New Zealand Trade and Enterprise recently hosted a series of webinars with private sector advisor Kirsty Traill. Here are her top tips for SaaS customer success.
Software company Gainsight defines Customer Experience (CX) + Customer Outcomes (CO) = Customer Success (CS).
CX is all the experiences your customer has with your organisation – both digital and in-person – from your UX, your product experience, your sales, service and support teams. CO is understanding how your customer defines the value your solution is providing (aka the outcome they want in using your solution) and delivering on that consistently over time.
It all starts with the customer
It’s imperative to define your personas, and to understand the buyers and users of your solution. Map your customer journey and use this to determine the most critical touchpoints for success from your customer’s perspective.
Customer experience and employee experience are inextricably linked
It’s very difficult to deliver amazing customer experiences with an unmotivated and unengaged workforce. When recruiting, ensure you are clear about your expectations, hire employees that align to your company values and culture, and provide an engaging experience for them while they are with your company.
If you don’t have an expansion offering, consider services
Services can be a great shorter term solution to operationalise and monetise your SaaS product, and if designed correctly, can enhance the customer experience. Services also provide additional touchpoints into a client and are great for making an account stickier and less likely to churn. Examples are premium support, additional training or analytics/reporting. More advanced services include implementation upgrades, managed services and platform services.
It is imperative to regularly review accounts that are at risk
Customer success leaders should be reviewing at-risk accounts on a weekly basis. The easiest way to do this is to have customer success managers rank their client list on several criteria, including last visit, last quarterly business review (QBR), NPS score, last platform login, usage, etc. and give the account a score. These scores should then be reviewed each week and accounts that are in red/at risk should have an action plan on what's being done to address the issue and return the account to a healthy level.
Poor implementation is the #1 cause of churn
Ensure your sales-to-service handoff is well-defined and documented, and that everyone is fully aware of their role and responsibilities during the process. Build checks and balances into your sales CRM to ensure the right information is being captured and shared across teams in a consistent and transparent manner. Ensure that the customer is satisfied and signs off on the implementation to prevent scope creep during this phase.
Map your accounts to prevent churn
Sponsor loss is another key reason why accounts churn. If you are single-threaded in an account (you only have one touchpoint into that customer), then you have risk. Ensure you invite multiple customer stakeholders to QBRs and health check meetings, and leverage your sales and marketing teams to create opportunities to map the account (such as webinars, dinners, conference speaking opportunities etc.)
Understanding how customers define value is key
In order to meet your customer expectations, it's imperative to understand how they define the value that your solution provides. This should be captured during the sales phase, and reinforced during the alignment/kick-off phase and throughout the relationship over time. Look at how your customer measures that value and ensure your metrics and KPIs are aligned to deliver on that. Report back to your customers in the language and metrics they use – it will reinforce that you understand their goals and objectives and establish you as a strong partner.
Account planning frames a strategic relationship
You should have an account plan for the top 20% of your customer base by annual contract value (ACV). Ideally, this plan documents your customers’ three-year strategic business goals and outlines how your solution enables these business goals. Whilst good account plans take time, they frame up a much more strategic business partnership between you and your client and remove pressure from the annual contract renewal process.