User Adoption Insights From Tri Tuns

“We don’t care. We don’t have to.” …uh, yes you do.

Do you remember this Saturday Night Live advertisement skit with Lily Tomlin as a phone company employee?

I remember watching this clip when I was a kid and laughing because it was so true. Back then, the phone company was the only game in town. And they knew it.

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.

Develop a CSM Strategy

Start a CSM Program

Discover CSM Resources

5 Things to Include in Your Customer Success Management (CSM) Strategy

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

Investing in a CSM will save you both time and money.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

Define, develop and plan out a CSM methodology, tools and processes to ensure CSM success.
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.

CSM Strategy


Be part of the conversation.  Join the Customer Success Practitioners group on LinkedIn

join us on linkedin!

8 Factors to Review BEFORE Investing in CRM

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced new rules for mortgages that will take affect in 2014. An article on reported eight factors the CFPB requires lenders to examine before making a loan. We have previously identified that lenders (and others) should treat their CRM investments with the same care and scrutiny that they do when making loans to others. So, here are 8 factors that you need to consider before investing in CRM systems.

1. Expected ROI over the life of the CRM investment

Don’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

A good guideline to follow is that just switching to a new system without any focused plan to drive and sustain user adoption of the new technology will result in the same or lower levels of user adoption of the new system. Quite simply, if you have low user adoption today, chances are good that you will have lower user adoption tomorrow, regardless of the IT. (User adoption is a people-based issue.) That is, unless you do something to address this problem.

3. Impact of future changes to users’ jobs and performance requirements

Implementing a CRM system doesn’t make users' jobs easier – it fundamentally changes the jobs. A new CRM can alter job responsibilities and how people spend their time. It changes the skills and competencies they need. In short, it changes performance expectations. Understand the extent of the changes to users jobs and then determine what you need to do to address these changes.

4. Identification of all drivers and barriers to IT user adoption

All too often we see that there are barriers to adoption that prevent people from using the system – even when they want to use it! These organizational barriers take many forms and they lie outside the users ability to control them. Executive action is required to address these items, yet often executives are not even aware that they exist, let alone know that they need to take action.

When starting a CRM implementation, ensure someone is assigned responsibility -- and accountability -- for CRM success.5. Formal assignment of responsibility, authority and accountability for ROI

A senior executive needs to be formally charged with ensuring the CRM investment is a success. This needs to include some very real reward or consequence (such as a major impact to their compensation) for hitting or missing ROI goals for the CRM investment. If you don’t have this, you are sunk.

6. Identification of resources & budget required to drive initial user adoption

Stop thinking that you only need training! Training is necessary, but insufficient, for ensuring CRM success. You need a plan for how you will quickly align users behavior and job performance (using the CRM tool) with organizational goals. If you are only focused on training or go-live focused change management, you are in for trouble.

7. Plan and budget resources for sustaining user adoption over the life of the system

The ROI on a CRM investment is just like the ROI on any 401-K or other financial investment: returns can be up one year and then down the next. So, put a plan in place for how you’ll monitor your CRM ROI and then make adjustments as necessary to get the returns you need.

8. Defined approach for ensuring the CRM system stays relevant

Change doesn't just happen at go-live. Your business will change. Your customers will change. Your workforce will change. The economy, regulatory environment, and competitive landscape will all change. Make sure that your CRM system continues to evolve as your needs change. 

More on CRM Success

Sub-Prime CRM? What IT Needs to Learn From the New Mortgage Rules

A recent article on reports that lenders will face new rules for extending credit in January 2014. The rules are an attempt to prevent breakdowns in the financial industry and help ensure that organizations be repaid when they lend money.

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

Yup, at the crux of the regulations, is the idea that lenders need to make sure they will be paid back for any money they lend – before they lend it. Hmmm, that's a bold concept. 
You would think that organizations would not need to be told that before they give away a pile of money they need to be sure they will get it (and more) back. Yet, this happens every day when it comes to organizations deciding how they will invest in CRM systems.

Lenders (and others) need to consider their ability to achieve ROI before investing in CRM systems

Organizations need to treat their CRM investments just like a lender approaches (or will, come January 2014) making a loan. They should:

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).

Many organizations don’t do this – or at least, not really. They may say that they have defined a “business case”, but typically this is a largely fictional piece of work that is not based on a thorough understanding or assessment of the likelihood that the system will actually get adopted and used effectively by end-users. And as we all know, if a system isn’t used, it isn’t delivering any value.

Don’t invest in Sub-Prime CRM.
Require a User Adoption & ROI Plan before you spend a dime on 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. 
Ask yourself these questions:
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?