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Increase Customer Success with Equivalent Metrics

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

How do you motivate people to use your software?

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

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

The myth of “They will have no choice”

For example, each individual decides:

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

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

3 Approaches to Motivating User Adoption of Software

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

Let’s take a quick look:

1. “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM)  

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

WIIFM motivation:

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

2. “Compliance” and “Sticks”  

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

Compliance driven motivation is:

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

3. “Commitment” 

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

Commitment driven motivation:

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

Software only delivers value when it is used

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

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

Drive commitment to using software to achieve a greater goal

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

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User Adoption & The 20-Year Renewal

Who wouldn’t like to secure 20 years’ worth of renewals with each of their customers?

Well, it is possible.

If you sell on a subscription basis, this should be your goal from the very beginning.

But how do you get there?

Ask yourself, “How would I need to approach and manage a new client relationship from the very start?

Achieving the 20-year renewal requires a shift in thinking and action. It requires that you change:

You need to create an environment in which a client is delighted to renew year, over year.

Selling for Logos (and Churn)

When we talk with SaaS vendors, we routinely hear some version of a story about how “sales are focused on getting new logos” and will “do anything to land a new customer.”

Typically, the conversations focus on the features and functionality of the software, how easy it is to use, and how fast they can have the system live. The sales rep closes the deal, gets the commission, and turns things over to the implementation and delivery team to make the customer successful.

And then it doesn’t happen.

The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game

Sure, the system gets turned on, and some people get trained on it.

Then, the customer waits for it use it.

They sit and wait for all the anticipated business benefits to come rolling in.

And they wait.

And they wait some more.

And no (or only limited) benefits appear.

Soon after that, the customer complaints arrive, followed by the inevitable, disastrous Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), a clear sign of the churn that is yet to come. And then that happens too.

Selling and Delivering for the 20-Year Renewal

So, what went wrong?

You won the deal, right?

The problem is that if this is your approach, chances are you may have won the deal but already lost the renewal.

Selling for the 20-year renewal requires you to shift your sales discussion. You need to move from focusing on the features, functionality, and potential benefits of your system to instead focus on how your Customer Success capabilities will ensure customers are successful in adopting the system.

From that flows the clear business value from the use of your software, and based on that, customers will be thrilled to continue renewing for the next 20 years.

Here are three ways to do this:

Set Business Goals

1. Set the Goal of a 20-Year Relationship from the Very Start.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but your initial sales conversations need to move beyond focusing on the immediate, pressing business problem. Instead, address how you will solve the new challenges that will emerge once the current need is met.

Get the customer to think past the immediate need. Help them look at what happens next.

Focus the discussion on the long-term, sustained business value that the customer will need to realize to renew for the next 20 years.

Map the Critical Path to Value Creation and 20 Years of Renewals

2. Map the Critical Path to Value Creation and 20 Years of Renewals.

Most technology project plans focus on the path to go-live and a little bit beyond. When you map out the critical path to ROI and renewals, you quickly see that accelerated and sustained, effective user adoption is what leads to renewals.

So, what actions and deliverables are needed over the long-term to make sure you get the user adoption required to deliver 20 years’ worth of renewable value to your customer?

Not sure?

Chances are, your customers don’t know either. You need to help them figure it out.

When you walk your prospect through a 20-year renewal timeframe, what will become clear is that after the system is live, what becomes most important is having a sustained effort to maximize adoption.

Help your customers discover that over 20 years, there will be changes to their internal structure, staff composition, products/services, operating environment, and overall organizational performance. All of these changes will impact user adoption and ROI.

The key to a 20-year renewal is helping them develop the capability to accelerate and sustain effective internal user adoption over the course of 20 years of ongoing organizational change and uncertainty.

Provide User Adoption Capabilities to Your Customer

3. Provide and Sustain User Adoption & Value Realization Capabilities for Your Customer

Most of your customers will not have a clue about how to put in place a program that drives and sustains adoption for 20 years. You may not, either. But you, and they, need to figure it out.

Helping your customers map out and proactively manage all the organizational complexities affecting user adoption and value realization they will encounter over time is not a core capability of most software vendors ? even those with a great Customer Success team.

Yet, this capability is precisely what your customers require to achieve 20 years of value from your system.

To address this need, you either need to build this capability in-house, partner with software adoption and organizational change companies to provide this expertise, or discover some way for your customers to solve this problem on their own.

Ultimately, unless your customers can sufficiently sustain adoption and ongoing value realization, the 20-year renewal will remain elusive.

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The Very First Question a Customer Success Team Needs to Ask

If you are like many customer success managers, you are probably extremely focused on the question:

“Will our customers be successful with OUR software?”

You and your team probably ask yourselves what you, as a customer success professional, need to do to ensure the customer is successful using your product.

But there is a more critical, more fundamental question you need to ask first.

You need to ask, “Can our customer be successful with ANY software?”

Shifting focus is critical

By asking if the customer can be successful with any software, you are identifying if the customer has within its internal organization the knowledge, skills, experience, and capacity required to get maximum business value from its software investments.

You are identifying if the primary problem you need to solve first is related to your customers’ organizational capacity to adopt and benefit from any technology or if the major challenge is specific to your system.

Once you understand this crucial distinction between the customers’ ability to achieve success with any software versus their ability to achieve success with your specific software, you can focus and prioritize your CS efforts on the right things.

Here is the problem

Here’s the problem

What may come as a big surprise to you, is that most buyers of software don’t know how to get their organizations to drive change, get their staff to adopt software effectively, and ensure they get the full business outcomes they expect.

The issue is not the software.

The issue is a lack of knowledge, experience, and expertise in driving new behaviors and ways of working across the organization to get the full value from the software.

When we train the buyers of software on user adoption techniques and practices, they are amazed at how many things they are doing wrong that prevent their success in getting value from software. The vast majority of these issues are people, organizational, and process issues. They are NOT specific to a given piece of software.

It doesn’t matter if it is a cloud system, on-premise, or a custom-built application. The crisis of effective user adoption is ubiquitous.

Here is the solution

Here are some questions you need to ask your customers to identify if the biggest blockers of customer success are tied to your specific product or are related to the customer’s internal ability to absorb any technology within their organizations:

  • What do you do internally to drive adoption and realize business benefits when implementing any new system? Do you have a defined user adoption program and methodology?
  • How do you ensure systems are quickly adopted and that you sustain effective adoption 3, 5, and 10 years down the road?
  • Across your software portfolio, what percent of applications are delivering the full business benefits and outcomes you expected? How many of the systems would you consider a mind-blowing business “success”? What makes them so incredible?
  • What prevents you from getting more value from your existing IT investments?
  • What will you do to ensure that your investment in our system is a success and delivers all of the business benefits you expect to achieve?
  • Where do you need our help to ensure that your investment in our system is a success and delivers all of the business benefits you expect to achieve?
Women Solving Problems

What to expect…

What you will most likely hear from your customers is that they have a plethora of systems that are NOT successful.

The vast majority of their systems are likely underused or underperforming. There is probably a lot of value leakage in their existing IT investment portfolio.

Many of your prospects and customers likely provide a limited version of “change management” (typically focused around the go-live date). These are probably the customers that report very few systems delivering full business value.

It will be the rare gem of a customer that has a structured, ongoing program to sustain effective system use (and business outcomes realization) over a 5 – 10 year period. These forward-thinking companies are likely the ones that report high success rates across their software portfolio.

The red flag for your customer success approach

When asking these questions, you will quickly see that many of your customers are unlikely to achieve great success getting value from any system, not just your system.

When you encounter this, you need to ask yourself if there is something magically different about your software. What is the magic that will lead customers to achieve success with your software when they have proven time and time again, they struggle to adopt and get value from any system?

If your software is sans magic then, you need to offer a different approach to helping your customer achieve success.

Otherwise, your system will quickly become just another underwhelming investment in your customer’s software portfolio.

Solve the first problem first

Before you waste a ton of time, resources, and effort narrowly focusing on the success of your product, you will likely need to help your customers recognize that they need to address this fundamental capability gap within their organization first.

They will need to spend time learning the principles and practices of software adoption. Then they must adjust their internal efforts to get more value from any of their software investments. Only then will they even have the potential to get full value from their investment in your system.

Your customer will be amazed at how you helped them

Realizing this, you need to focus your customer success approach on building your customer’s capacity to adopt any system effectively. They will then apply this skill to adopt your system.

And then everyone wins.

There is also an added benefit for you from this approach. By enriching your customer’s capacity to adopt any system, you will tremendously differentiate your company and your customer success program from all of your competitors.

Your customer will view you as the coveted “trusted advisor.”

Your customer will give you rare references and reviews.

Your customers will renew and expand their accounts.

And you will amaze and delight your coworkers, managers, executives, and investors.

Everybody wins.

Learn more

Success Chain provides a variety of Customer Success and Software Adoption training and consulting services to help buyers of software get full value from their IT investments.

Contact us to learn how we can help you or your customers increase their potential for software success and develop their internal software adoption programs and capacity that delivers success.

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Why is User Adoption so Hard?

Most organizations are surprised by how difficult it is to get people to adopt new technology.

The worst mistake people make

The biggest mistake many organizations make is believing that people will have no choice but to adopt a new IT system because it will be mandatory.

Do people assume this in your organization?

You can’t mandate system use

Mandating system use is a common approach that is guaranteed to block the potential value and success of an IT system. The assumption is that if the boss tells them they must do it, then people will do it. Ha!

The truth is that people always have a choice in:

  • How they use a system
  • When they use it
  • How well they use it
  • How frequently they use it
You can't mandate behavior

Technology introduces LOTS of change!

Many organizations that struggle with adoption have failed to recognize that introducing new technology, even simple systems, creates a ripple effect of change throughout an organization.

Implementing IT systems require changes to:

  • Processes and policies
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Daily routines and habits
  • Performance expectations and evaluations

Manage the changes or else

Unless you identify and proactively manage change before, during, and after go-live, you will not see the levels of user adoption and business outcomes you want.

The IT system on which you spent valuable time and money will end up:

  • Sitting idle
  • Used in the wrong way
  • Barely used
  • Have bad data entered
  • No data entered
Barrier to user adoption

The hidden barriers to success

Most organizations fail to identify real and perceived organizational obstacles to adopting and using new technology because leaders:

  • Believe user adoption will “just happen” organically and they don’t need to devote time and resources to drive and sustain adoption
  • Don’t know how to identify potential organizational barriers to adoption
  • Think they know all the barriers without realizing they probably don’t
  • Do not motivate and rewarded people for focusing their efforts on anything beyond quickly getting the system live on time and within budget

Get the right approach to success

Most software projects fail to deliver the expected business outcomes because of the method the buyer takes to getting the system live and driving user adoption.

Many organizations lack the expertise, tools, and capacity to deliver their internal success. You need to move past traditional change management approaches and instead put in place a comprehensive effort focused on long-term, sustained user adoption.

You need to:

  • Remove adoption barriers that prevent stakeholders from using IT systems as designed and intended
  • Achieve a dramatic increase in adoption rates for IT systems
  • Experience significantly faster value creation and benefits realization from IT systems
  • Gain a return on your IT system objectives and investments
  • Be the role model and hero in your organization for having the knowledge and skills to drive short-term and long-term success with IT systems

When you have the right approach to user adoption, you will find that it is not that hard to deliver success. If you are not getting the results you need, it is time to develop new skills and approaches to solving the problem. You will be amazed at the results.

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Get help

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.

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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.

Summary:

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.

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What a 2-Year-Old Can Teach You About User Adoption

We can learn a lot from young kids if we just pay attention.? Here is an example that can help you increase the adoption of your software and performance of your team.

Action

See if you can relate to this one.? This morning we were rushing around trying to get everyone ready and out the door to start another week.? My wife had been playing with the kids (or so she thought) so that I was free to get everything together and out the door. It was great fun to witness the exchange that happened next.

Two-year-old: “Mom, play with me.”

Mom: “OK” and picks up a stuffed animal to start playing.

Two-year-old: “No! Don’t touch it.”

Mom: “Well, it is hard to play with you if you won’t let me touch any of your toys.”

Two-year-old: “Mom, play with me.”

Mom: Slightly frustrated, rolls eyes.

Dad: “What do you want her to do? How should she play with you?”

Two-year-old: “Make a pile with the pillows.”

Mom: “OK, here you go.” Makes a pile of pillows and smiles.

Two-year-old: Smiles and laughs.

Applying the ARC method

In a previous blog article, we cover the Action – Reflection – Change (ARC) method for increasing your software adoption learning curve. Let’s use this approach to analyze this exchange.

Reflection

Lesson 1: Don’t assume people know what you want.

In this example, the two year old was very clear that he wanted mom to play. However, it was not clear to mom exactly what that meant.? She tried to honor his initial request and started to play in a way that made sense to her at the time. However, it was clearly not what the two-year old wanted.

How often, when implementing software, do you ask people to “use the system” or “put it in the system”? I bet quite a bit. Yet, how often do you explain exactly what that means? Probably not too often. The lesson here is that “use the system” can mean a lot of things to different people in different contexts.

Lesson 2: Ask for the behavior you want.

When I asked our son how he wanted his mother to play, he had a very clear, specific answer. He wanted her to make a pile. Once given this clear guidance, she happily made a pillow pile, and everyone laughed and had fun.

When you are rolling out a new system, how often do you identify and request the specific behaviors that you want people to demonstrate? Do you make it explicit that you want them to do things like, “Enter all of your existing contacts, phone, email, address, and job title into the system by 1:00 pm on this Friday”? Or do you simply say, “Use the system” or “Enter your contacts.”

Change

One of the most powerful shifts you can make is from just deploying a system and expecting people to use it to define very clear, specific measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) behaviors that you expect managers and users to demonstrate.? If you want people to use a specific piece of system functionality, or enter key pieces of data by a certain date, then ask for that specific behavior.

  • If you are an executive or manager, don’t do the equivalent of saying, “play with me” – you will only be frustrated and disappointed in the results.
  • If you are a staff member expected to use the system, ask your manager or executive to clarify the behavior they want you to demonstrate.? Ask your manager, “what specific things do you want me to do in the system, and by when, so that you get the results you want?”

Need help?

Do you want fast results in your company? Contact Success Chain today to learn how we can help you quickly and easily accelerate the adoption of your systems.

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The critical ARC of Your Software Learning Curve

While working on a client Software Adoption Rescue project, the client executive shared that they had always known their users would need to navigate up a steep learning curve before they fully adopted the software. Yet, despite this expectation and their best efforts to provide the communications, training, and user support they thought necessary, the users still appeared to be stuck and were not embracing the technology.

Has this ever happened to you? Have people in your organization failed to navigate the learning curve? Did your users miss the curve and get stuck in a ditch?

What can you do to flatten the software adoption learning curve?

One very simple, actionable technique to flatten the learning curve and accelerate effective user adoption of your software is the ARC method.

A = Action

R = Reflection

C = Change

Most people don’t realize that learning happens during reflection, not the action. When learning a new system, users, managers, and executives need to take intentional action to stop and identify the specific actions they took, inside or outside the system. Then reflect on whether or not the actions were effective at achieving their specific goals, and then identify what changes or course corrections are needed in the future (I.e., what different actions are needed).

Using ARC with end-users, managers, and executives

This ARC method can be used with direct end-users of the system to identify which system functionality they are using (“action”) and if they are using it effectively and achieving the desired results (“reflection”). You can then identify other functionality they could use instead or alternatives for how or when they use the system (“change”) going forward.

The ARC method can also be used by managers and executives to identify the actions they are using to drive and sustain effective adoption within their teams. Managers and executives take action to establish the policies, processes, and reward systems that directly impact end-user adoption of the system. What specific Actions are managers taking to accelerate software adoption within their team? What actions are they taking when members of their staff are not using the software as designed and intended?

Managers need to Reflect to see if these actions are effective at driving adoption or if they are enabling and rewarding staff for not adopting the system. Managers can then identify what actions they need to change in order to drive different software adoption behaviors among their teams.

Simple ARC steps for individuals, teams, and large organizations

For Individuals

Individuals can easily apply the ARC method to adjust their own learning and behavior. One very simple technique is to write short journal entries using this method. You can set aside as little as 10 -15 minutes to write the answers to 3 simple questions:

“Describe a particular task, activity, or event and identify the specific action(s) you took to address it.” Pick a specific action, task, event, or incident that occurred that day or week and narrowly focus on it. It could be narrow in scope, like “I tried to use the system to prepare for an important client meeting” or “I had to have a difficult conversation with one of my direct reports because they were not following the new process or using the system.” Write down as many specifics you can think about regarding what you did. You can use short sentences or even just bullets. This is just for you. The goal is to try to isolate the specific actions from any intentions, interpretations, or emotions tied to the event.

“What was the impact or results of these actions?” Identify if the actions you took achieved your goals or if the challenge or problem still remains. For example, did you call the help desk to get support on using the tool? Did you find that you could generate the report you needed in the system, but you didn’t know how to interpret the data to make a better decision? Did you ask your managers or coworker for help analyzing the results? If you are a manager, did you have a clear and direct conversation about employee work performance in a way that would help your staff member improve going forward? What specific “ah ha’s” have you had as a result of separating the actions and reflecting on the impacts of these actions?

“What will you do going forward?” Now that you have reflected on the actions, what things need to change going forward? What do you need to stop doing that wasn’t effective at achieving your goals? What things were more effective than you expected that you need to make sure you do more often in the future? When will you next stop and reflect on the effectiveness of these changes?

You can keep your journal private or share parts of it with other members of your team to get their suggestions or help them flatten their own learning curve.

For teams & large organizations

When working with large teams, it is often helpful to bring in a 3rd party to facilitate learning reviews with a small or large group. The 3rd party can be a member of your organization that is in a different department or an external consultant. The 3rd party essentially needs to facilitate the team in working through the ARC method to accelerate team learning and identify specific changes and actions the team will take going forward. For best results, use SMART actions (Specific, Measurable, Relevant, Achievable, Time-Bound) and require group commitment to achieving them by the defined dates.

Accelerating adoption & embracing best practices doesn’t happen organically

Most organizations do not set aside specific time and resources to make sure that users and organizations navigate the learning curve as quickly as possible. The ARC method is a very simple technique that does not require a lot of time and effort but is extremely powerful for helping teams change their ways of working. It is also very powerful for helping to identify specific behaviors and best practices that may emerge from select individuals or teams that could deliver tremendous benefits if they were adopted across the organization. Committing to ARC learning sessions at predefined intervals can accelerate adoption and deliver clear, fast benefits to the organization.

Don’t wait!? Schedule your ARC session today!

Don’t just read this article and say, “interesting” or “good idea.” Go, right now, before you click on the next article, and schedule a time for you or your team to conduct an ARC learning session. Block off 30 minutes on your calendar for tomorrow to sit in a quiet place and write a journal. Schedule a meeting with your team for next week to sit down and identify one specific task or activity that you want them to improve by the end of the month. Keep it tight and focused – don’t allow the conversation to expand. If necessary, get someone outside your team to come and do quick facilitation to keep everyone on track. Document the results and follow-up within two weeks of the meeting to review the results. You will be glad you did!

Need help?

Do you want help conducting your ARC review session or want more ideas of how you can improve software adoption? Contact Success Chain today to learn more.

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5 Steps to Build High-Impact Customer Success Playbooks

It is time to rethink some major assumptions and turn conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to how buyers and sellers of software approach user adoption.

For many years, user adoption was, at best, an after-thought once a system was live. At worst, it was ignored completely. IT departments and executive sponsors were left scratching their heads wondering why the magical benefits they believed the software would deliver never appeared.

Conventional wisdom had led them to believe that if they selected a great product with the right features, trained people on the functionality, communicated “What’s In It For Me?”, then everything would be fine. Then the “If you build it, they will come” approach repeatedly failed to deliver the software ROI that buyers expected. Customers reduced licenses or churned completely, leading to a big “ah-ha” moment for the software vendors. SaaS vendors realized they need to proactively support their customers in adopting their software, achieving their business goals, and consequently renewing. Thus, the field of Customer Success (CS) was born.

Adoption: The Critical Path Problem You Need to Solve

At its core, the root-cause problem that most CS teams need to solve is that customers are not effectively accelerating, maximizing, and sustaining full adoption of software within their organizations. If the customers’ users cannot or will not incorporate the use of a given software into their daily work routines, they will not get the value they need. Quite simply:

No Adoption = No Value = No Renewals

CS teams can spend all the time in the world talking about features, road-maps, strategy, and quarterly business reviews (QBRs), but without adoption, this is all moot.

The Challenge: Conventional Wisdom Doesn’t Apply to Adoption!

If you are still following conventional wisdom and focusing on training and traditional change management, your renewals will suffer. User adoption is not a technology issue. ?It is not a marketing or sales issue. It is not a training issue (though training plays a role). User adoption is a complex organization and people issue. It is a performance issue, dependent on both organizational and individual performance. The old approaches don’t work.

Effective user adoption is about getting people – lots of people – to change their behavior to reliably use your software to do their jobs. It is about coaching them to develop new work habits and to keep them going day, after day, after day. It is about removing the organizational barriers (which often fall outside the users’ control) that prevent them from using your system. And it is about aligning and focusing on how different groups use your software to make sure the customer organization is achieving the desired business goals.

The Future: Actionable User Adoption Playbooks

Let me ask you, what have you done to learn about the components and complexities of user adoption? What sources did you consider? How did you determine the actions you would take to drive user adoption? And what made you think these would be effective?

Once you understand that user adoption is a new type of challenge and the old rules don’t apply, you have freed yourself to work with your customer for answers to these questions. Here are five suggestions to get you started:

1. Educate on User Adoption Fundamentals

The chances are high that your customers do not have expertise in user adoption challenges and methods. Educate your customers (and CS staff) on effective user adoption methods so they can spend their time on proven strategies.

2. Provide Your Customers an Adoption Best Practice Playbook

Make it easy for your customers to proactively drive adoption within their organization. Provide them with the simple, actionable toolkits they need to drive adoption within their organization.

3. Develop a CS Adoption Coaching Capacity and Playbook

Your CS team needs to guide your customers through the adoption process. Provide your CS team with the training, skills, tools, and plays they need to coach your customers in adopting your software.

4. Start during the Initial Sales Process

Introduce user adoption plans and actions very early in the sales cycle. Help your customer understand that without fast, effective adoption, they will never get the ROI they want. Use your CS services as a competitive sales differentiator to demonstrate how your organization will reduce their risk and improve their ROI.

5. Continue Over Time

Don’t stop at go-live! Focus on sustaining full, effective adoption among your customers’ users over the life of your system. As soon as users stop adopting and getting value, your customer will churn.

Flip The Model

Developing effective, scalable, and profitable Customer Success services requires user adoption expertise and new ways of approaching interactions with your customers. ?Beware of approaches with an over-reliance on marketing, messaging, and training. Our organization, Success Chain, has had great success in flipping the model for delivering user adoption and customer success services. By fundamentally rethinking how we approach and deliver our services, we have accelerated how we engage with customers to deliver even faster results. As you go forward building your adoption playbooks, I challenge you to identify where you can throw conventional wisdom out the window and develop a new, more effective approach that delivers faster results for you and your customers.

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Customer Success Managers Must Be Experts in User Adoption

Karen Russell’s insightful article, “6 Mistakes That Can Sabotage The Success Of Your Customer,” sums up a lot of the problems we often see with our Saas or Enterprise clients as they transition from making software dreams a reality. As more companies realize that concerted efforts on customer success will yield better adoption and better business outcomes, these mistakes can interfere with realizing the full business value of a system.

Whether you are the client or the vendor, the goal is not introducing a slick new technology but putting the systems and processes in place to make that technology effective.

On the list, #4 is “Being the Expert,” and it is perhaps the hardest to overcome because most customer success managers are not trained to be coaches, though that is exactly what is needed. The role of a coach is to “give them the skills, techniques, routines, and exercises to make them 1st on the podium.” But before you can be the expert, you need to become the expert. This is where a lot of customer success managers struggle. They are fluent in their technology, and the functionality that it offers but providing the right tools and exercises to get the customer or a team to adopt the technology can be daunting. This part of the role requires more than just account management or customer service. Developing and implementing those tools can be time consuming and ineffective. Not every customer success manager is also an organizational development expert or has a degree in change management. And for those who are, the demands of their “day job” crowd out the skillful methodology behind a truly effective adoption program.

In order for customer success managers to bring value to their clients, they need guidance in the why, what, and how of driving adoption and what barriers they will likely overcome on the way. Since software adoption is not a technology issue, they need to not only know what might be slowing down adoption but why the customer is facing challenges and, even more importantly, how to address those challenges. Here are three ways that your people can become the experts you need them to be:

  1. Myth Busting: There are a lot of misunderstandings about the true challenges behind software adoption. Understanding the latest trends and methodology behind solving those issues will keep your team on track addressing the deeper issues behind your customer’s adoption issues, rather than scratching the surface.
  2. Action Plan: Once your team can identify the issues behind software adoption, they need a plan to address them. Developing goals with the customer is key to gaining an understanding of their goals and how best they can receive the full value of your system.
  3. Communications: Your team needs to work with the customer to bring adoption beyond the software project team. This is where becoming the expert turns the technology project into a value-driven enterprise across your customer’s business.

This doesn’t mean you have to re-educate your customer success team. There are customer success automation tools and training that can give your customer success managers insights and techniques for overcoming adoption barriers.

Organizations like ours are devoted to bringing your customer success team up to speed on the methodology behind software adoption, how to deploy tools and techniques to drive adoption, and how to measure success with an out of the box solution that you don’t have to create. Once your Customer Success Managers become the experts, they will have the ability to deliver not only service but also value to your customers.