Carina Edwards, SVP, Customer Experience and Corporate Development, Imprivata
Strategies for growth in today’s market must contemplate more than top- and bottom-line growth goals—they must ensure that their customers consistently achieve value. After all, a customer who sees value in your product or services is a customer that trusts you—and trust is the most reliable indicator of customer retention and growth.
Achieving trust—ensuring that your customers perceive and realize the value that your company provides—is also critical for the many companies transitioning their offerings from traditional “perpetual” software offerings to subscription SaaS based offerings. These companies must hard-wire ‘customer success’ into their very DNA and make it a core competency of their organization. Keep in mind: customer success initiatives are marketing efforts—they are dedicated organizations that build repeatable paths that ensure customers realize value and ROI.
Value realization = trust
We all believe our products solve key customer problems and deliver value, but that does not always mean they are successfully deployed and adopted by end users. Sometimes other priorities or skill sets limit customer adoption. Smart companies will ensure that their customer success organizations have one goal—ensure customers adopt and realize value from their solutions. Achieving this goal will result in gaining customer trust and ongoing loyalty. This will serve both you and your customers well. When customers receive value from your solutions and trust you, they’ll look to you and your company to solve other problems for them, which in turn allows your company to scale and cross-sell, other solutions into your current customers.
This ‘trust factor’ is key because it lets a company scale in accordance with its customer base. But it’s important to understand that this is a journey, and can’t be achieved through people and hard work alone—it only works if the program is repeatable, scalable, and delivers value to end users and to the organizations that buy the final products.
For a long time, companies were trying to create a 360 view of the customer, but what they were really solving was a 360 view of sales and reactive support success
If the end result is not end user adoption and value realization—for every customer, on a repeatable basis—the entire model fails. Customer success efforts require deep customer and product knowledge to ensure that the implementation and adoption journey is mapped and can be repeated to a successful outcome every time, and if it deviates you have processes and systems in place to acknowledge and quickly get it back on track.
Customer Success: even more critical for SaaS solutions
We know now that utilization and adoption of your solution keeps customers and end users “sticky”—that is, you retain them—but it took companies a while make this a repeatable process. The cost for customers to switch SaaS vendors is low. Moreover, the highs companies experienced after acquiring large numbers of customers after initial launch were quickly followed by valleys of despair when customers started to churn. Therefore, customer adoption and retention rates became key metrics for the success of all SaaS companies. To ensure these key metrics remain high, SaaS businesses or organizations switching from perpetual to SaaS must focus on value realization.
Your customer success teams should build customer journey paths/playbooks for all of your solutions to ensure customers successfully implement and adopt your solutions. These playbooks can be leveraged to gain alignment on overall goals and key metrics customers are looking to achieve. This positions you to then leverage automation and product adoption telemetry to share adoption metrics and KPIs with your customer and internal stake holders. If there is a deviation, or an anomaly in the data, the teams must proactively engage to prevent a potential problem. The data, the automation, and prescriptive standardization will helpyou ensure that customers recognize the value in your solutions. This is how you can build an effective team that is able to quickly scale.
Validation in results
Do you believe in customers for life? If so, your retention rates should reflect that commitment. That means your customers stick around—for the long haul. Your results will tell you how successful you’ve been at becoming an early adopter of customer success. Closely measure and track your customer retention rate and your NPS score.
For a long time, companies were trying to create a 360 view of the customer, but what they were really solving was a 360 view of sales and reactive support success. Increasingly, SaaS companies are recognizing that it’s about the customers’ use of the solution that matters— not the different customer touch points. Smart SaaS players understand the day-to-day live journey for their customers, map key activities and automated milestones of the journey, and monitor each step through ongoing use and adoption. When possible, they quantify solution utilization, adoption and value realized as well as traditional bookings, revenue, and EBITDA.
It’s about true partnership and resulting in customers for life—it’s a lofty goal—but one that is a win-win for both companies and the customers they deliver for!