar next week to find out how to spread customer-centric practices in your company.

Chapter 3: Understand the power of Net Promoter.

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For the company, measuring customer success at each customer touchpoint is crucial. If you use HubSpot, you would know this immediately. As an active user of HubSpot you would deal with on average one customer survey per week about a variety of new features (which are released extremely often) or about customer support.  

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the metric #1 when it comes to Customer Experience Management at HubSpot (here’s why you might also want to implement NPS), yet Customer Effort Score (CES) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) are frequently used as well. The NPS is also what the whole company aims to improve all the time. “We're trying to improve our NPS target constantly. We are working incredibly hard against it, but the number is not the focus.  

We are setting goals to improve NPS for this product by 10 points this year as it's effective and motivating people… even if we all know, that the pursuit of the number is not really going where we want to end up.” 

If it’s not the number, then what should you measure? 

"The number I think is useful, but I can’t act on a number. Somebody gives me a six, okay. Then somebody gives me a two. Then somebody gives me a ten. I don’t know what to do with a number. All of the value in actually improving a given customer’s experience, or even understanding in aggregate, what customers think of our experience is from the written feedback.” 

Chapter 4: Act. Right now!

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For HubSpot, it’s crucial to act on customer feedback as soon as they receive it. Customer feedback on customer support-related touchpoints is 98% of the time very positive. The key is to capture the other 2% and to correct, remediate the experience. "If a real person sends an email and asks what went wrong - customers are very happy to share their feedback in detail" 

Despite capturing customer feedback from the individual touchpoints, HubSpot collects customer feedback to measure the overall customer journey.  

“We follow up as much as possible after we receive customer feedback. At the same time, we are a little more careful than just sending emails to everybody. I think not every NPS response warrants a conversation if the nature of the conversation is delicate. I believe that you have to be careful with how you handle survey feedback and it should always a human being who is going to do it.” 

If a person identifies that they don’t want to be responded to, would the feedback be ignored? Not in HubSpot. The company addresses all the feedback in strategic and long-term planning and development. 

"If you got feedback from a customer and they took time to give it to you and then you go work with them to improve that thing that they didn’t like, that’s it – you’ve just improved the customer experience. Like there is some magic in there, they told you a thing and then you worked on the thing and it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. In the moment for that one customer you already improved customer experience. The best way to improve the experience is just to action it, whenever you can. All other forms of analysis and kind of longitudinal stuff are important in the long term. You can actually get a ton of value in the near term, just by picking up the phone, the right person with the right context, having the right interaction…" 

Chapter 5: Approach promoters and detractors differently.

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Getting your customer to respond to the survey is just a beginning. Period. 

HubSpot aims to approach both detractors and promoters and address their feedback. "We actually would do some pretty extraordinary things, whenever we can. If the CEO sees the comment… CEO doesn’t care that it’s not part of your job to do a certain thing – you just do it. Right? NPS has this trump card effect, it causes people to do things they might not otherwise do."  

At HubSpot, the team focuses a lot on segmentation of promoters and detractors. What are the themes of their comments? Who is going to answer those comments? How long have they been a customer? What products do they own? Are they from a certain country? Or do they speak a certain language, whatever that is? Answering these questions helps to improve the life not only of that one particular user, but the user journey for that customer segment. Creating user stories helps to identify the key problems for the accounts and the team is ready to address the issues and improve the journey. 

Although, the company puts more effort in communicating with detractors, promoters are not left alone. "Some of them we’ll reach out to, because they have specific positive feedback and we are like – this is so awesome. Like we are going to print out your comment and put it on the wall and that makes them happy and it engages in the conversation and lets them know their feedback is being heard. I believe that that kind of stuff improves your response rate, which is important.” 

NPS helps HubSpot to identify the real advocates of the brand.  Those are the people who participate in case studies, reference calls or simply tell their friends, or colleagues about HubSpot.  

How does HubSpot identify their advocates? ”We don’t automate this stuff, because it’s too sensitive, too important and it’s valuable to have a real conversation. It could be like "Hey, I saw that piece of feedback you gave, that was awesome. So glad you really liked the experience, did you know that we have this program where you can get some stuff from us and we can get some stuff from you and it’s like give-give relationship, are you interested?" If they are, then we invite them to the group. Some people are more active than others, but basically those advocates are incredibly valuable for our business. 

I do think that our advocacy program is a bit of a secret weapon. And we believe that word of mouth, social proof and what your friends and colleagues think is probably more important than what a company’s marketing department says, what their blog says, what their own case studies say. Advocacy for us, is capable of doing things that we are not.” 

Chapter 6: Scaling your company, scale your customer experience management.

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 HubSpot has been growing tremendously fast during the last years. When Michael started in 2010, HubSpot was a scaling startup with over 80 employees. Many functions were still mixed and since then the company has become much more structured. The company has gone from hiring one customer support representative a month to hiring 20+. Things changed, yet customers remained loyal. 

How? "The thing we did wisely without knowing it is that when we were smaller, we really worked on the human elements, so we focused on recruiting, we focused on culture, we focused on shared knowledge. All those things made a huge difference on our ability to scale. Many are seeing benefit to use more systems and things like machine learning and more sophisticated technologies. For us the foundation of all is really the people, our employees and customers, and a very human approach.” 

Conclusion. 

Many companies have forgotten they sell to actual people. Humans care about the entire experience, not just marketing or sales or service. To really win in the modern age, you must solve for humans. Every process should be optimized for what is best for the customer—not your organization.
— Dharmesh Shah, Co-founder of HubSpot

HubSpot is an amazing example of how a company grew relying on their customers. 

Human interactions and approach is what differentiated HubSpot since the creation and continues doing so now.

 It could definitely teach us that the power of the human connection shouldn’t be “that one thing that we do when we have time” but an essential part of the business strategy.