As a long-time SaaS development company, working with a variety of applications over the years, we see the importance of delivering a superior customer experience. SaaS growth is greatly impacted by maximizing customer retention. And as we’ve explained before, customer churn creates a leaky boat, making the goal to quickly get customers to a point where they find value in your SaaS offering. And one powerful tool in that arsenal is building out people, processes, and technology to manage SaaS customer success.
First, it’s important to map out the various paths that users take when using your SaaS solution. It’s helpful to look at each individually, and then collectively, to identify points of friction and points that deliver high value to both the customer and your organization.
The Prospect’s Journey
When a new prospect enters your sphere of influence, you have a chance to show the promise of value. Rather than selling features, you should focus on explaining what problems you solve. For example, Slack promised to get us out of email hell, Dropbox gave us a secure way to store files and free up hard drives, and Miro gave us online tools to collaborate in real time. They didn’t sell hashtagging messages, synchronizing files on multiple devices, or pulling from a template library — all useful features — but instead focused on the customer pain points (email hell, file hell, meeting hell). The journey you provide for inbound leads should start with that pain point and guide the user through how you solve the problem. Ultimately, you hope to convince a user to give your solution a try.
The sales journey picks up when the prospect initiates a conversation. Typical friction points include pricing, functionality, and trustworthiness, so your goal is to alleviate these issues. For example, show your tiered pricing on the website (it’s super frustrating to “call for pricing” and get “sold” to). You can overcome functionality challenges with video product tours, free trials, and interactive demostrations. Case studies and testimonials, especially from reputable brands, reduces friction with believability. The goal of the sales journey is the transaction, which hinges on overcoming objections while continuing to show the value.
Perhaps the most important part of the SaaS customer journey is onboarding. Activating and engaging account ensures a good chance of success, especially if the user sticks around long enough to find the reason they signed up. Onboarding can take many forms, from self-guided tours to elaborate interactive tours to good old-fashioned human training.
Once “the honeymoon is over” and a customer has completed onboarding, the rest of the journey is about answering questions, solving problems, and adding more value. The role of support is to mitigate churn by quickly addressing issues. Bugs in the software, slow response times, and poor resolutions to problems can easily result in churn.
Staffing for Success
Sales vs. Support
Two of the challenges we’ve seen are lack of separation and poor integration between sales and support. In some smaller teams, the sales team is also the support team, which makes it harder to upsell or upgrade users later (e.g., if there were problems and credibility was damaged). In the other case, the handoff from sales to onboarding was a weak transition, often botched and losing customers at a critical stage for adoption. Ideally, you want a smooth but distinct transition from the sale to onboarding and support.
Customer Success Manager
A job title that turned up a few years ago in SaaS was Customer Success Manager. This role oversees the transition from sales to onboarding. In a small SaaS operation, there may be a single person manning this station. The role focuses on onboarding to maximize engagement in the adoption by new clients. The best CSMs use a proactive approach to making clients happy — they learn about the clients’ goals and help each client get to the value they seek. For example, in a CRM, it might be “shorter sales cycle” or “more client contacts per day”, so that drives how the system is configured and used.
Customer Success Representative
In larger teams, a CSM directs a team of customer success representatives. The CSRs do the daily onboarding and engagements, while the CSM handles escalated issues and helping keep the CSRs focused on the right tasks.
SaaS Customer Success Metrics
We’re kinda obsessed with performance metrics — they appear in almost every article we write — because by definition, they guide performance. SaaS customer success has its own set of performance goals, and here are some examples…
When a client opens a ticket, for any reason, it’s tracked. Looking at things broadly, you’ll gain a sense of how many questions are coming in (friction) and the resources they require. Open tickets (hopefully) become closed tickets…in their own little journey (which you should track).
Time to Respond
How long from an inbound query until an agent responds?
Time to Resolution
How long from an inbound query until a ticket is closed?
Customer Retention Rate
Customer retention rate measures the percentage of existing customers you retained over a given period. That is, from one month, quarter, or year to the next, how many of your customers stick around?
Customer Satisfaction Score
Customer satisfaction score is based on how customers rate their experience with your company. A typical survey question for SaaS is “How satisfied are you with the help you received?”.
Net Promoter Score
You already answer the question regularly: How likely is it that you would recommend [this SaaS product] to a friend or colleague? NPS is used to measure customer experience and predict business growth.
Customer Effort Score
Customer Effort Scores are typically based on a one-question survey: “[This SaaS vendor] made it easy to handle my issue,” with a rating scale of 1-7. The lower the score, the more effort your service requires from customers, and the more likely they are to churn.
Tools for SaaS Customer Success
You need some kind of ticketing system. The industry giant is JIRA, but there are hundreds of options. Track problems from cradle to grave, with periodic reviews to spot trends, especially around the customer journey.
On top of issues, you’ll have projects to track. Something like Miro works well to get processes mapped, for example, where your team can collaborate. It may dovetail into ticketing for new development.
Ideally you’ll want a single view into each customer, even if elements reside in disparate systems. Integrating issue tracking with a CRM is ideal, enabling you to see revenue, patterns, and historical details. With a CRM vantage point, you can ensure a smooth customer experience with less unknowns in any conversations, whether from sales, customer success, or support teams.
The Importance of SaaS Customer Success
Here’s another way of looking at this equation. The more success your customers have with your SaaS solution, the more success your SaaS solution will have for you. If you truly deliver value, your scorecard will show it. Your metrics will be green. It starts with alleviating friction when it flares up. Customers don’t expect perfect service, but from our experience, if you respond quickly and address issues well, you’ll get a pass for mistakes. You may even improve your image — think about those customer reviews you see where the customer is praising a company for righting a wrong. We choose vendors for more than features. In fact, your SaaS customer success team can provide a meaningful resolution to missing or problematic features (consider addressing them in your roadmap, though). SaaS customers have many options in many categories, so focus on getting your customer to the value and your follow-through to ensure your customer experience is seamless and smooth from the top of your sales funnel to the front lines of your help desk. People, processes, and technology will make a difference…