Increase Customer Success with Equivalent Metrics

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

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

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

Metrics Need to Change Behavior

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

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

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

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

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

PACE Yourself with Equivalent Metrics!

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

Customer Success Equivalent Metrics
PACE Metrics Data Source: The Telegraph

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

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

Is this the Secret to Success?

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

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

Extra Effort to Process Meaningless Metrics

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

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

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

Streamlined Thinking

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

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

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

The Magic of Equivalent Metrics to Drive Action

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

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

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

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

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

A Simple Example of Feel Good Equivalent Metrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet So Many SaaS Vendors Still Get it Wrong!

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

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

The vendor is not speaking the language of the customer.

Example: Software Vendor Not Communicating Their Impact on the Customer

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

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

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

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

Your Customers will Tell you What is Meaningful

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

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

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

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

6 Steps to Develop Great Equivalent Metrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

You want a mix of both.

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

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

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

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

3. Justify How You Calculate the Equivalent Metrics

It is OK to be Imprecise.

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

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

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

4. Make it Easily Consumed and Actioned

Don’t make people think!

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

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

5. Adjust Your Policies to Support Desired Behavior

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

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

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

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

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

6. Share, Share, Share!

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

Keep them top of mind.

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

Now it is Your Turn!

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


The Big Bold Secret to SaaS Growth!

The Fundamental Shift You Need To Make

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

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

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

This is incredibly different than just delivering software.

This is fundamentally changing your business model and your mindset.


The 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.


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

This is not a new problem for buyers.

Be Creative Image

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titanic Image


The sinking of the Titanic



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.


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.



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).

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The New SaaS Sales: Treat Perspective Software Buyers Like Investors, Not Customers

If you are a software vendor, consider this: What would it look like if you approached each sale like you were trying to raise investment capital instead of just selling a piece of software?

Knowing that most software buyers (ah, funders, in this case) have a wide variety of investment options available to them, does your organization represent the best overall software investment opportunity out there? Can your prospects find better, safer opportunities that will give them a higher overall return on their software investment dollars with lower risks?

Stop thinking of the people who buy your software as customers and start treating them like investors. They don’t just want software. What they really want is the best return on their software investments!

The old rules don’t apply!

Back in the days before SaaS, organizations implementing software treated their software acquisitions as a simple purchasing transaction. They were very focused on the costs of the software product. They focused just on the initial purchasing transaction, with little thought to the future.

When the SaaS business model first came on the scene, buyers continued to treat software acquisitions as primarily a purchasing exercise. They remained very focused on the overall costs, just now with the added benefit of shifting their cash outflows over several years. Over time they realized they could adjust their purchase quantities to reduce cashflow if they didn’t see the value in their purchase or if their needs have changed.

The new reality is that software buyers are making software investments, not purchases.

This awakening that buyers can focus on outcomes and value, and then adjust where they put their future software purchasing cash accordingly, is a massive shift in both mentality and fiscal practices.

With this shift, organizations are treating software buying decisions less like a simple procurement exercise and instead treating it more like an investment exercise. They are less focused on just the cost, and instead, they are more concentrated on the expected return and level of risk associated with the software investment.

Software buyers realize they are better off investing in a software vendor (notice I didn’t say application) that will deliver the most overall business value to them, even if the actual app doesn’t have all the bells and whistles found in competing systems.

New SaaS Sales

After years of over-investing in software, wasting lots of cash on software and integration costs, suffering low user adoption and having their projects considered IT failures that didn’t deliver the expected business value, savvy software buyers realize they need to change how they make software investment decisions. They know they need to do more than evaluate the technical fit of the application.

Instead, they need to assess the overall vendor solution — the software, implementation team, technical support, and customer success services – to determine which one is the overall best investment. In effect, what they are doing is evaluating the ability and probability that the software vendor as a whole will make them successful and solve their business problems. Only after conducting this holistic analysis and comparing it to a similar analysis of other potential vendors will organizations decide with which company to spend their software investment dollars.

SaaS vendors need to quickly wake-up to the implications.

Historically, most software vendors have been incredibly product-focused. To software vendors, their products are sexy. To software engineers, building a cool piece of functionality is fun and exciting. And to many software executives, services are necessary, but not fun, scalable or profitable.

In many software companies, there is a bias to investing in building new features and functions in the application instead of investing in services, support, and customer success. For many vendors, the thinking is that the quality and price of the product is what will make or break a sale. While this may have once been true, it is no longer the case.

With buyers shifting their focus to evaluating the overall vendor solution and capabilities, a continued bias towards product will be the road to failure. Software vendors need to recognize the shift in buyer preferences and adjust how they set priorities, allocate internal resources, and position and sell their products accordingly. They need to realize that just having a great product, without the support and customer success resources customers demand (and competitors provide), will not make them market competitive going forward.

Software vendors need to stop treating prospective customers like they are making a simple purchasing decision and instead treat them like investors who are evaluating the complete software investment opportunity. Software vendors that similarly approach each sale to raising capital, that is, focusing on the business outcomes, minimizing risks, and explaining how you maximize the return on software investment, will be hugely more successful than those that continue to focus their sales efforts just on product features and price.

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

Additional Resources

Are your customer success services competitive?

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Free Guide - Evaluating Competitive Customer Success Services
Free Guide – Evaluating Competitive Customer Success Services

What About The Customer?

This guest blog was written by Jason Noble, a UK-based expert in Customer Success. Jason is also a co-host of, “The Jasons Take On…” a monthly webinar and podcast program covering a wide range of customer success topics.

Being Customer-Centric

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to being (more) customer-centric is defining what we mean by that – and it can and does mean different things to different organizations. The reason being customer-centric is important is not only the obvious – that your customers stay loyal when they have good experiences and the product and sales are delivering on our promises, but also as our customers keep evolving and changing, so too are the ways that we operationalize that and support those customers.

A great way to think about customer-centricity that really resonates with me is – “A business is customer-centric when it delivers on-going growing value to and for their customers.” If you are customer-centric, it means you are observing that evolution that’s happening to your customer base, and you’re able to be very agile and nimble in responding to that as a business. I really like this way of thinking as it’s not just for the short term and the now; it’s about the what (the value) and the who (it allows for customers to include customers as we know them, our employees and team members and our shareholders and investors).

It’s not easy

Being customer-centric is easy to say but hard to do. It doesn’t come organically, and I’ve never seen an organization say they’re not customer-centric or that they don’t want to be even more so. It, of course, needs organization-wide buy-in and sponsorship, from sales, to finance, to operations, to support, to customer success, to delivery – it’s not one function’s or one team’s (or even one person’s) responsibility; it’s everyone’s.

Why now?

To quote Dan Steinman from Gainsight – “We are now in the age of the customer” – and we’ve gone through the transition from technology to mobile to social and now to the customer. We’re moving more and more to being outcome-driven and not just product and technology-driven, and we’re shifting from the idea of ownership for products and services to usership and subscriptions. We see this more and more in both the business and consumer worlds.

We hear a lot about the idea of stickiness of services and using it as a measure of engagement and customers staying with us longer. I don’t personally like this term as it implies that they have to stay and don’t necessarily want to stay – which is very different. As a physicist at heart, I prefer the idea of an attractive force – like gravity – and our customers wanting to stay with us. I think it’s a far more powerful way of thinking.

We live at a time of unprecedented customer expectations both for business customers and our end consumers, and being customer-centric is critical, but why the recent focus now?

Think about your ultimate consumers – they are you and me, and our expectations have changed. Forrester’s research stated, “This new world requires leaders to think and act differently,” and George Colony, Forrester CEO, predicts that if a company is not customer-centric, they’ll simply be out of business between 5-10 years.

Being customer-centric shouldn’t just be a concept, and we need to approach it as part of our company vision and mission.

There is a gap

We’ve been trying to be more customer-centric for a long, long while, but only 14% of business leaders think they actually are, and only 11% think our customers would say we are. The Harvard Business Review in 2017 stated that “The most common, and perhaps the greatest, barrier to customer-centricity is the lack of a customer-centric organizational culture. At most companies, the culture remains product-focused or sales-driven, or customer-centricity is considered a priority only for certain functions such as marketing.” This is true in many instances still, but we are now beginning to see a shift and cultures change.

Think about customer outcomes

Understanding your customer and aligning their business interests with a customer-centric, prescriptive approach to realizing value from you is the fastest and most efficient way to growing product adoption. We need to shift our thinking from why we are selling to why our customers are buying from us and what the outcomes are that they are looking for. What do our customers want, and how do they want it? Change your talk track and understand your customers betters.

BA’s strap-line fits very well with this way of thinking – “To fly, to serve.”

Customer leadership

We know the theory, and we know we need to be more customer-centric. The biggest challenge for many organizations is how to do it, at both the strategic organizational level and at the more tactical operational level.

I’ve worked with, and for many organizations going through their own journeys to be more customer-centric, at both large, well-established global organizations and more niche startup organizations and have been privileged to be in positions with them where I’ve been part of those customer-focused changes and have seen some amazing results. One of the more strategic changes that is crucial for success is getting your customer leadership at the right level. It’s great to see more organizations across different industries and sectors investing in Chief Customer Officer or similar exec level roles now, and the number has grown significantly over the last few years (and continues to grow). Having the right leadership gives you the voice of the customer at the leadership table, having someone focused on driving customer growth and value and bringing the customer conversations to the exec and board level.

I really like this concise definition of a Chief Customer Officer: “An executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

The customer leadership role “Chief Customer Officer or other “ gives you:

  • Visibility – to understand and see what is happening to your customers
  • Clarity – of what happens when a prospect becomes a customer
  • Balance – the 3rd organizational pillar (with sales and operations)
  • Focus – allowing sales to focus on new business
  • Feedback – into what is happening outside of the business
  • Signaling – the external messaging that we are customer-centric

Practical steps to being more customer-centric

At a more practical level, “things you could do more immediately” here are a number of key ideas to drive customer centricity in your organization:

  1. Create a mission statement that impacts and includes
  2. Be a customer for a day – good old role play (and across all teams)400
  3. Visit your customers ? all execs and, even better, all teams
  4. Create a customer community – customers talking to each other
  5. Create a voice of customer program – and close the feedback loop
  6. Bring your customer feedback into every meeting across the business
  7. Democratize customer insights – make them visible to everyone
  8. Have customer-focused goals and objectives for all teams
  9. Hire for customer orientation and customer empathy

I really, really like Amazon’s mission statement:

Earth’s most customer-centric company

When launched in 1995, it was with the mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” This goal continues today, but Amazon’s customers are worldwide now and have grown to include millions of Consumers, Sellers, Content Creators, and Developers & Enterprises. Each of these groups has different needs, and we always work to meet those needs, innovating new solutions to make things easier, faster, better, and more cost-effective.

Points 6 and 7 above can be very powerful when done well, and I’ve seen the idea of a customer feedback wall used very well and to great effect – where you include and share the very good, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Do these ideas resonate with you? What things have you done in your organizations to drive the journey to be more customer-centric? And what has the impact been on your customers?

“Customer Centricity is a journey and not a destination.”

Jason Noble

Jason is an established leader in Customer Success and SaaS, with over 20 years of global experience working across customer success, service delivery, account management, customer support, and professional services. He has held leadership roles with major global brands (including Sony and Reed Elsevier) and also worked with more niche technology startups and organizations, successfully building and leading global customer success programs and operations. He is a commercial customer success leader working at the Director and board level – to innovate and align technology functions and services – as the voice of the customer at the leadership table.

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Come join us for our fast-paced, insightful, unplugged conversations with two leading “Jasons” in Customer Success. Jason Noble, a UK based visionary Customer Success executive and leader, and Jason Whitehead, a US-based Customer Success and Software Adoption leader, discuss a variety of topics and issues of importance in the field of Customer Success. Each month we explore a new and important topic related to Customer Success, so be sure to join each episode in the series!

Go to The Jasons Take On where you can register to join an upcoming episode live, watch the replays on YouTube or listen to the replay via podcast.


Actions CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs Can Take to Increase Software Success

It is widely known that most software investments fail to deliver the expected business results and Return on Investment (ROI). Here are often-skipped, specific actions that CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs can take to get more value from their software investment.

A long history of software failure

For years research groups have reported the CRM projects alone to have a 60 ? 70% record of failing to deliver expected business outcomes. What is staggering is that executives have accepted these dismal results for so long and not taken action to address such poor performance. 

Why this long history of failure? Either executives are not aware of the problem (unlikely), or they don’t know what to do to solve it (highly likely).

The problem is the approach

When I speak with leaders across a variety of organizations and industries about how they approach software success, the typical answer is “training.

While relying on training consistently fails to deliver success, organizations keep turning to it as the go-to move, each time expecting a different result. Somewhere out there, Einstein is rolling over in his grave, thinking everyone is insane!

Its time to stop the crazy-train and start looking for new approaches that will deliver results. 

Over a career spanning more than twenty years focused on helping organizations improve user adoption and getting more value from their IT systems, I have learned many tactics that make a massive impact on success.  

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You need to plan how you will achieve long-term software success

There is no way any organization can justify putting money into a software investment without having a clear, realistic plan for how they will get their value back out of it. 

History has shown us that just doing a little system training ? at the time of go-live ? will not deliver the results you want. It is time for something new.

A world of perpetual change

Your organization operates in a world of continuous change, with lots of fluid factors that impact the level of adoption and business results you get from your system year over year.

 What changes can you expect over the next 10+ years?

  • Employees will join and leave your organization
  • Updates and changes to the software
  • Strategic priorities will change,
  • The competitive environment will change
  • New government regulations impact how you operate
  • You might be involved in an acquisition or merger
  • And many more

All of this constant change has a direct impact on the user adoption and value you get from your software. Merely relying on a little training, delivered at the point of go-live, is never going to give you the long-term software success you seek.

To get the ROI you want from your software, you need to have dedicated, skilled resources working to manage all of this complexity. You need to take action to sustain the effective adoption of your systems and ensure you achieve your desired business results. 

While you won?t know all the specifics of what will change, you can and should forecast out what skills, resources, and funding you need to ensure the software delivers the results you need, over ten years. You need to require these resource estimates as part of your initial business case and carefully look at them as part of your funding approval decisions.

When I speak to executives about the original business case and forecasted returns they used to justify their software purchase, I always ask them what the assumed level of user adoption was. Inevitably they start to quickly look downtrodden when they realized they overlooked something straightforward, yet very important in their calculations. It is almost universal that most IT business cases assume 100% user adoption, from day one when they calculate the expected ROI. The assumption is that once the system goes live, they will immediately start realizing all of the cost efficiencies and increased productivity from day 1. And we all know this is not the case.

Use weighted user adoption to adjust your business case / ROI forecasts.

When developing your business case, you should explicitly state the level of adoption you expect for each year over the next 10+ years. How will drops in the rate of effective adoption reduce the benefits you realize each year? 

Use this information to adjust the forecasted ROI from your system.  

For example, if you know that the system you are introducing is going to be a significant change for the organization, you can discount the expected returns in the first year (or two) substantially. People need extra time to adjust to substantial changes in how they perform their daily job. During this initial adjustment period, adoption is typically low, and productivity usually dips.

Continuing out into the future, you should look at the return you get based on different levels of effective user adoption. 

  • If you only get 70% effective use, does your project still make sense? 
  • What about 50%effective user adoption? 
  • Does the project still make sense at 30% user adoption?
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Free eCourse: Why Software Projects Fail…and How to Ensure Success

Let history be your teacher

Are you not sure what is a realistic estimate for a sufficient level of adoption? 

You can start by looking over current and historical user adoption rates and corresponding ROI of other existing applications in your organization. 

  • What level of adoption do these applications have?
  • What percentage of the forecasted business benefits have they delivered? 

Justify your adoption resource needs

Once you realize how significant an impact on the level of adoption has on your bottom-line results, it becomes easier to justify the resources required each year to drive and sustain adoption.

Many organizations have a project sponsor that is accountable for getting the initial funding and then getting the system live. However, very rarely is the owner accountable for ensuring the system is used effectively and achieves the measurable business outcomes and ROI used to justify the investment. 

Assign a senior executive to be accountable for long-term adoption and success

One simple, high-impact tactic to deliver software success is to ensure a senior executive has an explicit, significant, vested interest in taking action and allocating resources to ensure the software is used to achieve bottom-line results.

You need to make sure there are real impacts for the executive for missing, meeting, or exceeding outcome targets. 

To achieve meaningful results, you often need to tie compensation, promotion eligibility, etc., to the executive?s performance plan. 

Oh, and if this executive leaves the organization or changes role, you need to assign this responsibility to their successor formally.

You need an ongoing user adoption and success team

Driving long-term user adoption and ensuring that business goals are achieved requires tremendous work and effort.

You need an internal team in place to make it happen. 

Many organizations now setup internal Software Success Teams. (Some organizations call them User Adoption Teams, User Adoption Program Management Office (UAPMO), or Adoption Center of Excellence). Regardless of the name, you need a team that will plan, accelerate, and then sustains the level of user adoption that is necessary to achieve your business goals. This team needs to maintain effective user adoption, year over year, over the life of the system. This is no easy task!

Start managing software success long before the software is live!

There is a lot of planning and preparation that needs to happen to put in place an effective user adoption and success program. You need to:

  • Define what constitutes success in both the short and long-term
  • Build the success team and operating processes
  • Analyze the organizational barriers and drives of success
  • You need to begin preparing your organization to navigate change before the software goes live
  • You need to accelerate software adoption and get employees to embrace new ways of working at the time of go-live
  • You need to sustain full, effective user adoption over the long-term 

All of this work takes time and skilled resources. The size and complexity of your software project will directly impact the amount of work required to drive success. The more complex and disruptive the software, the more time and resources that are needed to help you manage success.

 We worked with one client that brought us in to help set up their adoption program several months before they even selected their software vendor!

New skills and approaches required

We work with a lot of internal technology teams, and most of them don?t have any experience in organizational change management or user adoption concepts and techniques. 

While IT staff do not need to be experts in adoption, they do need to understand the general practices and the various touchpoints and dependencies that a valid user adoption methodology has with the technology team.

Similarly, very few people on the business side understand user adoption concepts and activities. Staff on the business side need to understand these concepts since they will need to be involved in many of the actions required to deliver success.

Train IT and business staff on user adoption practices

To ensure the best results, be sure that at the start of projects that all project members (including both IT and business team staff) are trained on the adoption activities that need to happen and why. Ensuring both IT and business staff share a common understanding of user adoption activities enables them to collaborate during the development and rollout process effectively.

You will also need to periodically refresh everyone?s understanding and remind them where they are in the process.

User adoption portfolio approach

To maximize your results, you will want to have a Software Success Program across all of your applications.

After you have experimented on building software success programs for a few of your applications, and have learned what works and what doesn?t work in your organization, then it is time to scale and mature your efforts. Eventually, you want to get to the point that you have an ongoing software success program across your entire IT portfolio.

There will be different levels of attention required for various applications. These will vary based on:

  • The size
  • Scale
  • Complexity
  • Level of investment. A

When rolling out new systems, there will be changes to the level of usage and value received from other existing applications. 

  • New systems may divert attention from the use of current systems. 
  • Functionality deployed in the new system may replace functionality in existing systems, thus lowering the use and value received from the existing systems. 

Having a software success portfolio approach enables you to measure, monitor, and manage the costs, resources, and ultimate business value received from each application. You can now focus your resources and achieve the best overall results.

Taking these actions will significantly increase your overall effectiveness, maximize the value you get from your IT investments, and improve your bottom line. 

The challenge is that this is new for many organizations, and they don?t know where to start. And there are many challenges along the way. 

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, Success Chain can help. Contact us to find out what we can do for you.


The 4+1 Keys to Successful Software Adoption Planning & Execution

For SaaS vendors and SaaS customers…

People are confronted by questions all the time, some as simple as “what came first, the chicken or the egg,” and others are not so simple like, “who owns software adoption?”

All sarcasm aside, these two questions are related as they both apply to the world of customer success and software adoption; what comes first?

In order to drive business value, an organization needs to adopt its new software quickly and use it as designed and intended. Not a lot of argument there. But, what comes before the adoption is critical to adoption happening at all, hence the chicken and the egg question.

Machines don’t adopt software; people do. In order for that to happen, an organization needs an actual written plan that maps objectives, timelines, and goals. It needs to map the changes in behaviors people need to make to adopt the new software and do so efficiently in the time frames desired.

Let’s look at what we at Tri Tuns call “The 4+1 Keys to successful software adoption,” where we point out those critical concepts needed for successful software adoption outcomes and customer success:

Key # 1: Software adoption is all about your people, not IT systems

Let’s take Key #1 as fundamental. For years most firms saddled IT with what was “adoption” but was really “build it, and they will come.” It was a passive and largely inefficient approach to get people to change behaviors and switch how they did their day to day jobs. Most times, it was really not successful.

“Machines don’t adopt software; people do.” IT does not own adoption because it can’t. IT is awesome at getting systems live and keeping them that way, and making sure that things work as intended. It’s more than a full-time job and does not involve identifying and solving human bottlenecks or gaps in an organization that wishes to resist and stay on the old software.

Software adoption is a people issue, it’s that simple, and it’s all about getting people to identify and embrace new behaviors that will increase business value via their new software. So give IT a break; their job is hard enough.

Key #2: Software adoption needs a clear & transparent plan before, during, and after Go-Live

If your organization is planning to launch a new major software purchase, then everyone owes it to themselves, particularly the key stakeholders, to begin the software adoption planning process early.

Very early.

Very early, as in during the software selection process optimally, but most definitely well before go-live. All 4+1 Keys are actively and effectively addressed in the planning processes. No two software implementations are the same. No two adoption plans are the same, and that’s why the 4+1 Keys are so important to the overall process.

Adoption planning is more than application training and communications. Since a software change is expected to increase efficiency and create tangible business value, an adoption plan needs to identify opportunities and obstacles to success. These can exist at many levels, and the work needs to be done to identify and catalog how each opportunity and obstacle should be addressed, and by whom, and in what time frame.

The adoption plan needs to be very transparent so that the entire organization affected by the new software is fully briefed and on board with what the plan is and how it will affect them. They can participate because they know what is expected of them and in what time frames.

Key #3: software adoption needs to be clearly owned by someone inside of your organization

This should go without saying, yet on many projects having a designated adoption owner is often missed. In the land of software adoption, however, it is a critical must-have for success. It is also super critical for the SaaS CSM’s to know specifically who actually owns adoption on the customer side. Both sides have to have skin in the game.

As we talked about briefly in Key #1, IT does not own adoption. Adoption is about people and business value. For an adoption plan and project to be successful, there needs to be a clear business owner whose mission is the successful building and execution of the adoption plan and delivery of increased business value to their company. If there is to be accountability, there needs to be a clear owner. Without this key, unlocking business value quickly is going to be harder and slower.

The owner needs to do the hard work of determining what an adoption plan for their organization needs to look like and defines what success will ultimately look like for their project. Once an adoption owner is assigned, the real adoption planning can begin, aided by Key # 4 and Key #5.

For SaaS CSM’s, this is an opportunity to help drive successful adoption with their customer.

Key # 4: software adoption requires visible senior leadership support

Leadership support looks different depending on factors such as the size, scale, complexity, and number of people involved in the software implementation. What is critical is that your leadership demonstrates through words, actions, and resource allocation, their dedication to accelerating, measuring, and sustaining effective adoption of the software.

Your new software was purchased and approved by some individual or group of individuals on the belief that having it would generate business value. Ensuring that the organization will effectively support the implementation and adoption program for your new software is essential to achieving desired business outcomes. Support needs to begin higher up rather than lower down.

It is often easier for the executive level to illustrate how your new software will bring new value to your organization globally. However, it is Key # 5 that will ultimately cement the success of your software adoption efforts.

Key #5: The employees’ direct supervisor is instrumental in software adoption success

This may seem elementary to some readers, but it is often overlooked in its importance. The users’ direct supervisor is crucial to seeing day to day that the needle is moving with their people, and the system is getting used in a way that delivers increased business value.

The immediate supervisor is the pointy end of the spear. Their ability to observe and influence at the micro-level will have a direct effect on how fast their team adopts the new system. Including the “direct supervisor effect” needs to be baked into each adoption plan to take advantage of and leverage this person in their unique position to positively influence adoption metrics and outcomes.

Failing to do so leaves a highly effective lever for accelerating success unused. Bring direct supervisors into the planning fold early on. This will ensure they have visibility and an ownership stake in the definition of success and metrics by which they will be measured is a smart step that everyone should take.


The 4+1 Keys to successful software adoption are the framework that most every organization and SaaS vendor can incorporate to dramatically increase their likelihood of success in launching a new software investment. Software adoption is about people and behaviors, and while there is no one size fits all solution, the 4+1 Keys have been developed from over 20 years of direct successful experience with organizations and SaaS vendors large and small.

Real success for both SaaS vendors and SaaS customers begins with software adoption.


4 Myths About Customer Success (and How to Bust Them)

If You Build It, You May End Up Wasting a lot of Time and Money!

After a decade of experience in developing and implementing customer success and user adoption strategies for clients, we have seen several pervasive myths that prevent companies from getting value from their IT investments. Because they believe these things, people may skimp on planning and strategy for adoption or “sell” people on what they will get for using the system as individuals, as opposed to putting time and effort into a customer success strategy and plan.

The following are 4 myths that get our clients into trouble:

  1.  “If you build it, they will come.” History has proven this is rarely true.  Instead, organizations need to develop a focused effort to drive and sustain effective use of the system.
  2. “They will use it because they have no choice.” People always have a choice. Even where a process cannot be completed without using the system, there are always degrees of freedom regarding how, when, where, and with what level of accuracy systems are used. These critical issues can make or break the success of a system implementation.  Instead, flip this assumption on its head. What would you need to do differently if you assumed people always had a choice about whether or not to use the system? How would it change your adoption plan and approach?”
  3. The timeline for change management ends at go-live.” Instead, customer success managers need to focus on both accelerating initial system use, and then more importantly, sustaining high-levels of effective use year over year. Their approach to sustaining adoption over the long term needs to recognize that their organization will constantly evolve, and they need to periodically adjust their adoption effort to meet new and emerging needs. Managers need to ask themselves, “What is the long term plan for sustainable adoption? How will we bring on new hires? What is the plan for upgrades to the system, and how will they be adopted?”
  4. “It all comes down to user resistance.” Often people assume that the success or failure of adoption efforts comes down to the discretion of the end-users. We have found that in many instances, even when people want to use the system, there are organizational barriers that prevent it.  An effective adoption methodology needs to identify the organizational barriers that prevent adoption and then needs to authorize or empower someone to take action to remove these barriers.

One reason these myths survive is that, based on our experience working with both software vendors and software buyers, there is a very large deficit in the skills and expertise needed for organizations to effectively drive adoption.  When an organization is considering purchasing (or renewing) an IT system, they should not only consider the system functionality but also examine the customer success services the vendor provides them for driving adoption.

SaaS vendors, in turn, are realizing that if their customers are not adopting the system, then the customer is not renewing or dramatically cutting back the number of licenses they renew.  The vendors are scrambling to figure out how it is they can help their customers increase adoption and achieve measurable business results from the use of their system.  And while many software vendors are great at providing excellent software, they have yet to really develop expertise, tools, and methods for effectively helping their clients rapidly adopt the software.

You should expect maximum value from all your IT investments, but you also need to prepare for it. With Success Chain, we lead you through a step by step process to prepare. Driving adoption of your software is as easy as following a tried and true, fail-proof recipe – just follow the steps to get the answers you need, when you need them, at your own pace, and in your own space.