Customer Success is all the rage. In a world where long-term contracts for Enterprise Software are waning, someone (specifically Salesforce colossus Marc Benioff) figured out that the key to a SaaS vendor’s success is in a customer’s success, happiness, and well-being. Helping customers achieve success and happiness with your products or services in their own right, without trying to sell them additional features or an upgrade, ultimately trickles down to an increase in vendor success and revenue. It makes sense, of course: a customer’s success guarantees customer loyalty, organic evangelism, profit, and good times all around.
To be absolutely clear: customer success is not a re-invented term for increased upsell or retention. True customer success stems from the measures a company takes to ensure its customers really do benefit from its products or services as much as they possibly can.
When broken down, customer success factors essentially hinge on the same three factors which promote customer well-being in your SaaS: success metrics, added value, and customer service.
1. Success metrics: churn baby churn!
The most intuitive approach to SaaS business development is to focus on lead generation and acquisition of new customers. However, intuitive strategy doesn’t always correlate with data-based strategy. A certain percentage churn rate will undo all the hard work you’ve put into converting leads to paying customers. Essentially, churn is the silent killer of SaaS growth. It requires your undivided attention. So, how do you go about curing churn?
Actually, you do. You can start by creating a logical process to help you identify, target, engage, and revitalize users in risk of abandonment. Start with user-centric analytics as a base line for understanding who these users are. Define a set of emergency aid metrics for identifying the unhappy customers in your customer base: those with lower engagement over time, a high number of password retrieval attempts, a lack of knowledge base usage, those whose support requests cannot be matched with successful activity, etc.
Once you have pinned down the customers in need of first aid assistance, reach out to them in the most effective way possible.
Tip from a veteran customer of all sorts of services: when a customer is unhappy, the last thing he or she wants to do is answer a worried email from a VP of Customer Service inquiring after customer satisfaction. It’s easy to forget that situations like these are not about the company, but about the customer. So don’t make the customer do work for you! A recommended follow-up would instead offer an exclusive new benefit or super-relevant added value in the form of suggested content or features.
2. Growing customer value
Truly irreplaceable online services aren’t the ones we can’t live without, they’re the ones we can live without, but don’t want to. For example, we need Google’s search algorithm to partake in today’s internet culture, but we want to use Google’s services because they are communicative, fun in a non-superfluous way, and generally give you the feeling that said services are being provided by a dude with a grey flannel hoodie goofing around in your living room, cracking jokes at the expense of some other internet tycoon.
Around the time Dropbox became a household name, file hosting services were on a steep rise. Loads of other file hosting applications were popping up, vying for our attention. Remember CloudMe or TitanFile? That’s probably because their creators didn’t think to design the user interface like an MS Windows file directory, tapping into the widest, collectively familiar UI design. Designing Dropbox to correspond with your average Windows folder display guaranteed it a cozy place on almost everyone’s desktop.
Last, but far from least, MailChimp’s direct mail platform has all sorts of funky features and advantages over competitors, but what invites users to truly connect with this SaaS is that extra something– the feeling that there are people behind the machine. While the ‘coolness’ factor is attractive, knowing that there are actual people active behind an online service fosters a sense of reassurance. There is someone back there; if the software fails me for some reason, they will be there to help out. So, what users really connect to when they respond to added value offered by SaaS applications is the formula:
‘coolness’ factor + sub-conscious reassurance of quality customer service = added value
Growing customer value has a lot to do with context-related content and personalizing the SaaS experience. If you like, consider these Customer Treasures – added value hidden in the core of a SaaS application that enriches one’s customers beyond the basic, functional software service need.
3. Proactive customer service
Then there’s the actual customer service that needs attending. It’s generally agreed that customer service is a determining factor in a SaaS’s success, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what the components stellar customer service are.
The top recommendations for boosting customer service: minimize reasons for customers’ needs for support; around the clock availability; multi-platform and multi-channel availability; and the list goes on. While these are all important tips, none of them nails the solution to the biggest problem on the head: customers don’t want to need customer support. They want their SaaS experience to flow uninterrupted. They want to understand everything from the get-go and don’t want to be distracted. And rightly so. In order to provide that kind of customer service, we would need pre-occurrence customer service. That is, figuring out what they are going to need before they get there and must leave their workflow to seek support.
This kind of software-magic can be achieved through smart segmentation of analytics: deciphering user activity patterns in light of the applications’ entire user-base. Google Analytics can help start with the tracking, but in order to uncover the full map of user behavior across your platform, you may need more powerful tools. If you can’t spare the programing hours to develop those algorithms, consider one of the customer success solutions out there.
To proactively recognize customer needs, you need to monitor and segment the following metrics:
- Login frequency over time
- Completion of micro-conversions in the application
- Support usage (knowledgebase and direct support requests)
- Direct mail engagement (opening rates and click through rates)
- Content engagement (regularity of content download/reading from website)
You may have noticed these 3 verticals are also the core of securing success for your SaaS application: keep your users engaged. Cure churn, grow customer value and do what needs to be done to keep your customers from being distracted from their activity in your SaaS. The rest is about providing a phenomenal service and exceptional content.
“What are you doing to engage your SaaS users?” It’s the key question every SaaS company owner asks themselves. What are the customer success factors that make a SaaS application soar? Is it the content? The fantabulous customer service? Or something else entirely?