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.
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!
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:
Acknowledging that success or failure is inextricably linked.
Defining mutual success goals: for customers and suppliers.
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 valuefor them, e.g. increased productivity, increased revenues etc. Until that happens, there will always be customers that fail. Success is achieved via:
Providing enablement programs that move people out of comfort zones.
Focusing on the human side of software: adoption, change management and value.
Providing expertise in the domain in which the product is used.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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?
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:
How many calories per serving?
What is the number of servings in this container?
How many actual calories will I consume if I drink this entire Coke?
Is that a lot of calories?
How many other calories am I consuming today?
If I decide to drink this Coke, how will I work off (via exercise) these extra calories?
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?
How much time will it take me to walk/run/swim these calories away?
Do I want to put in this extra time getting rid of these calories?
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?
How much time will I spend obsessing about my weight and getting mad at myself for consuming too many calories?
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.
Instead, with PACE labeling, our thought process is more like:
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.
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.
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
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?
*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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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”
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?
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.”
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
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.”
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
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.”
Is based on a desire to achieve a goal bigger than oneself
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
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.
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.
When we ask clients what they most want to have as an outcome from Customer Success (CS) training, they often indicate that they wish their Customer Success Managers (CSMs) will become more confident when working with customers.
They want customer success staff to be more proactive,
deliver a great experience, and make sure the client achieves their goals.
What is interesting is that when we ask them about what
their staff is like now, they are often far from this mark.
They tend to be reactive.
They tend to be “pleasers” – that is, they want to deliver everything a client asks and not push back.
They tend to be experts in the product, but not in how
to help the customer get their internal staff to use the product in a way that
And they often tend to be intimidated or uncomfortable
when working with senior leaders on the customer side. Oh, and many of them to
tend to be early in their careers without tons of professional experience (or
So, if this is your situation, where do you need to
focus? How do you start to develop your team? Here are some essential items
that will help you develop your team.
1. Develop their ability to build
There is a broad spectrum of proficiency when it comes to knowing how to quickly establish solid, trusting relationships that enable people to collaborate effectively. This is especially true when it comes to external staff (e.g., CSMs, consultants, etc.) trying to work with new clients.
Spending time teaching CSMs the skills, processes, and
techniques on how to develop these relationships will significantly enhance
their ability and confidence when working with clients.
2. Develop the ability to focus on
mutual business success
CSMs need to learn how to help clients identify the
business outcomes they hope to achieve through the widespread, consistent,
effective use of your technology.
CSMs need to help the client shift from the features
and functions of your product, to instead focus on the business outcomes they
receive from the use of it.
We have found that when we teach CSMs how to discuss client and vendor outcomes in the context of mutual success, they gain the skills and confidence to “push back” effectively and professionally when the clients may ask for things that are outside the scope of what your CS team can provide.
3. Build their subject matter expertise
in software adoption techniques
For CSMs to guide customers with confidence and authority, they need to have advanced knowledge about the actions that customers need to take to drive effective software adoption that will deliver the business outcomes that customers need.
If CSMs don’t know the activities that will make
customers successful (and which ones to avoid that prevent success), then they
will never be truly confident in leading customers.
By giving CSMs advances skills in this area, you
increase both their ability to drive customer success, and their confidence to
lead customer discussions on this topic.
4. Provide ongoing coaching and support
While providing training is a great way to jumpstart
CSMs knowledge and confidence, training alone is not enough.
We have found that what CSMs need is ongoing coaching
and support after the initial training to help them apply what they have
learned and continue to advance their skills and confidence. Based on the
results we have seen from working with clients on a post-training basis, we
have added this ongoing coaching and support to our training programs.
We have trained numerous customer success staff members in techniques around developing relationships, discussing success, managing client expectations, and methods for accelerating and sustaining effective, long-term user adoption of software.
We are constantly impressed with how quickly CSMs can
grow and develop with focused training and support in these areas. If you are
looking to advance your CS capabilities, we suggest you focus on these areas.
You need to create an environment in which a client is delighted to renew year, over year.
Selling for Logos (and Churn)
When we talk with SaaS vendors, we routinely hear some version of a story about how “sales are focused on getting new logos” and will “do anything to land a new customer.”
Typically, the conversations focus on the features and functionality of the software, how easy it is to use, and how fast they can have the system live. The sales rep closes the deal, gets the commission, and turns things over to the implementation and delivery team to make the customer successful.
And then it doesn’t happen.
The Waiting Game
Sure, the system gets turned on, and some people get trained on it.
Then, the customer waits for it use it.
They sit and wait for all the anticipated business benefits to come rolling in.
And they wait.
And they wait some more.
And no (or only limited) benefits appear.
Soon after that, the customer complaints arrive, followed by the inevitable, disastrous Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), a clear sign of the churn that is yet to come. And then that happens too.
Selling for the 20-year renewal requires you to shift your sales discussion. You need to move from focusing on the features, functionality, and potential benefits of your system to instead focus on how your Customer Success capabilities will ensure customers are successful in adopting the system.
From that flows the clear business value from the use of your software, and based on that, customers will be thrilled to continue renewing for the next 20 years.
Here are three ways to do this:
1. Set the Goal of a 20-Year Relationship from the Very Start.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but your initial sales conversations need to move beyond focusing on the immediate, pressing business problem. Instead, address how you will solve the new challenges that will emerge once the current need is met.
Get the customer to think past the immediate need. Help them look at what happens next.
Focus the discussion on the long-term, sustained business value that the customer will need to realize to renew for the next 20 years.
2. Map the Critical Path to Value Creation and 20 Years of Renewals.
Most technology project plans focus on the path to go-live and a little bit beyond. When you map out the critical path to ROI and renewals, you quickly see that accelerated and sustained, effective user adoption is what leads to renewals.
So, what actions and deliverables are needed over the long-term to make sure you get the user adoption required to deliver 20 years’ worth of renewable value to your customer?
Chances are, your customers don’t know either. You need to help them figure it out.
When you walk your prospect through a 20-year renewal timeframe, what will become clear is that after the system is live, what becomes most important is having a sustained effort to maximize adoption.
Help your customers discover that over 20 years, there will be changes to their internal structure, staff composition, products/services, operating environment, and overall organizational performance. All of these changes will impact user adoption and ROI.
The key to a 20-year renewal is helping them develop the capability to accelerate and sustain effective internal user adoption over the course of 20 years of ongoing organizational change and uncertainty.
3. Provide and Sustain User Adoption & Value Realization Capabilities for Your Customer
Helping your customers map out and proactively manage all the organizational complexities affecting user adoption and value realization they will encounter over time is not a core capability of most software vendors ? even those with a great Customer Success team.
Yet, this capability is precisely what your customers require to achieve 20 years of value from your system.
Many Customer Success Managers (CSMs) struggle with lacking the confidence, or the experience, to have the most productive conversations with their clients. They tend to get nervous or uncomfortable with asking clients about business issues and discussing what it will take for the client to renew. For some reason, many CSMs just don’t come out and have a direct conversation and ask the client what’s important. Here are two simple questions that CSMs should ask in every meeting to delight clients and be able to deliver the kind of value and service that will get clients to renew year after year.
START EACH MEETING WITH THIS QUESTION
The first question happens at the very start of each meeting. When kicking off the meeting, share your meeting goal and your proposed agenda. Then, before getting into any content, ask your client, “What will make this meeting a success for you?” Or, put another way, ask, “What will make you walk away at the end of this meeting and say this was a great use of your time?”
DELIVER CLIENT VALUE IN EVERY MEETING
By starting the meeting this way, you show that you have prepared for the meeting in a way that is intended to respect the client’s time and add value to them. Stopping to ask the client what success looks likes to them reinforces that you are focused on providing value to them in every interaction, which is your ultimate goal.
Also, by explicitly asking your client what success is for this interaction, you have the opportunity to adjust on the fly to make sure the meeting is valuable to them ? no more missing the mark with clients!
USE FEEDBACK TO PIVOT AND DELIGHT YOUR CLIENT
If you’re surprised by what they say, you should ask clarifying questions to find out why this is the correct success definition for this meeting, for them.
By understanding what’s important to your client and what success is for them, you can adjust your approach and your agenda in a way that brings more value to them during their interaction with you. What could be better than that?
The second question you should ask at the end of every meeting is, “If you had to renew today, would you? “You can clarify this with some variation such as: “Have you received enough value from our relationship thus far that you would want to keep working with us and renew today?”
While you might feel uncomfortable asking this at first, if you do it as a matter of regular practice, it will quickly feel normal to you AND your client. Also, it is a very explicit reminder to your client that you ? and they ? need to focus on the business value they are getting, not just the features and functions of your software or service.
USE CLIENT FEEDBACK TO ACCELERATE SUCCESS
If the client answers “Yes, they would renew today”, that’s wonderful and keep it up. You can even ask them, “What was most valuable for you in this meeting? What would you like to see more of in the future?” After the meeting, reflect on what is working and how you can build on what you have done to keep delighting the client in the future. What worked well with this client that you should do with other clients?
If the client answers “No” (which will happen in some meetings ? especially at critical points in a project), you now have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, to drill-down for more details and learn more about where the value leaks are for your customer. You can come back next time to share what you did with their negative feedback and work with your client to improve going forward. Feedback, while it may hurt in the short-term, is a gift that allows you to delight customers over the long-term.
TRACK THE VALUE YOU ADD & CUSTOMER HEALTH
The next thing you should do is to go through and track the answer (“Yes” or “No”) given in every single meeting. You can even combine this information with other customer usage and health data, to come up with a more comprehensive customer health score that includes accurate data about your customers’ intent to renew.
Start to look at trends in client responses. If you get more than 3 “No’s” in a row, this is an early indication that you have a problem and need to take action to address it. If you have five or more “No’s” in a row, it’s time to escalate things internally so that your executives can take action to save the account before it is too late!
Want to learn more about how you can deliver amazing customer success services that delight clients and accelerate value creation? Check out Success Chain and get started today!
My how quickly things have changed. It seems like only yesterday, SaaS vendors were worried that getting the Customer Success (CS) teams involved in the sales process would only slow things down and prevent a sale from closing.
Today, it is increasingly the case that SaaS vendor need to showcase its customer success services to win a deal!
Buyers realize that not all customer success services are created equal.
Buyers now select the vendor that has the best overall combination of products and services. They are going with the vendor that has the greatest likelihood of delivering the business outcomes they need, not the vendor with the most features, best user interface, or lowest price.
The challenge for most SaaS vendors is that historically they have been very product-focused. They prefer to make their revenue from licenses, not services.
SaaS Vendors Need to Deliver High-Impact Customer Success Programs
Many SaaS vendors have been slow to invest in customer success, or they have underinvested in it. Vendors primarily thought of their customer success services as a churn prevention program, and not a competitive sales differentiator.
But things are changing and changing fast.
Buyers are voting with their wallets and going with the vendor that represents the best overall value and the lowest total investment risk. It is no longer sufficient to have a great product if you don’t also have the customer success services buyers need to feel confident in their ability to achieve the business outcomes they need from purchasing your product.
Which brings us back to the question, when will you lose your first sale because your customer success services are not marketing competitive?
It will probably happen sooner than you think.
Most software projects fail to deliver the expected business outcomes because of the approach the buyer takes to getting the system live and driving adoption. Most buyer’s organizations don’t have the expertise, tools, and capacity to deliver their success.
This free eCourse explains many of the methodological and structural problems organizations face when dealing with software.
If you are looking to help software buyers create their own internal software success programs, we can help. Contact us to find out what we can do for you.