Executives leading customer success and operations for companies throughout the Serent portfolio gathered virtually to share lessons from a challenging year.
“Customers who buy SaaS solutions in reality are buying your ability to deliver outcomes.”
Each year Serent Capital hosts the Customer Success & Operations Executive Summit, gathering portfolio company leaders to discuss how to help customers unlock the maximal benefits from their products. This year, the major topics involved measuring customer health and reducing churn, introducing a new pricing model, and providing relief to customers suffering from COVID-related disruption while positioning the business for growth.
Executives responsible for customer success and related operations shared best practices and lessons-learned in themed group presentations, one-on-one sessions, and break-out groups. Attendees closed the event with a lively trivia contest. This year’s key takeaways included the following:
- A consistent approach to measuring customer health allows the team to intervene to save the account or increase its value via cross-selling. To achieve this, though, one must understand the customer’s needs and desired outcome and determine a set of metrics to track progress, as detailed by one of our speakers.
- Customer understanding is critical when making major changes, even when they are favorable to the client. When the introduction of a new pricing method encountered resistance, one company changed its outreach approach to build comprehensive understanding of the benefits. The speaker explained, “We had to guide the customers through a several-week journey of awareness, consideration, and decision-making.”
- Another company shared its method for helping customers succeed in the face of COVID’s disruption. A provider of back-office software for the hard-hit restaurant industry developed a creative way to support customers while positioning itself for growth.
Measuring customer health
A customer’s decision to disengage or engage more intensely with a product results from a number of different factors. By identifying, tracking, and responding to these interaction points, a company can intervene proactively to salvage or deepen the relationship. But what are the most important elements to track?
The COO of BirchStreet Systems, a procurement software solutions provider, shared the dashboard his team had developed to do just that. Although a customer’s disengagement might appear to come out of nowhere, he noted, “Signs of the decision come months before.” With such a dashboard, BirchStreet can anticipate and correct problems by tracking, not a host of metrics, but the “core few factors that provide 80% of the insights.”
He advocated for tracking four major elements:
- A qualitative assessment of the customer’s health determined by the Customer Service Management (CSM) team;
- The customer’s product usage, revealed through logins and activity metrics;
- The customer’s frequency of contact with customer support, along with the quality and speed of issue resolution. Note that both too many and too few support conversations are concerning!
- “Net Promoter Score,” which captures a customer’s long-term loyalty.
These metrics are then weighted and distilled into an overall Health Score, which captures the two extremes of the customer success continuum: a customer’s likelihood of becoming a high-value repeat purchaser, or the possibility of their defection to a competitor.
BirchStreet suggested engaging the customer in the dashboard development process by sharing initial performance scores with them. “Customers want you to succeed and will help you!” he said. In addition, once the dashboard has been developed, focusing on improving one item, rather than addressing everything at once, will build motivation and momentum for the team.
Rolling out major changes
When KEV Group, a specialist in cash management software for schools, planned the roll-out of a new pricing structure, the company anticipated quick adoption. The new structure saved money for customers and, by more closely reflecting usage patterns, also increased revenue for KEV Group.
Meetings with 10 schools for a pilot roll-out, however, generated zero interest. Customers said they were confused by the new approach or had no time to undertake the change.
With this feedback, KEV Group’s VP of Client Success decided to change the strategy. “We realized this is similar to a considered purchase,” she said. The team changed its tactics to focus on building customer engagement with the idea, rather than seeking an immediate decision.
In her presentation, she described five guiding principles for building engagement, tools that can be used across industries:
- Personalize the approach to each customer’s pain points and concerns
- Paint a vision of the benefits from adopting the new structure
- Nurture the vision through multiple channels and stakeholders
- Show tangible results that can be achieved
- Create an emotional connection to the outcome.
KEV Group’s revised pilot has made good progress. After focusing on 15 clients for eight weeks, half converted to the new pricing approach.
Helping customers thrive through COVID
By August 2020, restaurant sales had collapsed by 50% due to COVID. Worried about its customers’ survival, Compeat, which supplies back-office software for the restaurant industry, took immediate action. The company’s COO described the “Covid Relief” effort his team developed, which supported customers while positioning Compeat for growth.
First, they centralized requests for assistance within a single department, the team took a hard look at what restaurant customers needed and what it could provide. Next, by working with the CSM and Finance teams, the company developed a credit offer for customers with open invoices. More than 75% of the customers who received the offer accepted it, and even those who declined still appreciated the option.
To maintain relationships, Compeat pursued outreach efforts with customers who declined the offer. The company kept the software running at non-participants’ locations while working out ways to retain their business.
Since developing the program, Compeat has adapted it to other cross-functional processes, such as past-due collections. Commented the COO, “This effort has provided meaningful relief to our customers and built good will for us, while expanding our internal capabilities.”