How do you empathize with your customers? While I am a fan of Steve Martin, and find this quote awesomely hilarious, I feel that many times we are far from being able to internalize the true meaning of the original saying.
YOU CAN’T REALLY UNDERSTAND ANOTHER PERSON’S EXPERIENCE UNTIL YOU’VE WALKED A MILE IN THEIR SHOES.
The compounding customer problem
In B2B SaaS we are building companies from the ground up with the focus of overcoming business problems in a wide variety of verticals, focuses and complexities. In many cases our solutions originate from the passions and experiences of our founders who bravely set out on their own to pursue the creation of their vision. Moreover, successful startups learn a lot as they are securing their first 10, 20 or 100 customers. Sometimes we pivot to entirely new areas; micro adjust the approach or messaging as we figure out what exactly companies are willing to spend money on. The point here is that the knowledge that our companies starts off with (the insight or experiences that lead us to the solution in the first place) in addition to the knowledge gained in the first year is extremely difficult to replicate in each new hire you bring into your company. Before you know it, the team members that are working with your customers on a daily basis helping to solve their business problems have no clue what it is like to work in the finance, procurement or legal departments at a fortune 500 or bigger company. Additionally, for growing technology companies, the talent pool we hire from typically has no interest in working for large companies. On the flip side, resource talent that excels at large corporate culture rarely pursues career options in the startup/early growth community. I realize that these are generalizations and there are individual experiences that will provide examples where this didn’t occur. However, for the most part I have found this to be true.
SaaS startups are required to grow revenue, improve retention and increase margin as they mature. The goal in its simplest form is to grow the customer base as quickly as humanly possible. With each customer milestone (i.e. 100, 500, 1000 customers) the multitude of requests for help grows exponentially. Before you know it, your team is overwhelmed with customers notable to cover everything that is required to keep them headed in the right direction. To compound this, many Customer Success teams are addressing these challenges or needs without additional compensation from the customer which creates a whole new set of internal problems. We will cover more about subscription services and other services models in future blog posts. However, for now let’s stay focused on simplifying customer needs so we can more effectively identify the right approach. Below are the 5 categories of customer need that cover the challenges that your customers are likely faced with and will help your team focus their true empathy for how hard it is to be your customer.
Five categories of customer need
Cost of ownership – This is the burden of ownership that you put on your customers that is inclusive of but in addition to the cost you are charging them for subscription or licenses. Cost of ownership could include the following:
- Responsibility during implementation & configuration
- Cost of administration and support
- Cost of change management & adopting future innovation
- Time to properly promote and educate the targeted audience or use base
Lower annual contract value offerings typically result in more customer responsibility which increases the risk they won’t realize their desired outcomes. We have recently written a blog advocating investments in knowledge, community and enablement can be a great offense to efficiently steer customers in the right direction. Keeping an eye on cost of ownership is important as customers will jump into these relationships with unrealistic relationships.
Skillset – Some products require specialized skillset or a level of technical aptitude to intuitively use a specific feature leading to value. An example of this might include how to appropriately test an email on a variety of devices to ensure that it renders well or understanding how to work effectively within the quality of your data. These are just a few examples. Reflecting on your best customers, what do they have that helps them be successful? Is it a particularly talented team member, access to a highly specialized team or a very supportive IT function? Lacking all the skillsets to be perfect can be a significant hurdle to realizing the desired value for some SaaS solutions.
Depth of experience – This is very similar to skillset however for this category I would focus on
best is only known by the person that has been there and done that. Promoting technology internally and externally can be a great example of this. Many team members that participate in technology projects may be process experts, SMEs or leaders within their respective companies. They may not know how to do this well.
Competing demands – Even if you are the platform of choice you are likely 1 of 20 technologies a business user will use on a daily or weekly basis. On top of this the requirements and stresses of their job likely provide significant distraction from the time that you need from them to ensure value. Time spent with each customer needs to bring them closer to value. More importantly time that we spend individually with a customer is incredibly valuable. We should always be prepared to dig in and help them advance their solution when they make us a priority.
Bringing it back to Steve