When your customers are successful, your business is successful. And these days, in the world of software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology, customers are calling the shots.
It’s true that SaaS companies are no longer tied down by contracts or lock-ins of enterprise software solutions. Nor do they require hardware or an extended duration of time to get up and running. However, while zero obligation and fast implementation are certainly positives for customers, this also means they can leave providers just as easily.
Alas, churn is a reality for SaaS companies. Without effective implementation and ongoing support, companies put themselves at risk of losing clients. With this in mind, it becomes clear that customer success and your company’s success are intricately linked. Read further on to find out exactly how the two are one and the same.
What Is Customer Success in the SaaS Industry?
Thanks to the current, multifaceted business landscape, indirect sales has never been more successful. Sales teams and their channel partners meet customer needs in a way that single vendors simply cannot. By building a deep understanding of how customers operate and what they’re hoping to accomplish, partners offer products and services—through supplier relationships—to build out solutions that target specific customer needs.
For SaaS companies, customer service is about driving usage of their product deeper into the customer’s organizations. In an ideal SaaS situation, customers gain value from the product, grow their business, and churn is reduced. Improving value and increasing functionally is only the tip of the iceberg, however.
To simplify the complex concept, industry expert Lincoln Murphy has identified two key elements of customer success:
- Desired outcome: This concept refers to what the customer needs to accomplish and how.
- Interactions with your company: How your customers interact with your company, “starting at the earliest touchpoint of marketing and sales, to closing and onboarding, and finally through their entire lifecycle.”
When we consider customer success through the lens of this two-pronged definition, it becomes clear that the first necessary step is getting a clear idea of the desired outcome for each of your products—and how they pertain to your customers. Partners should work hard to identify customers with high success potential and then work to create a clear path toward these success milestones.
For each customer segment, partners must create a time-based plan that includes swift, successful implementation and data-based actions that impact customers throughout their lifecycle. This includes acting proactively and implementing high-touch services, such as training, onboarding, email follow-up sequences, or upsell opportunities.
Make It Easy for Channel Partners to Facilitate Customer Success
There is no reason why organizations can’t apply the foundations of customer success across their channel. It’s up to your channel management team to educate and inform your channel partners on additional offerings, such as education or advanced support. And it’s up to you to structure additional offerings around the relevant stages of your customers.
For example, if a customer is still in the implementation phase, you must empower your partners with additional education programs they can share so that customers get the most from your product or service. Likewise, if a customer has been using a product for some time now, you must provide reps with support, so they can drive more value or a customized approach.
To ensure these programs are mutually beneficial, consider tracking and certifying channel partners based on utilization and success. For many SaaS companies, customer relationship management (CRM) tools are just not enough. While CRM has improved productivity over the years, it does very little to actually help channel teams influence the outcome of sales interactions.
On the other hand, sales acceleration tools bridge the gap between data and context. These tools provide your organization with a trove of information on how your customers are engaging with your products. Not only will this help your partners focus on specific challenges, but it can also help identify opportunities for upselling.
Sales acceleration tools increase the velocity of sales by helping reps identify customers with high success potential, boost productivity throughout the duration of a customer lifecycle, and help your reps reduce customer churn.