In this SaaS day and age, using, switching, or even creating a product has become like a walk in the park. As a direct result, there are software products/tools for everything you can possibly imagine, and a lot of them.
In fact, top companies today use an average of 37 different tools or software platforms to run their day-to-day operations (according to the data gathered by Siftery) and your SaaS offering, however crucial for their business, may still be just one of them.
This means that your client is not just yours alone but may be very busy talking to reps from other SaaS companies. This leaves you with limited time and opportunity to add value to their business, or to even convey your value.
Time and again we’ve come across statements like ‘first impression is the last impression’ and ‘time is money’. Thus, making the most of every customer call is a must. You need to showcase the commitment, perseverance, and absolute impact your company is bringing to the table. Not only that, but it also lets them know that you are a trustworthy, capable, partner who can help them achieve business success.
Below are some questions I ask my customers to trigger an in-depth discussion and ensure I achieve maximum value from each interaction:
1. Ask them about their business use-case
This is of paramount importance and no matter where you get introduced in the customer lifecycle stage (day 1, day 90, or day n), this needs to be addressed. Business needs, requirements, and workflows keep evolving. These are dynamic and hence, staying on top of them ensures that your product is in line with your customers’ goals and objectives. Business use-cases help you understand your customer’s needs better, opening the gate for up-sell/cross-sell and relevant future opportunities. For instance, a new office and team expansion give you an opportunity to grow the account. Ultimately, understanding your customer’s business allows you to drive more success, which increases retention.
2. What does it take to make them successful?
There are many ways to get the pulse of the customer, this is one of them and my personal favorite.
When launching a new customer, ask them how they define success. Simply put, you can ask them “12 months from now, how will you determine whether this is a successful investment for you?”
3. Ask for feedback, both positive and negative
“What do we do better than other vendors, and are there any examples when we’ve exceeded expectations?” This question has worked wonders for me. Asking this will bring happy memories back to the customer’s mindset and positions the discussion into a positive framework. This helps us document our best product features and keep track of what we’re doing right. This is a great segway into identifying advocates, and asking eligible customers to refer our product to their colleagues and professional circles. Other go-to advocacy action items include elaborating a case study with them and prompting them to leave an online review.
“What can we do better?” This open ended-question can be a tough one as it opens the Pandora Box of negative experience. However, negative feedback is necessary to improve your processes and work better as a company. Not only does negative feedback provide you with the insights you need to improve your game and course-correct, it is also a good indicator of churn risk with the customer account in question. Being proactive in uncovering existing issues is your best ally to mitigate churn risks.
4. Inquire about other products they use
Always ask customers about their stack. Doing so gets you insights and knowledge about their ecosystem and the integrations they need. This allows you to build apps to magnify your business and help your clients connect easily across all existing products, leading to better value and stickiness.
If you do it well, you may even create opportunities for cross-sells (if you have a multi-product portfolio) thereby increasing the ARR/MRR for the account.
5. Test the waters for customer advocates
If it’s appropriate, ask the customer for a recommendation, a reference call, or to participate in events.
It's always good to know your ‘go-to clients’. Whether it's an event, webinar, podcast, or if you need references and recommendations for new business, creating and having this list helps you develop a strong community of advocates across industries and geographies.
Before a customer meeting, always monitor and gather info on:
Adoption and activity - How well are they using the product? What is the most used feature and what is least used? Most important is to try and understand the reasons behind usage trends to improve retention.
Open support tickets and feature requests - Always make sure to sync up with the relevant teams (support, dev, product) and have an update on open or pending tickets and feature requests with an ETA or RCA.
Inactive seats or licenses - Don't forget to revise their current subscription plan, have a heads up on what all licenses they aren't using and info around upgrades and downgrades.
Period of association - Know when they started. Congratulate them on 1/2/3 years of completion and remind them of the long relationship you’ve fostered.
Be focused and patient - Listen to them.
Research your clients - Their business and, if relevant, take a quick glance at their peers and competitors.
Have info about industry standards, geographic trends, common issues and new changes to develop trust and for easy decision making.
Make sure you are on the same page, take notes, repeat, and send a detailed MoM (minutes of the meeting) right after the call.
Formalize and send the agenda well in advance. They should know what can be expected and make the best use of their time.
Set up the next meeting and mark on the calendar (this shows your interest and diligence).
Goal setting: set goals with customers (preferably with timelines, KPI’s, and action items) to add context and value to your call. This also provides a reason for them to talk to you again.
You represent your company & its values, hence, be caring, confident, show empathy, respect, and remember to do things in line with what is best for your company and the customer.
About the Author
Utkarsh has over 4 years of experience working as a Global CSM for startups like Unbxd & Uninstall.io and currently Freshworks. As a CSM, Utkarsh looks after the North American business. Utkarsh lives & breathes Customer Success, making customers successful and happy is his biggest kick.More Content by Utkarsh Awasthi