Consider the following scenario: Your customer is confused and needs help. He or she fires off an email to your support team hoping for a quick resolution. A customer service agent quickly grabs it from the queue, and being familiar with the issue, responds with an answer in minutes.
Success? Sure, a small one. End of the story? Hardly.
What if that issue comes up again with a different customer? How do you track this? What if the customer views the issue as a sign of a weak or unfit product?
Collecting, organizing, and prioritizing customer feedback is as important, if not more than closing a ticket quickly.
So first let’s talk about two important strategies your SaaS company should be focused on in order to be successful and then we’ll dive into the 8 strategies you can deploy to build upon that strategy.
Focus on Customer Success is Critical for SaaS Products
This principle is simple. If you are able to help your customers succeed at what they do, they will help you succeed. You want a flourishing, robust, and healthy business…not a floundering one. If your customers aren’t successful it will be difficult for them to justify spending money on your service. Conversely, if you are able to successfully help customers can achieve their objectives via your service, they will be a lot more likely to stay with you over the long-term.
Lincoln Murphy, a SaaS business model & marketing expert talks about why SaaS companies need to be focused on Customer Success:
“Having worked with over 300 SaaS companies – as well as Enterprise Software vendors migrating to SaaS – I can say without a doubt that Customer Success must be a fully-integrated, tightly-coupled component of a complete SaaS Business Architecture.
Why? Simply put: No Customer Success = No Your Success.”
So how do you do these things? Saying that you need to be customer success focused and have synergy between product/engineering and support is one thing, but what are the methods that SaaS companies should be implementing today?
Align Product Development with Support
As we highlighted in a previous post about this topic, bridging the gap between your Customer Support team and your Product team is critical to being able to sufficiently address the needs of your customers. You can’t effectively support a SaaS product without establishing a process that involves both Support and Product working together.
Mercer Smith-Looper, the lead Customer Champion at Wistia talks about how her team of 4 Customer Champions works with the engineering team using a process they’ve dubbed “Dev on Point.” Once a Customer Champ has exhausted all other resources i.e. documentation, and support team knowledge they are then permitted to reach out to the “Dev on Point” who is on call to answer and address escalated issues.
This strategy has been instrumental in helping Wistia prioritize their product development queue:
“We’ve been able to push the most important fixes. Notice I say “most important” not like “sexiest” or like “most-needed” or “most requested”: it’s something that everyone agrees upon, so the support and engineering teams agree together and then build those changes…”
9 Customer Feedback Tactics for SaaS Product Managers
1. Talk to Your Customers
It may seem almost too obvious, but the first thing you can and should be doing, is talking with your customers. Talking to your customers will help you understand what makes them tick, as well as what ticks them off. The more you learn about their needs and thought processes, the better equipped you’ll be to continue making and supporting the product that meets those needs.
2. Require Feedback When Customers Churn
Once you have an open-line of communication with your customers, you shouldn’t hesitate to implement this practice. According to a report from the Harvard Business Review increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% – 95%. That’s a substantial figure even at the low-end. So if focusing on customer retention can pay off that big, shouldn’t it be a top priority?
Seth Banks of Cashboard talks about why after three years of doing optional feedback upon exit, he decided to require it.
As you can imagine, forcing people to give feedback, will garner some not-so-constructive responses, but as Banks points out, there is more to gain than there is to lose. What did he gain? Well, he was able to retain some confused customers but also, this data helped him prioritize his development queue.
It’s been said that the most constructive feedback comes from people who’ve recently purchased something from you, and those who’ve just decided against it. – Seth Banks, Cashboard
3. Foster a Customer Feedback Focused Company Culture
Whether you’re a small or large SaaS company, nurturing a culture that is laser-focused on obtaining and acting on customer feedback is important. Granted, you can’t take all the feedback completely to heart, but you can learn a lot of valuable lessons by listening to your best customers.
4. Utilize Scalable and Time-tested Tools
Make sure that the software tools you use to gather feedback are scalable and easy-to-use for both you and your customer. Email is a time-tested tool, but it is not scalable for managing product or customer feedback.
5. Deploy A Customer Feedback Portal
Rather than having to answer 1 question 100 times, a customer feedback portal will allow you to answer that question once for 100 people. This practice will dramatically decrease the number of support emails and phone calls and will allow your customers 24/7 access to common issues and allow them to comment.
6. Practice All Hands Support (AHS)
The notion that everyone does support may feel a bit forced for late stage companies but it’s just as important in every organization for a variety of reasons. For one, all areas of your SaaS company are somehow effected by its customers. Therefore when all areas of your company come into direct contact with customers, they can each deepen their understanding of who their customers are. This is good news for everyone in the organization, not just the product team.
Take a look at platforms such as Intercom, Snap Engage or Olark.
7. Gather In-app Feedback
Gathering feedback from your customers as they’re using your product is an obvious, though often overlooked practice. Prompting users for feedback can be a great way to get some much needed contextual information that can help shape the product road map.
8. Use Canned Responses When Possible
It’s easy to see the benefits and values of automation when it comes to providing timely responses to requests or even in answering FAQ’s, but it should be added, *never at the expense of authenticity.
9. Obtain Usage Metrics & Analytics
Gathering customer usage metrics happens in the background and is a must-have in your SaaS Customer Feedback tool belt.
According to Guy Gauvin, the COO of Coveo, “If you pay attention to how customers are using your software, it is basically gold. You learn which features are being used and which aren’t. Maybe in a certain area the end user adoption is going down. You become more of a partner with your customer and less of a vendor.”
Customer feedback is key to growing your SaaS company. Although there are many ways to approach this in terms of creating processes and implementing tools, there are two primary things you should remember: Number one, in order to succeed over the long-term as a SaaS company you must be focused on Customer Success. Secondly, an alliance between your support and product teams is crucial to your success because it both leads to higher customer satisfaction and helps the product team prioritize the features that are most important to build.