3 Big Ideas for Software-as-a-Service Customer Success

big ideas for saas

I was on a super exciting panel at the All About The Cloud conference in San Francisco this week: “the Power of the Customer”.

Here are 3 predictions for the future that were discussed on the panel:

1. All SaaS companies will use predictive customer analytics. Measuring and optimizing customer lifetime value was a big topic. You can’t manage what you can’t measure so expect SaaS companies to invest big in customer analytics and predictive analytics.  These are technologies coming from the consumer marketing space. However, in software you can go one step further because all customer interactions, including interaction with the product itself are digital. So while Victoria’s Secret may analyze customer transactions to predict whether customers will buy again (and whether it’s worth sending you another expensive catalogue) imagine that you could actually know how often your customer wore that swim suit. That would be a pretty good indicator of how much you liked the swim suit and how likely you are to buy again from the catalogue. With software this is possible! And indeed software usage turns out to be the most reliable buy signal (or churn signal whatever the case may be).

2. There will be many SaaS companies with no sales teams. Think about Atlassian: a $100 million+ revenue B2B software companies with ZERO sales personnel. Their sales model is 100x or more cheaper than that of their competitors with field based sales teams. And their velocity is so much higher. I bet you their customer satisfaction is higher too.  At no-sales companies, marketing is responsible for demand generation and initial signups. For more complicated products a customer success function is emerging to coach customers post sign-up and to grow usage, users and use cases over time. There was common agreement on the importance of building out customer success teams regardless of the sales model. Customer success managers have responsibility over renewal revenues as well as upselling and carry a quota rather than being a glorified support team.

3. Products are becoming social. The product itself will be the primary sales tool. Much of customer engagement will happen from within the application itself. Customer actions speak loudest: usage is the most important buy or churn signal. Also customers will communicate with other users and with the vendor using in-application communities and communications. The panel agreed that the new Social Buyer demands self-service. It started some years ago with self-service information (‘inbound marketing‘) and these days the ‘must have’ is a free trial or freemium version of your product. The panel agreed that freebies were essential in creating trust. Also think about this: if your competitor offers  free trial of some version of your product and you don’t, then customers will be already half-way down the sales process with your competitor before they ever talk to you.

Thanks to the All About Cloud team for having us, thanks to Shubber Ali from Accenture for moderating and thanks to my fellow panelists Jon Miller (Marketo), Todd Bursey (FinancialForce) and Jeff Yoshimura (Zuora) for fun times! See you next year :-)

If you are interested to analyze and predict your customers’ actions, or if you want to make your product social:

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New Customer Health Dashboard to Easily Monitor Customer Success

Success Graph

The Totango team is excited to announce the release of the Customer Health Dashboard which helps cloud application providers and software as a service companies of all kinds track and manage overall user happiness at a glance (Read Press Release).

Customer Health Dashboard

 

The first of its kind, the Customer Health Dashboard is a configurable cloud-based tool that summarizes customer success and engagement using their realtime activity streams, capturing and calculating data like overall time spent, license use, CRM system feeds, and trouble tickets. With it, you can get a clear picture of your customer base’s health, identify customers at risk, and track trends across segments.

Break Down by Success Manager

The Customer Health Dashboard is especially useful to businesses who see value in the growing trend of shifting focus from acquiring new customers to driving usage, adoption, and happiness in existing ones — the hallmarks of customer success.

For providers of software as a service, company revenue depends on having happy customers who keep renewing their subscriptions; the lifetime value of existing customers may end up far exceeding the gains made by simply picking up new ones. Customer success begins with customer acquisition and onboarding, but continues after a customer signs up with you; renewals and expansion sales depend critically on customer happiness.

Totango found in recent customer success research amongst over one million prospects and customers of software businesses that over 50% of paying customers aren’t using the service they paid for.  The same study also found an unsurprisingly near-perfect correlation between non-use and cancelations: cancelations of software subscriptions were almost always preceded by a period of non-use.

The Customer Health Dashboard can show you at a glance how well your success strategies are working and gives customer-facing personnel the tools to help customers be more successful where needed. Not only can you quickly locate your best customers, but you can also identify the ones requiring the most attention and take immediate action, engaging with them before they see a problem.

Interested in learning more about customer success management (CSM)? Totango would be delighted to host you at our free meetup on The Future of Customer Success on Thursday, April 5th, from 7-8:30pm in San Mateo, CA. Mikael Blaisdell, publisher of The HotLine Magazine, will be on hand to give a talk and host a Q&A. Come have a snack, meet your fellow CSM professionals, and stick around for some customer engagement tips from yours truly.

6 Steps to On Boarding Software-as-a-Service Customers

Customer Engagement Funnel

It is more critical than ever to make sure customers get started and find value during the first days, weeks and months after signing up for your SaaS service. Customers sign up long before they start paying you and only if they see value, month in month out, they will (continue to) pay you. This means that in addition to a sales funnel, successful SaaS companies now also use and track a customer engagement funnel (see picture).

Customer Engagement Funnel

There are six steps to successfully on boarding a new SaaS customer:

1. Sign Up: provide self service sign up

Take all friction out of the sign up flow. Ask for as little information as necessary to setup an account. As long as you can track usage and prioritize prospects later on, you can keep the top of the funnel wide.

2. Activation: provide clear instructions

Provide clear instructions to get your new signups up and running as soon as possible.

3. Active Use: include ample examples

Usually active accounts are only 35% of monthly sign ups. To move the needle on active users, demonstrate immediate value. Make sure that you include default settings and, if necessary, some demo data. Also include examples of how others have been successful with your product.

4. Paid Use: personalize customer engagement

Free to paid conversion is difficult to achieve. The key is to personalize your communications with the user at this moment. You should know what features they have tried and target your sales pitch. With the right message delivered at the right time, you can increase free to paid conversion by 37% or more.

5. Renewal: check in with the user often

The key to high renewal rates is to predict which customers might be unhappy and to pro actively engage these users. If you know that a customer hasn’t logged in recently you might e-mail or call. If you see they are not using certain features, perhaps they need a helping hand.

6. Expansion: increase lifetime value

If customers are happy, you may have the opportunity to sell them more. It should be possible to achieve negative churn: this means that the total revenues derived from your existing customer base is growing over time through a combination of high renewal rates and expanding existing customers.

Customer Engagement for a SaaS Land & Expand Strategy

PBWorks

I’ve conducted an interview with Chris Yeh, VP Marketing from PBWorks and thought it would be interesting to share.

As you know, I declared more than once that the customers are kings which means companies should be able to understand their customers behavior and trends and interpret it correctly into customer engagement level in order to know which customers to focus on later at the funnel.

Chris explains why customer engagement is so important when using the land and expand strategy – for example once a large company is starting to use their services their goal is to have that company to use them more and more and eventually to spread into an enterprise wide deployment.

So tracking and enhancing the customer engagement level is very important. The metrics to know that could be i.e. how much a user is using the products, how many usage days they have per week, the total volume of transactions, etc.

I agree with using those metrics in measuring customer engagement and every company should pick the right metrics for its business. At the same time, there are acceptable metrics that every SaaS company should use which are elaborated in our SaaS Business Metrics Survey Results. Using those metrics  will not only show the engagement level but the whole business overview which every successful SaaS business should act upon.

Tomorrow I will post another tip by Chris about Freemium Sales Models for B2B and SaaS.

To read the full transcription of the video, click here

 
 

Video Transcription:
I’m Chris Yeh. I’m the VP of Marketing for PB Works, which is a SaaS company that does collaboration software for various markets, like advertising agencies, law firms, and of course general business. Customer engagement is super important to us because a lot of times we have, what we call, a land and expand strategy.

So often times a large company will start to use us in just a small group, maybe just one team that’s using PB Works to be more effective. And what we want to do is to have them use us more and more to bring in more and more people and eventually to spread into an enterprise wide deployment. So what’s very important for us is to be able to track and enhance the level of customer engagement, how much they’re using the product.

We look at things like how many days per week are they using it. We look at things like what’s the total volume of transactions and things that they’re doing and all this is really important for our marketing and for business in general.

Evolving from Document System to Engagement System

aiim Interview

Here is the additional interview promised from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference.
This time Jessie Wilkins, Director System Engagement for aiim speaks about how will the future of the enterprise information management will look like.

As mentioned a lot in this blog, nowadays the customers are kings, customer engagement is taking a royal place in web applications and the interaction between the business and the customers and between the customers themselves is highly important for any successful SaaS business.

Jessie mentions that for decades the world have been focused on “system of records” which is actually focusing on documents.
These days the focus is on conversation, interaction, Facebook “likes” and it’s called “System of Engagement” where individuals engage with each other, organizations engage with customers and partners try to develop more collaborate ways of working together.

To learn more about the System of Engagement, read the white paper by Geoffrey Moore: System of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT

Tomorrow I will upload an interview from the Sales 2.0 Conference. This time Darren Suomi, VP Sales at HootSuite will give a tip regarding social media channels in businesses.

To read the full transcription of the video, click here

 
 

Video Transcription:

“My name is Jessie Wilkins. I’m Director Systems of Engagement for Aiim. Aiim is a non profit trade association. We do market research, networking events, industry analysis, standards development and training. We did some research earlier this year, and to try and determine what the future of enterprising information management looked like.

And what we determined was that for decades we’ve been focused on systems of record, all of those databases, repositories, share points, et cetera – that every organization has. They’re focused on documents and now we are starting to focus more on conversations, interactions, Facebook likes – and so we call those systems of engagement.

Ways in which individuals engage with each other, organizations engage with their customers and their partners and try and develop more collaborative ways of working together. Our research and research from others including Mackenzie, Forrester and Gardner, all suggest that organizations that use these tools effectively are more profitable, their market leaders are gaining market share, they can streamline their processes, but too many organizations don’t know how to do that.

And so, we’re here to hopefully provide our strategies, processes and plans for how to do it more effectively.”

3 Outright Strategies to Improve SaaS Customer Success

Outright Image

Totango is now (also) located in Mountain View, CA! Having a new Totango home in California is great and allows me to meet many cutting edge businesses with free trial or freemium business models while here. Today I caught up with Laura Messerschmitt, VP Marketing at Outright. Outright helps small businesses to organize their finances. Over 100,000 users worldwide are tracking the health of their businesses with Outright. Outright is a free service, with a premium product available for a monthly fee. The sales model for Outright is entirely customer driven: the sales process is self-service (zero-touch selling).

What struck me most about Outright is it’s commitment to customer success. Making existing customers successful is the highest priority for the company. In my blog on “customer engagement is key for SaaS” I have written about the importance of increasing customer lifetime value and preventing churn in SaaS business models.

Here are a couple of things Outright is doing to align it’s entire company with it’s customer success (and thus customer lifetime value):

1. Define a customer engagement funnel

Key to customer success is realizing that not all customers are created equal. When a visitor to your website first signs up to your service, you have not yet won a new customer. In fact, a large percentage of sign-ups may never activate the service. I discussed this phenomena in my blog on “3 ways to do cohort analysis on SaaS churn“. In the case of Outright, they have explicitly modeled the different stages in what you might call the “customer engagement funnel”:

Stage 1: Sign-up, user has registered
Stage 2: Activation, in the case of Outright has started using the product
Stage 3: Use, in the case of Outright has continued to use the product over time

While you can get a lot more fancy with this and define further actions and life cycle stages (including those that include up selling and expansion opportunities), just recognizing the difference between a sign-up, an activated user and a truly active user is a huge step in the right direction.

2. Make customer success metrics central to the business

You cannot manage what you cannot measure so the next step for Outright was to develop a dashboard that shows sign-ups, activated users and active users and the conversion ratio between each of these stages. Outright is looking at this on a daily, weekly and monthly basis via cohort analysis to see how the service value which is delivering customers is improving over time. If you want your company to be customer driven, you have to give everybody in the company access to these metrics . Only if you make the customer success metrics central to all your management meetings, will the entire team be laser focused on improving customer success.

3. A customer driven organization chart

The most innovative thing Outright has done is to align their entire organization chart with the different stages in the customer engagement funnel. There is a dedicated team, including product managers, developers and designers, focused on improving the product for those users who have just started using the product. The focus is on making it easier and easier for these customers to help themselves and get more value out of the product. Automated e-mails are sent with helpful tips to help customers along the way. Then there is a separate team, also with its own product managers, developers and designers to improve the value in the service for those customers who are already active.

Thanks so much to Laura for sharing. I am looking forward to check in with Outright again in a couple of months to see how their customer driven organization chart has impacted the key conversion metrics of their customer engagement funnel.

Genuine Customer Engagement

Customer Engagement - Shake hands

Jon Buscall on Be Good to Your Customers believes that most engagement related activities these days are actually lead generation activities and not really about customer engagement.

This article grabbed my attention as I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole customer engagement life-cycle for SaaS and other online services.

The main strategy Jon suggest B2B businesses should apply is to provide true value to loyal customers only.

I would argue even further; loyal customers of online services should get specialized treatment. They should receive personalized engagement by their B2B vendors.
This wasn’t possible few years back, when it took few months and even years to create products and later on deliver it to customers. This isn’t the case anymore, and customers do expect this level of service.

For example, SaaS companies basically have all the information required to provide to each and every one of their customer special treatment tuned directly to their needs:

  • They know who they are
  • They know what they are trying to achieve with their service and
  • They have all of their interaction history

Genuine customer engagement is personalized, contextual and timely. This is what customers expect.

Joel York: Why to Measure Customer Engagement in SaaS?

Why and How to Measure Customer Engagemetn in SaaS?

Joel YorkJoel York has written extensively about the new breed of B2B buyer and the changes to the B2B sales process, especially for SaaS products.

A quick recap …

The good old sales process according to Joel

“The process went something like this: ask the analysts about the next big thing, collect requirements into and RFP, get a list of vendors from a roundup in an industry magazine, go to a trade show and collect collateral, solicit and evaluate RFP responses by mail or fax, call in a short list of vendors to do a dog and pony show, follow up with a technical drill down meeting, maybe do a bake-off or a pilot, select a vendor, call a reference account, negotiate final pricing and contract terms, and wrap it all up by planning out phase 2 of the project: a complex and expensive implementation.”

The new breed B2B buyer: it’s self-service stupid!

“With such a treasure trove of information available online, the Internet is the 21st century B2B buyer’s first stop for researching products and services. Your strongest strategy is to give the prospect efficient self-service access to your content.”

“In the case of most SaaS and cloud applications, the entire B2B buying process is cheap: trial is free and purchase amounts to a monthly subscription that can be canceled at any time. So in addition to reading about the product, the barriers for a customer to go ahead and just try your product itself (even without a lot of upfront research) are low.”

Long story short, the key to the wallet of the new B2B buyer:

Instant online gratification through efficient self-service

So it’s no surprise that many SaaS companies spend their marketing dollars on content creation and inbound marketing, and invest in marketing automation to track campaign ROI.

Good. But not enough. According to Joel.

Inbound marketing or simply getting found by a prospect is not enough. Once you are found, you must engage with that prospect frequently and consistently throughout the entire customer lifecycle, because if you don’t, your competitors will, and what is easily found can be just as easily lost.”

What’s worse, simply accessing your content may no longer be a reliable indicator of purchase intend. Joel uses the term “fuzzy funnel” to describe the undeterministic process that customers follow these days: the new B2B buying process is anything but linear, deterministic and under the B2B salesperson’s control.

So what comes after inbound marketing? If accessing your content is no longer a reliable indicator of purchase intent, then how to best measure customer interest?

I asked Joel some questions on it via e-mail and got his permission to publish his answers on this blog:

  1. Do you see more B2B buyers demanding instant and self-service access to the product or service (rather than just to information and education about the product)?

Joel: I think in general, B2B buyers want a trial whenever it is possible. A brochure or a video is great, but they are no substitute for test driving the actual product you plan to buy. It’s more educational, more convincing, and more comforting to see the real thing. And, given the choice of getting it immediately without a salesperson looking over their shoulder vs. scheduling a demo or a pilot that will be designed to hide any flaws, most B2B buyers will choose the former. However, I prefaced all this with “whenever it is possible.” Some products are so complex that it is simply too much work for the buyer to go it alone, especially those that need extensive configuration, imported data and integration and before they are useful, and in these cases the buyer will actually prefer to lean on the advice and assistance of a salesperson.

2. Do you see a strong correlation between trial sign-up and product usage and the conversion to a paid customer (as compared to say, downloading a white paper)?

Joel: Absolutely. Test driving the real thing demonstrates more interest and requires more commitment on the part of the buyer than reading a piece of content.

3. Do you see marketing automation systems, which you mention in your article, integrating trial usage related metrics into their lead scoring algorithms?

Joel: If they are smart marketers they will. As I mentioned, trial and usage demonstrate interest and commitment. If the statistics are segmented, e.g, what is tried and used, they also show interest at the feature/function level, which can be used in both marketing campaigns and sales calls. For all these reasons, trial and usage statistics are probably some of the strongest indicators you could integrate into a lead score.

Of course, I very much agree with Joel. Participating in a trial is the best possible indicator of potential customer commitment. Of course, I also believe that not all trial customers are created equal. As we discussed in a previous post: a prospect with many users and many hours of trial usage is a hotter prospect than a trial user who only logged in once. And yes, of course Totango can help you figure out who these hot prospects are!