SaaS services I’ve tried recently have left me in the cold because I could feel they were too focused on numbers and not enough on actually earning my business. The worst offenders use tracking software that borderlines on being creepy: companies ask for my email at every corner, not offering any great content in return. When I receive communications from them, they generally sound like someone talking into a megaphone with no real personal understanding of my needs. When I want to correspond with them, it is usually though a generic email@example.com address, rather than knowing there is a real human being on the other end. Since SaaS products always change, new releases and features are blasted to me regularly, without regard as to why the new change matters for my needs. In the end, if I feel like a number in a drip campaign for someone’s spreadsheet, then I will quickly bounce to a competitive offering. Even if the competitor might lack certain features, my success in solving my core problem matters more.
Who Gets Customer Experience?
While Apple does make world renowned products, people shop in stores in addition to buying their devices online because of their fantastic customer experience (CX). Whenever I visit a new place, the area’s Apple Store is usually a destination that I’ll pass by, or at least spend a minute or two browsing. The customer experience of a product or service can be more important than the item itself. It is no surprise that Apple strives to deliver great experiences through marketing and sales – most successful companies allocate more spend towards these functions than any other within their organization.
Apple’s retail store CX encompasses a wide range of phases within the customer lifecycle, from the moment a prospective buyer reads an advertisement to the point of sale in the store itself. Throughout this journey, customers are greeted with a consistent brand promise where Apple claims to have a superior product by design. Customers are welcomed to try the products in person in their 500+ stores. When I walk in the Apple Store, I am greeted and asked if I have any questions or concerns. I am also invited to spend hours browsing each product and inspecting their detail against custom designed wooden tables. The energy is palpable from the Apple geniuses, who are the experts appointed by the company to gain deep empathy for the needs of their customers. I can ask anything I want about the products, and the geniuses make sure to know the answer. Apple’s geniuses are also responsible for troubleshooting and diagnosing issues with current customer’s products, from the iPhone to Mac. If I experience even a minor issue with my phone, Apple usually replaces it on the spot. Apple goes the extra mile with their customers, ensuring their needs are met and they are satisfied when they leave with their shiny white bags.
SaaS companies that provide an excellent digital customer experience will reap the rewards of increased recurring revenue (ARR / MRR) and overall increased customer life time value (LTV). SaaS companies that do not have storefronts must still provide a delightful experience. The major difference, a CX in the customer lifecycle online begins from a wider variety of entry points, including online ads, recommendations from a friends, or adjacent products. According to Forrester, customers will move from an awareness-consideration-purchase funnel, and these prospective buyers are constantly doing research and comparing one SaaS offering to the next. Companies now have to take advantage of analytics and targeted campaigns to guide a user through the customer lifecycle to arrive at the appropriate offering. Apple similarly targets customers in a cross-channel fashion, guiding buyers from an online shopping experience to the brick-and-mortar store nearby. With each step, Apple provides significant content to their customers so they can dictate the conversation and own the experience. Similarly, SaaS companies need to practice regular customer engagement. Delightful customer engagements help customers achieve desired outcomes which help reduce customer churn and increase customer retention.
Customer Success Management is Key
A new field has emerged in the SaaS world known as customer success management (CSM). Just because I see an initial tweet or e-mail doesn’t mean I will actually go on the journey, and great content marketing isn’t enough to retain me as a customer. My needs and desires evolve over time. When one service solves my first problem, I am hopeful they can expediently solve my next two to three similar issues. There are hundreds of people like me seeking out products that empathize with our needs and put them above any other priority in their product development lifecycle. To practice great CSM, companies should consider the following:
- Constantly engage with your customers. Knowing their needs at each step of the customer lifecycle stage is imperative to communicating value that is unique to them. When I walk into an Apple store, I am greeted the moment I walk in and am checked in on throughout the experience. When I return a second time, store associates can quickly pull up my information and assist my needs thanks to having quick access of my historical usage of Apple products.
- Educate me on best practices. I don’t have time to read long winded articles about a service, but a few short tips can go a long way with me really making the most out of what a business has to provide. These communications can be sent via email, but you must respect my time. If I have any questions, I hope I can reach out to an actual person, rather than a generic support line.
- Involve me in product roadmapping. If I feel that the product was designed for my needs, I will continue to invest in its existence and adopt it even more. Perhaps my needs are similar to others in a SaaS product’s customer pipeline, so it behooves a company to deeply consider what I hope to get from the product in the future.
- Appoint someone who is tied to my account. In CSM, customer success managers are responsible for ensuring a business practices all of the above to deliver value to their customers and keep them engage.
Businesses that practice great Customer Success Management stand to gain many benefits, including a high LTV, reduced churn, greater net retention, and lower customer acquisition costs (CAC). If I feel that a service practices the above guidelines, then I will want to spend more money, stick with the business and tell my friends. My needs will feel fulfilled and I will feel like a necessary individual to your business. Great customer success management means providing superior customer experiences.