Customer Teams

Fuel Adoption: A Guide for Proactive Processes

Published Jul 17, 2017
Today's post is authored by Kayla Murphy, Director of Customer Advocacy, Success & Growth at Trustfuel as part of an ongoing series on product adoption.

Today’s post is authored by Kayla Murphy, Director of Customer Advocacy, Success & Growth at Trustfuel as part of an ongoing series on product adoption. We will wrap the series with a joint webinar about adoption best practices for both product and customer success teams on July 20th. Adoption 101: How to Measure, Track and Leverage User Behavior.

In our last post, Pendo’s Mike Peach filled you in on how to measure adoption across your user base. Now that you know how to measure, track and define adoption for your customer segments, you can use it to improve your customer experience.

As Mike explained, fostering long-term adoption is critical to a company’s overall success. The shift to the subscription economy means customers will continually evaluate your solution to determine if it meets their needs. Is it helping them achieve their goals? What’s the ROI?

When you aren’t using a tool to track and implement a process for adoption, attention tends to be focused on customers that are either always happy or screaming for your help. These edge cases are easy to identify, engage and guide without deeper insights into user behavior. What’s difficult is putting in place a strategy to proactively engage the “silent majority” that make up the rest of your users.

In this follow up to Mike’s post on feature adoption, we’re diving into creating an adoption process from scratch.

The Proactive Adoption Process

Having a process means you have to define your end goal. The nature of creating processes forces you to consider what customer success means to your company. You’ll need to identify which features are critical to success and how successful customers use them. Without understanding what success is, you can’t help your clients achieve it.
Once you’ve defined what full adoption is, consider which key metrics will help you measure success. The basic concept of Adoption KPIs (Key Performance Metrics) is to understand how much deviation there is between the intended process and actual user behavior. Your metrics are going to be unique to your feature set, but some commonly used metrics include:

Usage Volume: Login rates are the obvious metric here, but volume of activity is also vital. You want to know how much activity takes place after a user logs in. A login every few days, with a few clicks each time could indicate your user needs guidance.

Usage Quality: Evaluating user activity is the baseline – you also have to judge the quality of the actions they are taking. Narrow down your core features and define their best practices. When you know patterns and behaviors of successful users, you can make prescriptive decisions for guiding your customers in the right direction.

Platform Performance: User behavior is critical to long-term adoption, but success isn’t driven exclusively by end-users. Your adoption metrics should include broad feature analysis. If certain features lack broad adoption, you can identify gaps in onboarding and product improvements.

Proactive adoption processes are easily divided into two categories: Product Driven or User Driven. These two buckets are easy to narrow to three (very broad) use cases:

Maintenance Mode: regular check-ins and goal evaluations

Intervention: engaging struggling or lapsed users

New Release: providing training or insights on new features

Of course, there are proactive processes for engaging your power users as well. In our opinion, these processes are better covered alongside advocacy. Keep an eye out for our post Engaging Customer Advocates next week!

Maintenance Mode

Proactivity is the buzzword in Customer Success. So much so, that it starts to wear thin.

Everyone knows they have to be proactive, but what does that mean? What’s enough attention and what’s too much?

These discussions can incite panic, particularly for early-on companies. That panic leads to a flurry of activities – all your CSMs are calling all their customers, sending emails, scheduling check-ins, commenting on LinkedIn activity, sending cupcakes, you name it. I am never against some customer “surprise and delight” action, but activity without a process behind it is unscalable.

Enter, ‘Maintenance Mode’. Replace that flurry with a strategy for staying engaged with customers throughout their journey. Maintenance Mode includes your regular check-ins, Quarterly Business reviews, and any other engagements that would be considered “business as usual”.

Every single customer you have should be on some form of maintenance mode, unless they are actively engaged with a conflicting process (such as a renewal). How often you engage will depend on your revenue model, number of customers, and customer segments. We’ve included a sample “Maintenance Mode” below. For the sake of the example, we’ll assume this customer is 60 days into a 1 year contract. For any customer, 1:1 meetings are ideal, but don’t hesitate to adapt these steps to engage via surveys, feedback forms, in-app messaging and prescriptive email messaging.

Regularly scheduled check-ins can be tricky. You have your own reasons for engaging regularly, but no one likes a vendor who wastes their time. Developing a consultative approach to customer success is the best way to guarantee a regular spot on your customer’s calendar.

When done right, customer success managers become a valuable resource for their clients. Learning about their industry or vertical will help you better understand their challenges. The best customer success managers know more than just their software. The consultative customer success manager doesn’t just provide training and guidance – they help solve problems. Translating your customer’s needs into actionable advice is the holy grail of customer success. This knowledge helps you offer insights and meaningful guidance. A truly consultative CSM goes beyond their own product, however, and is able to make recommendations for other (non-competitive 😉 ) tools, processes, strategies and resources.

New Feature Releases

Product driven updates typically come in the form of new feature releases. I strongly recommend building a process that mirrors your onboarding process. By maintaining a consistent format for all product training, your customers will know what to expect from you each time a new feature is released. Beyond that, consistency will help you plan your own schedule more effectively which in turn helps you provide top notch service.

Onboarding v. Adoption

As SaaS products change frequently – particularly in start-up and hyper-growth companies – this change must be managed. A knowledgeable customer is an empowered customer. Obviously customers have to be kept in the loop on how to use the tool, but new feature adoption goes deeper than that. As your product develops, you will inevitably discover that some customers do not fit your ideal client profile. It’s important to identify these use cases in your quest to establish product market fit and make customers successful.


When you’ve done all you can to make customers aware of new features, provide training and collect feedback, and customers still don’t adopt, you need a strategy to intervene. Lapsed or struggling users already have one foot out the door – your purpose is to turn this around.

We can all agree no one likes a software vendor who reaches out to say nothing at all. Figure out the why of your intervention processes and be transparent. If you’re reaching out because you’ve seen a drop in usage tell them that. Be specific about why the drop concerns you and how it relates to their goals. For me, there’s nothing more powerful than an email that says:

This is a consultative approach. It shows an understanding of their use case, with clear actionable advice. Even if your initial suggestions aren’t the solution, you’ve established yourself as a resource that’s knowledgeable about their problem and willing to proactively help them achieve their goal. You’ve also set the expectation that you will continue to follow up, which can be very effective.

For engaging struggling users, your process should be highly tailored to your product and their specific use case. This customer has set your platform aside for one reason or another – your goal is to find out why and how to correct it.

Wrap it Up

Building a proactive process, especially for something as critical as adoption, can be daunting. Hopefully these pointers have helped you develop your customer journey and think of some new ways to proactively engage. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. The simple act of picking up the phone to call your accounts regularly can make a big difference. Every customer success team started somewhere – so get going!