If you are a SaaS business today, you need to consider your investment at delivering customer outcomes at scale. Changing customer preferences require a new approach to retaining customers who prefer to self-serve. This is especially true if you have a growing SMB customer segment - the high quantity of customer and low ARR make it impossible to hire CSMs to scale with it. This has been my focus at Bazaarvoice for the last 18 months.
Your customer base likely follows the Pareto Principle. This states that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. This means you have very high ARR enterprise customers driving most of your revenue. As your ARR decreases, there's a nonlinear relationship with the quantity of your customers. So you end up with a high quantity of customers with low ARR on the other end:
There are too many customers paying too little ARR to warrant low or high touch treatment models. This is where Customer Success Automation and Marketing Automation come in.
This isn't just a function of unit economics. This is customer preference. We know that customers prefer to self-serve over talking with support or sales. It's the digital economy and the experiences we create for our customers need to match their expectations. According to a survey by Software Advice, they found 70% of customers with questions first search online to find answers.
Digital customer success is the antidote. It can meet your SMB customers where they are. It can also make your CSMs more efficient, freeing them up for a greater percentage of high impact activities.
What is digital success?
Digital Success means using tools, automation, and content to drive higher portion of outcomes across your customer base. I view this across the four categories:
So, for a hypothetical segment of 1,000 customers, how do you measure the health of these customers, what actions at scale can you take to improve those outcomes, and what content will you create to support customers in self-service and discovery?
Start here. Without data supporting your program you cannot measure outcomes in a scaled program. Unlike CSMs who can get a pulse on customers during meetings and calls, you cannot do this at scale. So start assessing the data you need to support a customer health score. This will include the qualitative (surveys, NPS) and quantitative (Logins, Adoption, Support Cases, etc.). I've written a post on how to begin organizing your customer data that will save you time. It suffices to say that without a data roadmap, you are not able to drive a digital success operations.
Once you have your data, how will you use it? What channels can you use to communicate with your customers proactively? Many teams begin by creating a customer lifecycle. This video by ESG partners is a fantastic overview of where to begin.
Here's a few places to start:
A consistent event schedule, group events, and driving community involvement is the key to unlocking scaled retention. When you've gotten one customer to speak to another you know you are on to something. And just like UGC is powering the content in the eCommerce world, so it should for the SaaS customer success world. A few ideas that have worked for us:
While the KPIs set out for your team may vary, one thing is universal: when customer achieve their outcomes they buy more from you. So, the traditional measurement of health score - which should tightly couple outcomes - should be your north star.
At Bazaarvoice, we track this via Gainsight's Health Score Snapshot table, which thankfully is built-in (unlike many other time-based snapshot tables at Gainsight).
We have several of these charts which highlight specific areas of our client's outcomes.
Since content and engagement is large part of this role, including traditional marketing benchmarks is recommended. How are your communication channels performing: email, in-app, videos, landing pages?
Lastly, the idea of building communities has grown in the SaaS space. This is not surprising. And engaged audience is pivotal for distribution of new products and services. Taking that principle a step further, an engaged and strong community is a powerful moat and cost-savings mechanism for driving outcomes at scale. This is difficult work but has large return on investment.
Some benefits include:
Also, it's fun. My favorite part of this role is creating new online events and content that connects customers with each other.
In conclusion, it's important to take digital customer success seriously. As modern products take a product-led growth approach in their go-to market and retention strategies, they'll gain a footing on legacy SaaS companies doing what they've always done. They'll grow faster, have lower overhead. This gives them an advantage with lower CAC, higher LTV, and greater unit economics over less efficient competitors.