Customer success teams in the SaaS industry are becoming more and more data-driven. Ask any team leader which customer is happiest with your product and they’ll sprout off figures that prove their answer. How do they choose what they track though? Why those things? Why focus on numbers at all?
Why? It’s simple: Numbers don’t lie--but they can deceive if you’re not careful about what you’re looking at.
Startups often face the difficult decision of when to launch a customer success team. It’s a hot topic. Do you wait until later down the line when you have a ton of customers, or do you establish the team early on to get ahead? In order to decide what’s right for your team, you have to think about what you want customer success to accomplish.
So what is “customer success”exactly? I keep going back to a definition by Lincoln Murphy, a customer success and growth thought leader.
“Customer Success – a proactive, holistic, and organization-level approach that leverages technology and real-enough-time visibility into customer health (not just usage data, but any contextual inputs) to ensure your customers – including those who directly use (users, administrators, etc.) and those who benefit from the use of your product – continually and increasingly receive value from your product over the course of their lifetime as a customer.” - Sixteen Ventures
When many teams starting out with data collection think about tracking data, there’s this underlying assumption that the information they pull is going to make sense right away- that once data begins being collected the answers will simply present themselves.
While it may be true that collecting key information from your first few customers is important, customer insights takes time. What you start looking for will change as you scale your product and team.
If the overall goal of customer success is to track customer health and predict churn, what data will help you get there? Where do you start?
We started our team by looking at what we want it to accomplish. What was our goal? Customer success at Help has found that it makes sense to start looking at our data in two categories: Customer Identity and User Behavior.
Our Customer Success Manager tracks the following:
Who is our customer? We wrote about how it’s possible to gauge the customer identity before you really have customers, but now you have the data. Now you have the chance to pinpoint who they are.
Note: knowing who your customer is is hugely important, especially understanding where your quickest successes are coming from in the early days. Don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed by those early indicators, your ideal customer will change over time.
User behavior is probably the most complicated (but important) thing to track. Why? Because each customer uses the product differently.
When teams develop a product, there will always be underlying assumptions about how users end up using it. Once customers begin to truly dive into your product, they often use it in novel ways that the team never expected. They might make more use of a feature that your team didn’t think was too important, or they might never use a feature that your team thought would be really valuable for users.
We ran into this with our “home screen”. We thought that having a home screen when users first logged in to Chat would be really helpful. It provides some helpful shortcuts and instructions that we believed our customers would benefit from. In reality, it just isn’t something that our customers really use.
The result? We adjusted our product, so that when users now log in, they are taken to either the real time dashboard or to the chat tab- where the real action happens.
Our team tracks certain customer actions that help us determine engagement and different use cases. This list will look very different depending on your product (helpdesks would focus more on ticket engagement), but these are the actions that we at Help find the most valuable.
Whether you’re a team of one just starting out, or a larger team with a high ticket volume and a more structured workflow, knowing what to track can help you determine value early on. From staffing needs to product growth, numbers matter.
You have to start somewhere. We track the following to prepare for growth and provide value to our customers and team.
Overall what you track and focus on is hugely dependent on what your goals are. If you’re new to using customer data like this then start by picking three things you think are important and beginning to track them. Over time you may add new data, subtract old data, and change how you look at things but taking the step to focus on certain behaviors is a great start to building a data driven customer success culture.
Is your team just starting out? What do you measure?
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