— January 29, 2019
At some point during your career working for a SaaS business, you will unfortunately come across a situation where the client wants a financial compensation. The reasons for this can come from a number of places, but often come from failure in the technology that has caused financial stress to the client. Perhaps online advertising campaigns could not be launched, or a key feature of the software has been deprecated, or an API outage has created a mess and a huge backlog of work. Regardless of what it is, no-one wants to be writing credit notes back to the client.
Aside from the pure financial reimbursement, compensation shows a level of goodwill and understanding to your client, and provides an admission that “yeah, we messed up”. That said, what does anyone really get from this financial credit? For a large Enterprise client, the monetary value of the credit is probably tiny, it won’t benefit the individuals involved, and it’s unlikely to make a difference to any operational functions.
So if you don’t want to write a cheque, what other options does a Customer Success leader have as a show of goodwill?
One option that has worked exceedingly well for me personally in the past, was to offer the client a trip to our overseas HQ to spend time with our C-Suite, Product and Technical teams. We created a 2.5 day agenda that allowed the client to go into depth around some of the challenges they face at the present time, but also what they see coming up in the future. We were able to present our long-term development ambitions back to them, and identified a number of areas of overlap. To many of you, that might just sound like a typical roadmap session, but the difference here was:
- We had significantly more time to really talk and explore challenges and opportunities, and
- As we had Developers and not just Product in the room, the conversation could go into some granularity around potential solutions.
Couple this with some fantastic hospitality and social events and you really have a great offsite.
If you are based in the same city as your client, think about hosting it in a remote location which allows for both the working meetings, but also great hospitality and social opportunities. “Segways down the beachfront anyone?”
Crisis is now an Opportunity
What was originally a crisis that had the attention of your Senior Management team, has now become a fantastic opportunity to build a much deeper relationship with your client. Whilst Developers will get to learn of clients general challenges, this is mostly via the Product team which can become filtered or slightly misunderstood. Developers typically don’t always understand some of the nuances of particular verticals either; so being able to spend a good number of hours in the room with a client is highly valuable. This can help create development ideas that may never have come to the surface, or just as importantly, remove ideas that weren’t that well aligned in the first place.
Other options you have is to give something for free. Nobody likes the word ‘free’ at a SaaS company but remember this is instead of offering a pure financial credit which your CFO definitely won’t like. Do you have a ‘premium’ version of your platform you can upgrade your client on to? Can you add more seat licenses into their existing package? Can you invite them onto a Proof of Concept feature early, or bring them into your Client Advisory Board?
Whilst some of these options are basically discounts, they get more users into your platform. More platform users can lead to a number of advantages; more product feedback, future expansions, opening new territories etc. If you do take this route, be sure to maximise those opportunities that come from it.
It also goes without saying you need to learn from the event that caused the initial issue. If the problem was internal, don’t point fingers, instead take time to understand what the challenges were and what steps you need to take to prevent it happening again. If the issue was external re-assess your risk mitigation process and adapt as necessary.
In summary, giving compensation is never a great scenario to be in, but try to get the best out of it you can and support your client as appropriate. If your client is a true ‘partner’, they will be more understanding than you think, just make sure you build on the relationship and minimize the chances of the same issue happening again.