This quest for lifetime customer value depends on two key activities and two key dialogues:
Key Activity 1: Mastering the art and science of Customer Success Management
In the SaaS market, a “closed” deal never truly closes. Every conversation and point of contact contributes to a customer’s lifetime value from your system — to making what you sell a real solution. The sales, marketing, customer service, and product development teams must work together and demonstrate ongoing value to buyers — keeping buyers engaged, satisfied, and successful. This is the essence of Customer Success Management, and it’s a life-or-death issue for any SaaS provider.
This ongoing quest for lifetime value begins with setting up the customer’s system, but it’s far more than simply an implementation issue. The solution provider must serve as a trusted advisor, anticipating buyers’ needs, helping them to see around corners, and enabling them to leverage the platform’s full capabilities.
Key Activity 2: Measuring and reporting on customer business impacts
Success Management also involves knowing whether your customers are getting the value they expect from a SaaS platform. Clear and open communication is important here, but so is the ability to use a SaaS platform’s analytical capabilities — not just to do things, but to record results and enable the data to be analyzed. The use and engagement metrics your customers generate are very useful indicators — if you know how to identify the metrics that matter.
Sales teams play a key role in this activity when they help buyers identify and articulate their goals and standards for success. These insights, in turn, support a SaaS vendor’s ability to measure the platform’s business impact and to report back on possible problems. Armed with this knowledge, the vendor can help customers proactively address issues and ensure that they are getting value from their investments.
Key Dialogues (1): Resolving service issues promptly. Customer service in the SaaS world isn’t just about answering support calls. It’s about maintaining the right relationships with key customer stakeholders, engaging in conversations with these stakeholders, and uncovering potential service issues even before they become sources of customer concern.
The sales team’s responsibility for maintaining and nurturing these relationships extends far beyond the sale. It is worth repeating that successful SaaS vendors know that there’s no such thing as a truly closed deal — only ongoing relationships.
Key Dialogues (2): Uncovering and addressing the buyer’s evolving needs. There’s another important aspect to the customer conversation. Vendors must recognize that the capabilities that make a customer satisfied and successful today may not do so in the future. Instead, a SaaS provider’s sales team and other stakeholders must always think ahead on the buyer’s behalf — providing insights and positioning value-creating ideas that continue to generate business value.
This is a challenging process. This may require an intimate understanding of the customer’s business environment, growth opportunities, organizational culture, and other factors. The payoff, however, is the ability to move the customer to higher-value SaaS products, to ensure that the customer realizes long-term value from these upgrades, and to continue to make a compelling case for keeping the customer engaged with your platform.
The bottom line is that the sales and service process for the cloud is as least as customer-centric, if not more, as effective sales. A SaaS provider has to continue to prove relevance to customer needs. The good news is that the SaaS provider has continuing opportunities to prove that their product is relevant to what a customer needs.