Customer Teams

The Guts and Glory of Customer Success

Published Oct 27, 2016
Green, Yellow, Red - Sound familiar? There are only 3 signals in a traffic light, but does this paint a broad enough stroke across the customer health spectrum? All too often, these labels are applied based on hunches or someone’s “gut feeling” about a customer.

The Guts and Glory of Customer Success: (or 3 ways to start translating what you already know about your customer into predictive health indicators).

Green, Yellow, Red – Sound familiar? There are only 3 signals in a traffic light, but does this paint a broad enough stroke across the customer health spectrum? All too often, these labels are applied based on hunches or someone’s “gut feeling” about a customer. If you’re slightly more intuitive, you could apply these labels based on data points like ‘how many users are logging into a product’ or ‘the number of stakeholders you have touched’ or even ‘how many phone calls or emails you have logged with an account on a monthly basis.’ None of these signals will give you a truly accurate picture of overall customer health. In the SaaS world where changing vendors is quick and easy, your “gut” is no longer an adequate barometer for churn. What if you could begin to quantify the status of your customer’s health?

Data collection and events tracking has become more sophisticated than a simple number of sessions or user count. It’s possible to not only collect every user level event within an application but also to segment those events in ways that allow you to see patterns and trends within your customer base – slicing and dicing.

Take, for example,  a customer that begins an annual contract with 6 users. You initially see daily usage by every single user over the first two months. Success! The majority of those users log in every day and are active within the application generating thousands of events and generally exhibiting a high level of engagement. Sweet!

You continue the onboarding and have weekly calls and emails with the customer as they learn to navigate the software. Solid! This is kicking off to be a top-notch engagement, right?

Time to fire off responses to emails and send links to support articles and how-to videos. We’re really sailing now! The number of calls and emails decrease. Team win! Problems solved. We have lift off! You touch base with them periodically, but they’re busy and you don’t hear back so you set your sights on the next new customer, and it’s rinse and repeat all over again. You’ve checked in here and there, and everything is great. No worries. No news is good news, right? Wrong.

Nine months later when you reach out to start discussing the renewal, the customer says that they’ve moved on and won’t be renewing. They rattle off a few sticking points. Your software was not easy to use. Your software was too expensive and they aren’t getting value. A key stakeholder left the company. They’ve been having small issues with the interface for weeks and just gave up and started using paper or spreadsheets. Where were the signs? It was all in the data.

Typically, with events tracking you can see an initial pattern of onboarding usage. Those 6 customers may be in your software for 4+ hours a day as they learn to navigate the features, set up their preferences and generally get acclimated. Once the initial onboarding and training is completed, the usage patterns should settle into a more regular cadence. Perhaps only 4 of those 6 customers are in the software consistently because one of them was an engineer and no longer needs to help with setup. Another user could have decided that this software was not really necessary to the actual job she was trying to perform. But to the four users left, there may be specific paths they repeat, in a regular pattern, such as adding tasks to a list or organizing photos. Those four users are engaged and active.

But then, you launch a new fabulous feature. Customer success glory comes when your engineering team finally delivers that fantastic feature customers were clamoring for and you can say, “Look! We built what you asked for! You’re welcome.” Right? It’s all about delivering a marvelous solution based on user feedback and studious research from your product team.

The best scenario is that your four remaining users either love it or hate it. At least then you know for sure where your product stands. The worst is if they are somewhere in the middle—a hedgy, lukewarm response. And now, their usage patterns are disrupted and struggling. You might see a shift in patterns as the four users struggle to adapt to the new interface or path to complete their tasks.

And then two of them drop off completely, while the other two active users seem to adapt and keep right on moving. (You still aren’t getting a high volume of calls or emails so they’ve adjusted and figured it out, right?)

And then one of your remaining active users leaves to accept another job. And no one tells you.

That leaves only one user remaining. And they don’t renew because they can’t justify the expense for one user.

How can you prevent the above scenario from happening to your SaaS product? What steps can you take to ensure you can lead your customers and your success team to fields of software glory?

Check out these three tips below and start asking the questions that will allow you to start promoting your champions and mitigating surprises from day one.

1.Identify Common Denominators

Examine your existing customer base and identify ways to segment your customers regardless of their state of satisfaction in order to begin some baseline metrics.

Some examples are:

  • Revenue
  • Geography
  • Company Size

Understanding even some of the most basic traits of your customers allows you to take a look at trends across a certain segment. Take all of your accounts and determine average ARR. From there build out some segments so that you can start slicing and dicing trends among certain sets or segments of users. Do you want users with lower ARR to start acting like the users with higher ARR? Probably!

2. Take a Deep Dive

You probably have a hunch about who your top customers are already. Take a look at the behavioral attributes that make up those successful customers.

How do Successful Customers Behave?

  • Three typical behaviors (Visits? Time Spent on Site? questions?) Do your strong customers perform a specific set of activities? What set of activities are they performing?
  • Monitor – measure usage, examine activity and track.
  • Promote and Repeat, Trigger some calls to action to promote successful behavior. Guide your users to interact with buttons and features in your app that drive stickiness and conversion.

3. Strategic Intervention

Recognize patterns and create strategic proactive solutions

  • Schedule an on-site training session or one-on-one time to discuss issues and navigate trouble spots.
  • Create more personal tools, like how-to videos, to adapt to different learning styles
  • And most importantly, schedule regular reviews of your user activity data so you can notice drop-offs and patterns, and troubleshoot any changes long before they become an issue.

It’s never too late to start collecting data to improve your customer strategy – although the sooner you begin, the more information you will have to make decisions and plan. And it’s not as difficult as you might think. See how easy it is to build an onboarding engine for customer and product success.