Not too long ago, the mantra of many companies that were looking to retain customers was “focus on benefits, not features.” This focus then shifted to ensuring results that provide measurable value. Today, companies increasing use customer success as a guide for the overall positive impact of their business activities. Product success is a subset of customer success that takes a close look at product experience and results.
The idea is simple. Does your product provide value to a customer, and is it the optimal ecosystem for delivering the services and results that your customers want? Product success is all about answering this question. While product success is similar to product experience and customer success, there are key differences. These can be found in five elements of product success that we’ve highlighted. Keep these considerations in mind when designing, deploying, and optimizing your product, and you’ll ensure continued customer success.
Of our list of five elements of product success, the first — use of the product — may be the most crucial. It’s essential to fully understand how a customer uses a product in relation to the product’s optimal uses. A customer may not be using the product as intended, in which case the customer may not be experiencing the level of success that both you and the customer anticipated as part of a sales presentation. Companies should collect data on product use. This data can help optimize the product adoption rate by identifying users who are not using the product to its greatest extent. A low adoption rate negatively affects customer success.
Product use is a complicated matter. Companies should look at frequency, breadth, and depth of use, as these factors best reflect is the product is gaining organization-wide traction, which increases the value provided by the product. In general, the more frequently customers use a product, the easier it is for them to realize value, and the more likely it becomes that they will continue use. Of course, not every product is intended for daily use. SaaS companies should determine what optimal use periods will be for a customer and track against that ideal metric.
Product use should also be widely cast across the organization. Companies should identify how many active monthly users within a customer’s organization are ideal and check the figure each month. If active user counts drop below a defined number, such as less than ten active users, then the company knows that some user education or another type of follow-up may be in order. Similarly, SaaS companies should ensure deep use of the product, as there may be product features that provide value, but for one reason or another are not reached in normal use. If the depth of use is too shallow, then you might need to bring these features to the customer’s attention or consider ways to make the features more readily accessible.
Product use can also be determined by how easy a customer can get to their goals. An efficient product experience can help avoid underutilization, such as is the case with infrequent, narrow, and shallow use. Efficiency also helps avoid user frustration, which often leads to product failure. A product should deliver the results that a customer anticipates, and customers should not have to go through too many hoops to experience value. An efficient product has a great product experience because time is not wasted. From a product design standpoint, efficiency is a great way to ensure “quick wins” and take advantage of “low hanging fruit” — two customer success buzzwords that quickly translate to positive experiences.
SaaS companies can measure efficiency by connecting some simple metrics to common workflows. For example, the completion rate of onboarding or new feature activation can shed light on a product’s efficiency. Your product may provide excellent results, but if the interface is so frustrating that users drop off, then redesign or improved user education may be in order.
Product success also looks beyond efficiencies and use frequency, breadth, and depth. The overall product experience must be pleasant, easy to use, and aligned with customer desires. In other words, the product should feature:
- Simple design. Eliminate unnecessary user actions, and your customers will enjoy logging in and getting to work.
- Functionality. Do all of the features on your product work precisely as you want? If not, take them down and keep them off the product until they work optimally. Features should be validated and tested, so you know how well they function.
- Customer-focused features. A product’s features should be relevant to customer needs.
Creating a great user experience requires communication with prospective and current customers. Be willing to make changes when customer success dictates a different approach. Build a company culture that embraces change, while being sure not to alter the features that your customers love.
To maximize use, get frequent feedback on features. Customer feedback can also provide benefits for a SaaS company beyond improving user experience. Knowing your customers’ level of satisfaction with your product can help you anticipate renewals. Customers have more choices today. If they do not like your product, they do not have to waste their time explaining their reasons why. They will move on, and if you are not engaging with customers to determine their level of satisfaction, you will not know the reason for churn. Customer satisfaction is a clear indicator of product success and should be an ongoing goal not only to keep clients satisfied but to hone in on what that means to your customers.
Net promoter score
Satisfied customers not only continue to use a product, but they also become product evangelists. They sing your praises to others. Referrals are the ultimate sign of product success. If your product is not enjoyable to use, takes too long to provide value, or leaves customers unsatisfied, no one is going to refer other businesses to it. Net promoter score (NPS) is a metric that gauges how likely your customers are to refer others to your product. It may be the most important way to measure your product’s effectiveness.
Measure NPS through periodic customer surveys. More importantly, use the NPS score to take action. If there are too few promoters, ask follow-up questions to identify why. SaaS companies looking to improve product success should leverage metrics to keep tabs on customer activity and sentiment.
SmartKarrot provides simple and easy to use dashboard that provides full visibility into customer use of products and their satisfaction.