Show me a successful business, and I’ll show you one that knows how to key in on customer success. And nowhere is this truer than in the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry. While some industries might be able to thrive and prosper with a high rate of customer turnover, SaaS success is often dependent on building long-term relationships with its client base. Without that loyalty, most SaaS businesses would be hard-pressed to maintain their revenues, much less grow them. But what does customer success look like in SaaS? And how much support do you need to offer customers after purchase to ensure that you maintain that brand loyalty?
What Does Customer Success in SaaS Look Like?
Customer success in SaaS is one of those things that might seem difficult to describe. For some business owners, the expression conjures images of happy customers gleefully purchasing their software. For others, customer success is a means to an end – that short-term goal you need to reach to fuel your long-term growth plans. The fact is that customer success is all those things and more. Customer success is the fuel that powers your growth, the glue that binds your company together, and the reason your team does what it does every day.
In short, customer success should be central to everything that you do. At the same time, though, it is important to remember that customer success is an investment that you make on a daily basis. Your company needs happy customers to survive and grow. That happiness breeds loyalty, which translates into long-term business relationships. Your company needs to invest in its customer success if you want to drive growth through repeat sales, upsells, and other critical revenue-enhancing strategies.
What Level of Support Do You Need to Provide?
How much support you need to provide to any given customer is a matter of intense debate. For some customers, basic instructions are sufficient to enable easy use of your product. For others, it can sometimes seem as though no amount of guidance is ever enough. To better predict the amount of support any given customer might need, you should have a strategy to help you understand your clients.
Yes, “know the customer” is an old mantra, but it is one that is essential in SaaS. You need to understand how your customers use your software. You should try to learn their frequency of use, and whether they’re using it enough actually to solve their specific problems. You also need a system to track the amount of time it takes them to get up to speed on its use. Infrequent use, inefficient use, or a slow pace of integration can all signal a lack of satisfaction. After all, if your clients are pleased with your software, they’ll likely be using it a great deal.
The bottom line is simple. You need to provide as much support as your customers need to be truly happy. That means that your support emphasis should go beyond troubleshooting, and focus on educating clients so that they are comfortable with your products. That comfort level will help them to get the most out of your software solutions, which will, in turn, increase their happiness levels – and build brand loyalty that will keep them using your products for years to come.
What is the Key to Customer Success in SaaS?
If there is one key to customer success in SaaS, it is this: limit customer turnover by ensuring customer happiness. You need to keep your customers, build brand loyalty, and develop long-term relationships that result in increased reliance on your solutions. It’s been a well-established fact for some time now: it is always less expensive to serve existing customers than to locate and attract new ones. With SaaS, that dynamic is even more pronounced. After all, just consider all that you have invested in each of your customer relationships:
- There are the marketing and customer contacts needed to locate, attract, and sell that customer on your solutions.
- There’s the onboarding process – an effort that can sometimes require weeks or even months of work to help get that client up-to-speed on your software solution.
- Finally, you have the support time invested in helping that customer and his team overcome any difficulties that they experience while using your software.
Given that investment, can you afford not to keep those customers? Remember, that investment in time and effort has an actual cost attached to it. Success for your SaaS firm will in some measure depend on your ability to maximise your return on that investment. Naturally, the least amount of return occurs when customers only purchase your products once. The good news is that you can increase that gain by focusing on customer success since that will enable you to:
- Get renewal business. Second, third, and subsequent orders represent one of the easiest ways to grow your revenues. The initial investment in time, cost, and service can be leveraged into huge returns when you can retain old customers and keep them reliant on your solutions.
- Upsell to those customers. In addition to client retention as a revenue-growth strategy, you can also increase revenues by upselling to those customers. Develop a plan to identify additional solutions that your existing customers could use to grow their success.
Customer Success is More Important than Sales
Yes, you read that right. Customer success in SaaS matters more than sales. And customer success only occurs when you provide your customers with the right products, the right amount of support, and solutions that they know they can trust to make their lives and businesses more successful. When you can achieve those critical objectives, and identify each customers’ required level of support, you can optimise your customer success efforts and maximise revenue and growth potential. And that can help your SaaS business achieve the success that it needs to meet your short and long-term business goals. Make customer success your company’s priority today and every day!
Customer service is a vital component of any plan for business success. For software companies, that service must include competent software support as well. If you’re the owner of a software firm, however, it can be difficult to decide which path your company should take to provide that assistance. Do you create an in-house support team, hire an external firm to carry out the work or set up an offshore software support team? Each approach comes with its own set of challenges, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each to help you decide which route is best for your company.
Why Provide Software Support?
As you consider your best options for creating a software support team, you should think about why you’re providing assistance in the first place. Ultimately there’s only one real reason to provide support: your customers expect it. The fact is that they are going to have questions about your product and they will expect you to provide the answers they need quickly and proficiently. Good customer support is the one factor that will help differentiate you from the countless software providers in the market. The key is to decide how much support you need to provide and the best way to accomplish that goal.
We’ve written before about how to determine the right level of post-purchase technical support, but the approach you choose will largely depend on your company’s customer service values. How much emphasis do you want to place on support? What do the words “great service” mean to you and your team? Will different technical questions require different teams and management styles? It’s a good idea to get everyone involved in these discussions as each member will play a role in bringing those company values to life as you implement your support plan.
Three Approaches to Customer Support
Depending on the objectives you seek to achieve, each of the options below has their advantages and disadvantages. Examine the pros and cons of each so that you can evaluate which approach will best align with your company’s customer support goals.
As per the name suggests, this approach involves setting up a software support team in-house and managing all customer enquiries within your company. Establishing a designated team within your firm allows you to provide the best support for your customers since your team will have immediate access to the knowledge base they need to do their jobs. When your team is located in-house, you have direct oversight and control of their goings-on and can ensure that you are meeting the company’s stated goals. If they need training on emerging issues or processes require updating, then you have the power to carry out the necessary changes without delay.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this approach, however, is that this is by far the costliest software option that you can pursue. It requires the greatest expenditure of resources since an in-house team requires training, supervision and resource-intensive nurturing. For much smaller and mid-sized firms, those costs can easily outweigh the benefits. For companies that can manage it, though, creating a designated team within the firm should always receive strong consideration.
Another option involves outsourcing the customer support capabilities to an external provider. For most companies, this can be the least expensive option which makes it an attractive choice for many. Firms that choose this path can reserve their resources to be used in other key areas such as additional software development or important growth and expansion needs.
There are some disadvantages to consider. The fact is that any third-party provider is almost always going to be less knowledgeable about your products and that typically remains true no matter how much training and education you provide. There are also inherent control and supervision issues that will come into play whenever you rely upon external providers. Since their work ethic and management is outside of your control, it can be difficult to oversee the support given to your customers and ascertain if it’s the level that you expect.
This approach has been widely used in recent decades and is becoming more and more popular as companies look to move their operations to less expensive overseas locations. This is by far the cheapest option and typically requires the least amount of resource allocation. It also tends to place little stress on your team, freeing them to pursue your firm’s core competencies rather than addressing tech concerns.
On the other hand, there are downsides to this approach. Since most low-cost support options are located in countries with different cultural environments, there are almost always language and cultural barriers involved. Customers often prefer a more localised approach to their customer service, and that can create dissatisfaction with the overall level of support service that those companies provide.
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to choosing who provides your software support, you also need to identify the channels you want to use. E-mail support is the most common and readily available channel for many companies. It can facilitate resolution for most minor and moderately-involved software challenges but is not typically the best option for dealing with more complex needs. Phone support tends to be more conducive to meeting those needs. Of course, live chat can be just as effective as phone support and can make it easier to handle multiple client requests with less personnel.
In the end, you must determine which option best aligns with your vision, your company’s support structure and your customers’ needs. The fact is that each of these options will provide customers with the software support they need to make your product and brand a success. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and the amount of time and resources your firm is willing to allocate to the effort. The good news is that taking the time to assess your options properly will enable you to ensure that your company pursues the best available path for creating a top-notch software support team for your customers’ needs.
For businesses, growth is of the utmost importance. Companies that fail to grow become stagnant and these motionless enterprises eventually sputter and fail. In the modern era, growth often comes in the form of international expansion as companies seek out new markets on foreign shores. While opportunities can be found in those markets, rapid expansion on a global scale can also present new and unexpected challenges. One of those potential challenges is the increased risk of burnout, as you and your team find yourselves overloaded with added workplace demands. Here we list the signs to look out for to help you avoid employee burnout within your organisation.
The desire to grow quickly can often cause business owners to scale their operations prematurely. While that can bring an increase in revenue and profit, it can also create a whole host of problems if you fail to plan for the expansion. Many of those difficulties will directly impact your existing workforce, as employees will find themselves tasked with new responsibilities and expectations. Many will feel overwhelmed by those duties and obligations which is why it is important to consider how to avoid employee burnout.
It is not uncommon for employers to mismanage their international scaling efforts by underestimating the increased workload and capacity of their personnel. Unfortunately, these mistakes can lead to burnout – both for the business owner and their employees. If your company is expanding and you suspect that you or your team might be getting overloaded by the pace of new growth, the chances are that your company has miscalculated one of these areas:
- Realistic allocation of responsibility: There is a natural tendency to rely on the most competent people in your organisation to carry out new projects or assist you with new work. Unfortunately, this can mean a marked increase in responsibilities for those employees which if they’re unprepared, can add to their stress and create new levels of frustration.
- The infrastructure needed to support the expansion: Companies that misjudge their infrastructure needs can create chaos within their enterprises. The unnecessary strain on a company’s structure can hinder normal processes, creating more work for overloaded employees.
- The appropriate level of support: Sometimes, companies can misjudge their efforts so badly that they fail to provide the right level of offshore support to manage the growth in their foreign markets. That invariably results in the company’s original core team being forced to pick up the slack.
- Focus on personnel: Many companies simply fail to consider the amount of work each individual has. They become so focused on the needs of the business and the targets they must reach, that they fail to consider the impact on the team. Business owners and management take on too much at once and have no mechanisms in place to monitor employee morale and engagement. Often, overload and burnout occur before these companies realise that there’s a problem.
Indicators of Work Overload
If you suspect that your staff are struggling with their workloads due to new growth, it’s important to take steps to address the situation to avoid employee burnout. Of course, you won’t be able to correct the problem if you can’t identify it. The good news is that there are a number of signs that indicate the onset of employee fatigue. Overload – or burnout as some like to call it – is a state in which a person is experiencing noticeable exhaustion on a mental, emotional or physical level. Severe burnout often sees employees exhausted in every way and can be accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- A resigned attitude in which the employee seems to have no confidence in their ability to change their circumstances.
- Lack of motivation which can often manifest as an expression of disillusionment with the company and their role in its mission.
- Cognitive issues. If they seem distracted, unable to perform routine tasks or otherwise mentally distant, it could be a sign that they’ve reached their limit.
- Emotional disruption. Employees who have taken too much on can be short-tempered, easily frustrated and otherwise difficult to predict.
Addressing the Problem
Suspected employee burnout should be addressed promptly before it leads to bigger concerns. Recognise that fatigue is almost always an indication of systemic weaknesses in the company. If your team is suffering from overload, it’s rarely due to any deficiencies on their part. It’s most commonly a sign that your growth strategy has failed to take their long-term mental, emotional, and physical health into consideration. That’s something that needs to be corrected as soon as you discover it.
To avoid employee burnout, start by sitting down with those individuals and examine their workload and levels of responsibility. In most instances, your most overloaded team members will also be the most capable. But that tendency can result in those workers burdened with additional work to the point where their effectiveness is disrupted.
Examine your growth plan and the strategy you’re using to implement it. You may need to reassign some responsibilities to others, hire new members or alter your plan to ease the overload. The solution may even be something as simple as providing those employees with more autonomy – especially if your collaborative structure is too time-consuming. Sometimes they just need greater empowerment and the freedom to do their jobs without undue interruption or micromanagement.
Ultimately the way to avoid employee burnout is to avoid unnecessary excess work altogether. It is possible to scale into new international markets without overloading your team. Make sure that your growth plan takes into account their existing workloads and ensure you provide every level of your organisation with the support and resources needed to prevent that overload. In the end, this is the best way to facilitate the execution of your global growth strategy, while preserving the health and well-being of your company and each of your employees.
Software companies face many of the same challenges as other firms when it comes to finding the best path to success. They need great products, stellar marketing, and outstanding customer support. For many, the product and marketing are the easy part. They have great programmers and a keen sense of what tech customers want to see from a marketing standpoint. The issue for many of these firms, however, is that they don’t always know how to help their customers after the sale. So, what is the right level of post-purchase technical support you should be providing?
Post-Purchase Technical Support is Critical
The one clear factor that helps to differentiate the countless software providers from one another is aftercare. Unfortunately, this is the one area in which many companies encounter their greatest struggles. Customers need help for even the simplest software programs, and yet firms often seem unable – or unwilling – to provide the type of post-purchase technical support needed for those customers to get the most out of their purchase.
Failure to provide a proper level of technical support can greatly diminish any software company’s odds of success. The good news is that much of the industry is so mired in mediocrity when it comes to aftercare that your company can differentiate itself immediately if you can determine the right level of support for your product.
Make no mistake: post-purchase technical support is a time-consuming and costly affair. It can also be a tremendous distraction for many firms – which may explain why so many companies provide only cursory support for their customers. The problem is that the most qualified support personnel almost always ends up being your development team. They know the product, they designed the product. So they’re usually best-equipped to handle questions about its operation.
But can you afford to have your development team bogged down by the technical support process? Won’t it prevent them from doing what they do best – designing new software that you can bring to market? Yes and no. They need to be involved in the process to some degree. Your job is to design a support system that limits their involvement as much as possible. Afterall, they should not be spending hours on the phone talking customers through simple usage issues.
Factors to Consider
There are a variety of key factors to consider when you determine the level of post-purchase technical support your company needs to provide, and what system to implement. Here are a few things you should examine when making those decisions:
- Do you intend to offer the service for free – and if so, for how long?
- If you intend to charge for it, how can you price support into your software package?
- Will you provide assistance in multiple languages?
- Which communication channels will you use?
- Do you have a plan for response times?
- What do you want your customers to expect in terms of help?
- What support do you expect your company to provide?
You need to answer these questions before you lay out your support plan so that you know what the ultimate goal will be. While most companies would love to be able to provide around-the-clock, real-time support for every customer, that’s just unrealistic. You need to set your expectations in order and then craft a plan that you can communicate to those who purchase your software.
Implementing Your Plan
The first thing to recognise is that you need to provide real support. Half-measures won’t do. With that mind, there is a rational way to approach the problem. These guidelines should help you to design the right kind of support system for your software firm:
- Commit to answering every request and enquiry within a set time frame, and communicate that commitment to customers to manage their expectations.
- Implement an email and ticketing system. Create a process in-house to ensure that all support requests are delivered to the right people, and so that none get missed.
- Make your help centre contact details available to your customers. No buyer wants to suddenly discover that they have no way of reaching the software provider when a problem arises.
- Set clear guidelines for prioritising. If possible, make your phone support a last-resort since it will consume the most time. It may be wise to only provide your support phone number to customers with urgent issues – and only deliver it to them via email.
- Create a system to track issues, responses and successful resolutions. This will be an invaluable tool for future development and documentation purposes.
- Use social media if you choose to be selective when it comes to giving out your phone number. Allowing customers to interact with you via social media can allay many concerns and demonstrate your responsiveness to their needs.
The bottom line is simple: to build a loyal client base and ensure complete customer satisfaction, you need to provide an appropriate level of technical support. However, this does not mean that you need to devote every waking moment to resolving customer concerns. The key to successfully managing technical issues lies in your ability to leverage your expertise and communication resources in a way that solves problems without tying up every moment of every day. So what is the right level of post-purchase technical support? The answer is as much as needed to ensure that your customers can use your software as they should do. It’s how you choose to provide that assistance that will determine the success or failure of your technical support efforts.