Why Customer Retention is the True Measure of SaaS Success
In SaaS (Software as a Service), like in most businesses, sales is king. Sales gets the glory, and while I’d like to say this has never bothered me as a big champion of the sales world (I ended up marrying my sales counterpart from earlier in my career!) you’ll be hard pressed to find any Customer Success leader that hasn’t had that moment of “what about us?”
No amount of sales can sustain a business if you’re losing customers because you have no customer success experience.
Sure, you can keep pouring into the sales bucket over and over again, but if there are holes in that bucket, none of that will matter and your dreams of SaaS success will disappear faster than the good flavored water from the engineering fridge. That’s where I come in, or rather where my team, my people, my tribe come in – Customer Success.
In fact, years ago when my friend and former boss, one of the best leaders I’ve had the privilege of working alongside, told me he was identifying ways to ensure the success of the existing client base at the company that would eventually become my second home, I told him that while there were a lot of things we could talk about – at the end of the day – retention was what really mattered.
It’s About More than Hitting Your Numbers
I’ve built my career on creating best-in-class Customer Success organizations and have had the privilege of working with some of the best leaders across different functions. When asked how you measure the true success of any company, most companies likely begin with revenue and quarterly/annual performance against goals. Yet, if you want to keep the VC funding or the potential acquiring companies interested, hitting those numbers isn’t going to be enough. They want to know of all the people who bought your product/solution/software, how many kept buying it?
In the past, people who hear about ‘Customer Success’ think of call centers filled with transactional conversations between customers with scripted responses on how to handle complaints. Sure, that’s a part of it, but in recent years many SaaS organizations heard the call and have made efforts to grow and scale Customer Success to points where, in many cases, that team is even larger than Sales.
And why? Your sales team tells the story and sells the dream – they bring the brand to light for prospective customers and hit home why your product or solution is essential to the success of their business. But, who is responsible for ensuring that it actually meets, nay exceeds those expectations?
The Essence of Customer Success
That is the essence of Customer Success. Take the dream surfaced by sales and make it a reality. Get to know the customers after the ink is dry and make sure they get their money’s worth in purchasing from your company. They are your insurance policy and they hold the key to your company’s success because they are essential to why your customers keep coming back.
So that brings me to the part that all of you are actually interested in – you get it, retention is crucial, but how do you ensure your business has healthy retention? Let’s start there.
Measure the Customer Success Experience
To start, make sure you’re measuring it. Do you know what your company’s retention rate is? And before you jump into Net Retention, let me stop you. Yes, you can look at net dollars and if one client spends more, in theory they could make up for a client lost. That said, to truly understand the health of your business, I recommend starting with a straightforward way of looking at retention, aka “did the client keep buying the thing they originally bought?” Place your customers into a cohort and measure the performance of that group over time. If you started with 30 clients, did you end with 30 clients? Once you know what your retention rate is, next you want to understand how it measures up.
The best and most successful companies in the world have retention rates of >90%. If you’re already there – fantastic! That doesn’t mean the conversation is over, it just means that somewhere in your company, someone (or many “someones”) is doing something right today. So, make sure to thank your Head of Product and Head of Service immediately. That’s right, do it now.
Next, ensure you have a strategy in place to KEEP it. Do you know why your customers keep buying? What is it about your solution that keeps them hanging on? If you don’t know, find out. There are a ton of great ways to do that, but how about starting with the simplest: Call and ask them. Pick out a handful of your longest running customers and go make a friend. They’ll appreciate your attention and you’ll get just as much out of it, if not more, I can assure you.
If you’re not seeing those 90%+ retention numbers, there’s no need to panic…yet. Now is the time to find out why. Identify the largest and most recent client cancellations and dig in. What worked? What didn’t work? Start with talking to the people that worked on the account and then move on to the next simplest step in the process – call your former customers! Who knows, maybe you’d even get commitment from them to try again. Clients are typically pretty open to collaboration and pretty forgiving on missteps if you’re willing to pivot in order to retain them or win them back.
I’ve spent plenty of time over my career talking to customers, both happy and unhappy, most of the time they just want to be heard and want to know that you’re working to fix whatever went wrong. One of my favorite clients once told me, “I don’t expect perfection, the world is an imperfect place. I do, however, expect that you’re going to hear me and work with me to ensure this gets resolved.” Never once did I feel those conversations weren’t worthy of my time.
Last but not least… Scale the Customer Success Experience
In the retention game, like in most things, knowledge is power. Once you know why a client keeps buying from you, make sure you programmatically institute a way to replicate that over and over and over again. It cannot simply live in the mind and efforts of one kickass service person, brilliant engineer or savvy seller. To keep this thing going, it needs to be operationalized, repeatable and scalable within your organization. That means that if you don’t have someone in place whose job it is to make that happen, go hire them immediately.
Once you know why clients are cancelling, whether your retention rate is 50% or 95%, dig in with your people. Is the service model right? Is the product intuitive enough? Did we set the right expectations out of the gate? Did we fully understand what the client wanted to get out of our solution and, if so, were we able to deliver? Once you know these things, you can move forward with Step 2, which is setting up your customers for success from Day 1.
Callie Reynolds serves as the Vice President of Account Management for Moat measurement solutions within the Oracle Data Cloud, following the acquisition of Moat in 2017. With extensive experience in SaaS, and coupled with deep digital marketing expertise, Callie has built teams focused on driving the success of brand marketers, digital platforms, large-scale publishers and media companies all over the world. In addition to her time helping clients maximize their potential in digital, Callie is also a mom to 6-month old twins, a lover of doughnuts, a dancing enthusiast, and avid appreciator of cinematic adventures.
Culture Is King – The Power Of Employee Engagement
In 2017 we introduced our ROI series recognizing the challenges all customer experience professionals have to obtain funding for CX initiatives and to prove their positive returns. Our second ROI…
What is the survey question that will prioritize your #CX roadmap?
As customer experience professionals, we need to factor in this disconnect when we design surveys. And when we react to survey results. Customers have an image of who they want to be. However, their behaviors do not always reflect that image.
3 Ways to Create a Better Employee Experience Strategy
Guest Post by Gabe Smith, CCXP for The Petrova Experience The relationship between employee experience strategy and customer experience has long been discussed. Without engaged employees, we’re told, it’s difficult…
How a Personal Interaction builds Customer Loyalty
A customer-centric methodology is key to the successful outcome of my interaction with Hello Spud. It is the reason this story appears here, and not among the CX Big Fails! The company did not send an automated response. It did not deliver a message stating “sorry we couldn’t help you, would you like something else.” Instead, the company co-founder reached out to me personally across multiple channels (a handwritten note, followed by personal emails).
A Customer Experience Strategy will Define Your Success in 2021
While there may not be a magic pill to guarantee the perfect customer experience, there is one thing that every organization needs to transform into a customer-centric business. And that…
How to Extend Your Travel Experience Value Proposition
Last December the Ladders published that discusses business travelers who extend travel beyond the timeline of the business trip. The article says, “[a]ccording to a new study by La Quinta by…
Customer Experience Survey: Why Customers Are Not Responding
When you solicit customer feedback sometimes matters more than how you ask the questions. In the case of a survey about new biometrics boarding initiatives my team and I created for JetBlue, we had a list of feedback that was most important for us.
Customer Experience Tips and Best Practices In 2017?
In Post 2 of Liliana Petrova’s series on customer experience tips, lessons learned, and best practices for the new year on JetBlue, she explores the importance of “keeping the human…
Hiring Tips: Who Should I Hire First on My CX Team
The pressure to demonstrate business impact and ROI on your Customer Experience initiatives quickly makes your first hire even more important. As usual, there is no answer that fits all scenarios perfectly. We have some helpful strategies to consider based on the structure of your organization and your goals.
Why Bt2B Businesses Must Think Like B2C in the Next Decade
B2B vs B2B thinking makes a real difference when it comes to customer experience. According to Gartner at least 80% of B2B buyers now expect the same buying experience as…
Customer Experience Audit: Starbucks Bets On The Physical Experience
Starbucks is opting in for the physical experience in order to become a lifestyle brand while other brands are investing in omni-channel experience.
Lessons Learned at the Forrester Conference: “Data is the New Sexy”
Once a year I look for an event to attend where I can learn something new and get better at what I do. This year, I attended an event hosted…
Coronavirus Travel: What Does Hospitality Mean Now?
I want to tell you about my recent passenger experience. Earlier this week, I traveled to New Orleans from JFK Terminal 5 in New York. I had planned an airport…
Customer Facing Experience: Communication and Hospitality
Today, we are talking about communication as part of the customer facing experience. This is one of the most misused and misinterpreted notions both in our professional lives and our…
Customer Experience Design – How Do You Want Customers To Feel?
Last week, we talked about CX Design in terms of space and function. Today, we continue our CX design journey to talk about the design of emotions and feelings. The new…
The One CX Goal You Need to Set for 2019
For 2019, I urge you to make only one CX goal – bring about business success with your customer experience work. Don’t just do work in the general sense. Rather, set a CX goal that has a real impact on your customers and their experiences with your brand.
Do You Know Why The Iconic Brand Toys ‘R’ Us Closed Doors Despite All Our Memories? #RetailBlues
The year is 2016. You are the CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us. Your brand still controls 13.6% of the toy market although the company is highly leveraged, a strategy of…
Customer Experience Audit: eBay’s Vibrant Marketplace of the Future
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of Customer Experience Audits. See all audit stories. Two years ago RJ Pittman and eBay made a big bet and made…
Airport Experience: Are You Letting Down Your Precious Travelers?
A month and a half ago, as part of our ongoing conversation about airport experience, we introduced the concept of revenge travel. We pleaded with the public to trust us…
Leadership During the Pandemic: Guest Post by Rachel Dreyfus
This is a guest post by Rachel Dreyfus, President, Dreyfus Advisors, who researched leadership during the pandemic. How has Covid19 influenced leadership over the past three months? Research results show…
Why Customer Retention is the True Measure of SaaS Success
Guest Post by Callie Reynolds for The Petrova Experience In SaaS (Software as a Service), like in most businesses, sales is king. Sales gets the glory, and while I’d like…
Employee Engagement and Wellness In The Workplace: Guest Post
Today, The Petrova Experience brings you a guest article about employee engagement, by Natlie DeVito of Commonwealth Joe. Commonwealth Joe is an innovative company, new to the New York City…
Aviation Industry, Coronavirus Isn’t the Only Thing Killing Us
Eighteen years ago, September 11th caused a three-day halt of the US commercial airlines and resulted in a 31.6% reduction in travel in September 2001 compared to the previous year….
Culture Starts at the Top
Without a leader who believes that today’s business success is about acquiring and retaining customers, you cannot even begin the process of building a culture. Leaders who are passionate about the customer are also passionate about creating culture and employee engagement.
4 Career Tips to obtain a Customer Experience Role
In honor of the 4th of July, we are rounding up 4 career tips for CX professionals. Set aside some time during the break from work to take stock in your CX career and evaluate the steps you need to get to the next level.
CX Bold Moves: JetBlue Paperless And Deviceless Boarding
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of CX Bold Moves. See all the CX Bold Moves stories. This year JetBlue entered the ranks of the innovators who…
CX Design Makes Form and Function Beautiful – and Cosmopolitan Magazine Notices
At its core, design is about value creation. In the world of Customer Experience, value-driven design requires CX professionals to use empathy to imagine a future customer experience that is…
Customer Experience Design – Make the Customer Know Who You Are
Now that we have helped you become experts in the design of space and function and the design of feelings, it is time to turn our attention to aesthetics, and to connect customer experience…
Organizational Culture and Access to Information
By and large, people perceive culture as an HR discipline. The most common perception is that culture covers the soft side of performance. Culture is about how you do things, not so much about what you do. This approach to culture could not be more wrong. In fact, organizational culture is about so much more than a few words in a performance review sheet. It is about leaders expressing values, and the action guidance their cultural behaviors provide.
CX Skills Builders: You May Have a CX Job and Not Know It
Last week we talked about the identity crisis of CX professionals and we urged you to fix any small problem or seam on the customer journey in order to build internal brand equity and buy in.
Travel Experience Stories: How Not to Leave Customers Stranded
Meet Diane, and get to know her travel experience story. Diane is traveling with her 2 year old and 5 year old to her in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving. This is…
How to Prepare for AI: Dispatches from CR Summit, Charleston
On the eve of the #CRSummit in Charleston, customer experience leaders from various industries held the first AI Committee meeting. AI is a challenging topic to cover because it has…
What is Customer Experience? What are the Faces of CX?
Each area of CX represents a path for CX professionals to impact business health and build successful careers. One of my favorite CX analogies is that it is like the blood in our bodies. When CX is done well, it touches every aspect of an organization. That’s what makes customer experience so much fun! You will never be bored working in CX.
United CEO does not care about #customers happiness. Really?
Lately, I have been thinking about United Airlines. In the beginning I thought about them because someone asked whether it is possible to build a customer-centric culture in a company…
Customer Experience Audit: New York Times Beats Google
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of Customer Experience Audits. In this series we walk you through customer experience examples across industries. We feature brands that made…
WeWork Does CX Right with a Wow Moment
Used at the right time and place along the customer’s journey, the Wow Moment is an excellent retention technique. When a brand creates personal, relevant experience at exactly the right time, it can build a lifelong, loyal customer relationship.
Autonomous Customers, Traveler Privacy and More Questions for CX Professionals in a Changing World
“As we move toward a more automated culture, most travelers will adapt to a Jetsonian, automated lifestyle. Every industry we know will be disrupted. For those of us in aviation,…
Customer Experience Audit: FedEx Omnichannel Disaster
In our Strategy, Org Design & Culture series we cover customer-focused companies that are willing to adapt, take risks and discover new ways of staying relevant. Sometimes, we encounter brands…
Freelance Customer Experience Lessons for Freelancers
For small businesses and freelancers alike, it’s important to recognize that your business is as strong as the relationships you build with your customers. That’s just one of the key…
Our Holiday Wishes for Great CX
Every successful customer experience initiative starts with a skilled CX team. Brush up on your CX skills to strengthen the business case for CX; to develop relationships within your organization; and to deliver standout customer experiences in the new year.
Is Covid19 What We Needed to Build Seamless End-to-End Travel Experience?
On January 10th, we published an article called The Future of Travel We Deserve. In it, we laid out the foundation necessary to implement innovation at scale. Four months later,…
Would You Pitch In To Save Toys “R” Us For Your Children To Experience? #ToysRUsGoFundMe
Last week we laid out the big moves that the leadership of Toys ‘R’ Us failed to take to evolve with customer needs and thus joins other brands as examples of…
Customer Experience Audit: Uber Bets On Self-Driving Cars With Big Volvo Purchase
The question that remains unanswered is who will be part of the future of transportation. Uber is going for the vertical integration – the whole pie. The future industry of urban transportation will be made of players in three different categories: cars, self-driving software, and ride-sharing network. In contrast, Lyft approaches the future through partnerships.
Let’s Get You Certified as a Customer Experience Professional!
Like all mature professions, customer experience has a certification that is internationally recognized. Adding it to your resume will signal to the business community that you are serious about customer experience and your aspiration to be part of its leadership ranks…
Poor Integration is Bad for Customer Journey and Worse for Brands
Although we all have bad customer experiences, there is still a big debate about “the CX field” and whether it will survive the test of time. There is no doubt…
How To Define Your Purpose And Have Unique Culture
If you Google the word “purpose” you get the definition “the reason for which something exists.” This is a challenge if you think about it in the context of an…