Four Basic Principles for Systematizing SaaS Customer Success
We've heard it before: "Customer success is a function of every department. Customer success can't exist in a silo. Customer success is everyone's job..." But what is SaaS customer success really all about? What does this mean in practical terms? What does a customer-centric company really look like?
Let's tackle this big question.
Here are four basic principles of SaaS customer success:
1. BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.
If you wait for a customer to contact your company, it’s support—the opposite of success. And support issues are like cockroaches. An investment in saas customer success means sharing learnings across departments and changing actions based on building a stronger relationship with customers.
Continually work toward getting the experience right up front, rather than reacting to a comment or complaint after the fact.
Building a process around what to do with feedback, including how and when to share it with your product, marketing, and sales teams, is the difference between developing a cycle of feedback loops on which you can grow, adapt, and become proactive, versus living in a constant reactive state.
“Be aware of what a customer is going through at any given point, and break those points into chunks. Make sure someone is touching those all the time.” -Jeff Vincent
To elaborate, from the first contact through the marketing, sales, and onboarding funnels, your customer is going through a wide range of experiences. Various emotions, questions, fears, and excitement arise. Levels of familiarity with the product, service, and knowledge base increase and evolve.
Therefore, as you focus on SaaS customer success, it becomes your job to address all of these things in the right time, in the right way. “Activation” isn’t the end of the line - it’s where the real work starts. And that truly is a function of every department.
2. FOSTER EMPATHY
There comes a point when the sale is closed, and a customer takes the leap to hire your product to help them solve a particular problem. Empathize with that! Don’t allow yourself to become so desensitized that the acquisition of customers becomes something binary. These are people, putting trust in you.
Identify places in your process where a customer is taking a leap, even if the value isn’t 100% clear to them yet. This is where you need to reciprocate and show them you understand their fears, and offer relief.
Obviously the level of risk they’re taking varies greatly depending on the product/service you’re providing, the price point, and the impact on their businesses/lives. Recognize this and reciprocate appropriately.
The purpose of onboarding is to acknowledge that your customer has just made an investment, and help them make sure that investment doesn’t go to waste.
That may take several touch points and conversations. This is an incredibly important time to pay close attention to customers’ questions, fears, excitements, confusion, reluctance, etc.
3. BE DATA-DRIVEN.
Whether tracking data or listening in on conversations, it’s imperative to have some method for tracking your SaaS customer success strategies. One of the best places to start is to look closely at your best customers and identify successful behaviors that can be encouraged and repeated with other, less successful customers. Build systems around increasing these behaviors, and measure efforts for success.
4. INCLUDE EVERY DEPARTMENT IN CUSTOMER-FACING CONSIDERATIONS.
This means having a process for confirming that all decisions made throughout the organization enhance customer goals and intentions. Marketing needs to consider messaging and expectation-setting as closely as design and development optimize UX. There needs to be consistency in tone, messaging, and experiences throughout the lifecycle.
Keep everyone customer focused, even if they’re not customer-facing.
THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THIS IS WISTIA’S “RALLY CONCEPT”, WHICH MAKES SAAS CUSTOMER SUCCESS A GIVEN, NOT AN AFTERTHOUGHT:
“Rally’s” are a vision for a better future product. The team focuses narrowly on a particular feature set or aspect of the business that they want to improve, and define why it will benefit the customer in a big way. Then the whole team is challenged to come up with ideas to achieve that future state. They prune the ideas and hone in on just those that provide the most potential for that future ‘value.’
This isn’t a quick process, taking place over several months, and it requires that the entire team be aligned. But the key takeaway is unmistakable. The entire team gets behind a clearly defined future goal/vision, with achievable, measurable steps, and a clear focus on the customer benefit at the root of it all.