— May 20, 2019
In the world of SaaS products, there are plenty of ups and downs. Every product goes through the process of checks and balances, and sometimes there are more downs than ups. Just because you have a ‘failing’ product doesn’t mean it’s time to pack up shop. Instead, this could be the perfect opportunity to revamp and refocus your go-to-market strategy. If your product is struggling to keep up with industry demands, it’s time to seek help from the audience that is working with your product every single day: your customers.
Three Ways Your Customers Can Help Your Turn Around a Failing Product
If there are problems with your product, your go-to-market, or the value of your product, then your customers will probably know about it. There are a few ways that your customers can actually help set your product on the right path to success:
1. Ask for Feedback – Continually
Asking customers for direct feedback is par for the course for customer success managers (CSMs), but asking them to help solve direct issues isn’t as common. If your customers are the ones bringing up issues or are directly impacted by the holes in your product, ask them what they think could be done better. Talk about where they’re seeing the most value and where the product could be improved. This isn’t the time to mince words or skirt the issues at hand.
Be direct, transparent, and honest. Telling your customers what you’re trying to do (improve your product) and why you’re doing it (because you want to deliver more value) can help encourage both sides to be upfront and honest about the downfalls and the opportunities.
2. Define and Pay Attention to the Customer Success Leading Indicator
Mark Rorberge, former Chief Revenue Officer of Hubspot and Harvard Lecturer, was on the stage at SaaStr Annual 2019 talking about an awesome concept called the “Customer Success Leading Indicator.” You can listen to his presentation here. It is game changing for SaaS companies in my opinion. Your customer success indicator needs to be observable in weeks or months. Here are a few examples that Mark Rorberge mentions in his presentation:
Slack: Slack’s customer success leading indicator is 2,000 team messages sent.
Dropbox: Dropbox’s customer success leading indicator is 1 file add to 1 folder on 1 device.
Hubspot: Hubspot’s customer success leading indicator is using 5 of 20 features in 60 days.
Churn is a lagging indicator and a silent killer. Defining and measuring a customer success leading indicator will help your entire business rally around decreasing the amount of time it takes for a client to achieve the customer success leading indicator. Mark Rorberge discusses a new focus for product managers and software engineers, they would study customers that do not achieve the customer success indicator with 90 days. They would align short team product enhancements around these observations with the goal to deliver.
3. Use Beta Solutions as a Way to Test New Features
Many times, having a failing product that is falling short of customer expectations is the perfect time to make sure you are learning and making changes that drive a positive impact. If your team has loyal customers who are willing to work with you on a new idea, then you can develop a new beta solution with their issues in mind. If your team realized that the way your product is being used isn’t the best use of your platform, talk to a long-term, loyal customer about a new workflow or value proposition. While this shouldn’t require too much training or implementation on the customer’s side (since you would be using your existing platform) it would help solve a new problem or answer a new question for the customer.
Working through a beta solution requires trust, transparency, and teamwork between a customer and a SaaS team. Instead of coming to the customer with a solution fully baked, your customer would be working directly with your team to plan, develop, and implement this solution.
The Bottom Line: Practice Transparency and Face Issues Head On
Sometimes, SaaS companies are hesitant to bring up areas of contention or problems with customers because they don’t want to draw attention to their failings. Sorry to be the bearer of hard truth, but your customers have probably already noticed these issues. By asking current customers for feedback, analyzing customer metrics for answers, or talking about new potential areas for growth, your team can actually help reverse any negative feelings or sentiments that your customers are feeling. Instead of sweeping issues under the rug and just hoping customers don’t bring them up, your team will have the upper hand by actually focusing on these areas.