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How to Understand Customer Needs Using Customer Success

November 30th, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

We operate in a business space wrought with misalignment between business objectives and customer needs. It’s fascinating to see that while 69% of business leaders are pushing more budget towards personalization, 72% don’t actually consider customer needs in their personalization.

To that end, today I thought I’d give you a quick overview of some low-effort, high-return customer success tactics to better bridge the gap between you and your clients. 

Within business and SaaS particularly, meeting customer outcomes is consistently proven to be a key driver of growth. So let’s review how you can learn, understand, and adapt to service those goals.

1. Implement feedback forms throughout your product

Implementing context-aware product feedback forms represents one of the most efficient ways to get high-impact, low-effort feedback tied to specific product functionalities. By adding these short in-product surveys, you’re:

  • Giving customers every opportunity to voice their feedback
  • Enabling an understanding of how customers feel about specific features and functionalities
  • Allowing single users to voice their unfiltered feedback without going through the account owner
  • Reassuring customers that you value their opinions
  • Reaffirming that by implementing high-value feedback and then going back to notify the original customers who provided said feedback.

Here’s an example of a feedback form from Jotform that you can use inside the product:


2. Launch a voice of the customer initiative

If you want to go even further from in-product forms, you can build on those to design a full voice of the customer (VoC) program within your organization. A VoC initiative does wonders for company-wide customer success alignment, allowing you to efficiently boost retention and revenue with ease just by zeroing in on what actually matters for customers.

Here’s a breakdown of things to keep in mind for a VoC process:

One of the biggest advantages of a VoC initiative is that it keeps all relevant stakeholders in the loop and allows for increased velocity for deploying product updates. Just take a look at the simple steps of a typical voice of the customer program: 

  • gather the feedback
  • handpick the most insightful suggestions
  • forward those to stakeholders and those who can act on it
  • make related adjustments and changes
  • close the VoC loop by going back and informing the customer once you’ve reached a resolution or product update

Of course, the process will change based on your business specifics, but the core elements remain the same and can be applied at scale.

3. Proactively reach out based on account data

Proactivity is one of the great pillars of customer success. It holds customer relationships up by allowing CSMs to see potential issues before they happen.

Now, proactive engagement within SaaS can mean different things based on your engagement model and account specifics. The overall approach involves:

  • Setting up your customer success platform to monitor account activity and identify friction points.
  • Creating a trigger for your CS tool to notify you whenever those common friction points resurface for a specific customer.
  • Stepping in manually or through automation to check in with the customer and make sure they’re okay and not stuck mid-product flow.

The distinction between manual engagement and automated messages varies mostly based on the engagement model and CSM workload:

  • For high-touch SaaS, CSMs must step in manually and talk to the customer directly, preferably via their most common channel for communication.
  • For tech-touch and low-touch, automation flows can deliver solutions in a timely manner, but you should go one step further and ask customers if they’ve actually helped them or if they require the assistance of a real person.

4. Hold very high-touch onboarding and implementation meetings

For this point on our list, you need to be in that tech-touch-to-high-touch range for your engagement model. Otherwise, it may be a waste of your time and budget to attempt it for upwards of hundreds of accounts.

However, I believe high-touch onboarding to be essential when you’re in a type of business that services very demanding customers. Similarly, that’s also the case when you have a complex product or range of services. The more your customers have to work to get to their desired outcomes, the more you should be in touch with them during the onboarding stage.

Think of it like this:

  • There’s no better way to know a customer than to sit down and talk about their problems.
  • If you’re there with them as an ally in those initial stages, that relationship is only going to get better.
  • If you can ensure their product implementation works and serves their goals, they’ll easily turn into retained, ideally loyal customers.
  • The work to optimize onboarding into a positive experience will drive up your onboarding costs. However, it will also decrease your customer retention cost by a lot, so pay close attention to the balance and always remember retention is a constant effort and cost you need to support, while onboarding only happens one time per customer.

5. Use your customer success dashboards and analytics

Screenshot from Custify – CS dashboards section.

While customer success will get you far once it gets going, it won’t get nearly as far as it could without a proper customer success toolset. Here’s a list of the usual suspects for kickstarting your CS machine:

  •  A customer success platform with customizable dashboards and weighted health scores, allowing you to monitor customer activity in a goal-conscious way.
  • A comprehensive list of communications tools and channels at the ready: from email to Skype, Zoom, Slack, Discord, and anything in between. Make sure you do your research and are prepared with the appropriate channels.
  • Multiple ways for customers to request support: your SaaS users need to have ways to reach out at their disposal, from a live chat on the website and other support solutions set up and activated for their accounts.
  • A product tour solution for low-touch accounts: not every SaaS can afford lofty one-to-ones with customers during onboarding. For low-touch products and overextended teams, a product tour can mean the difference between your customers immediately churning and becoming loyal.
  • Account tools that prevent involuntary churn: a good portion of customers that leave do so passively due to expired payment options or because they simply forgot to renew. To actively prevent this, try using an account updater tool as well as dunning emails.

6. Encourage customer reviews and read what customers are saying

Last but definitely not least, you should encourage your customers to leave reviews on platforms such as G2, Capterra, and other similar ones. That way, you’re not just attracting new clients by putting the spotlight on you and growing your online presence; you can also use that feedback (which, by and large, tends to be brutally honest) to better understand customer needs and get to work improving your product.

Even if you don’t encourage customers to leave reviews, they might do so anyway. So check common review places and even the uncommon ones. Many SaaS make the mistake of ignoring reviews that don’t come through the usual channels – such as Google Maps reviews.

Summing Up

Putting customer needs ahead of your own in SaaS is not easy. Because of our bottom line and the KPIs assigned to us, it’s easy to start with what we want and try to get the customers to help us deliver. But it’s not a good way of doing business. Instead, we should actively help customers achieve their outcomes and, by extension, complete our own goals. Successful customers will always bring in more ROI than those left to their own devices – a simple 5% increase in retention rate has been shown to drive up profits anywhere between 25% and 95% (State of Customer Messaging in 2023). So, how are you making sure your customers’ needs are heard?

Featured image by Judy Beth Morris on Unsplash

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