Service companies measure lost customers in terms of churn rate. No matter what you call it, it costs money. To retain customers, you have to continually provide what they want. Otherwise, the service has no special value. Here are some guidelines for understanding what your SaaS customers look for.
1. Customer Engagement
If a customer sees using your service as a positive experience, that’s positive engagement. For engagement to happen, the customer’s time and money invested in your product should be creating gains. If a customer begins to feel that your product isn’t providing sufficient value, they’ll likely abandon it. If your service is no longer an important tool to a subscriber, they won’t continue paying. It only takes a short period of non-use before a customer starts to ask: “Why are we paying for something we don’t need?”
There must be some built-in mechanism for tracking usage and generating alerts. Whatever the method used, it’s important to solicit feedback. Each unique customer wants value on their terms. You must find a way to bring the customer’s time and attention back to your product.
2. Flexible Payments
Credit cards typically expire every three years. This means that a third or more of your card subscriptions could be expiring every year. Your customer database should flag all credit cards that are due to expire in say, 60 days, so you have time to inform your customers that they need to update their billing information. Because some companies may enforce penalties like cancellation or blocking for minor violations and the cardholder isn’t even aware of this. A brilliant idea would be for you to partner with a credit card company. For example, the Exxon Mobile account online gives users more control over their money and many other benefits your business could be a part of.
Bottom line here is: keep customers happy by providing a grace period for payments, and be willing to accept alternatives, such as PayPal, debit cards, electronic checks, and so forth, even as a temporary measure.
3. Service Means Service
Customer services is as much a part of the value you provide as the software is. SaaS sales cycles are typically short, which is what the customer wants. Ensure that your customers receive efficient deployment and configuration. People want business operations to go on flowing with minimal disruptions. Ensuring that will be one of things that customers appreciate most, and thus one of your best selling points.
Think scalability. Customers want a solution that will grow as demand for it grows. Don’t make a difficult process of adding additional users or functions. Renegotiating or reassessments shouldn’t be necessary; the ability to do these things simply and quickly should already be built into your product.
In the same way updates and upgrades should be a process that causes minimal disruption. Doing these things efficiently and smoothly not only gives you customers the service they want, but every customer interaction gives you the chance to upsell. Good customer service should be looked upon as an opportunity, not a sacrifice.
4. Improve Features
Over time, you’re likely to find that some of your SaaS features are more in demand than others. When you can see that this is what’s happening, devote some time to improving these features. When you can make the strongest and most popular features of your product even stronger, you’re giving your customer what they want. They are getting even greater value where they need it most, and are less likely to cancel service.
Customers that rely heavily on one particular feature make it a part of their daily workflow. They become more dependent on this and more engaged with your product. Part of that engagement is the user experience; making those favorite features more robust and user-friendly creates greater value.
5. Provide Incentives
Another way to improve appreciation for the services you provide is give customers a little gift here and there. These are especially useful if they come as a surprise or with a little excitement. People expect that incentives are a normal part of marketing, but a pleasant surprise for existing customers can create much more positive reactions than can be measured in terms of cost.
In one test, restaurant customers left 23 percent higher tips after receiving unexpected perks, even if it was just a mint. Customers who feel they’re getting special treatment will be more engaged. Moreover, unexpected bonuses are the kind of experience more people are apt to share with others. The anticipation of these little surprise gifts becomes a great part of your brand recognition.
Think about what kind of surprises SaaS customers will want. Choose something that’s economical to you but valuable to customers. You might consider adding a free feature, providing extra storage, offering holiday or seasonal discounts, or a month of free service. Some things may be more significant to certain customers, depending on individual requirements. Small gifts are more meaningful when they come as a surprise. Learning to use this as part of your regular business strategy is something that can keep customers coming back.
6. Be Transparent
What customer don’t want is unpleasant surprises. Unexpected charges or lapses in everyday concerns like security, data integrity, and service interruptions immediately create cynics. Most people still regard any kind of activity on the cloud as more exposed to security risks. Many prospective customers are skeptical of SaaS services because they see them as disproportionately costly, given these concerns. After all, apart from initial development costs, how difficult or costly is it to sell access to a piece of software? Customers who feel they aren’t getting the value they expected will most probably cancel.
One thing you can do to protect yourself from this attitude is to be completely transparent about what you provide. Give your customers ample communication about downtime or contract changes, and access to resources allowing them to see exactly what they’re getting and where their money goes. When you’re providing full transparency, you’re creating greater trust. If customers feel that they’re faith in you is misplaced, they’ll go elsewhere.
7. Exceptional Service
For SaaS customers, subscription services are a convenience they can utilize. But primarily, it’s still a service. Earning their loyalty is about providing value by giving them what they want. They want to do business with a service that is exceptional, not just adequate. For your part, that comes down to creating in them the confidence that they’re getting not the best bargain, but the highest level of service.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
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