Consider this scenario:
Company A sells a SaaS product to a new customer and waits a week for a customer onboarding call. They offer the bare minimum of training, assuming the customer will understand how to use every feature because “the software is so intuitive.”
Company B sells a SaaS product to a new customer and immediately sets up an onboarding call for the next day. A dedicated account manager nurtures that customer through each step of the onboarding process – answering questions, extensively training new users, driving adoption across the company, and answering customer service requests at all hours.
Of the two companies, which customer is likely to churn down the road? The answer is obvious – Company A will lose their newest customer within the year.
Unfortunately, many SaaS companies are too much like Company A. When people talk about Software-as-a-Service, they’re usually focused on the software itself – the technology, the capabilities, the price, and the ROI. Far too many SaaS business leaders are so wrapped up in the idea of building and selling great software, they forget all about the “service” part of SaaS.
Service shouldn’t be an afterthought at your SaaS company – it should be your first priority as soon as a customer signs a contract. You must create a powerful customer success program that ensures your customers understand your product, use your product, and – most importantly – love your product. For every SaaS company, customer churn is the nightmare scenario – draining your company of revenue. You can drive down churn and keep customers happy by creating a powerful post-sales process that sets your customers up for long-term success.
Onboarding a New Customer
Your company’s sales rep just closed the deal with a new customer, X Corp, but the Closed-Won deal is really just the first step. Now that you have a new customer, Account Management has anywhere between 30 and 90 days to ensure that the new customer is fully onboarded, using the product correctly, and is nurtured at every step along the way.
Step 1: The Sales Handoff
The first non-sales call with X Corp should happen as quickly as possible after they sign on the dotted line. Ideally, the sales rep and the account manager should do an introductory call together with a customer within 24 hours of signing the contract. Because the customer has so far only spoken with sales, the closing sales rep should be on the call initially to create a sense of continuity in the process.
The rep then introduces the new customer to their new account manager, so there is a smooth transition from the sales process into becoming a customer. That closes the loop, and the account manager establishes themselves as the go-to person and the customer’s advocate for everything going forward. Sales can then back away from the process, returning to work new deals. With this sales handoff, X Corp feels as though they are continuously taken care of and always have a personal relationship with your company.
Step 2: Technical Configuration
After the welcome call, it’s time to get technical. Depending on your company’s product, your technical configuration could be either more or less complicated, but it will always be a necessary step in the process. Ideally, the configuration should tailor the product directly to the customer and their business needs. During the sales handoff call, the account manager should talk to the sales rep and find out specifically why X Corp bought the software. This allows you to fulfill the promises that the sales rep made to the new customer, so they get the functionality they’re expecting from your product. Nothing creates dissatisfaction sooner than a customer feeling as though they’ve been promised one thing during the sales process, and then being told they cannot have that functionality during configuration. Make sure to customize the configuration to meet the customer’s business needs as much as technically possible.
Step 3: Training
Once the product is fully configured and functional, it’s time to help your new customer understand the ins and outs of the product. Again, the training should go back to the reasons that the customer bought the software and focus specifically on those asked-for capabilities. It’s all about customization, but you also should be efficient and get the customer up to speed as quickly as possible. During the onboarding period, it’s critical that customers are learning everything they can about the tool they’ve purchased. They should be going through in-depth training from the start so they can start using the product as soon as possible.
Reducing the Risk of Churn
If the onboarding process above seems like overkill to you, you may want to reconsider. If a customer is not onboarded correctly in that first 30 to 90 days, they are much more likely to become dissatisfied with your product and cancel their contract. You have to seize the momentum of the sales process, capitalizing on that sense of urgency and emphasizing the value that convinced them to buy in the first place. You only have this small amount of time to get your customer set up, using your product, and happy, or they may never get there. If things are still not clicking 6 months in, you’re going to have an unhappy customer that’s probably going to churn.
However, there are warning signs of churn and you can intervene to save a customer before they decide to leave. According to analysis done on InsightSquared customers, if a customer is not using your product often in the first 30 days, they’re a high churn risk within the next year. You can track number of logins and page views to see if a customer has low levels of engagement with the product, and hopefully step in to intervene.
Another risk is how many points of contact you have at the customer’s company. If you’re constantly talking with just one person at X Corp who loves your product, this is not enough. What if that person decides to leave the company and take a new job? Then you’ve lost that customer relationship you’ve spent so much time building, and no one else may know the value of the product – leading them to churn. You should be speaking with at least 3 or 4 people at the customer company, all of whom enjoy your product and know the account manager personally. Otherwise that customer is not going to be around long.
If the customer is clearly at risk, you have to catch them as early as possible and intervene. Open up the lines of communication and send them an email that says something like:
“I noticed that only five of your employees have access to our reports right now, and I wanted to make sure the rest of your team has the training to successfully use the tool. Let’s set up a time to train your entire team to get the most out of your software.”
This email should refer back to the customer’s reasons for buying, reminding them what they wanted to accomplish with your software. Hopefully this email will get your customer back on track, remind them of the value they can get from your product, and stop them from churning.
A Long-Term Relationship
If you’ve correctly onboarded X Corp and they’re not showing signs of churn, you’ve made it through the critical onboarding period safely. Now, it’s time to focus on maintaining the long-term customer relationship. It’s important not to forget about your customer once they’ve become successful users of your product. You should be in constant communication with them, whether you’re talking about support tickets or announcing a new product capability. An account manager should reach out to every customer every couple of months, at a minimum. This email shouldn’t just be “checking in” with a customer, but should be a real conversation that engages the customer, helps them achieve their ongoing goals, and makes sure they really are still happy with the product.
If the customer continues to thrive and succeed while using your product, you can use that email check-in to ask for something more. A happy customer becomes a great opportunity for upsell, cross-sell, and referrals to colleagues who may be interested in buying your product. If a customer loves your product, they may want to upgrade to a higher-priced version with more features, buy a new product that you now offer, or expand to more licenses so more people can get the benefits of your software. Happy customers who have been thoroughly nurtured by account management can be a huge drivers of revenue for your SaaS business as you grow.