Saravana Kumar is the founder & CEO of Kovai.co, a company that is into Enterprise Software & Knowledge Management Space.
As recently as 10 to 15 years ago, many software companies did not even have a customer success team. So why are we suddenly placing so much importance on this?
The main reason is that the way software is sold to customers has completely changed. In the past, the customer would buy the software, install it in their environment and handle maintenance and upgrades in-house. From a vendor perspective, once the product was sold, you were done with the transaction.
However, with the evolution of SaaS, a sale is never complete because the customer doesn’t technically own anything. The vendor owns the software, and the customer just uses your service. Hence the burden is on the vendor to upgrade, maintain and consistently bring new features and enhancements. In some ways, this is slightly riskier because the customer has fewer obligations, and if they do not like the product, they can just send an email to end the subscription and easily migrate all their data to a new platform.
Therefore, customer success is now critical in the SaaS world. To this aim, you need to ensure that your product is performing, your customers are looked after and that you are bringing the right customers to your product.
Understanding Buyer Persona
A successful product usually addresses a specific customer pain point. Therefore, it is extremely important to bring the right kind of customers. Even if a small percentage of your customers don’t end up being the right fit, you will still be trying to fulfill their demands, which may not be in your road map of features for your product. To get this right, you need to clearly understand your buyer persona and come up with a strategy to attract them.
To build a buyer persona, it helps to have a thorough knowledge of what problem the product solves. Once customers are acquired, gather data on what types use your product, how they use them, the value they derive from them, industries they hail from, their geographic locations, behavior patterns, etc.
Narrowing down your target customers also helps in designing marketing campaigns and managing advertising costs.
Mapping Out The Customer’s Journey
A well-done customer journey is shown to have the potential to boost customer satisfaction by 20%.
A customer’s journey starts even before they become a paying customer. For example, when a customer signs up for a trial, the kind of welcome email they get along with follow-up activities from the presales team can make all the difference.
Any demo to the customer should be tailormade to them when possible, and the overall evaluation of the tool should be a large part of the experience. It helps to double-check each step in the journey and remove any possible friction at all the touch points.
For example, a common block in e-commerce includes shopping cart abandonment due to an unexpected delivery fee, tax or card issue. It’s important to iron out such issues through things like a payment getaway or an FAQ that explains taxes and delivery fees upfront. Make sure to also have dedicated teams to assist customers at every touch point.
Handholding The Customer During The Onboarding Journey
Onboarding is critical to achieving customer success and should be tailored to each customer experience. Customer success is determined by how we look after them once they sign up. This can be done by ensuring that we check in with customers often and confirming that they are using the portal and features that they intended when they signed up in order to derive the most value from the product.
Other methods that customer success can be continued include giving timely updates, listening to their requirements and analyzing support tickets or inquiries raised by them.
To make this process seamless, I recommend you invest in your migration, customer success and customer support teams to initially handhold customers while they learn to use your product.
Any organization needs to have its customer success and customer satisfaction teams working together in order to attract and retain long-lasting customers. Long term customers are crucial in providing you with cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
Keeping Customers Engaged
In a competitive market like SaaS, it is important to keep customers engaged. One way to do this is to keep in touch with them via email and phone to get their feedback. It can help prove that you are listening to feedback and want to provide a great customer experience.
A 2019 research done by Survey Monkey found that “91% of people believe that companies should fuel innovation by listening to buyers and customers, compared to only 31% who think they should hire experts.” Feedback can help you identify new pain points that develop over time. This will help solve bugs and develop the right features, which ultimately helps in customer retention.
Merkle’s “2019 Loyalty Barometer Report” found that 61% (download required) of customers say that discounts, offers and gifts are the best way to engage them. Some other cost-effective ways of engaging customers include community-building events like podcasts and physical meetups that can help customers derive more value from your product.
Align Your Team With The Brand’s Outlook
If your brand philosophy is customer obsession, your employees should exhibit this. Clearly communicate with your employees the experience your customers should have at each stage.
Invest in training that can help them handle your specific customers and become familiar with the product. Make sure to also give them the required tools to do their job effectively, be it customer relationship management software, apps to record and analyze customer feedback calls, etc.
A satisfied customer can be identified in three ways:
1. How extensively and often they use the product.
2. Their enthusiasm or the way they respond when we contact them for feedback or to inform them of new updates.
3. Buying more licenses for the product.
If any of the above is not happening with a customer, it is time you work on improving their experience.