If you work for a SaaS organization, I don’t have to sell you on the value of automation. Building products and systems that scale well with minimal oversight is basically the whole idea.
The idea of automation in your customer success program is to make the customer realize value with the product without actually doing the work yourself. If you can auto-deliver that value, your organization can serve as many customers as you like without sacrificing the quality of your service. It’s also critical if you want to get out of a reactive mode and into a proactive mode.
There are a million ways to automate your customer success program, so I can’t give advice that’s specific to your SaaS, vertical and customer. But, I can recommend a few things that work for pretty much every program.
Information is the key to a successful customer service program. You can’t provide exceptional service until you know what exceptional means to your customer.
A feedback loop is an automated system that captures and aggregates qualitative data. It’s usually done through surveys. Traditional tactics include embedding Net Promoter Score surveys within your application or sending surveys via email based on triggers (like 10 days of usage, accessed a new feature, etc.).
Quarterly business reviews create their own system of feedback for your higher touch customers. While these technically aren’t automated, they can be turned into a standardized, repeatable process for select customers.
It’s easy to solicit feedback when you get the customer on the phone several times each year. Each review presentation should recap results from the previous review, set new goals, and capture the customer’s thoughts and feelings.
A customer health score is an automated way to identifying which customers need support. By creating an equation of weighted variables, you can measure a customer’s satisfaction with your product in real time.
For instance, if you consider regular product usage a metric for satisfaction, then your constantly-measuring health score would adjust when the customer fails to log in for a while. It can be set to alert you when the number drops too low, drops quickly, or when other variables are triggered.
Part of automating your customer success program means putting resources in place for your customers. This has two big benefits.
What those resources look like will depend on your business and what your customer expects. You definitely need content that addresses product usage: How-to articles, documentation, guides, FAQs, demonstration videos, tooltips, popups, code samples, walk-throughs, etc.
You also probably want to publish information that explains how to use your product for best results. For instance, your tool might have a customizable settings feature, but you would still want to write blog posts that recommend common configurations.
You’ll want to get those resources published as quickly as you can. The sooner you make them available, the less you’ll have to deal with customer issues and the more likely you’ll secure renewals and convert free trial users into paid customers.
However, don’t create content just to make it. Everything you spend resources on (like your time) while creating content should have a purpose. Consider what your customers really need.
If you design your resources strategically, you’ll be able to use them in other ways as well. For example, if a customer requests information that you’ve already published, you can easily link them to the answer without recreating the solution.
A red flag is, simply, an undesired event or metric that you wish didn’t occur. A customer calling up and demanding a refund is certainly a red flag, but you don’t want it to get that far. You want to identify problems before they snowball.
Big red flags might be a failure to log in for 72 hours, a repeated error message, or the sudden disconnection of integrations. Your customer health score (as mentioned above) should consider things like these to gauge your customers’ overall health, but there are other triggers worth your trouble.
A good example is an expired credit card. According to ChargeBee, “The single largest contributing factor to payment processing errors is having an expired credit card on file.” Outdated payment information doesn’t necessarily mean the customer is unhappy, but it can interrupt service, which isn’t good for anyone. Small interruptions in billing cycles can add up to a serious loss of revenue for your organization.
The wrong response is to wait until the card is declined then reach out to the customer. The correct response is to set an automated system that regularly checks the expiration dates of all cards on file and alerts your customers to input new details before there’s an interruption.
Automation like this lets you solve problems before the account is threatened, smooth out your income (no interruptions in service), and reduce the burden on your customer success managers. Identify your own red flags and set up a system that compensates.
The goal of a customer success manager is to help customers achieve as much value as possible with the product; but, it’s the product that actually delivers the value. The CSM is more like a guide.
There are certain behaviors that are more likely to make your customers realize your product’s value. For instance, a social media scheduling tool’s value is in the scheduling of social media posts. A reporting feature is nice to have, but the scheduling is why most users buy the product.
It’s smart to identity and push behaviors that are most valuable to your customer (not the ones that are most valuable to you). In the case of the social media scheduling tool, we know that the value is in scheduling posts. So we would find ways to get the customer to quickly use that feature and then use it repeatedly. We might…
If you have a complex product or sell to different types of businesses, identifying specific behaviors that lead to value can be difficult. Monitor your customer’s behavior and spot where they decided to buy the product, upgrade, or renew. What happened just before? Those behaviors mean something valuable happened.
No matter how thoroughly you build automation into your customer success program, you’ll always have to play some type of customer-facing role. If your organization services a mix of different sized customers, undoubtedly you’ll be playing concierge more often for your high-paying accounts (the enterprise giants, usually).
That’s a feature, by the way, not a bug. You want a closer relationship with the customers who make up a larger share of your revenue. Each interaction is an opportunity to add more value. You should be performing quarterly business reviews for these clients anyway.
Occasionally your low-touch customers (including those on free trials) will have a customer success issue as well. Prioritize these low, but don’t ignore them. Create solutions and turn them into processes as best you can so they don’t creep up again. Here are two examples.
Customer A wants to create an additional user account under his main account for his assistant to use. He assumed the “Business” plan allowed that, but the option isn’t available for him. Multiple user accounts are actually only available under the “Enterprise” plan, so the issue is that the features of the plans aren’t clear (perhaps the names are too generic).
In this case, your customer support representative should explain things to the customer and make sure he’s settled. (You may wear that hat as well.) Most importantly, you would then work with marketing to adjust whatever’s necessary on the website so customers understand what they’re buying. If you get it right, you should never have to deal with that problem again. That, in a nutshell, is how customer success is different than support.
Customer B has a unique integration request. He assures you that his in-house developer can build the integration, he just needs API access. You don’t make your API public, but you’re happy to give out access to customers who ask.
In this case, you would document whatever steps you and the customer take to access to the API. For the first instance, you would have to speak with someone in product to get instructions. Once you deliver the instructions, you should turn the whole incident into a process. When the next customer requests API access, you can run through the process quickly and hassle-free.
If you allow yourself to be a customer success manager who spends his whole day putting out fires, you’ll accomplish little and burn out quickly. Use automation to prevent those fires in the first place so you can be less reactive (and stressed).
If you would like to chat about how your SaaS organization can benefit from automation, contact us.