How to Drive SaaS Growth with Proactive Customer Support

How to drive saas growth with proactive customer support

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Are you doing the right thing to maximize profit and growth of your SaaS Company?

The recurring revenue business model used by most SaaS companies is a double-edged sword.

After customers sign on for your service, they’ll be paying you every single month (and hopefully for a long time to come.)

Sounds good, right?

But wait… there’s a flip side to that…

When every billing cycle comes around, it’s natural for your customers to wonder if they’re getting their money’s worth out of working with your company.

If they don’t perceive your service to be valuable and relevant enough for the money spent, they’d unsubscribe. You then lose a customer… and all the recurring income that’s to come.

Recurring Revenue Model

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Under the recurring revenue model, the majority of a SaaS company’s revenue comes from renewal and upsell, instead of the initial sale.

Churn Has Bigger Impact On Revenue Loss

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As a SaaS company and its client base grow, churn has a bigger impact on revenue loss. In order to scale successfully, a SaaS company needs to reduce customer churn.

Churn Impact On Revenue Growth

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Reducing churn has a huge impact on revenue growth.

When you lose a customer, you also lose three other sources of revenue and growth opportunities:

(1) Long-time customers are more likely to upgrade to a more expensive plan after trying out your product and getting results. If new customers don’t stick around long enough to get to that point, you not only lose the projected revenue from the current usage plan, but also potential revenue from a higher tier service.

(2) Happy customers can be your best sales team and send you referrals. This type of word-of-mouth marketing is low cost and effective. A customer who unsubscribes from your service is unlikely to be raving about your company.

(3) If a champion of your product changes job, he may introduce you to his new company. This warm lead could represent a sizable new client and therefore revenue.

Happy Customers Bring More Leads

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Warm leads brought in by happy customers through referral and recommendations can be a sizable source of revenue.

Key to Long Term Customer Success

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Second order revenue, in the form of referrals and product champions, can be the key to long-term success.

To keep customers around longer and to spend more, you’ve to keep them happy by helping them succeed through customer support.

Customer support is therefore necessary for the growth of a SaaS company.

Customers are expecting more from companies they engage with. They want to hear from you, and they want to see that you’re earning your keep – especially when the recurring bill hits, they’d want to know they’re indeed getting value for their money.

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s easy to pull the plug and migrate over to your competitors if your customers aren’t happy with the way they’re treated or the results they’re getting.

We need to redefine how we engage with customers, and proactively support them before issues arise to demonstrate the value of your service and nip any potential complaints in the bud.

Gone are the days when companies can just put someone by the customer service line and put out fire when an angry customer calls.

The goal of proactive support is to help customer succeed by using your product, and to identify and resolve issues before they become problems.

A small frustration left unchecked can turn into a disaster in the form of churn and lost revenue.

In this article, we’ll look at how to design a proactive customer support system from the ground up to reduce churn and increase growth:

7 Strategies to Drive SaaS Growth with Proactive Customer Support

1.Reframe Success Metrics

Customers purchase your product because they want to achieve certain business results.

If they’re not getting results, they’d unsubscribe. Your company’s success depends on how well your customers are achieving those intended outcomes.

Therefore, your goal is to help them achieve success via the fastest and simplest path through your product. You need to be measuring metrics that reflect how effectively your clients are generating successful results.

1. Quantify your ROI based on business outcomes, instead of feature usage. This reframes the conversation in your organization and put the focus on customer success and retention.

2. Using this quantified ROI, plan monthly or quarterly emails to your customers to demonstrate how your product is delivering results, while checking in to see if they need additional support.

This will keep your product top-of-mind. Moreover, when your customers see the results they’ve achieved with your product, they’re more likely to recommend it to others.

This can also proactively pre-empt the question regarding the effectiveness of your product, so your customers will more likely stay subscribed.

3. To create a customer-success focus, evaluate your customer experience for the following:

i). Utility – are you providing value?

ii). Convenience – is your product easy to access and use?

iii). Community – is there customer-to-customer interaction?

Customer Support Forum

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Disqus uses a support forum so customers can help each other at the same time building a sense of community.

iv). Connection – do you give customers a sense of belonging?

v). Choice – do your customers feel empowered?

2. Get Your Entire Company On Board

Outstanding customer experience benefits the success of the entire company, so it makes sense for the entire company to stand behind the cause.

1. Besides the customer support team, all departments need to work together to make sure business benefits are delivered to customers effectively.

Develop a reliable communication system between teams, so issues can be addressed promptly if raised, or better yet, taken care of before they become an issue for your customers.

2. Your customers are paying you every month because you’re serving them. Reframe the mindset of your team as providing a “service”, instead of selling a “product.” By consistently providing tangible service and values, you can retain customers more successfully.

3. Create a Customer Retention Team and assign high value customers dedicated retention specialists so they can get questions and issues addressed as efficiently as possible:

Get Your Entire Company On Board

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3. Implement a Customer Onboarding Process

Customer experience during the first few weeks of signing up has a high impact on customer retention. Set the tone for helping customers create successful outcome with a well-designed onboarding process to build loyalty:

1. Set achievable goals with tangible outcomes that customers find valuable, then device a process to take them to the “aha” moment as quickly as possible.

E.g. Twitter has determined that after a user follows 30 people, they’ll stay on. Their onboarding strategy is therefore to encourage new users to import and follow their contact, so they’ll hit the threshold of following 30 people as soon as possible.

Implement a Customer Onboarding Process

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Twitter makes recommendations to help users hit the threshold as quickly as possible.

2. Monitor initial engagement and Time to First Value (TTFV) to ensure that your customers are getting value and moving along the learning path to succeed with your product.

3. Send out life-cycle emails based on success milestones to provide timely and relevant information and tutorials. Take this opportunity to address questions and challenges typical first-time users face before they run into the issues to minimize frustration with your product.

Send Out Lifecycle Email

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Example of a life-cycle email, triggered by customer successfully signing up.

4. Analyze the process to streamline learning and increase its effectiveness by gathering customer feedback or through user testing.

4. Provide Resources to Bridge Success Gap

During an onboarding process, customers may learn to functionally complete a task using the product features, yet there’s still a gap between the business results they’re looking for, and their ability to achieve them through the use of your product.

This success gap can be bridged by providing users with additional training and information, and showing them how your product can be applied to support strategies and tactics that will lead to the desired outcomes.

Such information can be delivered in many different formats to suit your company’s resources, the scope or price of your service and your customers’ preference:

1. E-books, white paper and knowledge base to address common questions

Address Common Questions

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Slack’s knowledge base help address common questions.

2. How-to videos

How-to Videos

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Salesforce.com offers a video library to help customers make the most out of their product.

3. Targeted tips or recommended next step via life-cycle email based on events and actions to ensure that content is relevant to the customers’ interaction with your product.

Recommendation Email

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Evernote sends email to users who have completed a task to provide recommendation for their “next step.”

4. On-going live training (e.g. webinars)

On-going live training

SumoMe often offers exclusive webinar training to their Pro plan customers.

5. Conferences and live events

Conferences and live events

InfusionSoft hosts annual user conference to support their customers’ ongoing success in the changing marketing landscape.

6. A mini-onboarding process for existing users when rolling out a major update or new feature to ensure a seamless transition and cohesive experience with your product

5. Pre-empt Problems

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The goal of proactive customer support is to identify and resolve issues before they become problems that cause customer complaints and frustrations.

1. Understand users’ expectations and intentions behind using your product so you can prioritize resolving issues that have the potential to cause the most frustration.

2. Set customer expectations and clearly communicate them at the beginning of engagement so users will know what is within the scope of your services.

3. Build tracking into your application to understand how your customers interact with your product, what features they use most and where they’re stuck. You can then use this data to refine customer experience e.g. by providing additional support and resources, or tweaking UX to make your interface more intuitive.

4. Monitor conversation about your brand and your product on the social web. Besides “@mentions” which obviously requires your attention, keep an eye on specific keywords and topics to make sure you don’t miss relevant conversation about your product, category or niche.

Monitor Conversation

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The process of monitoring the social web for conversations about your brand and product.

5. Hire a third party to review your customer experience and provide unbiased feedback.

6. Periodically communicate upgrades and improvements and how they address certain known issues so your customers feel that they’re getting service and innovation back for their subscription (e.g. added security, increased storage, a new version, improved user interface.)

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6. Engage in Two-Way Conversation

A two-way conversation not only allows you to gather feedback from your customers, but it also makes customers feel heard when you acknowledge and address their comments. This often increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. This could be done by the following:

1. Actively listen and gather customer feedback through a variety of channels.

2. Frame your questions to get the right feedback, and break down big concepts into separate questions to avoid ambiguity:

Frame Your Questions

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Example of breaking down a bigger concept into separate questions.

3. Create multiple customer touch points to strengthen customer relationships by being visible and available through different medium.

4. Integrate communication across multiple channels to ensure continuity and consistent experience.

Integrate Communication

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Example of a “cross-touch point experience model”.

5. Provide customer support through social media to encourage engagement and interaction.

6. Proactively communicate updates and changes to avoid “surprises” when customers logon to use your product.

7. Apply different communication strategies to high usage, medium usage and low usage customers.

8. Use in-app messaging to provide real-time support to customers.

Use In-App Messaging

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Example of an in-app messaging – customer service provides recommendation based on user’s behavior, which successfully resulted in an upgrade.

9. Reassert value proposition and do “reality checks” with your customers to make sure you’re meeting their needs and expectations.

10. Follow up after interactions to make sure customers are satisfied with the resolution.

11. Create a partnership approach to foster customer loyalty.

12. Provide timely response to customer inquiry and set expectation on response time during off hours or holidays.

Provide Timely Response To Customer Inquiry

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Example of setting customer expectation on response time during holidays.

7. Create Customer Feedback Loop

 

Customer feedback loop

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Example of a Customer feedback loop.

Customer feedback loop takes customer interaction to the next level by making sure that feedback is being incorporated into your product in an iterative process.

Here are a few ways to gather customer feedback:

1. Use on-site survey to collect information about usage pattern and specific needs of your customers:

Use On-Site Survey

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Example of an on-site survey, which is often simple and pertains to the task on the page.

2. Use on-site live chat for real-time interaction with customers without having them to leave the task at hand.

3. Use incentives and gamification to gather reviews and feedback from current customers.

4. Build a customer-exclusive community forum within which customers can interact, share insights and support each other, while your team monitors the conversation to provide support as needed.

5. Send high value customers personalized emails, and follow up the interaction with a phone call.

6. Build support and feedback mechanism into your product:

Build support and feedback mechanism

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Amazon has a “Mayday” button built into Kindle Fire HDX.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that proactive customer support is essential for the growth and expansion of a SaaS company.

This is truly a team effort – your message of providing top-notch customer support needs to be communicated across all customer touch points by all of your staff.

As you’re building a phenomenal product, don’t forget to create a company culture that focuses on customer service and customer success for long-term profitability.

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