CX for SaaS

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I’ve done some work with some folks in the software as a service (SaaS) space and have lots of colleagues and friends who are also working there.  Whenever I talk with them about Customer Experience, I always chuckle when the conversation turns to the Voice of the Customer.

Often when I think about SaaS organizations trying to get visibility into their VoC, I’m amazed by how overly complicated they make it out to be.  Surely survey results are valuable.  With a business model like SaaS, there are likely to be transactional opportunities for feedback when a Customer calls or reaches out for either service or support.  But there will also be relationship opportunities based on contracts and renewals.  When it comes time to re-up or even up-sell, the client will undoubtedly take into account not just those transactions, but an overall view of the relationship.  A wise organization will avoid being taken by surprise by any of these opinions by periodically (and regularly, at that) soliciting feedback that would encompass not just how any particular interaction went, but also gauge the Customer’s impression of value, ease of use, and applicability of services.  While a contract may not be renewed until the end of the year, you may test the Customer’s attitude quarterly, for example.  The bottom line here is that how you approach your SaaS Customers is similar to how most any other B2B organization would:  Use transactional surveys to address immediate opportunities to improve and use relationship surveys to identify bigger issues with particular Customers.

But the SaaS business arrangement also offers one of the most glaring opportunities to think outside the survey box when it comes to assessing the Voice of the Customer.

There was a thriller movie in the 1970s (remade in 2006 and hugely referenced in pop culture) called When a Stranger Calls.  The original stars Carol Cane (from Taxi and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as a babysitter hounded by what she thinks are prank calls at first, but when the police trace them, they find that the calls are (all together now, the most enduring line from the whole story), “coming from inside the house.”

When it comes to VoC in a SaaS business model, I always think of that line.  The primary value of the relationship survey in B2B situations is to identify churn in your portfolio before it’s too late.  This pre-attrition warning shot gives you the opportunity to keep a Customer from leaving if you can repair the relationship in time.  But why wait until your Customer tells you, given the treasure trove of use data you already have from them?

It’s definitional of the SaaS business model that your Customers are using your stuff to conduct their business.  Surely you have logs and records of them accessing your systems, logging in and out, querying their data on your servers, etc.  Now think about the most logical reason a Customer would leave:  if they don’t see value in the service you offer.  (Certainly, there are other reasons, but this is a pretty big one.)  What’s one surefire way to identify a loss of interest in the service you provide?  If they just stop using it.  To borrow another movie reference, if your SaaS Customers aren’t accessing your goods, it’s possible they’re just not that into you.

Why are you expending so much time and effort trying to decipher your NPS or C-SAT scores with the goal of predicting who’ll stay or go?  Why are you overcomplicating the entire issue?  If you’re a SaaS company, you’re quite seriously sitting on mountains of usage data that can help you highlight who is and who isn’t—and more importantly, how each Customer’s patterns are changing—availing themselves of the services they’ve contracted you to perform.

And you’d be smart to heed it:  If a lawyer has someone on a retainer, he may not hear from that client for months on end.  That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll lose the client.  Similarly, I rarely have to engage with my insurance company (knock wood).  Those sorts of subscription models are set-it-and-forget-it.  That doesn’t mean that the attorney or insurance company wouldn’t be wise to pop by with a regular check-in or send the annual Christmas card to show appreciation for the enduring commitment of their clients.

But SaaS, on the other hand, is expensive, something that’s purchased for an ongoing and regularly needed service, and was purchased in the first place because it provided immediate value, not as a hedge to keep in mind in case a need arises.  Plus, as I said, all that information is right there.

If you’re running the CX organization for a SaaS company, you should definitely be conducting transactional and relationship surveys (just like any other B2B organization).  But if you’re not availing yourself of the data you have on hand and using it to identify potential flight risks, you’re missing a huge source of Customer information…information that could save the day.

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