Situational Product Conversations for Success Professionals in SaaS

I’m willing to bet that when you saw the topic of “Talking Product with Customers”, the first idea that popped into your head had to do with the features versus benefits paradigm. While benefits are extremely valuable in the sales process and QBRs, when it comes to existing customers it’s often necessary to shift the conversation back to features. Unless the benefits of your solution are easily recognized without much product interaction, gathering and acting on roadblocks are essential to long-term satisfaction. What follows are three times you should engage on a more tactical level about your product. 

When everything is going well:

Many CSMs will only ask product-based questions when issues arise. It’s equally, if not more, valuable to do a pulse check on usability when a customer has hit their stride. When value is being recognized from your applications, it is likely being used often, meaning that the users have insightful feedback on potential improvements. Ultimately your organization wants more of these customers, so take their feedback seriously. A side benefit of having conversations now is that you’ll be given time to act on requests. A trust exists between you and your end users so they are more likely to be patient if their requests go unacted upon in the short term. This can, however, be a double-edged sword if no action is ever taken, so make sure future plans are explicit and followed. 

When value is being recognized from your applications, it is likely being used often, meaning that the users have insightful feedback on potential improvements. Ultimately your organization wants more of these customers, so take their feedback seriously.

When usage is low:

Always pull usage metrics before discussing a product with customers, whether attempting to increase engagement or upsell. In the case of low usage, ask as many questions as possible to understand the product breakdown. Resist the urge to tell the customer how easy things are to use if they would just give the product a shot because you’re essentially saying they are the problem. If you’re attempting an upsell and you see a lack of engagement, abort those plans immediately. Pitching a new or unused offering in your product suite will only confuse the conversation and add an additional item to an already crowded plate. Imagine a gym you’re not going to pitching you on a bigger monthly package with classes included. The mission in this case should be to determine what’s preventing you from going to the gym and then later pitch classes when you’re actually working out.

After a competitor switch:

If a customer is switching from a competitor, product understanding is key. The value of the solution is already set in the mind of the customer, they just need a cheaper/easier/better solution. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say Google was trying to get me to exclusively use Sheets instead of Excel. (I know Google would not care about my feedback but let’s suspend disbelief and imagine they care). Everytime I have ever tried to do something in Sheets, such as a pivot table, I’m immediately confused as how to accomplish what I need. It’s MUCH easier for me to download the file and manipulate the data in Excel, even though similar functionality exists in the alternative platform. If Google was to engage with me and move a few buttons around, I might become more inclined to use its product more regularly. The same is true for me when it comes to NetSuite (current user) versus SalesForce (past user). I have extremely specific product needs/requests from being a CRM power user and often struggle to find somebody at Netsuite with which to have tactical conversations.

Hopefully the above scenarios can help guide when to engage in product-based conversations. With features versus benefits drilled to your head, it can be easy to ignore the importance of product to a customer relationship. To be effective in Customer Success these conversations must be had at the right times and will help create long-term customer satisfaction.


Scott Berry is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. He is currently the Director of Customer Success at VS Networks.

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