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The Milestones of the Recurring Revenue Customer Journey 

Last week, we published a blog post in which Susan Nabeth Moore explored how Customer Success has changed the traditional Marketing and Sales revenue funnel and the way we conceive of the customer journey. 

This week, Susan takes us for a brief trip through the main macro milestones of the “recurring revenue boomerang” customer journey. 

DEMAND 

Awareness 

Potential customers need to know WHY they should invest. They will be aware that your innovative product promises to solve pain points, facilitate achieving business objectives or obtain business gains by doing existing tasks in an optimised manner. Potential customers will also be aware of the impact of not investing in your product. 

At this stage of the journey, marketing teams do a great job generating, nurturing and qualifying potentially successful customers with a product-people fit. Potential customers are now pretty savvy about your product and those of your competitors. This matching of the potential successful customer and raising awareness of the gains from your product is an essential first step in orientating the rest of the customer journey on the right trajectory. It’s like that sporty kid “Maid Marian of Boomerangs” putting on an amazing spin! 

Consideration 

Now that the customer is aware of potential gains, they desire to move forward and consider themselves in the future state, savouring the benefits and related operational considerations. 

Marketing teams work in relay with sales at this point qualifying and nurturing potential customers to take them the next step forward. 

Trial 

The customer’s desire to find out more encourages them to obtain pragmatic knowledge on HOW your product meets the promise. A trial period usually creates the “wow” effect and gives an initial glimpse of what future gains and potential ROI could look like. Here the customer appreciates more the practical “How to do” relating to your product. 

Sales teams play a key role in having the customer define what are the expected outcomes for a successful trial. In certain organisations, customer success teams may also participate, e.g. in a POC (proof of concept). 

Decision and Contract 

After a conclusive trial where expected pre-requisites are met, sales teams convince the customer of the gains in closing the contract and determine the further “How to Do”and “How to Be”. These include a projection into a future vision of how the product fits into the organisation, processes, methodology, tool landscape and roles and responsibilities of impacted actors. It also engages customer sponsorship and management buy-in, defining what success means and how progress towards that vision of success will be measured. For that, measurable key performance indicators will be defined. 

Sales and customer success teams work in relay to ensure that the customer context, vision of success and expected outcomes are clearly defined. To keep to our metaphor, the well-spun boomerang has now started to gain momentum on its outbound course. 

TURNAROUND 

Adoption 

Customer “on-boarding” is the stage where adoption of the product should be firmly anchored. 

Adoption is one of the biggest challenges in recurring revenue models. It impacts directly each individual user at their different speeds of changing their usual reflexes and routines. Swift initial adoption by all users will help ensure a smoother boomerang return for both customers and vendors. At this stage and in addition to the usual excitement, it’s here when the first hands-on impression is engraved. This will often leave a lasting emotional perception, even influencing subconsciously the later decision to renew the subscription. 

Customer success teams play a vital role in partnering customers to help maximise adoption and generate added value. Customer management buy-in and engagement is key. Relevant and measurable adoption indicators are defined, measured, and celebrated. Our happy boomerang has now made a U-turn and is at the beginning of the return journey, symbolic of initial returns. 

EXPAND 

Performance 

While each impacted individual adopts the product at their own pace, they’re all now up to speed rowing together in the same boat and “cruising” at a rate of knots where initial business wins can be celebrated as a team. 

Key performance indicators have been previously defined, implemented and are now measured. 

Customer success teams partner their customers to continually optimise their potential of boosting business performance. Added value performance stimulates the customer’s desire to expand current investment and/or purchase new offers. For that, customer success teams relay with sales and marketing, according to the organisation, processes and roles. Our boomerang is now gathering excited momentum on its return journey. 

Transformation 

At the transformation milestone, customers are now “sailing”. 

They use your product as a reflex in a “business as usual” like manner. The product has most probably become sticky in their processes and methodologies as full gains and ROI are now proved and increasing. The contract renewal will just be a formality and the customer will most likely wish to buy more of the same or try new packages. 

Customer success teams work in relay with sales and marketing to keep the customer sailing at high speed with their business transformation. 

Our boomerang is now on it’s advanced success return trajectory, enjoying all the benefits of its flight path. 

BOOMERANG 

Advocacy 

Your customers are now successful and have achieved their expected outcomes, so they not only wish to buy more or even invest in new packages but they also genuinely want to tell the world all about it. They have become natural advocates of your product, services and company and are “surfing” on the waves of their success. Their whole boomerang experience has turned them into becoming the best sales agents you could ever wish for. Customer advocacy, of course, can happen at any time of the journey in different forms (e.g. word of mouth referrals, reviews, business cases, participation in events, testimonials, NPS…) and as soon as the customer is thrilled and successful enough to want to spread the word. 

Peer advocacy is worth gold. It not only creates credibility and legitimacy with potential prospects but according to McKinsey studies, peer word of mouth generates more than 2X the sales generated by marketing and advertising. The cherry on the cake, according to research by Deloitte, customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate. 

Customer success teams partner advocates and relay with marketing and sales teams (depending on the organisation and processes) for advocacy programmes. 

So now the boomerang has come full circle gathering on its trajectory all the health and wealth benefits for both customers and vendors. 

In the recurring revenue model, the challenge is to proactively ensure the boomerang keeps a healthy flight path and is not grounded after collision with other boomerangs or self-flying objects or destabilised by external forces: churn is the cruel and costly curse of the recurring revenue boomerang! 

As in all good sports, the competition continues and the boomerang will be thrown again to generate further win-win returns. As in all good fairy tales, all the “Merry Men” live happily and successfully ever after… 

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The “Recurring Revenue Boomerang” and the Customer Success Journey

Customer Success Blog France: http://customer-success.fr/en/category/roi-and-performance 

Click here to view the recurring revenue “boomerang” customer journey

Once upon a time, in the heart of England near to Sherwood Forest, we kid “gamers” (no consoles then) would spend our time in outdoor adventures. With the kids on the block we’d invent new games, role plays and mini Olympics and we’d be recognised for our success. I was proud to be crowned “Maid Marian of Boomerangs”! I was fascinated by the deft of my boomerang whizzing through the air and spinning right back into my hands. It was magic and rewarding! The trick was mastering how to launch enough spin and orientation to ensure the boomerang would keep coming back gracefully into my hands. 

Now that I’m all grown-up (well, in age at least), I’m pleased to be involved in yet another kind of “boomerang” activity, now more commonly known in business as “customer success”. Let’s face it, the role of the “boomerang team” would have sounded a little strange, don’t you think? 

My enclosed infographic (above) revisits the traditional marketing and sales revenue funnel metaphor with what I have called the “recurring revenue boomerang”. In traditional funnel depictions, as soon as the bottom of the spout is reached, i.e. when the contract is signed, this is usually considered the end of the journey. To compare to my childhood pastime, it’s a bit like my bosom pal “Robin Hood of Arrows” meeting his bulls eye targets! 

In those days of bows and arrows, a customer implementing a solution had to spend a huge amount of money for the implementation phase and had to keep it several years, irrespective of the success because the investment (software acquisition cost) was huge. Now in the recurring revenue model, there is no more upfront cost. A customer can easily decide to opt out of using a solution early if it is not giving returns. 

In a recurring revenue model, the contract signature is just a part of the way through the customer journey. The customer experience starts right from the outset of their interaction with your company and continues across their on-going journey with your product, company and internal teams. While customers continually gain business value from their renewed investment, vendors increase their customer life time value (CLTV). 

Research shows that loyal customers are worth ten times their first transaction value and it’s 65% easier to sell to them than first-timers. As my infographic shows, gained life time value is a recurring process where both customer and vendor benefit in a business win-win relationship of health and wealth: 

Demand ‘n’ Turnaround, Expand ‘n’ Boomerang! 

The recurring revenue boomerang maps the typical macro milestones of the customer journey and which vary in name and granularity depending on the organisation. The revenue boomerang also shows the role of the customer success team in the vendor relay to partner the customer with their expected business outcomes, create loyalty and generate health and wealth for both customer and vendor alike. 

The left arm of the boomerang (demand and turnaround) illustrates the typical macro “hunter” funnel relay activities between marketing and sales teams. The right arm illustrates the “farmer” type activities of the customer success team in relay with sales and marketing teams to reinforce expansion and the boomerang effect of returned gains! 

The product team covers the whole customer journey. While this team may not be directly client facing, they are the innovative backbone of all team relay interactions: client feedback and requests, user product experience, competitor benchmarking, market listening, product advisory council etc. It’s simple, no product innovation and the boomerang will plummet straight to the ground with a great big plump! The financial team is depicted from the signature onwards. In the recurring revenue model, depending on the agreed payment frequency and organisation, this team also works in seamless harmony with customer success and/or sales teams. 

So what do we mean by customer success? Whilst the role of customer success may be perceived differently across countries, sectors, company sizes and business models, it is about vendors partnering customers to deliver a customer life time experience of business value and ROI to continually meet current and future expected outcomes. For positive returns and a boomerang effect, this is the result of vendor top down strategy, mindset and committed synergy between all company roles: marketing, sales, product, finance and customer success teams. This latter population is the name given to the actors who partner the client after contract signature to achieve their expected outcomes. 

Depending on the company size, organisation, maturity and product implementation complexity, customer success can include several actors fulfilling different roles and names (professional services, delivery, support, on-boarding teams, account management, education, support, renewal teams, customer success…). To simplify my recurring revenue boomerang illustration, I have used the term customer success team to envelope all of the above. 

For the customer to be successful and the boomerang to come full circle with returns, customer success starts right from the journey outset, when the boomerang is thrown with eagle-eye precision. 

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From RIO Olympic Success to ROI Customer Success… 

I’ve always been a sports fan and with the Olympic Games in Rio just starting, I’m excited to admire the performances of these great sports men and women. Whilst we watch the games as they’re televised around the world, let’s keep in mind the incredible determination and daily routines of practice, dedication and passion with which these sports people have prepared their ticket to success. 

As we know, the Olympics were invented by the ancient Greeks and according to written records around 776 BCE. The modern Olympics were revived by a French aristocrat, Coubertin in 1896 following his concern about the lack of sportiness at that time of the French boules-playing population. 

I’m glad that 120 years later, his concerns and investment have now truly paid off despite the fact that “boules” is not yet an official Olympic discipline! For those interested, you may lobby for their introduction in the 2024 Games! 

The games have evolved since 1896 admitting more disciplines, more countries and even women! Female participants were first allowed to compete in the Paris games in 1900 where just 2% of participants were women compared to 44% in the 2012 London games. 

Whilst the individual stellar performances have always captivated our imagination (Mark Spitz, Mohamed Ali, 

Nadia Comaneci, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to name but a few), team sports earn our admiration for the magical synergy and euphoria of collective performance. The RIO games for example will see Rugby 7 for the first time. For those nations not familiar with the game (my US friends I’m impressed to also see you have a team in RIO), rugby is a passionate team game with core values comprised of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. Basically, it’s 2 opposing teams (usually 15 aside) each running forward in opposite directions throwing backwards a squashed shaped ball. The aim is to run across the boundary line, dive on the ball and gain points (try), often squashing the ball even more. The winning team is the one with the most points, boosted with throws through a post (penalty) after doing a hen-like impersonation! (Johnny Wilkinson we love you!). Humour aside, rugby demonstrates the epitomy of team work and collective performance. 

By the way, it was invented by the Brits

Customer Success, Adoption and Performance 

Although customer success has not yet been admitted as an Olympic discipline, the values it encourages in partnership with customers have all the ingredients: customer future vision of success, an expected business performance outcome, a plan of how to get there, discipline and determination to adopt new routines, behaviours and processes and of course the celebration of success stories. 

As part of my approach to business transformations and for which customer success has an active role, I have coined the concept of A.M.P.M. This time, inspiration comes from the ancient Romans: A.M. meaning, ante meridiem (in other words before noon or morning if you prefer) and P.M., meaning post meridiem (afternoon for short). I have revamped the original Roman phrasing with the Anglo-Saxon term: 

Adoption Measurement and Performance Measurement. 

The underlying idea is that in any transformation where greater performance is the expected outcome (whether in business or sports or whatever…) we simply can’t just come out tops and nail it without first putting in all the adoption effort. So the saying goes, no pain, no gain! Naturally by the laws of science, we have never seen the afternoon come before the morning, right? 

So whichever solution or service is being used to help achieve a determined greater business performance (however that may be defined), first a top-down plan of disciplined preparation and adoption needs to be implemented, controlled and measured. The RIO games participants have been carrying out such plans on a daily basis with blood, sweat and tears since the last London games in 2012. 

A.M.P.M. Indicator Examples 

The A.M.P.M. approach can be applied to any solution or service and implies defining adoption and performance indicators. 

Adoption indicators are considered as the pre-requisite measurements to control that the path for the desired outcome necessary for success is being paved. This often implies new routines, reflexes and adaptations to organisation and processes. It’s no longer a question of doing business as usual but moving out of a known comfort zone. For sports people today, this can correspond to measuring the evolution or maintenance of their physical form, aptitude and mental state, e.g. number of practice hours per day, amount of sleep, number of kilos gained or lost in weight, etc… For ancient Greek athletes (they were all male by the way), this also meant keeping their bodies in great shape to show off their magnificent muscles to their opponents as an indicator of superiority and intimidation! 

Performance indicators measure the improvement in expected outcomes as they are achieved. For sports people, this is for example the reduction in seconds for track races, the number of goals scored or medals won, the number of world records broken, or the number of squashed ball tries for our rugby friends! The ROI of sports efforts and investment is palpable. 

The table below shows just some non-exhaustive examples of A.M.P.M indicators which can typically be used to measure adoption and performance in a business context where CRM solutions are deployed. Depending on the context, solution type and expected business outcomes, the A.M.P.M. indicators are adapted. The ROI of solutions can then be more easily measured thanks to the analysis of the performance measurements. 

Team Performance 

Whilst vision (dream of future performance) and determination (adoption needed to get there) is admirable for an individual sports person, when applying to a team, the effort is multiplied and accentuated by the added difficulty of getting everyone in sync. As we saw during the Euro football championship in France this summer, although there is often great individual talent, if the team as a whole is out of sync, then collective success is not au rendez-vous! 

The A.M.P.M. can be applied to business team efforts and performance and it is interesting to detect any weak links which could potentially put collective performance at risk. Corresponding action plans can then be anticipated and addressed. 

These A.M.P.M. indicators are of course just measurements. The real impetus for fabulous team performance comes from top-down management: sharing the vision of success, knowing how to drive a plan and create collective momentum to sustain the adoption activities which pave the way for team success. 

To exemplify all this and to light up our Olympic flame, you’ll love the following short video and music* (5 mins). Although it’s a few years old, it makes a tribute to some all-time great sports men and women who have demonstrated the A.M.P.M. approach in the pursuit of their dreams for success. Sadly, Michael Schumacher has since been seriously injured and Lance Armstrong has demonstrated that non integrity never pays. This is a shame considering his fight to combat illness. On a brighter side, the video makes a final poignant tribute to Pelé, a very fitting Brazilian example of a stellar performer to nicely kick off the RIO games. 

Enjoy and just imagine what would happen if each one of us displayed this kind of passion – everyday! 

I dedicate this blog to all the RIO games participants as well as to all those embracing their next business transformation challenges. So A.M.P.M to you all and may the best sports performers earn their place on the RIO podium and the best business transformers on the ROI podium! 

Just as a last minute inspiration from The Greatest : 

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”  Mohamed Ali 

Que comecem os jogos no Rio de janeiro ! 

View here the 5 minute video  : Everyday – Sports Champions Inpirational Video. 

*If you’re wondering what’s the wonderful music: Vangelis–1942 Conquest of Paradise Theme (Christopher Colombus) 1992 Ridley Scott film 

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Customer Success of Things (CSoT) – Part 1 – Some Definitions

What Do We Mean By Customer Success ? 

Before we dig further into some common CSoT themes, a definition of customer success is fitting. The notion of customer success has different interpretations and maturity levels depending on countries, sectors, markets and company sizes. The role of customer success for example is quite different in a large enterprise organisation than in a start-up. There is however a common goal: 

To fulfil the evolutive expected outcomes of customers through their multi-directional interactions around your company. 

Customer success is a mindset and a series of on-going processes and interactions. A customer’s needs, expected outcomes and context at the beginning of their customer journey may change after contract signature or within the licence period. Proactive listening, observation and engagement is necessary to identify health and risk to ensure your solution and company services are constantly providing added value and adapting to signs of change. Customer success thrives on multi-directional positive engagement and communication: 

1) Vendors towards customers 

2) Customers towards vendors 

3) Vendor customers between themselves 

4) Vendor customers in exchange with other third parties (peers, prospects, stakeholders, competitors,…) 

This CSoT series of posts will share some thoughts on customer success themes. The first one below continues the above definition: 

“Customer Success” – Term With a Double Meaning 

When On-Demand and SaaS first started (Salesforce.com being one of the pioneers), they observed that to retain client subscriptions it was necessary to proactively engage with customers to help them become successful with your company and solution. So they created the notion of “customer success teams”. 

Customer Success Teams 

The customer success team is commonly known as the group of actors who relay, usually after contract signature (though not always) to continue to proactively partner customers to achieve their expected outcomes. The foundations for success have already been laid early in the sales cycle by the marketing/business development/sales teams. The customer success team now continues the customer engagement and provision of added value over the whole duration of the licence period until renewal and beyond. Depending on organisations, renewal is also included as part of the role of the customer success team. 

So whilst there is a group of people called “customer success team” dedicated to the contractual health and wealth of the customer, other teams have also played their part in the “customer success journey”. 

This brings us to the second more holistic notion of customer success. 

Customer Success – Company DNA and Global Objective 

It has transpired that customer success is not about a team of people trying to please customers and reduce churn. The term “customer success” is a holistic cross-functional objective and responsibility. This means that across the entire customer journey, every single actor has a customer success role to play with clearly defined responsibilities. A customer success mindset is in the DNA of the vendor company running throughout the whole organisation, e.g. 

  • Management to define the customer success vision, objectives and tempo 
  • R&D to evolve the product according to customer input and market needs 
  • Marketing to prospect ideal customers + personas with success potential 
  • Sales to close and prepare customers ready for on-boarding to success 
  • Customer success teams to provide proactive engagement and added value 
  • Support to provide rapid and pertinent replies to customer queries 
  • Etc… 

All teams play a customer success role as customers progress across their journeys to achieve repeated success. For this holistic view of customer success, this often means that existing internal roles are revisited so that each player has clear objectives, responsibilities and engagement aims at each stage of the customer journey. In the recurring revenue model, the post contractual growth potential is so considerable that the traditional notion of pre-sales and post-sales activity is revisited. This necessarily impacts the internal organisation, responsibilities and internal relays. 

Conclusion 

There are 2 notions around the term “customer success”: 

  • Customer success organisation = holistic responsibility and objective of the whole organisation to ensure the success potential and achievement of its customers as they move across the customer journey. 
  • Customer success team = group of actors (usually after the initial contract but sometimes before) responsible for proactively partnering customers to reach their evolutive expected outcomes. 

For this internal relay of actors across the customer journey, check out the boomerang recurring revenue flight. 

Thanks for taking interest in this post. I look forward to joining you soon to exchange further thoughts in the “CSoT”series – Blog du Customer Success 

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Common SaaS Change Management Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

 

User Adoption is key to any software product’s success. Internal teams and customers are more likely to adopt shiny, new software if they feel supported throughout the process. 

Failure to establish these key User Adoption principles early on is common when it comes to new software installation. After all, change is never as easy as we’d like it to be! Not to mention, humans have this fun little tendency to procrastinate on the things that don’t bring immediate reward (or pain). Customer Success teams are quite literally designed to help organizations prepare a Change Management plan and avoid a lot of the headaches mentioned in this article. 

In order to avoid common SaaS change management mistakes, it’s important to first understand what they are.  

Mistake No. 1: Failing to clearly define your success and goals

Not clearly defining success and goals is one of the most common mistakes made in SaaS organization. This can be easily avoided by creating a clear, measurable vision of your success 1, 3, 5, 10+ years into the future. This will help ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page and knows what is expected of them.  

 

Having a clear goal will also help keep the project on track and prevent it from becoming derailed by last-minute changes. 

Think business success, not technical success. 

Mistake No. 2: Failing to assign ownership and accountability at every level of the organization

Did you know that supervisors and managers are the biggest drivers of User Adoption? It’s true that Change Management in software development projects works best in a collaborative environment. However, it’s important to have dedicated team members who shoulder the responsibility for managing the installation of the new product, and its use down the road. These team members will be responsible for tracking all changes, and documenting and communicating goal progress to all stakeholders.  

Once you cascade the ownership through your leaders, change will trickle throughout the organization, impacting day-to-day work practices. 

Mistake No. 3: Focusing on getting to Go Live instead of what happens AFTER Go Live

Most Change Management disasters occur when organizations fail to identify and proactively manage change over the long term (long before the Go Live and well past the initial deployment). This is a great example of how NOT to have happy, supported teams and clients. Organizations might accidentally focus solely on getting to the Go Live stage for their new software.  

 

While this is definitely an important milestone, it’s also crucial to have a plan in place for what happens AFTER the Go Live. This includes establishing procedures for ongoing maintenance and support to keep the ship afloat, if you will.  

Mistake No. 4: Failing to conduct a gap analysis and develop effective UA strategy

A gap analysis is the key to developing an effective strategy, roadmap and adoption plan. By identifying the differences between your current state and your desired future state, you can develop a plan that will bridge the gap and help you achieve your goals. Identifying and solving this will make or break the process. User Adoption cannot be an afterthought. 

Once you’ve conducted a gap analysis, you’ll need to develop a strategy for how you’re going to close the gap. This should include a roadmap that outlines the steps you’ll need to take to get from your current state to your desired future state. Usually, this complex step is led by a Change Management team.  

In conclusion, User Adoption is key to any software product’s success. To get the most out of your IT investments, make sure that end users can incorporate new technology into their daily work practices and sustain proper use over time.  

So, the goal here is to quickly and accurately decode the biggest SaaS Change Management Mistakes in the game and employ powerful tried-and-true strategies to avoid them. Eliminating these barriers is the first step to supporting the people who will be using your product. 

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Top 10 Secret Techniques of Onboarding for SaaS

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Top 10 Secret Techniques of Onboarding for SaaS

This is a guest post from our friend Jafar Sadhik at SmartKarrot

For a SaaS business, merely selling services or software is not enough. Customers have to find value in your offering, something that is not often easy. Imagine you are installing an expensive analytics setup and not knowing how to read the data in there! Be it a subscription model or a freemium one (where the customer gets a free trial window), you have to ensure that their user experience is mind-blowing.

From the first click, they must feel they will achieve their desired outcome if they use your service. This is where onboarding steps in, and especially in SaaS, onboarding can be everything.
So, how to give an impressive onboarding experience that will provide maximum value to the customer? Here are ten onboarding best practices that will drive customer success, and yours, too!

1. Make it a natural fit

The best success for you is when using your product becomes a habit for the user. But while your product seems easy for you, for the customer, it’s a strange thing. You must make it easy to use, understand and figure out for them in the least possible time amid their busy everyday schedule.

So, follow up. Everyone will have some initial hiccups in figuring out the process. This is the time to see what level of navigational handholding they require and be there to provide the same – call them, go on video, send demo videos, be there till using your product comes naturally to them. This will help build customer trust and establish an early relationship with them.

2. Give them a learning curve

Let them ease into your product. Some customers shy away from asking questions. Educate them gently – send them information about the latest trends, updates, and other news linked to your service/product. Provide them with easy tips and tricks – hacks – that make the user feel good.

The idea is to make the customer feel they have discovered something by themselves, giving them a sense of accomplishment. Online demos, webinars work well here. Let them know you are available for further discussions on the same.

3. Customize touchpoints and segment access

Diversifying your product’s access to various teams across an organization is an easier way to help everyone get familiar with all the aspects and features of your service/software. The other thing is to give different touchpoints for different customers.

For instance, your primary plan can have a tech-led onboarding, and a higher plan can afford them video tutorials and complex enterprise customers. With multiple users, you can opt for level-up direct interactions. Within the organization, you can give different access to the social media team, sales team, etc.

4. Have a grip on user behavior

Access it, track it. Monitor each customer’s user pattern, and zero in on their successes and challenges. An onboarding can go on for up to a year in complex cases, and it helps to know where exactly the customer is getting stuck and what kind of solutions you need to offer them.

Filling in their failings, replacing them with success will enhance their user experience, and they’ll get the value they are seeking from your service.

5. Share success stories

Everyone loves a story with a good ending. So, instead of sharing case studies, build success stories and narrate them with flair. It will demonstrate your expertise to your user, enabling them to trust you and know you are doing the right thing.

Contextualize the customer success case studies with the current customer’s problems and show how you helped them all find a solution. Selling stories over features always works at the empathy level, which is essential for long-term customer relationships.

6. Create and regularly update user manuals

Sometimes, all a customer needs is a guidebook to help him understand the basic idea behind your product. New users often find the Q&A Quora type of content easy to grasp. Add tips, screenshots and buttons pop around essential features so that the user can read them automatically when he hovers over them.

7. Set up goals for their successes

One of the easiest tricks to make onboarding fun and an exciting challenge for a customer is to tie it to a set of time-bound goals for them to in the future.

Show them how they would be achieving their desired outcomes right through their usage journey – let them see their future growth and success in using your service.

8. Get feedback from those who bounced

A slightly embarrassing task, but a necessary one, nevertheless. This will give you insights into why those customers didn’t convert, their pain points, and why they dropped off. Call them, do a quick email survey, or ask them outright. Find out and fix the problem. Tweak the plan, the software, the website design, if you must. 

9. Encourage communication

Sometimes, people aren’t willing to call and explain, and they’re embarrassed to expose their limitations. Put them at ease by maintaining an open flow of communication. Don’t rush them through onboarding.

Wait for them to understand your software/service/product.  Encouraging feedback and collecting user-generated ideas for product enhancement will go a long way in giving you your business success. If many say they’re looking for something particular, implement it.

10. Humanize the software

Unlike what every SaaS CRM thinks, explaining software features aren’t the best-selling point of successful onboarding. It’s the customers’ feelings. Tap into it, and you have your and their success.

Make it a point to make them feel privileged – send personal welcome notes, thank them for choosing you, introduce the men behind the software, share their stories. Make them feel connected to you at an emotional, human level, and all the above points will automatically flow into each other.

To sum up

Customers are human beings at the end of the day, and they like simple interactions, communications, love, and care during and after the onboarding. We like to add the prefix ‘demanding’ to customers each time they ask for more user-friendly touch points and experience, but all they ask is they be treated like the human beings they are.

For every SaaS business, onboarding is the most crucial phase of the customer journey. Deliver what you promised in your sales pitches and marketing jargon. Clear his doubts and apprehensions as early as possible, and you’ll have an emotionally secure, happy customer who’s ready to forge a long-term relationship with you and help your business thrive, too!

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Customer Success – Sowing the Seeds for Mutual Growth

While the role of customer success is not new, it has rapidly become mainstream as companies now recognize its contribution to business growth. According to Jason Lemkin, “Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is”. This has catapulted customer success from the status of churn buster to a double agent growth harvester: for customers and suppliers. To use the plant metaphor, there are key elements that ensure sustained growth: light, love and care, water, temperature, nutrients. Based on these, below are some essential seeds that best-in-class customer success groups have sown to ensure sustainable mutual growth.

 “Light”: Enlightening Joint-Accountability

While “customer success management” is a functional role, customer success is a company-wide strategy where success is a two-sided coin: value for the customer and for the supplier. There is a co-dependent relationship where suppliers have created holistic customer journeys that engage customers throughout their lifecycle to collaborate towards shared success:

  1. Acknowledging that success or failure is inextricably linked.  
  2. Defining mutual success goals: for customers and suppliers.
  3. Creating joint-accountability agreements to maximize shared success.

Like in all blooming relationships, it takes two to tango.

“Love and care”: Closing the Business Outcomes Divide!

Helping customers achieve business outcomes with products is not about the technology but more about the people that use it. The key is to build the capacity of the customer’s people to adopt technology in a way that creates value for them, e.g. increased productivity, increased revenues etc. Until that happens, there will always be customers that fail. Success is achieved via:

  1. Providing enablement programs that move people out of comfort zones.
  2. Focusing on the human side of software: adoption, change management and value.
  3. Providing expertise in the domain in which the product is used.
  4. Empowering customers to drive their own success. 

“Water”: Soaking up Customer Intelligence

Customer intelligence is essential to empower customers to grow. Companies are collecting customer data insights from multiple sources (marketing, sales, product, customer success, support, technical content) combined with AI to proactively predict which customers have risks and opportunities. These insights are hydrating products, services and content to continually nurture customers for sustained growth. Indeed, data is to customer success what water is to flowers!

 “Temperature”: Measuring Scaled Customer Experience

Related to the data is the permanent quest to measure the temperature of customer experience (CX). While customer success locks business outcomes, CX locks customer sentiment. According to Forrester, 72% of companies are improving CX as their top priority. 

B2B companies are making efforts to replicate the CX “wow” experiences practiced in B2C by humanizing 1-many automation, e.g.  via customer portals, communities and adding personal touches along the customer journey based on data insights. Enabling customers with the right level of knowledge at the right time is becoming recognised as key to providing the right level of experience

 “Nutrients”: Adjusting Customer Success and CX Nutrients

To conclude, stellar customer success is never set in stone. Agility is key in finding the balance in evolving CS/CX nutrients to nurture changing customer needs. This involves all functions of the company actively listening to their customers and creating iterations to test and adjust the delivery of products and services based on evolving insights.It is like nurturing and caring for plants that will grow and flourish forever in an ecosystem of healthy dependence. Indeed, the sown seeds of customer success have now grown into a thriving forest of mutualistic abundance. Like in nature, mutual success is all connected!

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Increase Customer Success with Equivalent Metrics

Developing equivalent metrics is essential for getting people to adopt your software! People and organizations are obsessed with data and metrics to “prove” results.

Countless hours and dollars are wasted, identifying and collecting data. Yet this potentially valuable information is typically ignored, misinterpreted, or worse yet, only used to justify previous (bad) decisions!

What is the point of having data and metrics if you don’t use them to make better decisions and take action?

https://youtu.be/T__QUTZILRQ

Metrics Need to Change Behavior

The goal of data and metrics is to gather evidence, develop insights, and then take meaningful action that delivers a better result. Quite simply, there should be a direct link between receiving data and changing our behavior. Yet this rarely happens. And it needs to change.

A Better Approach: Equivalent Metrics Insights From Changes to Food Labeling

We all know that food labels are required to list calories and nutritional information. In the US, restaurant menus are required to list this information. The idea is that by giving consumers additional data, they can make better-informed choices and develop healthier eating behaviors.

Yet, how many of us look at this information? Out of those of us who do look at it, how many of us make better, healthier choices because of it?

The reality is that even when metrics are clear, the implications and linked behaviors are not. This is the problem.

PACE Yourself with Equivalent Metrics!

A study from Loughborough University and reported in The Telegraph has shown initial evidence that changing the metrics and labels can have a positive impact on behavior change. The researchers found that labeling food with Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) (equivalent metrics), that is, specifying the equivalent required activity to burn off the calories consumed in each food item, resulted in fewer calories being consumed.

Customer Success Equivalent Metrics
PACE Metrics Data Source: The Telegraph

More clearly, by clearly showing people how long they would need to walk, run, or swim to burn off the calories from each food option, people made healthier choices and consumed fewer calories!

According to the telegraph, “They predicted that the system could shave up to around 200 calories per person every day if applied widely, the equivalent of around a can and a half of Coca Cola.”

Is this the Secret to Success?

Can it be this simple? Is the issue that the metrics we have used for years to show success to our users and customers are just meaningless? Do they not drive people to take better actions? Is the secret not coming up with more metrics, but rather sharing more meaningful equivalent metrics?

Perhaps the metrics we have relied on for years – with limited success – were just not understood by our audience. Maybe they need to be explained in more precise, meaningful, actionable terms to get people to make better choices and take the desired action.

Extra Effort to Process Meaningless Metrics

For example, before PACE, if you were thinking about having a can of Coke, you would see the number of calories per serving on the label. If you want to do something with this information, you need to do a lot of mental math. You would need to ask yourself things like:

  1. How many calories per serving?
  2. What is the number of servings in this container?
  3. How many actual calories will I consume if I drink this entire Coke?
  4. Is that a lot of calories?
  5. How many other calories am I consuming today?
  6. If I decide to drink this Coke, how will I work off (via exercise) these extra calories?
  7. How many miles will I need to walk/run/swim to get rid of them? ?And let’s be honest, how many of us know this off the top of our head?
  8. How much time will it take me to walk/run/swim these calories away?
  9. Do I want to put in this extra time getting rid of these calories?
  10. If I decide to drink this coke, will I devote the time to get rid of these calories, or am I OK with getting fat?
  11. How much time will I spend obsessing about my weight and getting mad at myself for consuming too many calories?
  12. Finally, am I going to drink this Coke, or will I find a healthier alternative?

When you consider how many of us suffer from time-poverty and already have too many things taking up our mental energy, you can see where having to do this mental math for everything we eat becomes exhausting.

Streamlined Thinking

Instead, with PACE labeling, our thought process is more like:

  1. I see from the label that this Coke contains 420 calories, and that means I will need to spend an extra 1 hour and 15 minutes walking or 42 minutes running to get rid of these extra calories.
  2. Do I want to spend this much extra time exercising, or do I want to find a healthier alternative?

Just from this shortlist, you can see the beauty and simplicity of PACE labeling.

The Magic of Equivalent Metrics to Drive Action

The beauty and simplicity of PACE is that it converts complex and arguably meaningless (at least to most people) data into a simple, easy to understand “equivalent.”

Equivalents are simply a great way to help people easily understand the implications of their actions, so they can quickly make better choices. Equivalents make life easier.

They eliminate a lot of required thinking. They remove a lot of guesswork. And who doesn’t want an easier life?

The Power of Impact (“Feel Good”) Equivalent Metrics

Not all metrics and equivalents need to make it easier to decide which action to take. There is also tremendous power in highlight impact, or “Feel Good” equivalents, to help increase your commitment and satisfaction with previous decisions. This is especially important in the subscription economy when people will only continue to renew and recommend your product or service if they feel they are getting great value from it.

A Simple Example of Feel Good Equivalent Metrics

For example, a few years ago, we purchased solar panels for our home. They are up there now and have an estimated 20+ year useful life. This investment is a sunk cost for us, and even without any sort of metrics to show the impact they are having, we will not be uninstalling them any time soon. Still, the solar company has a monitoring site. It displays a real-time, searchable dashboard that shows us how many kilowatts it is producing and the total number of kilowatt-hours it has produced.

While it is nice to validate the system is working, these numbers are meaningless to me.

Customer Success Equivalent Metrics
Example: Real-Time Solar Performance Metrics

However, the system also displays the “Environmental Savings.” These are a series of feel-good metrics that converts the number of kilowatts produced into meaningful equivalents like:

  • Miles not driven
  • Gasoline not used
  • Coal not burned
  • Crude oil not used
  • Mature trees grown
  • Pounds of garbage recycled
Customer Success Equivalent Metrics
Real-Time Solar Performance Metrics

These equivalent metrics are significant to me. These not only make me feel good about my buying decision, but they also inspire me to advocate for the benefits of solar panels to others. They provide me with evidence I can share that might influence others to buy in the future.

So, what does all this mean for software buyers and sellers?

Apply This Insight (to Increase User Adoption & Customer Success)

If you are buying software, you probably are looking for a variety of metrics. You want:

  • Data that helps you forecast the benefits you can realistically expect to receive from implementing software
  • Metrics that show the actual usage and the specific value that you received from the software
  • Data to justify your purchase decision and make you look good to your boss and others in your organization
  • Metrics to help you take action to increase adoption and get more value in the future

If you are selling software or managing renewals, you want this data to help inform your customers.

You want equivalent metrics to demonstrate your specific impact and value to your internal organization. This is critical for justifying your salary and advancing your career.

Yet So Many SaaS Vendors Still Get it Wrong!

Despite the value in having meaningful equivalent metrics, many software vendors are still just quickly pulling together raw data, without any effort to translate it into meaningful equivalents.

Sure, the vendors may format the data into a pretty chart or graph, but it is not typically not delivered in a way that helps customers quickly make meaning from it.

The vendor is not speaking the language of the customer.

Example: Software Vendor Not Communicating Their Impact on the Customer

Not long ago, I was helping an organization improve its customer success processes. They had a compelling technical integration product that eliminated tons of manual data entry, removed a lot of keystrokes, prevented double or triple entry of transactions into multiple systems, and improved data quality by reducing errors and ensuring consistency across various applications. They had a great tool that delivered a lot of value to the customers.

But my client didn’t tell their customers about the clear impact the product had on the customer’s business.

Instead, my client periodically reported just a single number of transactions processed that period.

The metrics the vendors provided were essentially meaningless. Their customers had no idea the value they were getting!

Your Customers will Tell you What is Meaningful

The fascinating part is my client had collected numerous customer testimonials, including many video testimonials. When I reviewed these testimonials, there were countless examples of the customer talking about the value and impact they received, in a way that was incredibly meaningful to them.

While my client only shared transaction data and metrics, their customers reported useful equivalent metrics and examples of the value they received. The customer reported metrics like:

  • Hours of work eliminated
  • Number of FTE staff members they did not need to hire
  • Increase in volume of transactions they could process in a day
  • Hours not spent fixing data quality errors
  • Increase in sales growth and product shipments, with no increase in staff
  • Improved productivity from reallocating internal development resources from fixing mistakes to instead focusing on new development projects

The lesson here is that as a vendor, you need to communicate easily understood and quickly actioned information, in a way that is meaningful and helpful to your customers!

6 Steps to Develop Great Equivalent Metrics

So, how do you move forward with building out significant equivalents? Here are a few simple steps.

1. Listen to Your customers about what is Meaningful to Them

Your equivalents need to be stated in terms that are meaningful to your customer. With our solar panels, they used environmental factors. With the software company, the metrics were related to time, staff allocation, and revenue growth.

A good tip here is to listen to the language your customers use, and then come up with something meaningful here.

Listen carefully to the questions they ask during the sales and renewal process. Comb through your testimonials and look at the exact words they use. Where are they focusing their comments and reviews? Start there. 

2. Identify “Action” Equivalent Metrics and “Feel Good” Equivalent Metrics

You want a mix of both.

For action equivalent metrics, like walking or running in the PACE example, identify the specific actions you would want someone to take as a result of reviewing the metric. Then develop a meaningful equivalent that is clear and concise to get someone to take this action.

Feel-good equivalent metrics are vital for helping people recognize the value they have already received. This is critical for helping to justify renewals, up-sells, and expansions.

Think about what clear equivalents you can provide your customer, that will both help them decide to renew, and also make them and others in their organization feel great about their purchase.
In their Customer Satisfaction Surveys guide, Chameleon shows how to assess what’s valued and needed by your customers. 

How can you make it a “no brainer” for them to renew?

3. Justify How You Calculate the Equivalent Metrics

It is OK to be Imprecise.

Equivalents don’t need to be precise to be meaningful and impactful. If you can come up with a logical and justifiable conversion, people will embrace it.

For example, our solar panel company explained how they calculated their equivalents based on guidance from the EPA.

Can you develop your algorithm for how you calculate the equivalents? Can you base it on respected, neutral 3rd party data or recommendations? If your calculation is reasonable, and you apply it consistently, you will be fine.

4. Make it Easily Consumed and Actioned

Don’t make people think!

Make it so easy to understand and take action that people are not even conscious about the decision-making process. Get them to focus their energy on taking the desired steps.

Visuals work great. Simple changes, like using the right icons and colors, are compelling for eliciting the desired action.

5. Adjust Your Policies to Support Desired Behavior

Having better metrics and are clear equivalents is a great starting point. To drive desired behavior, you may need to reinforce these by changing your metrics too.

For example, if you are trying to improve operations by getting people to adopt new software fully, you might find a way to share some of the business benefits with the individuals who are using the tools in a way to generate new value.

Using the theory of equivalent metrics, you could translate the value of the way the software is used into more meaningful benefits for your staff. This might include things like:

  • For every 100 hours saved from the proper use of the software, you could give the employee an extra 2 hours of leave
  • For every X percent increase in revenues (attributed to the appropriate use of the software), you could increase a bonus pool or money available for salary increases by Y amount.
  • Every X percent reduction in operating costs, you could increase the amount of money available for staff training by Y amount.

These are just a few examples of how combining equivalent metrics with internal policy changes could help motivate and reward your staff when they change they take desired actions.

6. Share, Share, Share!

Make the equivalent metrics clear and readily available wherever people are spending their time.

Keep them top of mind.

In the case of PACE, the metrics are listed on each piece of food packaging. With the solar panels, they are right no the homepage dashboard immediately after logging in to the system. They also send automated emails with attached PDFs, just in case we missed it.

Now it is Your Turn!

What will you do to make equivalent metrics? How will you develop meaningful equivalent metrics that drive desired user adoption, customer success, and renewals?

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The Big Bold Secret to SaaS Growth!

The Fundamental Shift You Need To Make

*This is an updated version of the article, “The Big Bold Future Of SaaS Growth Is Customer Success” that I originally published on Software Executive Magazine in May 2019.

Do you want to boldly grow your SaaS company? If so, it is time to move beyond the features and functions of your software, beyond the freemium price models, beyond the quick installations, and beyond offering unlimited integrations and partnerships.

Instead, you need to understand why your customers are not getting value from their investment in your software and then take bold action to help them actually achieve the results and success they need.

This is incredibly different than just delivering software.

This is fundamentally changing your business model and your mindset.

THE BROKEN SAAS BUSINESS MODEL

The birth of Software as a Service (SaaS), which brought us the great promise of the subscription revenue business model, was closely followed by the inevitable afterbirth – customer churn, revenue destruction, and slow or negative growth. The next generation of this business model, led by the creation of customer success (CS), is ushering in a new growth engine.

But only for those organizations that are brave and bold in how they embrace and approach customer success!

When subscription software first came on the scene, many people naively assumed that it was just another revenue model for the vendor. They assumed that if they just continued to deliver great features and functions that customers would naturally stay with them in perpetuity.

What they didn’t realize was that what they really introduced was a new consumption model for buyers, where the buyer would only be willing to pay for what was used and what was generating value for them. And so, the trouble began.

SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOU NEED TO SOLVE, NOT THE PROBLEM YOU KNOW HOW TO SOLVE

The core problem that emerged was not the technology and getting systems deployed quickly, but rather that most buyers’ organizations are not really good at using technology effectively to solve business problems and create clear, measurable value.

This is not a new problem for buyers.

Be Creative Image

Most organizations, regardless if they are investing in SaaS, perpetual license, or home-grown systems, can often get the system live. What they struggle to do is to get their people to use it in a way that creates the required business value.

  • With perpetual license and home-grown systems, buyers’ organizations pay for the value upfront (sunk costs) and then they are stuck with it whether they get the value or not.
  • With subscription software, they only keep paying (renewing) when they are getting value. This is very bad news for SaaS vendors.

Now the SaaS industry is facing a challenge the likes of which they have never known before, and a problem for which they are ill-equipped to solve using current tools and methods.

At the core, the problem that SaaS vendors need to solve is figuring out how to get their customers to successfully, effectively and efficiently get the people in the customer’s own organization to change the way they work and utilize systems in a way that actually generates expected business outcomes.

And then they need to figure out how they keep people creating value from technology, year over year, while working in a world of perpetual change.

BEWARE - ICEBERG AHEAD!

The good news is that SaaS companies are beginning to wake up to the fact that their future growth and survival depends on them doing more to help customers achieve results.

They are embracing a customer success mindset, investing in building customer success teams, and slowly trying to align their organizations around delivering customer outcomes, not just software.

The bad news is that very few SaaS vendors have figured out how to solve the root-cause problem, that is, how to get customers to drive effective adoption and use technology to create value within the customer’s organization.

Instead of figuring out how to solve this problem, many SaaS vendors are rushing to do what they know how to do, what they are comfortable doing, or what they have done for years when marketing and selling to new customers.

For example, many CS teams get very focused on developing success metrics, defining new internal processes, building playbooks, and trying to automate a lot of the customer success process. While these approaches work great for marketing, sales, and internal operations, they do very little to solve customers’ internal adoption and value problems.

Sure, on the surface, a lot of these activities make sense, and they will deliver some value to customers. But these approaches alone are not enough.

Customer success teams that only apply old problem-solving techniques to the new challenges of user adoption and customer value creation are effectively trying to Feng Shui the deck of the Titanic. Sure, you can do it, but it probably won’t solve your problem.

Titanic Image

 

The sinking of the Titanic

CUSTOMER SUCCESS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO COMPETE

 

Given the need to deliver business value AND the new realization that customers struggle to achieve business value on their own, puts the spotlight on the new future of SaaS growth.

The race is not to deliver more product features, it is to deliver quality, effective, scalable, impactful customer success services. This is where software companies need to compete!

To do this, they need to be bold in their approach.

What SaaS vendors need to realize is that driving adoption and value creation, especially in B2B businesses, is a people and organizational problem, not a technology problem. It is about getting people – large groups of people – to change how they behave at work, and how they perform their jobs.

People have a lot of their own motivations and personal identity invested in their jobs and their sense of professional success.

They also have many organizational factors, in the form of organizational structures, business processes, communication practices, and corporate culture, that all limit individual freedom for how they behave at work.

This combination of individual motivation, identity, and organizational factors, all impact how users adopt technology and use it to create business value. And alarmingly, these factors that most impact customer success are often misunderstood or outright ignored by SaaS vendors and buyers.

GO BIG AND GO BOLD WITH CUSTOMER SUCCESS - OR YOU WILL GO AWAY

Being bold about customer success requires you completely re-envision what success looks like from your customer’s point of view. Think long-term.

  • What would it take for the customer to achieve so much success from using your product that they renew for the next 20 years (or more)?
  • What actions do they need to take within their own organization to achieve this level of success?
  • How can they get their people to effectively collaborate using your software as it is designed and intended?
  • What are they not doing today that they need to start doing?
  • What do they need to do differently?
What do they need to stop doing that is preventing them from achieving success?

Think about the people in their organizations.

  • How can they get their people to embrace technology?
  • How do your customers need to address all the motivational, identity and organizational issues that affect user adoption?
  • How can they make sure they keep their current and future people using the evolving systems, in a changing world, over the next 20 years?

Now work backwards.

BE BOLD TO DELIVER A HIGH-IMPACT CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAM

 

Ask yourself:

  • What will customers need from their vendors to achieve success over the next 20 years?
  • What is their ideal vendor profile and how do you become it?
  • What services, expertise and resources do you need to bring them?
  • Where will you get them or how will you develop them? How will you engage your customers differently to help them focus on their 20-year success?
  • How will you prioritize your investments in marketing, sales, product development, support and customer success to make sure you are providing the resources (not just the software) that customers need to renew for the next 20 years?
  • How do you need to engage with customers differently during the marketing and sales process to get to them focus on 20 years of success?
  • How do you get your marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams to align to deliver on this vision for the future?

Now let me ask you – what happens to your company if you don’t figure out how to solve these problems and your competitor does?

(And trust me, your competitor is working to solve these problems.)

 

Bold Customer Success Driven Growth in Your Future

Does this sound a little overwhelming?

That’s good. That’s why we’re here. 

When you look closely at the challenges ahead, you clearly see the foolishness of the approach many SaaS organizations take to approaching sales, renewals and customer success.

Hopefully the magnitude of the challenge – and the opportunity ahead –  demonstrates why you need to be bold in your approach to customer success.

This is both the challenge and promise of customer success.

If SaaS vendors can figure out how to deliver results, not systems, then customers will heap great financial rewards on them.

Much like a drug dealer tries to get their users hooked on a chemical high, SaaS firms will find that they can get their customers hooked on the high of achieving great business results. When done effectively, this customer high delivers the great renewals, expansions, and referrals that all SaaS vendors want.

This, not new sales, is what will lead to the biggest, boldest growth in SaaS businesses in 2020 (and beyond).

Free Guide - Evaluating Competitive Customer Success Services

 

Get the free guide to see how your CS program compares!

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Don’t You Dare Tell them “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM). Do this instead.

You just spent a pile of money on a great new piece of software. It promises to streamline your operations, save money, grow revenues, improve quality or increase customer satisfaction.

But only if you can get your people to use it!

How do you motivate people to use your software?

Many organizations underestimate the critical impact of employee motivation for adopting new technology has on IT system success.  The prevailing attitude is that employees will “have no choice” but to use the system.  

The reality is that users have a wide variety of choices about if, when and how they will use your software.  

The myth of “They will have no choice”

For example, each individual decides:

  • If they are going to follow “business rules” (after all, rules are indeed made to be broken)
  • If they will keep information outside of the system (i.e. using personal Excel or Word files)
  • When they will enter/share data
    • Do your users enter data right away so others can use it?
    • Do they wait for days, weeks or months before they finally put in the system?

Once you realize that each user has an extensive choice in the manner, degree and time in which they use your system you can begin to focus on the more important issue – how do you motivate people to use the system in a way that delivers maximum benefits?

3 Approaches to Motivating User Adoption of Software

Many IT projects suffer from a lack of a clear understanding of how to best motive desired user behavior.  People often use terms like “carrots and sticks”, “ensure compliance”, moving people along the “commitment curve”, and “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)?” but they typically do not understand the fundamental nature of these terms and their implications for motivating desired behavior.

Let’s take a quick look:

1. “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM)  

WIIFM appeals to individuals? self-interests without regard to achieving a larger shared goal.  The underlying principle is, “If you do X you personally will get benefit Y, regardless of what others do.”  

WIIFM motivation:

  • Appeals to the selfish side of individuals
  • Requires you understand the individuals? actual goals, motivations, and priorities.  Unfortunately, these vary from person to person and they change over time
  • Ceases to motivate once the individuals? self-interests are fulfilled or there is no perceived marginal value for providing additional discretionary effort
  • Encourages individuals to focus on their own interests and does not necessarily encourage them to work towards larger, enterprise goals
Camera and Fences

2. “Compliance” and “Sticks”  

In its essence, this is a negative approach focused on maximizing fear and punishment.  The underlying principle is, “if you don’t do what I say, you will suffer.” 

Compliance driven motivation is:

  • Based on consequences/punishment
  • Only effective with rigorous enforcement
  • Only works when people think you are watching
  • Only drives minimum effort required to meet minimum criteria ? there is no incentive to go beyond the bare minimum

3. “Commitment” 

Appealing to individuals’ commitment is a positive approach that taps into their internal drives and desires to achieve a shared goal.  The underlying principle is, “if we all pull together, we can achieve something great.”  

Commitment driven motivation:

  • Is based on a desire to achieve a goal bigger than oneself
  • Is “self-driving”
  • Works without external monitoring
  • Requires trust and shared values
  • Encourages people to give discretionary effort above the bare minimum
  • Taps into individuals’ creativity to overcome obstacles and achieve goals

Software only delivers value when it is used

Modern software is about helping people collaborate and perform their jobs in a way that everyone benefits from the use of the system. However, for it to deliver on its promise, it requires everyone to use it as intended and as designed.

Achieving IT and organizational success requires people to work toward a common, shared goal.  You should focus the majority of your effort on maximizing the commitment of all employees to achieving that goal. 

Drive commitment to using software to achieve a greater goal

Clearly demonstrate the link between the individuals? technology adoption and how their behavior impacts goal achievement.  While in some situations (such as when there specific legal requirements/regulations) you may need to clearly define minimum accepted system use, you should minimize your focus on compliance and WIIFM and instead try to maximize the commitment of your users.