Do you remember this Saturday Night Live advertisement skit with Lily Tomlin as a phone company employee?
Customer choice means vendors need to care
Now, just a few years (ok, decades) later, these same phone companies are struggling to reduce customer churn. They are (finally?) realizing that things have changed and the customer now has more power in the relationship. And customers are not afraid to use it.
SaaS vendors need to focus on keeping customers...
Like phone companies, SaaS vendors – or any vendor selling on a subscription basis – realize that reducing churn and keeping customers for as long as possible is essential to their success. Unlike the phone companies of yesteryear, they can’t hold customers hostage and just expect the money to keep rolling in.
…but what do they need to do to reduce churn?
Many organizations recognize the need to retain customers, but they are not sure how.
The secret is simple. If you want to retain customers, make sure they:
1. Are getting value from your product or service, and
2. They enjoy their experience with your organization
If you can do that, you will keep them. As soon as these two things fall short, your customer will leave.
Focus on customer success to reduce churn
Many companies have invested in improving the customer experience and increasing customer satisfaction ratings. Now they to focus on making sure customers are getting full value / benefits realization.
For many organizations, this means creating a Customer Success Management program. Customer success is not account management or even customer service. It is all about helping the customer achieve the measured benefits and ROI that is meaningful to them. It requires different methods, tools, and activities than before.
Do you have a Customer Success Management program? If not, why not? If so, how has it affected your customer churn?
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the Customer Success Practitioners group on LinkedIn.
Increasingly, investors and SaaS leaders are recognizing that customer retention is essential for their success. As a result, they are rushing to build Customer Success Management (CSM) programs that will help their customers maximize IT adoption and ROI from their systems.
However, they are facing significant challenges because Customer Success Management is new to most organizations and they are not sure exactly how to get started or what to do first. They don’t always know that right question to ask, how to allocate scarce resources, or how to prioritize their efforts to get the best results.
Investing in a CSM strategy will save you time & effort
The first place to start is to create a CSM strategy and road map. Your CSM strategy should identify exactly what you are trying to achieve, define how you will achieve it, specify who will make it happen, and provide a clear road map moving forward. Your CSM strategy will help develop a shared understanding and vision for what you are trying to achieve. It will also enable you to move forward with confidence while allowing you to avoid costly pitfalls and mistakes that can threat your CSM program before it even gets going.
So, how do you create an effective Customer Success Management strategy? Here are 5 things to help you get started. Keep in mind that this is often an iterative process, and decisions you make later on may require that you revisit some of your earlier decisions.
1. Define your goals
Not surprisingly, the first step is to figure out exactly what you want your CSM team to do and the results they need to achieve. This will set the goalpost from which you will determine the specific staffing, services, tools and methods you will need in your CSM team. It will also help you identify the budget you will need to allocate for building and maintaining your CSM capabilities.
2. Define roles, responsibilities and org structure
One of the first questions people ask is what exactly should the CSMs do and where do they fit within the organization? Should the CSMs be responsible for sales and renewals, or just for driving customer IT adoption and satisfaction? Do they report to sales? Do they report to customer service? Sales? And what authority do they have when it comes to working with other departments internally (like sales, product management, professional services, customer support)?
3. Develop CSM methodology, tool and processes
Once you have figured out what you are trying to achieve and how you will work internally, identify the specific tools and processes you will need to make it happen. This may involve internal-focused tools, such as having a way to identify and report on actual customer-use of your system, and externally-focused tools, such as creating a CSM consulting methodology / toolbox that you use when working directly with your customers. You may require a combination of tools such as IT systems (like the one offered by Apptegic), spreadsheets, presentation slides, email templates, report templates, and other such things that enable your CSM team to deliver a consistent, effective, high-quality CSM service.
When building your CSM strategy you only need to identify and prioritize the methodology and tool development requirements. You don’t actually create all the tools until after the strategy is finalized since it may go through a few iterations before you have final agreement on how to move forward.
4. Recruit and develop exceptional staff
Identify how you will recruit and develop exceptional staff. This may include identifying a high-level profile of the types of temperament, skills and required experience levels you will want for your CSM team. And, it should outline how you plan to quickly on-board the CSM staff, train them, and ensure they are able to get up to speed quickly.
Just a quick word of caution: at its core, CSM is about driving IT adoption of systems. In order to be effective, CSMs need to understand the root cause of IT adoption problems and have a firm grasp of the proactive steps you can take to increase adoption. This is knowledge and skill that, generally, are in short supply. You may need to provide additional training and development to help your CSM staff learn the skills they need to be fully effective in this role.
5. Manage the roll-out (internally & externally)
Introducing your CSM capabilities requires changes both internally to your organization and externally with how you interact with customers. Both can be major transitions and you will want to map out in advance how you will manage these changes.
For your internal roll--out, consider how introducing CSMs will change the way existing staff perform their jobs. Have you changed the job responsibilities of sales and service staff? Will having the CSM team impact revenue and renewal targets for sales professionals? How will you go about informing people about the new service? Introducing the CSM function will kick off a domino effect of changes to all other parts of your organization.
For your external (customer) roll-out, be careful how you introduce the CSM function to both new and existing customers. Take care to ensure you set accurate expectations about what the CSM team will – and will not – deliver to customers. Also, you may want to consider if you want to pilot the CSM effort with select customers before rolling it out to everyone.
Be part of the conversation. Join the Customer Success Practitioners group on LinkedIn
1. Expected ROI over the life of the CRM investmentDon’t just look at implementation costs or total cost of ownership (TCO). Make sure the expected return and lifetime value is both positive and significant enough to warrant the time and effort required to implement and maintain the system. Perform a scenario analysis to weight the expected ROI to adjust for different levels of user adoption. Will this still seem like a good investment if you don’t get effective adoption?
2. Current level of user adoption of existing systems
3. Impact of future changes to users’ jobs and performance requirements
4. Identification of all drivers and barriers to IT user adoption
6. Identification of resources & budget required to drive initial user adoption
7. Plan and budget resources for sustaining user adoption over the life of the system
8. Defined approach for ensuring the CRM system stays relevant
There are many lessons here for IT departments (and, arguably, the organization as a whole) before it invests in a CRM System.
New 2014 mortgage rules require lenders consider customers’ ability to repay a loan before extending credit
Lenders (and others) need to consider their ability to achieve ROI before investing in CRM systems
1. Look at how much money you send out now (license and implementation costs) and how much value demand to get back (increase in sales, decrease in costs, or other measures of ROI on your CRM investment).
2. Critically examine and rate your ability to actually achieve the returns you require (ability to drive and sustain user adoption and benefits realization).
3. Oh, and depending on the size of the investment, you may require some sort of collateral to help incentivize successful payback of your investment (for CRM investments, this may be tying executive compensation to CRM success).
Don’t invest in Sub-Prime CRM.
Before you write a check for any CRM system, make sure it is worth it. It is better to not make any investment than to throw away a pile of money and waste tons of time on a system that is doomed to failure before it even begins.
Require a User Adoption & ROI Plan before you spend a dime on CRM!
1. Is there a written plan for how we will ensure a positive ROI on our CRM investment?2. Have we done a thorough analysis to identify all the drivers and barriers that will affect user adoption (and ROI)?3. Have we defined exactly what ROI goals must be achieved in what amount of time before we proceed?4. Is there a single, senior executive who will be held accountable (including having a personal financial stake) for meeting ROI goals on the CRM investment?
If you can’t say yes to all of the above questions, then the loan is not approved!