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37signals Advocacy business

Customer service, not Ruby on Rails

The secret of 37signals’s success.

Among developers, 37signals has achieved a cult following for giving us web applications like Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire, and the Ruby on Rails platform. But the real secret of their success is as old fashioned as your great grandfather’s Victrola. It’s customer service.

We opened a HighRise account to manage our A List Apart author contacts and then didn’t use the account for whatever reason.

This morning I cancelled my account with two clicks of a button.

The messaging clearly explained that canceling the account would mean losing the contacts, and provided an opportunity to rethink the decision.

When I chose to go ahead with the cancellation, it happened instantly, and I was taken to this page, which reassured me that the account was closed and that I would stop receiving product-related emails. Smart. I was instantly satisfied and had no more questions. How often does that happen when closing, say, a phone or cable or internet account?

The page also offered me the opportunity to try another 37signals product or to provide customer feedback in a survey. If I had quit using the product because of dissatisfaction with it, I would have been able to use the survey to tell 37signals everything I disliked about my experience. If I liked the product but found it wasn’t right for me for whatever reason, I could tell them that (which could help them focus on their core audience’s needs).

All smart, businesslike, and yet inoffensive and un-pushy.

37signals not only constantly fine-tunes their products, they also think about the customer experience even when the customer is leaving.

I find that instructive, educational, and inspiring.

Disclaimer: Jason Fried is my friend, and I do business with 37signals through The Deck advertising network, so I’m not impartial. Just impressed.

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hi! I’m a principal designer at Automattic, Inc. Also: Publisher and founder, A List Apart “for people who make websites.” Publisher and co-founder, A Book Apart—brief books for people who design, write, and code. Co-founder and co-host, An Event Apart UX & front-end conference. Faculty, MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts, NYC. Host, The Big Web Show. Have written two books, notably ”Designing With Web Standards,“ currently in its 3rd Edition, and, on last count, translated into 15 languages and used as a text in 85 universities.