Adoption — The most critical stage in your customer success journey

Get it right and have a customer for life. Get it wrong and feel the churn.

The customer journey when it comes to SaaS offerings is expansive and unending. It begins when you first pop up on their radar. Maybe they stumbled across your website, maybe you hit them with a targeted email. The day they find out who your company is and that you can provide them something they‘re looking for, the journey begins. It continues through the entirety of the sales cycle, and after close it moves into a perpetual cycle of renewal that (hopefully) extends into eternity. However, that journey can end abruptly the day they replace your product with a competitor’s and churn.

Adoption begins the day the customer’s PO processes (in fact many companies have begun to treat prospects to the same adoption process as paying customers to the effect of increased conversions). The reason this phase is so critical is that it often determines what role your product will play in the customer’s organization for the lifetime of their subscription. It serves as an opportunity to make your product an important foundation in the customer’s day to day operation.

So what qualifies as “getting it right” when it comes to customer adoption?

One of the biggest keys to adoption involves learning. An intuitive product is great, but never assume your product is so simple that anyone can pick it up and run with it, especially if you expect adoption of this product to include a demographic that may not be tech savvy.

You may think time spent creating content for learning is a big cost with little money tied back to it, but the monetary value of helping your customers learn is real. Here’s some tips to get started:

Provide live interactive learning sessions
Many people need the opportunity to have a conversation in order to learn. An hour on the phone may save you months of back and forth emails. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending one on one time with every customer. It may be sufficient to offer scheduled one to many training sessions where customers can come and go as they please. Come prepared with key training points, but don’t be afraid to let the customer steer the discussion toward where they are having the most trouble.

Provide “canned” content for the DIYers
Some prefer to have the opportunity to access content at their convenience rather than being required to schedule a specific block of time. There are plenty of LMS tools that help provide a remarkable experience in this realm, but a simple YouTube playlist can also suffice. Keep the videos short (typically 5 mins as an absolute max) and to the point. Make sure the titles clearly communicate the content that will be provided in the video. Also make sure to keep your content up to date with your product. If the videos become dated your customers will stop relying on them and your effort will become wasted energy.

Use targeted email campaigns to keep your product at the forefront of the customer’s mind
The adoption phase is the closest you will ever be to having your customer’s undivided attention. Trickling relevant informative e-mails to your customers during this period helps ensure the customer gets the information they need to realize the full value of the product and may as a secondary benefit increase attention to your other adoption offerings. Give a customer the low down on a critical feature. Provide a side by side comparison of a competitor’s product to convince the customer it’s time to kick the other product to the curb. Remind the customer exactly where they need to go if they want help or have any questions. Keeping the lines of communication open and healthy is a continual process but success leads to brand loyalty which is priceless. That said, inundating a customer with useless or wordy emails may have the opposite effect and ensure your outreaches wind up in the junkmail folder.

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Education is certainly a key part of adoption that can’t be overlooked, but you’d also be well served to measure and observe your customers to make sure they aren’t limping out of the gate.

Measuring your customer can mean a lot of different things, generally tying back to the idea of leveraging your collected customer data strategically. You shouldn’t need advanced metrics or statisticians to tell you what the most important features of your product are. These features were probably what sold your product in the first place. Either calculate what the average usage rate of these features are based on your collected data, or if you don’t have any data around features, estimate it anecdotally based on conversations with your customers. If a customer falls behind the average, it’s time to give them some extra attention. A phone call is ideal, but a simple email may remind the customer to give your product additional face time. It may also uncover the blocker preventing your customer from using the product to it’s full potential. In either case it’s infinitely easier to address issues in the adoption phase than it is later as the customer approaches renewal. By that time typically the customer has already decided you can’t meet their needs.

Renewal is the name of the game in the world of SaaS. While you may think getting that first signed PO from a customer paves the way to clear skies, it actually kicks off what may be the most critical phase when it comes to securing recurring revenue for years to come. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and if you miss your target in adoption you may face a long (sometimes unending) uphill battle with your customer.