I recently attended the Mass Technology Leadership Council session entitled SaaS Business Model Series: Improving Customer Satisfaction and the Customer Experience by Leveraging Operations. For brevity I call the session Improving the SaaS Customer Experience. The strategic importance of the customer experience for a successful SaaS business was covered well by Skip Besthoff, General Partner at Castile Ventures.
Skip’s presentation included numbers illustrating the substantial impact of churn on a SaaS providers financials. No surprise there, it matters a lot! His definition of best practice for annual churn is 5%. More importantly he stressed that is the overall customer experience that matters not just customer support. Presales, sales, implementation and upselling are also important phases of the customer interaction and customer experience is a cross functional endeavor.
Skip was also the moderator of a panel consisting of four companies sharing their views on what they do to provide an excellent customer experience. Most of the company presentations were focused on useful and tactical tips which in general were useful. I’ve shared what I thought were some of the key or unique tips below.
Lou Guercia, President and CEO of Scribe Software talked about their use of Skype to allow direct user contact with support staff. Scribe also uses search engine optimization techniques to not only monitor use of their customer support site but to optimize the structure of it.
Joshua Herzig-Marx, Co-Founder of Incentive Targeting talked about meeting users where they are as opposed to forcing users to use one approach to get support. They have a highly instrumented application and website to understand customer interactions and use Google Analytics and New Relic as the primary tools.
Michael Monteiro, Co-CEO of Buildium use customer surveys to understand the quality of most customer interactions. He stressed the importance of the little things that make a difference and gave as an example of how giving their support staff wireless headsets resulted in increased movement and therefore increased staff collaboration. They also have individual, team, and company incentives to focus on customer churn.
Joshua Porter, Co-Founder and VP of Customer Experience at Performable talked about their use of Skype and based of customer feedback their highest customer satisfaction ratings come from customers who interact via Skype. They also have all of their staff spend some time doing support and their support process is transparent, anyone can see the interactions.
One of the disappointing aspects of this panel was the focus on very small companies. This could imply that leadership in excellent customer experience is a uniquely small company focus. Nothing could be farther from the truth, all you have to do is look at Salesforce or LivePerson to understand what larger successful SaaS companies are doing to provide an excellent customer experience.
I’ve attended a couple of the MassTLC SaaS events and if you are very interested in the topic being presented they are worthwhile. Unfortunately, due to the time of day and the length of the sessions I have attended there was very limited time for meeting other attendees, asking questions, and sharing information. I did find this session useful and interesting and hopefully a couple of the specific suggestions from the panel will be helpful to you. You can look at the full presentations here.