3 Ways to Elevate Customer Success in Your SaaS Business

January 12, 2016

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

Elevating customer success in your SaaS business will pay big dividends. McKinsey & Co. recently ran an analysis looking at the biggest predictors of growth for $100 million companies that turned into $1 billion companies. They looked at 600 companies over a 15-year time period. According to the analysis, per Kissmetrics, “One predictor they found for companies going from $100 million – $1 billion was the ability to become good at something they weren’t previously good at. This means they had to build out a new channel or capability in order to grow to $1 billion.”

The article went on to say that, “…ARR growth is one of the most underleveraged areas of growth for companies. Roughly 80% of the companies in the McKinsey database are growing ARR per customer at less than 10% per year. There is a massive value driver in customer satisfaction translating to new ARR that has not been hit. Even with the companies that are growing ARR per customer 10%+ per year, nearly half their customers aren’t included. They’re only touching about half their customers. This is particularly true for bigger companies.”

Wow, those are incredible numbers! The steep growth in ARR (or steep decline) that many SaaS businesses experience can largely be attributed to the focus on customer value and customer success. Because of the cloud, customer success is a relatively new concept for the software space in general. So now, with the recent importance placed on customer success within SaaS companies, executives need to ensure that there is a strong focus on customer success as a culture across the entire company (not just a department). In this post, we’ll share three ways your SaaS company can elevate customer success:

Three Ways to Elevate Customer Success

1. Create a Culture of Customer Success

As Doug Higgins so eloquently explained in his blog, “There Isn’t a SaaS startup CEO worth his or her salt who hasn’t been recently lectured on customer success”. And not just lectured on, these executives need to take action to ensure customer success is a pillar of the business and a core value across the company and that they themselves exemplify what it means to make customer success a priority.

For SaaS companies, creating a culture of customer success means that every department and every role should have a part of customer success and should feel a portion of ownership, above and beyond the CSM role alone – no matter what. For marketing, incentivize the team to capture success stories from customers and to include customers in their marketing campaigns, rather than focusing solely on prospecting new business. Encourage them to capture videos and do interviews with current customers when they’re on the road for events. For product, let them communicate directly with customers to ensure they know what customers love about the product. Give product a seat (or three) at the table for Customer Advisory Board meetings or customer offsites. For finance and administration, give the team insight and communication with customers to make the invoicing or legal process smoother and less painful. And so on, across your entire organization.

The key is to ensure every role and every department has metrics or qualitative goals specific to their impact on customer success. When this starts from the top down and employees see the C-Suite interacting with customers on a daily basis, it will become part of your company’s DNA. This focus will accelerate not only your customers’ likelihood to continue doing business with your SaaS company, but they will likely invest even further if they know they are the priority and the lifeblood of your business.

2. Provide Significant Customer Education Opportunities

While many SaaS companies have their content marketing on lockdown, it often times is just that: marketing. While content marketing can be extremely valuable to prospective customers and current customers alike, make sure that you are providing resources above and beyond for customers, such as: training seminars, certification classes, how-to blogs or workbooks, customer user groups or meetups, in-depth customer case studies via webinars or field marketing events, templates, hands-on learning guides, executive meetups, and more. The options for providing significant education opportunities are endless, and should be updated consistently.

Educational resources can help your customer become more familiar with your products, services, and processes which will help customers feel closer to your offering as well as to your people. But perhaps the biggest benefit – beyond stickiness and upsell potential is the likelihood that your customers will see your SaaS company as a trusted partner. They will view your team as an extension of their own company and will share your resources with others and will seek input and advice.

3. Get Constant Input from Customers

If customer success is really about customers, then make sure your SaaS company is putting in place many ways to really listen to customers and to get their true feedback. Often times, it’s tempting to reach out to specific customers who have had a terrific experience or who are vocal about what they love. While it’s great to hear from positive customers, it’s equally (if not more important) to embrace customers who haven’t had the best experience. Customers who have had a poor implementation, are struggling with product bugs or have had a poor services experience can be an incredible wealth of knowledge for your company.

When gaining input from customers, it’s a good idea to create a matrix of what your customer population looks like to ensure you’re gaining feedback from every type of customer: large or enterprise customers, SMB customers, those in various types of industries, various roles and contributors ranging from associate to C-Suite, and etc.

Once you have a good understanding of your customer population, then determine the best way to gather customer input from across the entire company. This task shouldn’t land squarely on the customer success manager’s shoulders, but should be the responsibility of the entire company. However, it’s extremely important to have a feedback loop in place so action is always taken on customer feedback – even if the feedback is simply “thank you, we really value your opinion and we’re doing something about it”. The feedback should be streamlined to a member of the C-Suite or an executive, as well as the CSM or the individual in charge of the customer account so nothing is lost.

Healthy ways of gaining customer input can include forming a Customer Advisory Board that meets regularly, conducting soft interview “win” calls after a deal closes to discuss how the partnership has gone up to that point, sending annual customer surveys, or appointing an “executive sponsor” to each customer account for frequent touch points. There are many ways of getting this feedback, but most importantly is making sure the customer knows their feedback will be considered and will be used to make your SaaS company, product, or services even better.


 

For more information on how to elevate customer success in your SaaS business, check out these recent ClientSuccess resources:

eBooks:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

The Golden Rule of Customer Success: 8 Guiding Principles

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong Customer Success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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