How Customer Success Transforms Your SaaS Business

How Customer Success Transforms Your SaaS Business

Focusing on customer success could be the difference between your SaaS business ticking along nicely or achieving stratospheric growth. Increasingly, customer success is seen as a foundation of growth for Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses. If your enterprise isn’t achieving the desired outcome in terms of growth, perhaps it’s time to reassess your thoughts around the customer relationship and the importance of happy customers.

What is Customer Success?

When it comes to SaaS businesses, customer success is a foundation of growth. Why? Customer success is all about supporting your existing customers to achieve their goals. This is at the core of what customer success professionals set out to achieve.

Customer success is more than customer support or service. It is a non-transactional relationship building between company and customer. In terms of structure, customer success sits between a business’ sales and support functions. It interacts with and overlaps both of these functions in complementary ways.

A strong customer success program supports:

  • onboarding
  • activation
  • integration
  • subscription renewal
  • subscription upgrade
  • customer retention
  • customer advocacy

Customer Success is a Foundation of Growth

Done well and in line with industry best practices, Customer Success Management (CSM) can help any business to reduce customer churn and achieve a better reputation, greater recurring revenue, happier customers, and more. It is an essential component of any modern SaaS business that wants to maximize its opportunities for growth.

Why is Customer Success Important for SaaS?

Customer success is important for any business, but particularly for those in SaaS. Once upon a time, a business sold a product. The customer would implement the product, perhaps with a little help from customer support, and the interaction was largely finished. Not anymore.

Today’s SaaS customers expect to lead their buying journey before, during, and after their initial purchase of a subscription plan. Today’s SaaS customer is a self-led buyer. This means that outbound, traditional methods of selling no longer apply. Customers would rather discover and vet a product themselves than receive unsolicited emails. This model is called Product-Led Growth, or PLG.

Product-Led Growth is the New Champion of SaaS

Enter customer success. By establishing organic relationships with existing customers, customer success creates a new channel of communication between company and customer. This means a way to speak directly to the self-led buyer.

This is why customer success has become such an important element of the SaaS business model. Customer success managers, data driven customer success, and their teams can significantly increase the likelihood that a customer will continue using their service, or even upgrade their plan. They serve as the voice of the customer within the SaaS operation. Doing so involves a range of touchpoints with the customer, both at set stages within the customer journey and in response to anomalous occurrences along the way.

Relationships are the New Differentiator

Within a SaaS business, customer success management can ensure customers feel listened to. It can drive product changes. And it can maximize the value of each customer not just at the point you acquire them, but over their full lifetime. Which, with SaaS products, could be an actual full lifetime. The potential for this in terms of customer value, customer lifetime value realization is huge.

One other reason that customer success is important for SaaS is that happy customers have the potential to become referrers. Who better to recruit new clients for your business than those who are already using your product happily and getting maximum value from it?

How is Customer Success Different from Customer Support?

The key difference between customer success and customer support is that customer success is proactive and non-transactional. Your customer success team should be one step ahead of the customer’s needs at every stage, anticipating how your product can support the customer to do things better and achieve their desired outcome. A range of customer success metrics can support your team to do this, so that it identifies both set points when the customer will benefit from interaction, and personalized opportunities for maximizing each customer’s growth and success.

Customer support, on the other hand, is a reactive service. It is there to respond rapidly and helpfully when the customer reaches out.

Make Customer Success an Early Priority for Your SaaS Business

With any business function, the earlier you implement it, the easier it is to embed as a fundamental part of your operations. That’s why it is important to make customer success an early priority for your SaaS business, why customer success is a priority for saas. Doing so means you can put the people and tools you need in place to ensure that your customer success effort yields maximum results.

Support During Customer Onboarding

Your customer success team is there to support every new customer to evolve into a long-term, loyal customer. The customer onboarding process is the first step in this journey. First impressions count for a lot, so onboarding is your chance to impress your customer with how easy your product is to use and how helpful and pleasant your team is to work with.

Getting onboarding right means supporting a customer to set up your product correctly, in the way that best suits their business and their desired outcomes. It means providing technical hand holding (appropriate to the individual client’s needs) during the product activation phase. It also means supporting the client with any integration between your product and their existing infrastructure. After all, when your SaaS product is the newcomer, you need to ensure it plays nicely with others.

Support During Integration and Beyond

Once the customer is onboarded, it’s time to support them to get the most out of your product. Did you know that many SaaS customers never finish integration? [INCLUDE: fact] This is where customer success can encourage repeat business, by ensuring that customers are able to properly integrate your SaaS product into their offerings.

Key to that is understanding your customer’s business. You will have gathered plenty of information on how the client likes to operate during the customer onboarding and activation phase, so use that to deliver a personalized approach to customer success. This turns their business growth into a partnership experience with your SaaS company, with the result that both businesses benefit.

The more you understand the customer’s business, the more effectively you can highlight features in your own product that they could benefit from using. And the more likely you are to anticipate any roadblocks that they might run into. Using customer data to identify these needs and potential issues puts you in a powerful position to support the client to realize maximum value from your product. This is a great way to gain loyal, happy clients through a proactive virtual assistant for customer service approach that’s embedded as a core part of your business.

A Customer Cared for is a Customer Kept

By taking this approach to customer engagement in your SaaS business, you’re doing much to improve retention and lower your customer churn rates. Customer engagement lowers churn. Left to their own devices, customers are unlikely to use your product to its full potential, or to keep up with your latest feature releases and the benefits that those could deliver. With your customer success team on hand though, each customer can achieve real value from your SaaS product on an ongoing basis – and will thus be a great deal more likely to renew their subscription when the time comes.

What Challenges Do Companies Face Around Customer Success?

Customer success, like any business function, takes work, thought and expertise to get right. Doing so involves overcoming a range of challenges.

Putting Data at the Heart of Customer Success

Data plays a core role in enabling any customer success manager to deliver their best results. Using the right customer success metrics can flag up the most effective times for the customer success team to engage with the client.

Making customer success data driven is the first of these challenges – which is where Moesif comes into the picture. By providing visibility, moesif for customer success of a range of customer success metrics, along with alerts that can trigger customer engagement interactions, the platform supports businesses to act on each and every opportunity to level up their customer experience.

After all, data can’t lie. In a field as subjective as relationship management, measuring what metrics you can is necessary. It’s important to note that some metrics are more useful than others.

SaaS Integration is Hard - That’s Why You Need to Measure it

One such metric is “Time to First Hello World” (TTFHW). This is the time it takes for a customer to move from signup to full integration. The faster they get there, the happier they are likely to be with your product.

When you know how long the TTFHW process can and should take, it’s easy to identify when a customer gets stuck along the way. Moesif can flag this up to your customer success team through an automated alert, so they can proactively step in, find out what the issue is and support the client to move ahead.

Monitoring TTFHW for all customers can also help you spot trends. If your TTFHW is increasing, you may need to let your product and engineering team know, for example, as their changes could be impacting the user journey by making customer onboarding more complex.

This data-driven approach can also alert you when customers are struggling with new features, identify success gaps, flag up instances of decreasing usage (and thus customers who are a churn risk), and identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. All while ensuring the customer feels supported by a partnership approach.

Monitoring How Effective Your Customer Success Effort is

Another challenge is monitoring the impact of your customer success efforts. This type of monitoring is highly dependent on the nature of your SaaS product. However, segmenting your onboarding journey with user funnels as well as setting up alerts when customers encounter errors can help you proactively manage customer issues. With regard to measuring ongoing effort, logging engagement with your platform through metrics like API call volume reveals if customers value their experience with you.

You can also monitor a range of customer success metrics through tools such as Moesif, to gain a business-wide overview of usage statistics and trends. This further embeds the role of customer success in your business.

4 Strategies to Achieve Customer Success in SaaS

You can implement various strategies to ensure the success of your customer success efforts. The following 4 strategies to achieve customer success in SaaS can help you do so, but there are plenty of other customer success strategy options out there, so be sure to implement the ones that make most sense for your business model.

Identify Customers Struggling to Integrate

The example above, of Moesif flagging up customers who may be having issues with their setup and integration, is part of a prescient customer success management strategy. This is all about identifying issues and reaching out to the customer before they even realize how much they could benefit from an interaction with your team.

The idea of a prescient customer support approach is that you reach out and engage the customer before they become frustrated with your product. You don’t wait until they’ve tried something ten times and got stuck. Instead, you are readily available to help via the landline service or provide chat or email support long before they reach the point of irritation. You smoothly support them past whatever issue they are having, leaving them delighted with both your product and your team.

Make Good Customers into Great Customers

Another excellent SaaS customer success approach is to personalize your upselling and cross-selling activities. As much of software sales now relies on a buyer-led journey, your customer success people have privileged access to your customer’s attention. Thus, a customer success manager is often in the best position to upsell on certain services.

This relies on an understanding of each customer’s needs and the way in which your product supports them to achieve their desired outcomes. It’s not about going in with the hard sell just because you’ve developed a new feature that you think is great. Rather, it’s about taking a thoughtful approach to how your new features could benefit your customers and reaching out to those who could achieve genuine value from them.

This personalized customer success strategy ticks a range of boxes. It shows your customers that you care about their individual business needs and that you understand their pain points and goals. And it means you can upsell in a way that boosts your customer retention and recurring revenue rates, rather than diminishing them through hard selling tactics.

Keep Customers Engaged with Email

A third strategy for proactive customer success is building a winning lifecycle email program. This is another task that Moesif can support you with, through integration with your CRM. The goal is to send timely, stage-appropriate emails to your customers that are designed to maximize the value they get from your SaaS product.

Forget monthly, all-customer emails with generic product and feature recommendations. They won’t be helpful to the majority of customers and will irritate some due to their irrelevance. Instead, you can track customer behavior with your product and use that data to send emails with relevant, genuinely helpful features and usage suggestions at the ideal time in the customer journey.

Customer success strategies like this also deliver an added benefit. The fact that they are data-driven and automated means that they can be implemented at scale. So no matter how successful your customer acquisition strategy may have been, you can still reach out to each customer at just the right point in their journey to maximize your chances of cross-selling or upselling – and to maximize the value they get from your service.

Turn Customers into Friends

Another key customer success strategy – perhaps the most traditional of them all – is to talk to your customers. They are the people who can tell you what success looks like for them. They can tell you what’s working brilliantly for them and what they love about your product, as well as what they don’t.

A sound customer feedback process can do much to boost your overall customer happiness. But beware – a token effort at asking for customer feedback can backfire. After all, your customers are taking the time to share their views on your product. They need to see that you appreciate the time they’ve put in and that you are doing something with the data they provide.

This is where advocating for the customer within your business comes in. Customer success teams, building a great customer success team can feed back to product and engineering teams on the pain points customers are facing and how you could help overcome them. It could be something as simple as changing a default setting or as complex as adding a whole new feature. But with the right feedback loops in place, you can show your customers that you care, support greater customer success, and reduce the likelihood of customer churn.

Curious About What Makes a Great Customer Success Operation at a SaaS Company?

Creating a great customer success operation at a SaaS company is all about early implementation – about embedding a genuine commitment to customer success as a core business principle.

It’s also about finding the right tools and the right people. The right tools mean you can monitor your customer success metrics in sufficient depth to take prescient action and deliver a personalized, stage-appropriate customer success experience. The right people, meanwhile, will mean that every interaction your customer has with your business leaves them feeling positive. Even a customer who is encountering problems can feel satisfied when you have the right team with the right attitude.

Do I Need to Hire a Customer Success Team or Manager?

If you operate a SaaS business model and you want to maximize your recurring revenue, then yes – as soon as you can afford to. Doing so will add to your outgoings, of course, but effective customer success professionals can quickly cover their own costs by reducing your customer churn rate and increasing the likelihood that your customers will renew, or even upgrade, their subscriptions. They can also enhance your company reputation, leveling up your net promoter score by creating happier customers.

Knowing where to start when building a customer success team is key to hiring the right people, so be sure to do your homework before compiling your job specs and interview questions. Consider deploying a reliable Cloud recruitment software to streamline the hiring process. Think about personalities as well as skills and knowledge, and ensure that your hiring process is sufficient to identify those who will contribute to the long-term success of your customers’ businesses and your own.

The other thing to bear in mind when building a customer success team is that it is not a team that operates in isolation. Your customer success function won’t be very effective if it sits in a silo, cut off from your other business functions. Given that customer success bridges the work of the customer support, product and engineering teams, you need a structure in place that encourages positive interaction and collaboration between those teams.

Where to Start When Building a Customer Success Team

If you’re ready to start building a customer success team, it’s time to think about the skills that you need. Yes, you’ll likely need technically minded people if you’re a SaaS business, but the success of your approach to customer success management will rely on far more than that. You’ll need a team that cares about the customer experience, that believes in the role and value of customer success, and that has the diplomacy, positivity, and empathy to serve as a bridge between the customer and your product and engineering teams.

What Does a Customer Success Manager Do in SaaS?

A customer success manager is responsible for the daily operation and delivery of the customer success function in a SaaS business. On the personnel side, they are in charge of managing the team. On the operational side, customer success managers, steps to building a customer success team are in charge of ensuring the team hits its targets.

Customer success managers will usually report to a chief customer officer or VP of customer success (depending on the size of the organization), who is responsible for the overall performance of the business’ customer success program. It is the customer success manager’s responsibility to oversee the day-to-day operation and achievement of that customer success plan, making a plan for customer success.

Developing Customer Success Advocates in Your Company

Much of the strength of your customer success program will lie in the quality of the customer success advocates you hire. Customer success advocates are the team members who will be working one-on-one with your customers. Their responsibilities include building strong customer relationships, providing technical assistance and insights, and advocating on the client’s behalf within your business. In this way, they will ensure customers achieve maximum value for your product and thus improve your customer retention and renewal rate. As that rate is the lifeblood of your SaaS business, it’s easy to understand the immense value of this role.

Your customer success manager will need to work closely with each customer success advocate to ensure they are fully supported. This should include appropriate mentoring and coaching to ensure that all support is provided in line with your business values and practices. To streamline this processes, consider using mentoring software, as it allows to track and assess important KPIs, set performance goals, and provide feedback to improve the customer success advocates’ overall performance.

Feedback from customer success advocates is invaluable in creating connections with your customer support, product and engineering teams. The more effective those interactions are, the greater the scope will be for developing your product and your business in a way that best supports your existing customers. Doing so can not only reduce your rate of customer churn but can also boost your potential for new customer acquisition, as your product development will remain relevant to the evolving needs of your target audience. And what SaaS business can afford to ignore the potential benefits of that?

Final Thoughts

Customer success isn’t some “nice to have” function that your SaaS business should maybe think about one day in the future. It’s an essential component of the modern SaaS model that can transform a business from something run-of-the-mill to one that stands out from the crowd – when it’s done well, that is.

From the right tools to drive insights and actions based on customer success metrics, to the quality of the people you hire and the customer success strategies you implement, you have the potential to scale your SaaS business rapidly. All through putting a commitment to customer success at the heart of your operations and approach. Because customer success is what underpins the recurring revenue that every SaaS business relies on for growth – and, indeed, for its continued existence.

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