The nature of success
The amount of effort that businesses put into defining their goals suggests that success comes in a great many guises. Indeed, we’ve probably all sat in a meeting and heard the phrase “What does success look like?” Is it the acquisition of a new customer for your SaaS service or the on-time implementation of the software? Is success the rapid response time of your help desk or is it the time that users spend working with the new technology? And it’s always relative – if you have targeted and achieved a 20% increase in revenue, is that a success if you’re operating in a market that is growing at double that rate?
One form of success that is critical – but no less tricky to quantify – is the success of your own customers. Putting it very crudely, if your customers don’t make it, neither do you. The growing attention paid to Customer Success Management is centred upon the principle that a business is not a one-off event but a relationship with the potential of returns over a longer timescale. And, therefore, the duration of that relationship is a massive driver of your business success.
New business, existing business
Securing a new account can be costly, but it’s exciting. In a growing market, there’s a buzz to it, and it’s easy to see the reasons why some organisations focus their efforts on seeking out new buyers. But neglecting existing clients is a mistake. If, at the end of a contract, the customer decides not to renew, the damage could affect much more than the immediate and future cash flows. If the decision is based upon a negative experience, then there may also be an impact on the provider’s reputation.
Customer Success Management is about much more than being there for your customers when things are going well. It’s also about the failures and learning from them. For a software provider with a subscription model, the recurring payments are important revenue streams. Customers may choose to completely cancel their subscription, pay for fewer licences or reduced functionality. They could even manage to negotiate a reduced rate. Knowing the reasons why this happens is essential. It could be that there are technical problems with the software – although in our experience, this is unusual. Maybe they have experienced support issues, or the software hasn’t delivered what they hoped for. Sadly, many providers discover their customers have been struggling far too late, and the business relationship is already doomed.
The answer is to have an ongoing close connection. Support doesn’t – and shouldn’t– stop after go-live. It should be long-term and identify both users’ initial adoption problems and any drift away from the new technology when the excitement is over.
Most software subscriptions are purchased because of the benefits they can bring to an organisation. A close relationship with a customer should include monitoring the accrual of those benefits. If they’re not materialising, the course of action should not be to rush out and secure yet another customer but rather to find out why and solve the problem.
The information is available, collectable and valuable. It can help to drive your customers’ success and prevent lucrative new accounts becoming unapproachable former ones. Your software might be feature packed, It might have huge potential benefits, but you need to be sure your customer can feel them.