The following is adapted from The Seven Pillars of Customer Success.
Over the past several decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with some very successful companies. One of the most important things I’ve learned from them is that it’s far more profitable to retain customers than find new ones. Now, that’s not to say that expanding your customer base isn’t important—it is.
But I’ve seen firsthand how much more it costs to acquire new customers than retain old ones, and I’ve also seen how increasing a customer’s lifetime value (which can only be done when you retain them) it’s vital if you want to grow and scale.
That’s why, as customer success professionals in the SaaS (software-as-a-service) industry, one of our number one responsibilities is to eliminate customer churn. The key lever to help us do that? Adoption. When adoption is done well, it eliminates customer churn, drives retention, and leads to customer expansion.
During adoption, you want to see that your customers are relying on your product to achieve their task. They should understand how to use it, know how it provides value to them, and see that it’s the right solution for their problem. If all of these things are successful, they probably aren’t at risk of churn.
However, if they aren’t relying on your product, it means they don’t see the value in it. Customers leave when they don’t see value, which is why if you want to retain them, it’s crucial you demonstrate value during adoption.
Luckily, there are quite a few ways you can do this. Let me share the five strategies I’ve found to be the most impactful after several decades doing this work.
#1: Identify and Engage Stakeholders
Part of successful adoption is understanding what success looks like for the customer. That’s the only way to ensure they see value as quickly as possible.
Your customer’s stakeholders can provide the insight you need. They usually know what success looks like and are typically the people who can make things happen internally. In order to identify the stakeholder, Shane Anastasi, Founder and CEO of PS Principles, suggests starting with these four questions:
Are they the budget owner?
Are they the signatory authority?
Is their job at risk if the project fails?
Are they the operational owner?
If the answer is yes to two or more of these questions, it’s likely that person is a stakeholder.
#2: Maximize Consumption of the Product
Adoption success goes far beyond identifying stakeholders, of course. You must also take the responsibility for monitoring consumption, including software, number of hours of services consumed, bandwidth taken up, application programming interface (API) calls, or even support packages that have been purchased.
Companies purchase a certain capacity from you as a vendor, and you need to make sure they maximize it. If you don’t, they’ll likely question the service when it’s time to renew. It’s like paying for HBO and Showtime when you watch only HGTV and Bravo TV. The point is, you need to make sure your customer consumes everything they’re purchasing.
#3: Push for Widespread Adoption
You are also responsible for widespread adoption. In other words, is your customer using the product the right way? Are they utilizing all the features available to make their jobs easier?
You probably have access to a plethora of usage data, so it’s easy to see how many people are logging in, how often they log in, what they’re doing while they’re logged in, and so forth. Your customer’s stats offer great insight as to where additional adoption efforts are needed.
In some instances, a “ride along” can provide the best information about how your customer is using the product. Go to their offices and sit with them for a day to watch how they use it. Often, you’ll find out they aren’t utilizing the product the way it was intended, and you can step in to help.
You might even take it a step further and hold “office hours” regularly. Visit your customer’s office, bring in food, and open yourself up to user questions and feedback (or do it virtually, if that’s more convenient for them). Giving them a voice and the chance to get prompt feedback demonstrates massive value.
#4: Explain New Features and Products
When a new feature or product is released, sit down with the customer and explain it. You should be ready to recommend a feature that would be great for their specific needs. Release readiness drives business value.
You should also know what makes your product unique and sticky. Plus, you should be able to promote it like crazy.
Make sure everyone, especially the stakeholder, knows why the new feature is amazing and why they should be using it. The more your customers fall in love with your product’s capabilities, the more they’ll build operational dependence that you can leverage for renewals and upselling.
#5: Ask for References
Here’s a little trick of the trade: I suggest asking your customer directly if they will be a reference for your company during the adoption phase. Yep, before they have even received a ton of value. Although securing a reference this early would be cool, what you’re actually looking for is a red flag.
If they say, “Absolutely,” you have achieved a significant milestone. Their acceptance indicates a certain level of satisfaction they have with you, the implementation team, the sales team (and the product team and services team), and the brand in general in the early stages of the relationship.
However, if the customer doesn’t say yes, that’s a flag. If you hear, “No, I don’t think so. We’re still in the early stages. Let’s see how everything plays out,” you may have a problem brewing. At this point, you need to see what (if anything) you can improve on to ensure everyone on the team is in alignment about what steps to take to create a great customer experience.
You Can Nail Adoption
When you implement these strategies, I can guarantee you’ll give your customers value. Not only that, but you’ll be able to deliver that value quickly—and that’s where the magic happens.
After decades of experience, I know that giving a customer that immediate value makes them feel successful and supported. A successful customer is a happy customer, and a happy customer doesn’t leave to do business with your competitor.
For more advice on how to make adoption successful, you can find The Seven Pillars of Customer Success on Amazon.
One of the world’s leading customer success experts and a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist, Wayne McCulloch works with Google Cloud’s entire SaaS portfolio as the Customer Success Leader. He’s a keynote speaker and the recipient of multiple industry awards with more than twenty-five years of experience in customer-focused roles. Wayne began his software career at PeopleSoft and Vignette before becoming an SVP at Salesforce, the Chief Customer Officer at Kony, Inc., and the VP of the Customer Success Group at Looker. For more information about The Seven Pillars, including downloadable templates and training and certification materials, visit www.cspillars.com.