Running a SaaS business has never been easy, but it has come with a few special perks.
As long as churn stays low and the leads continue to flow in steadily, subscription SaaS businesses have been able to enjoy a degree of financial predictability (and scalability) that businesses in other industries could only dream of.
In fact, those benefits are probably part of what lured you into the SaaS world in the first place.
However, the industry is changing.
Customers have different expectations from brands these days. They want to have personal relationships with the companies they do business with. And with more and more software options on the market, SaaS businesses must intentionally work to deliver personalized experiences. Ultimately, the SaaS companies that rise above the rest will be the ones that foster strong, collaborative and strategic relationships with their customers.
This requires you to think outside the box — start looking beyond metrics like monthly recurring revenue, conversion rates and churn rate to focus more on the nuanced, unique customer relationships behind those numbers.
To do it right, you’ll need to change how your SaaS business measures success, and how your employees focus their energy:
Look beyond the numbers
Strive for consistency
Break down silos between customer-facing functions
Here’s what we mean.
Going Beyond Data
It’s not exactly new-news that SaaS businesses — or any business, really — can benefit from getting more in touch with what customers want, expect and experience. Most SaaS businesses have made plenty of strides in that department already.
For example, “customer journey mapping” has been a hot topic in recent years, and third-party software touting 360-degree customer views can comb through reams of customer data to uncover more big-picture insights into customer behavior.
At Maxio, we love to analyze data, and we rely on it a lot for our own operations. But there are limits to what anyone can assess, measure and quantify when it comes to personal relationships.
Think about it: Would you try to assess the state of a friendship using figures like the number of total times you’ve shared a meal, the average minutes you spend together weekly, or even the ratio of laughter to regular conversation in your time spent together?
Of course, some of those insights might be interesting or even illuminating. But there’s a good reason none of us try to measure personal relationships this way: Direct, one-to-one conversations tend to lend a lot more insight with a lot less work.
When a relationship feels personal, there will be clearer communication, better insights into roadblocks and more trust. That’s what the best SaaS businesses have with their customers.
And the easiest way to make your customer relationships feel more personal is to actually reach out personally to customers.
We know. It almost seems too simple, right?
But we work with lots of SaaS companies, and we have noticed that personal check-ins are lacking in most of them.
It’s not shocking that tech companies’ first instinct when it comes to improving customer experience is to use more tech tools to do it. That’s our specialty, after all, and at first glance, one-on-one check-ins and conversations don’t scale as well as, say, scripted emails sent to group segments.
However, spending the energy to check in personally with clients is worth it. It sets your SaaS business apart from competitors, and it shows customers that you know they’re more than statistics to your company. It also moves your company from reactive mode — only getting in touch when there’s a problem or need — into proactive customer support mode.
These kinds of personal customer interactions are valuable, but they can backfire if they feel forced, insincere or off-brand. That’s where the power of consistency comes in.
The Power of Consistency
When customers interact with your company, they should feel more like they’re interacting with a person — ideally, a person that they know and like — even when in reality they’re working with dozens of people in different roles.
But for that consistency to happen, your staff has to stay on-brand at all times, and reach out regularly throughout each stage of the client’s lifecycle.
If your SaaS business is like most, your marketing department has already worked hard to build a solid brand identity. This brand probably comes through clearly on places like your website, your social media pages and your blog.
However, in many cases, there’s often much less effort made to maintain that consistent brand voice or proactively reach out after a prospect officially becomes a customer.
That’s especially unfortunate considering that data has shown over and over that it costs much less to keep customers than win new ones.
The reason that the voice, tone and “personality” of a brand starts to feel different once the customer is handed off to sales or customer service is simple: The work is often handled by a completely different team, and they may even have different goals and values.
If you want customer relationships to feel genuine, customers must experience the same values and personality wherever and whenever they interact with your brand. They should feel like they can pick up right where they left off the last time they talked to someone from your company.
Think of it this way: You’d never expect a personal friend or acquaintance to get confused about when and how you met, how long you’d known each other, the conversations you had recently or other milestones in your relationship. And they’d certainly notice if you stopped calling suddenly, or if you sounded a lot different than usual.
If you start to look at your relationships with customers in the same way, you’ll see why many SaaS efforts fall short of feeling meaningful.
Realigning Your Customer Relationship Efforts
So, how do you make sure your customers get a consistent experience and personal attention when the people who help them are working across multiple, siloed departments?
Try getting rid of the silos. The strategy and goals of your sales, marketing and customer service departments should be carefully aligned. Each of these departments has valuable information that should directly inform what the other departments do. Plus, in the end, they all have the same goal: To boost the total revenue flowing into your company.
Many SaaS companies have already moved in this direction. They’ve moved marketing, sales and customer support under a single umbrella within their corporate structure. These companies are using the term “revenue operations” or “RevOps” for short to describe this new, comprehensive effort. They’re hiring “directors of revenue” to head up all three departments under a comprehensive strategy.
We’ll talk more about what the trend toward RevOps and what it might mean for your organization in upcoming weeks.
But even if you don’t adopt the term or officially change your organizational structure (which might not ever be necessary for smaller companies), you can still:
Create teams across these departments that work together directly with the same, shared goals
Invest in tools that give everyone in these departments access to the same important customer details
Decide how these teams will track, measure and respond to the unstructured feedback you get from customer check-ins
In the end, we SaaS companies are always going to look to subscription numbers, churn rates and other KPIs to understand whether we’re meeting our goals.
Prioritizing the individual relationships we have with customers and approaching them more holistically can give critical context to that data. We’ve learned firsthand that customer relationship check-ins can give a surprisingly clear idea of how our company is performing over time — both what we’re doing well, and what needs to change.
Better relationships and proactive customer support will enable you to fix problems earlier, before they become big problems. And your customers will love you for it.
Stay tuned. We’re working on more articles will explore other ways you can pivot to focus on customer relationships. Make sure to subscribe and we’ll email you as they’re published.