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Creating a Customer-Centric Culture To Successfully Lead and Implement Customer Success 

The success of your customer depends on the continued added value you create and the experience you deliver to them. Successful organizations are shifting from being product-centric to a customer-centric mindset and often adopting and delivering via a recurring revenue or subscription based business model. These models imply a long-term correlation between the added value gained and financial engagement of the customer. Indeed, the more value gained, the more likely the client is going to wish to continue and even increase the amount of their subscription investment. As quoted by Jason Lemkin: 

“Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is” 

After e-meeting each other on social media and appreciating our common passion for the customer centricity of things, we (Daniel Coullet and Sue Nabeth Moore) propose to share some thoughts around a customer success (CS) framework developed across the layers illustrated in the diagram below: C.S. – O.P.T.IN²: 

OPT-IN²~Framework – Success Track Enterprise 

The “C” and “S” are the strategic layers, meaning Customer centricity and Service alignment.  “CS” is also a common acronym for Customer Success. 

O.P.T.IN²  refers to the CS objective of ensuring  customers wish to stay for good.  It is also an acronym which spells the operational chronological steps across which the defined CS strategy is operationalised: 

O = Organization, P = Process, T = Tools. For the “IN²”, in parallel to the former steps, there is an evolutive and agile initiative around INformation (data) as well as the on-going Integration of the Organization, Processes, Tools and Information. 

The above will be outlined across 3 articles, the first of which on the strategic foundations is below. The second will be on the operationalisation of CS and the third a concrete case study. 

Many software companies in SaaS or subscription models today are doing their best to try and create customer success management organizations and are often reactively addressing the threat of churn. So let’s move forward by building a framework that will help us iterate to become a best-in-class company that proactively delivers continued great value and experience to customers. 

What does it take to operationalize customer success so that you not only mitigate the threat (churn) but you also create the opportunity to fully align your organization to proactively partner your customer’s expected outcomes? In turn, this will then grow your business by increasing renewal and expansion, consequently reducing churn and fostering client advocates. 

Strategic Foundations 

We outline below what we consider to be two strategic pillars and some related best practices which create the foundations for a customer success organization to become successful : customer centricity and service alignment: 

  1. Customer Centricity 

In the age of the customer, the vendor-customer power has flipped.

Before suppliers had the power to sell without being that concerned about the business outcomes of their customers’ investment. In the software world, this was particularly the case with the on-premise model. Now, with abundant knowledge and alternative solutions to solve pain points and the growth of subscription, customers  have the power to opt out more easily from their engagement – operationally, functionally, technically and financially. This means that company mindsets should move from being traditionally product focused to include customers as the key business driving force. As George Colony, Forrester CEO predicts, if a company is not customer-centric, they’ll simply be out of business between 5 – 10 years. 

So, what are some of the key competencies and pre-requisites to become customer-centric? Indeed, there are divergent perceptions on the definition of customer-centricity but in the most simplistic terms, for us it means when the customers are partnered to achieve their expected business outcomes thanks to their investment in your solution and services: 

A. Ensure a customer-centric vision top-down: 

  1. Top management show buy-in, sponsorship and change management to empower a customer-centric strategic vision. 
  1. Define the meaning of customer-centricity. 
  1. Top management nurtures and promotes a customer-centric mindset across all the company organisation and cross-functional roles. 
  1. Customer-centricity is also embedded as a mindset among internal “customers”. Cross functional roles partner as “internal customers” in the interest of their external customers. Each role knows the expected inputs and outputs of their respective contribution to internal and external customers. 
  1. Customer-centricity is the company driving force which determines all behaviours, actions, reflexes and engagement with customers. 

    Picture by curtesy of Kilpatrick Group 
  1. Continuous adaptability is encouraged towards changing customer needs. 
  1. Objectives and incentives around customer-centricity are aligned across the organisation and roles. 

B. Know your customers: 

  1. Understand your customer’s current needs and anticipate new ones. 
  1. Understand different customer needs according to user profile (or persona) and their impacted stakeholders. 
  1. Understand and empathise with customer domain challenges, contexts and pain points. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. 
  1. Anticipate and follow customer domain and market evolutions. 
  1. Define and operationalise required client knowledge data (to be developed in our second article). 

C. Foster customer experience (CX) principles: 

  1. Define via internal collaboration a customer journey/ies and milestones from the customer point of view. 
  1. Generate a frictionless customer experience (CX) across the customer journey via an adapted customer relationship. 
  1. Align CX and CS principles to create the conditions for success. CX and CS are often treated as 2 distinct disciplines when in fact they complement and feed into each other
  1. Align the above customer journey/ies with all your company organization, roles and responsibilities. 

D. Define expected customer outcomes: 

  1. Help customers express their vision of success and how your solution contributes. 
  1. Help define and measure tangible business outcomes (per impacted profiles).

     
  1. Ensure your solution, related services and engagement address the above (use cases). 
  1. Communicate, partner and measure how your solution + services contribute to business outcomes. 

E. Foster customer success principles: 

  1. Define a clear mission statement (charter) for CS. 
  1. Ensure all internal actors understand the role of CS as a strategic business pillar. 
  1. Ensure each internal actor is empowered in their responsibility and contribution to CS. 
  1. Align cross-functional incentives and compensation for CS. 
  1. Determine appropriate and pertinent metrics/KPIs to measure CS in alignment with the strategy, e.g. adoption and performance metrics for customers and internal metrics for your company such as NPS, net retention rate, CLTV, churn rate, CSAT, time-to-value, etc… 

2. Service Alignment 

Ensure that the related services are aligned with the customer-centric strategy. While the use of the word “product” is still common place, e.g. “product to market fit”, “product development”, “product owner”, , “product run” etc…, we prefer to use the word “services” which holistically includes the product and the CX. In the business models of “X as a Service” for example, we consider that maintaining the previous wording and mindset of selling a physical “product” is rather a contradiction in terms. We prefer the term “service” and which englobes the product, the related services and adapted CX. The term “service” also infers that there are expected outcomes which will materialize as the services are consumed, as opposed to the word “product” implying just a means to an end. 

A. Design the “Service”: 

  1. Unite cross-functional teams to define the expected outcomes and experience at each stage of the customer journey per profile/persona. 
  1. Design the product (UX), experience (CX) and services in parallel using a methodology such as Design Thinking to create harmonized value to the customers. In many cases, the experience and services are designed after the product which often creates a non-coherent CX and misalignment and friction between vendors and customers, putting customer success teams in a challenging position. 
  1. Consider the CX like a “product” launch, using best practices and processes for software development such as design, quality assurance, and “service” owners,… 

B. Design Service Engagement Models: 

  1. Define engagement models per client segment needs with the appropriate number of touch points. Synchronize them between the digital, physical and product experience. 
  1. Align the engagement models and touch points with your CX and CS principles. 
  1. Align the engagement models with your internal key processes and related actors. 
  1. Include the ability to measure adoption and performance directly in your product/services in alignment with the metrics defined in your strategy. 
  1. Validate with customers their key moments of truth (MoT) during the customer journey which are crucial moments for CX. 
  1. Instrument your customer feedback to continually understand if the design (outcomes and experience) are delivering what is expected. 
  1. Adjust the above whenever necessary. 

The above strategic foundations provide the base upon which the customer success organization can then be operationalised. While customer success is emerging in business as a strategic pillar of recurring revenue models such as SaaS, it is in fact applicable to any customer-centric company intent on generating win-win growth and profitability, irrespective of their business model.

Indeed customer-centricity demands a proactive shift in culture and not just a reactive response to changes in business models. The product, the service and CX are all an intrinsic part of the success of the customer and together they will progressively become an inherent part of the storyboard for doing  “business as usual”. 

In our next article, we’ll be pleased to share some further thoughts around the above  OPT-IN² framework which outlines more best practices in operationalizing proactive customer success with an agile mindset. This will be followed by a case study article. 

Picture Source – Vecteezy 

Status is online 

Sue Nabeth Moore 

Co-Founder Success Chain / Top 100 Customer Success Strategist 2021 

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Business Mutualism: Customer eXperience and Customer Success Enrich Each Other for Business Health 

A series of articles by Sue Nabeth Moore and Helene Duneigre, October, 2017 

Sue is a leader in Customer Success (CS) and is evangelizing it in France, Portugal and the rest of Europe


Helene is militantly in favour of Customer Experience (CX) which she has promoted and organised for years. 

Sue and Helene met in Paris and listened with curiosity to each other’s convictions and practices and found them to be very close, yet different and decided to write about it. 

Here’s part 1 and introduction to our series of perspectives on the proximity, comparison and emergence of a business mutualism between

CX and CS:


Helene about CX Stories

A few months ago, AmazonGo video became viral. They opened a store where thanks to an app in their smartphone, customers come, shop and leave without going through cash desks. There are not even any cash desks in the store by the way! 

On April 10th 2017, a disturbing video, about United Airlines this time, got watched thousands of times across the world. It showed a traumatized 69-year-old customer who paid for his ticket and asked for nothing but to be be flown to his destination. He was dragged off the plane and injured as airport police got called by the aircraft staff and dealt with him like a criminal, only to make room for transferring partner airline staff. 

On the one hand, we witness what may be the ultimate shopping experience: customer extreme convenience and user friendliness, enabled by sophisticated technology behind the scene. 

On the other hand, we witness extreme – and difficult to believe – excess of strict adherence to process and total lack of human empathy by company staff. This, followed by a very poor speech from the CEO later in the day, demonstrating that when a fish rots, it rots from the head down. 

These are both examples of customer experience. The best and the worst. Customer Experience is indeed all about how your customers individually perceive interactions with your brand, self-assess their satisfaction compared to their initial expectations, share their story with friends and network and eventually remember afterwards their related emotions. 

Sue about CS stories in the making of…

Being relatively new, the storyboard for CS in Europe is “in the making of” as companies investing in CS are keen to build their ROI business cases. 

Whilst CS is currently often associated with SaaS, the first customer success teams saw the light of day with CRM software companies, somewhat frustrated with the poor adoption and relatively low obtained value. The first CS organisation was a non-SaaS company called Vantive in 1996, followed by Siebel on Demand in 2004 and then in 2005, Saleforce gave birth to their “Customers for Life”. If Salesforce is the best-known success-story for CS (80% of their current revenue being driven from their current client base), this emerging role is applicable to any recurring revenue model (SaaS or not) as well as any business wishing to distinguish themselves by making their customers want to stay longer, invest more and advocate on your behalf. 

Sue to Helene: What is the definition of Customer Experience?

It is the sum result of how the customer perceives each of its interactions with the company during the whole journey of purchasing and then using its product or services over the duration of their relationship. This perception covers rational assessment as well as emotions. It is highly subjective and individualized. 

Helene to Sue: What is the definition of Customer Success ? 

Customer success is a company-wide mindset and approach to operationalize and generate win-win growth, for customers and consequently for suppliers. CS is preoccupied with achieving the evolving desired business outcomes of customers as their internal and external contexts change, presenting new challenges and opportunities via their interactions across the customer journey.  In the words of Lincoln Murphy: 

“Customer success is when customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company” 

CS therefore includes CX and aims to obtain customer desired outcomes via controlled operationalisation. In a recent Webinar with Dan Steinman, we explored the following equation relating CS, CX and CO (Customer Outcomes): 

CS = CO + CX 

Sue to Helene: Who should work on Customer Experience? 

Well, when you think about business, you’ll agree that there are no parameters more important than customers. All companies thinking seriously about their long-term performance should be working on their CX. 

Traditional companies may have forgotten the customer priority as they are too busy with internal and administrative challenges, regulations, strategy, financial reporting, stock exchange volatility and so many other topics. New entrants, be it already mature digital companies or fresh new start-ups, are focussed on customers as priority.  This is one key reason why they are dangerous to established business. 

CX references often come today from Amazon, Apple, Uber, Airbnb. 

If you look around, you can find your inspiration with lots of others. Nespresso, Maïf, Leroy-Merlin, Midas, Ventes-Privées…    are set leaders. Others are improving quickly and smartly: Air France and its digital services, SNCF Voyages, La Poste… 

Helene to Sue: Who should be interested in implementing customer success and when? 

All recurring revenue companies should be preoccupied with introducing a CS approach. Value is obtained by customers over time through a 3-step succession of adoption , performance and transformation. When customers measure positive ROI during the transformation stage, they will wish to remain loyal and invest more in order to grow more.

CS is not only applicable to software companies and is increasingly more practiced in other typical subscription sectors such as media, telecom and insurance but also in more industrial sectors where IoT and AI enable to measure customer consumption patterns and behaviours. 

CS should be anticipated and implemented as soon as companies start acquiring paying customers. The acquisition and contract signature is just the beginning of the customer hands-on experience. The on-boarding stage is critical in ensuring the desire for the customer to adopt new ways of doing business and the consequent customer journey milestones and engagement are key to pave the way to success. If these success milestones are not deliberately traced and the customer journey is perceived as a haphazard mystery tour, then there is a big chance that the customer will lose track and go astray to other places. 

Sue to Helene: Why would a company spend time and money in CX? 

There are several reasons: 

  1. Ensuring that customer experience is aligned with the brand promise and their expectation is the healthiest way to build loyalty. This also means it is cheaper and more profitable to recruit new customers. 
  1. Sustained differentiated experience leads to growth and improved market share. 
  1. Many surveys and research demonstrate that companies serious about CX are financially performing 5 to 20% better in their sector. 
  1. CX strategy contributes to giving sense to employees. 
  1. CX culture can even lead to new and more profitable business models, for example the subscription service model developed by Michelin for truck kilometre service, or else the management print service model adopted by the printing industry. 

Helene to Sue: Which benefits can a company expect from working on CS? 

The reasons you indicate for CX above are also applicable to CS and in addition: 

  1. CS enables customers to grow as a result of facilitating the achievement of their desired outcomes. 
  1. As a consequence of the above, CS allows suppliers to grow. 
  1. CS allows to operationalise a customer-centric strategy based on driving results. This includes defining customer journeys based on segments, scaling customer engagement and aligning internal roles to meet desired customer outcomes. 
  1. CS acts as a company financial catalyst. It allows the collection, analysis and actioning of pertinent customer data to control costs, forecast revenue and detect risks and opportunities. 

Conclusion 

In our current evolving business environment, CS and CX cohabit side by side mutually benefiting each other in a kind of business mutualism: 


Mutualism Example Samlung Fotos 

the challenges of B2B are inspired by best-in-class B2C CX practices, while the B2C world is evolving their CX approaches into brilliant models and practices where the likes of Netflix and Fitbit have become CS/CX rock stars. 

CS and CX share the common ground of customer loyalty and delivering pristine experiences and pertinent engagement across customer journeys.  Whilst CX is concerned with delivering an end-to-end positive emotional and rational experience to reach satisfaction and lock loyalty and love, CS extends that to include driving business outcomes and ROI – in a word – success! 

Together both CX and CS create a win-win business situation: 

“CX locks consumer/customer engagement and CS locks business outcomes”. 

Coming soon… join us in our next perspectives on CS and CX. 

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Digital Darwinism and Customer Success

As we onboard 2021 and bid farewell to 2020, the challenges thrust upon us over this past year have demonstrated our immense resilience and capacity to adapt quickly in the face of adversity. Digital transformation is a prime area where we have shown our huge capacity to adapt. 

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, digital offerings in 2020 accelerated by 7 years within the space of a few months as companies have surprised themselves with their capacity to pivot their digital initiatives in response to Covid-19. The pandemic has forced companies of all sizes, B2B and B2C to leapfrog their transformation efforts. We are now raising questions about how to anticipate the new digital “normal”, what that will look like, how to maintain momentum and how to set companies up for continued success. 

As we celebrate all those companies and staff that have been able to adapt their digital offerings to help their customers get through these unprecedented times and to address new market needs, let’s also keep in our thoughts all those domains, companies and staff that have unfortunately been directly negatively impacted by the pandemic, e.g. travel, hospitality, dining and culture to name but a few. 

Let’s view this accelerated digital transformation context from a Darwinian point of view. This is a revised article that I wrote 4 years ago but which resonates more than ever now in the context of the abrupt changes of our current world. The following famous Darwin quote echoes loudly today in our response to the business disruption triggered by Covid-19 and our attempts to survive and resume some sort of balanced “business as usual”: 

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change (Darwin) 

Those of you who have crossed my path will have no doubt been introduced to my mascot chameleon which I affectionately call “Adaptus Rex”. He’s tame and as a prehistoric descendant, he learned to survive environmental change. His capacity to modify his skin colours to adapt to different environments has inspired me in all of life’s challenges, continually adapting to the next phase of evolution. 

Whilst history has mostly shown us the somewhat progressive driving force of technology in transformation, digitalization is creating an immediate impact and disruption, particularly so in response to the pandemic. With each new digital offering, there’s a promise of progress that is accompanied by considerable learning curves and adaptation. In some cases, the height of the step to adapt is higher than others, implying considerable change management efforts and learning to take on board new working practices. In other cases, the height of the step to adapt may seemingly be less but as we’re on continual moving sands, it’s difficult to use a yardstick to measure the required effort. Whatever the required effort, we either adapt quickly and survive (thrive for some) or run the risk of being left behind or even extinct! In the words of Brian Solis: 

Each business is a victim of digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behaviour when society and technology move faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate. Every business is threatened. 

Digital Darwinism has been accelerated with the disruptive impact of Covid-19 as we have been collectively catapulted outside of our comfort zones and plunged right into unknown territory. All of us, suppliers and customers alike have had no choice but to learn fast.  

These challenging times have also reinforced companies putting the customer right at the strategic centre, focusing on doing everything possible to help and retain the current customer base. This customer-centric strategy has highlighted the strategic importance of customer success and how it runs through the veins of all the company, where each and every role contributes to helping customers survive, perhaps even thrive. Many companies have reinforced their customer success efforts, put into place special success task forces or crisis committees, bringing sales, support, product and other roles into redefining roles and responsibilities in the “collective customer success team” effort. This company-wide team effort is now playing a vital role by helping customers pivot, step out of their comfort zones to adapt quickly to new and unknown situations where their ever-changing pain points are resolved. 

feet in canvas shoes standing inside comfort zone – foot selfie from personal perspective – chalk text on asphalt

Customer success partners customers to help them blend their invested tools and services into their working environment. This means that customer success professionals need to be experts not only with the tools and services offered by their company but also to know how these tools and services can become “camouflaged” in the customers’ new working habitats.  

It’s rather like Adaptus Rex’s capacity to adapt his skin colour according to different habitats. With our Covid-19 impacted habitat, our adaptation capacity has been tested to the extreme. It has not been like our previous gradual adaptation to digital offerings in continuous improvement mode. This time, our adaptation capacity has been triggered out of pure survival. Customer success has played such a critical role in helping customers to adapt in record time to new environments and facilitate our collective metamorphosis. The real challenge of this rapid metamorphosis process is not about the technology itself. It’s rather about how the technology, digitalization and its promise fit into the fast-evolving organizations, processes, routines and behaviours. This is where customer success professionals have demonstrated their capacity to anticipate new customer pain points, learn and adapt to these ever-changing environments, transferring their knowledge to help customers develop new skills to meet their evolving goals and survive.  

To give some Darwinian evolutionary examples in nature, a famous story took place in my native northern England during the last major technological evolution: the industrial revolution. To ensure camouflage as a consequence of the sooty northern manufacturing towns, peppered moths, originally white, became predominantly black via a reproduction process. 

Another recent example in response to current climatic change is the shift of snail shell colour from dark to light. Snails have developed lighter coloured shells which have a lower body temperature to keep cooler in response to global warming. This phenomenon is noticeable in France where I live where snails are still a culinary delicacy, whatever their shell colour ! 

Whilst we humans have not suddenly developed coloured shells and wings (although I believe I can fly) to adapt to this harsh environment thrust upon us, we are being forced to challenge more than ever before our “business as usual”: business models, organization, processes, tools, behaviours and routines. Most companies have now adapted to operating with remote workforces, attending online meetings and events and investing in tools for remote collaboration, onboarding, team building and customer engagement. This last year has forced us into adopting new working habits that we would have not thought possible when we were celebrating the arrival of 2020 just one year ago! 

Prior to Covid-19, we were adapting digital offerings in a rather progressive manner where “digital transformation” was being placed as a priority for business strategies. In reality, however, companies were often struggling to adopt digital offerings and make digitalization an inherent part of the company DNA. Unlike the instinct-driven metamorphosis of our friends Adaptus Rex, the peppered moth and the shell-changing snail, our response to change has always been complex. It is perhaps because we human beings are the most intelligent of creatures on earth (we are led to believe) that we have often approached each new business evolution, including digital transformation with too much thought, emotion, memory and resistance. It is also because we are not always conscious of the risks ahead or are simply not measuring the risk of staying in our comfort zone. 

With our Covid-19 impacted environment, our adaptation process has been more in line with the instinct-triggered adaptation of our friends from the animal kingdom. Like the peppered moths of my native England, we humans face the challenge of adapting quickly to our accelerated digital environment in order for our business to simply survive. We need to rapidly “camouflage” the new technology and associated behaviour, blending it into our daily habitat so that it becomes the accepted “norm”, at least until the next evolution! With remote working practices and collaboration for example, we’re still learning about the tools but also acclimatizing associated best practices, code of conduct, new routines and associated soft skills. 

Customer success is a role to partner our fellow human beings to acclimatize as quickly as possible to our new surroundings and rise to the new challenges of a world propelled more than ever by technological and digital innovation to overcome a global crisis: whether that be to facilitate remote collaboration, to foster online payment, to facilitate eCommerce transactions, to produce vaccines and monitor their supply chain, distribution and impact, to use 3D printing to produce medical supplies, to use AI to monitor and anticipate important data including the spread and behaviour of Covid-19 around the world … and the list goes on. 

As we embrace 2021, I’d like to congratulate all the companies, all their customer success efforts (customer success teams and all roles of the company) that have adapted and delivered their offerings (digital and non-digital) to help their customers and their own companies to survive and even thrive over the past year. I’d also like to send thoughts to those companies, customers and staff in verticals that have been directly negatively impacted by the pandemic. 

“Adaptus Rex” joins me to wish you all the best for 2021 with joy, health and continued business adaptation, evolution and 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

Success Chain Blog
Success Chain Blog

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

Success Chain

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

Success Chain

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!

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.

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

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?

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.

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

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?

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.

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!

Success Chain

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.

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.

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).

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.

Success Chain

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

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.  

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4 Steps To Develop a Proactive, Confident CS Team

Success Chain

Confident Customer Success Managers

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 delivers success.

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 life experience).

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 trusting relationships

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 to CSMs

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.

Recommendation

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.