Software Providers: Be Customer Centric or Suffer the Consequences
Customers have the power—the power that used to belong to software businesses back when the perpetual (license plus maintenance) revenue model reigned supreme. While the perpetual model still prevails in enterprise software today, its dominance is fading now that the digital age has ushered in the software-as-a-service (SaaS), or “subscription,” model, which allows companies the convenience of signing up for an externally hosted service—vs. building and hosting their own. What’s more, short-term SaaS contracts (typically one or three years) give companies free range to explore other options.
Now that SaaS has taken hold, companies can no longer bank on locked-in customers. This evolution has wrought a huge change in how brands interact with customers to gain and retain their patronage.
The most notable aspect of this change is that customers have a voice—and companies that fail to listen to it do so at their own peril.
Listen to Your Customers to Gain Valuable Insights
In today’s customer-centric market, businesses must engage in effective listening, which involves data collection, organization and analysis, to understand and address their buyers’ core needs.
The companies that do this best are gaining a competitive edge. For example, successful organizations like Uber and Airbnb gather near real-time data straight from customers who are asked to rate their experiences at the end of every trip. These ratings then play a pivotal role when it comes to the quality and safety measures they undertake
Even greater insights can be gained from tracking and monitoring customer actions. On your website, for example, you can track metrics—such as how long visitors stay on your site, what links they click, and what content they share on social media—to help you hone in on customer needs and identify their behavior patterns.
Contact centers have the perfect means to pinpoint customer issues with products and services since customers come to them with complaints and requests for information. Companies can use revelations about likes/dislikes, demands and common product use cases to fine-tune what they put on the market.
How Software Businesses Are Listening and Learning
Just as the consumer world has re-oriented around the customer, effective leaders in the software industry have realized that they need to take a more active role facilitating seamless end-to-end customer experiences. To help their clients get more value from products and services, these forward-thinking executives have created positions in their organizations for customer coaches—or customer success managers.
These individuals are tasked with building strong relationships with customers. Their services include education and advocacy, including relaying customer feedback and concerns internally to the organization. The customer input delivered is then used to inform changes to products and services to ensure an ongoing exceptional customer experience.
The customer success role is a strategic one, as it focuses on helping individual customers get the maximum value out of provider solutions, the ultimate objective being customer retention.
The idea is to offer a very personalized experience. For example, at Zang all of our customers experience the same onboarding process, within which they’re introduced to the company’s resources and tools for successfully installing our products. I introduce myself, as the customer success leader, and the entire team, including technical support, and provide our contact information so they can reach us if they have any issues.
Additional customer success initiatives we recommend based on our experience include:
- Frequent status calls and check-ins to ensure the client is taking full advantage of products
- Surveys to rate performance and provide feedback along the way
- Automated health reports to outline the customer’s software usage
- Open conversations about improving usage to optimize product value
We’ve found that the customer experience is best when we are proactive, so we monitor usage on the back end. We reach out if we notice any low usage levels. We set alerts to track frequent calls into technical support so we can determine where extra support is needed—and then verify that issues have been resolved to the client’s liking.
Overall, the goal of the customer success leader role is to implement actionable processes that make the customer happy. Since software is now delivered on a subscription model, switching vendors is very easy. Providers need to protect against this by ensuring that clients derive optimal value from their products.
Let Zang technology help you communication-enable your processes. We have an open API architecture and a 100 percent cloud-based communications platform. Our Customer Success Team will work with you to ensure that the customer experience you offer your customers is beyond reproach.