Adam Joseph, Founder, CustomerSuccessManager.com
Getting your Customers off to a "Fast Start" is critical to your mutual long-term success
There is a psychological term known as the “seven-year itch”, it suggests that happiness in a relationship (at least for some people!) declines after seven years. Unfortunately for those of us who work as vendors in the SAAS Customer Success world, we don’t get the luxury of seven years (or anything like it) to prove our worth. In all likelihood, unless you are helping your customer get significant return on their value within the first six months, you are well on your way to a sizable credit or at worst, complete churn.
Helping your customers realise early value in your relationship is critical to your mutual long-term benefit. To succeed you need to have a clear strategy on how you are going to engage with customers during the critical “Launch” phase otherwise pretty much everything else you planned for (including the recurring revenue) will go out of the window. To compound the misery further, any unhappy customer will most likely take every opportunity to steer others well clear of your business using both on and off-line channels.
The typical “Launch” period is traditionally defined from the point at which your customer signs their contract until they have reached a specifically defined milestone in using your solution. However, I would argue that “Launch” starts with the first contact in pre-sales and ends with a successful renewal at the end of their (typically annual) subscription. Even though as vendors we typically see the world through the “pre-sale” and “post-sale” lens, our customers do not. They look at their relationship with their vendors holistically and will rightly expect that everything described and promised to them in pre-sales will be carried out in full by Customer Success teams.
In my experience, there are typically three critically important factors that decide whether a client continues to renew and grow or whether they diminish and leave. The first two are financially-based; either customers can’t or won’t pay their bills. On that basis, it is vital that you have effective credit control systems to help identify those that fall into these two categories. The third factor is the one I want to focus on – those customers who do not see the value in what you are providing.
This is especially true in the Launch phase – there is no track record or history of success, the customer has made a significant investment and got nothing back in return yet and their minds are rushing to judgement – “have I made a great decision or shall I cut my losses and run?”. With that harsh reality, here are my top hints to ensure that your customers not only succeed but thrive during the critical Launch phase:
There is an undeniable link between providing a great Launch experience and the probability of long-term customer success. By focussing your resources appropriately on the critical Launch phase will help ensure a great relationship from the start, pay enormous dividends in the future and help avoid the seven-year (or even month) itch!