How to Translate a B2B Customer Journey Map into a Survey Strategy

Creating a customer journey map is the first step toward designing a superior customer experience (CX) that drives end-user growth. Rather than rushing in and narrowly focusing on a single touchpoint to measure success, a customer journey map helps you evaluate the journey as a whole—providing a bird’s-eye view of the experience your brand delivers. 

So You’ve Already Mapped Out the Customer Journey! What’s Next? 

The urgent question then becomes, how do you take that big picture view and start asking your customers about their experience? 

To move forward, you need to figure out which specific touchpoints you want to study, which metrics you want to gather, what questions you want to ask, and which channels are the most effective to collect that data.

Your customers are more than willing to tell you about the bottlenecks in their journey, but you’ll want to be thoughtful in your approach. So, before you start sending out surveys, think through your voice of customer (VoC) strategy using your journey map as a guide.

That’s what this post is all about. It will help you develop a strategy for gathering feedback at key points within your customer journey so you can take actionable steps toward optimizing your customer experience. Now let’s get started!

When in the Customer Journey Should You Ask for Feedback?

Before you begin asking away, it’s important to determine which pivotal touchpoints (otherwise known as make-or-break moments) within the B2B customer journey are ideal times to gather feedback.

Just to clarify, we are giving you a general idea of when to ask these questions, but this is not a turnkey solution. Every company’s customer journey map looks different, and your approach to asking the right questions at the right time will differ. 

In fact, in all likelihood, you already have some sense of where the bottlenecks are in your customer journey and what needs improvement, so trust your intuition there. 

And if you’ve got any doubt? The following touchpoints represent good places to start. 

1. Onboarding Completion

Why is onboarding a make-or-break moment? Signing up for a new service always takes effort because you’re asking new customers to open their minds, learn about your product, and make a change by integrating your product into their lives. The more seamless you can make this stage, the more likely you are to gain a loyal customer.

2. Support Interaction

Why are support interactions make-or-break moments? We often think of customer support as its own thing, but it’s a vital part of the customer journey. The bane of product-led growth is friction, and by definition, a support interaction is a point of friction. No matter how usable your product is, some people will struggle with it. 

Asking for feedback after a support case is closed will give you feedback on how your support team is doing. This will help determine resources support may need to speed customers through this touchpoint, identify bugs and usability issues, and draw attention to possible feature improvements.  

3. Product Experience (Usually In-App)

Why is product use a make-or-break moment? This feedback will tell you what’s working as anticipated and what needs to be reconsidered. Customer feedback can and should influence your roadmap and guide the prioritization of development resources. Plus, SaaS companies are always trying out new features, and there’s no better time to survey your customers about those features than at the very moment they’re using them.

4. First Experience of Value and/or Pre-Renewal (Loyalty Check)

Why is the incomplete and/or pre-renewal experience a make-or-break moment? After a user has been up and running for a bit, they should be experiencing the benefits of using your product and services. It’s time to make sure they are. Asking for feedback at this touchpoint is meant to surface all kinds of things about their relationship with you (that you won’t hear after a support interaction, for example). Product, service, pricing, you name it. A survey response might give you the opportunity to fix an issue you didn’t know about and retain their business. And make sure to ask again pre-renewal to make sure your relationship is still on the right track.

How Might Your Approach Vary Depending on Your Business Model? 

Let’s say you’ve got a self-serve product where customers get started quickly and they can see your product’s value upfront. In that case, it makes sense to ask the loyalty question (Net Promoter Score) early on in the customer journey because they’ve reached a point where they understand your value proposition. 

On the other hand, if you send in consultants who spend weeks or more helping your enterprise users get up to speed with your product, you’ll probably want to wait a while to send that first NPS survey.

Just make sure that, whenever you ask the question, it makes sense to do so at that time. For example, asking someone how they feel about a new feature (PSAT) when they’re not currently using that feature makes no sense. Instead, ask them about the feature using an in-app survey, while they’re engaging the product. And of course, you wouldn’t want to ask someone about a support experience they had weeks earlier. Use common sense and put yourself in the customers’ shoes to deliver surveys that flow with their experience. 

Remember: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, and Neither Is a Mature CX Program 

Companies don’t generally implement voice of customer surveys at multiple journey points all at once—they roll out gradually, sometimes over 2-3 years. They might do one, then add another 6+ months later. A helpful tip is to start with the touchpoint that will give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of learning, retention, and driving Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

So What Questions Do You Ask?

When gathering voice of customer data, the most common feedback questions revolve around the things that drive product-led growth—like ease of use, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. With this in mind, the following metrics can help you assess these elements at key touchpoints: Customer Effort Score, Customer or Product Satisfaction, and Net Promoter Score. You’ll typically want to follow the rating question with an open-ended one asking the customer to explain the reasoning behind their score.

Now, you may be wondering: why not simply make up your own customer feedback questions tailored to your business, products, and customer experience? It may be tempting, but these metrics will give you a benchmark and scores that you can monitor over time to track whether you’re improving. 

Need a Few More Reasons to Use Standard Metrics? 

It’s much easier to get internal buy-in when using tried-and-true metrics employed by companies around the world. People can waste countless hours arguing over what questions to ask, but using established metrics can instantly end that debate. 

These metrics are also extendable and extensible. In other words, you can extend the same questions to different products and features without reinventing the wheel. This makes it easier to roll out a CX program across a portfolio of products and brands. 

And finally, these established metrics will stand the test of time, surviving personnel changes. Simply put, it’s an evergreen survey strategy.

Note: If you’re not 100% familiar with each of these surveys, don’t worry—here is a primer on how these CX metrics all work together. 

What are the Metrics You Ought to Consider Tracking? 

Choose your metric based on what you want to learn, and whether it will make sense to your customer in context. Remember, a survey is part of your customer’s experience. 

What Is the Customer Effort Score (CES)? 

Customer Effort Score (CES) lets you know how much work it takes for customers to accomplish something (e.g., onboarding, solving a problem). 

CES surveys ask the customer “How easy was it to ________?”  and is scored on a numeric scale. It’s a metric that is used to improve systems that may otherwise frustrate customers.

As a CX metric, CES helps with that “ease of use” component that increases Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). And while there’s no standard format for CES surveys, they usually look like a 5- or 7-point scale asking how easy it was for a customer to achieve whatever goal they were trying to accomplish. Take a look at our post about how to use CES to evaluate your onboarding experience for more details. 

What Is Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)? 

SaaS companies typically use CSAT surveys to get a read on specific interactions, such as a recently closed support ticket or a fresh purchase. You can format your CSAT survey as a numeric scale (e.g., 5- or 7-point). You’ll typically want to follow the rating question with an open-ended one asking the customer to explain their score. 

What Is Product Satisfaction (PSAT)? 

A Product Satisfaction (PSAT) survey measures customer satisfaction with your product or a specific feature, and you’ll often ask it with an in-app survey. Like CSAT, it’s flexible and you can ask the question in a variety of formats (binary +/- or on a 5- or 7-point scale). 

What Is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) 

There’s an excellent chance you’re already conducting NPS surveys at regular intervals, and that’s great! By combining NPS data with other key metrics listed here, you can get a good sense of the customer experience you offer across the entire journey. If you aren’t already using NPS, ask it after your customer has had a chance to experience value from your product or ask it prior to renewal.  Both are good times to assess user loyalty.

Net Promoter Score measures brand loyalty, and unlike the other three metrics listed, it follows a standard format, which allows you to compare your results against industry leaders in your field. The standard NPS question asks: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” 

That NPS question should always be followed by an open-ended question asking respondents why they gave you the score they did. You will then use their answers to (1) have a customer service agent or a success manager follow up with the detractors to try to fix the problem and (2) use the response to improve your customer experience.

Remember: Less Is More

Have you ever taken a “brief” survey that stretched on far longer than promised? Most customers don’t want to take 3-4 minute surveys, and you can reduce friction and improve your survey response rate by using microsurveys. 

Let people write a novel in response to your open-ended questions, that’s great—you’ll learn a lot from them! But put yourself in your customers’ shoes and keep your surveys short and sweet, gathering a relevant metric upfront. 

Which Distribution Channels Should You Use to Gather Feedback?

Emails, SMS, and in-app surveys are the three main survey channels typically used to gather customer feedback on a post-acquisition journey. Once again, use common sense and think about the channel that makes the most sense for the user. Product experience, as mentioned above, is almost always best asked through in-app surveys at the moment they’re in your platform or app. Support experience is often assessed with an email survey. SMS can be a great channel for gathering feedback if you’re already communicating with customers via phone—for example, following up on a cable technician’s visit.

Just like the question of “when” to collect data, the question about how to distribute surveys will sometimes produce different answers based on your business model. For instance, if you’ve got a more complicated onboarding process where end-users interact with customer success a fair bit, they won’t be surprised to receive a survey via email. On the other hand, if you have a largely self-serve product where onboarding is straightforward, it makes sense to conduct the CES survey in-app.  

The best distribution channel can vary by touchpoint, so consider a multi-channel strategy. To start, determine the best survey channels for your business.

Understanding the Big Picture 

As you gather data and begin to analyze it, it’s important to remember that none of these metrics or the touchpoints they evaluate exist in isolation. The real secret to a successful CX strategy is to take a step back and look at the entire journey—understanding how it’s all interconnected. 

This is where it helps to have a cross-functional team, often led by someone with responsibility for CX operations, that can step back and look at an implementation plan. They can then unify all the data and connect information across the tech stack (e.g., Zendesk, Salesforce, Gainsight, InMoment. 

Without this holistic approach, it’s easy to develop departmental silos (where everyone focuses exclusively on their own touchpoints) and technological silos (e.g., the Sales team sees what’s in Salesforce, and the Customer Support team sees what’s in Zendesk, but nobody sees the big picture). 

Tasking a team with developing a big picture approach to evaluating the entire customer journey is an essential ingredient in creating a consistent customer experience. And a consistent, seamless, enjoyable experience will build loyalty and boost customer value in the months and years to come.

Do You Need a Customer Experience Operations Manager?

CX operations, or customer experience operations, is all about the systems, automation, and lines of communication that make possible a unified, cross-functional, customer journey approach to improving customer experience.  Do you need a CX operations manager dedicated to this effort? Let’s find out.

Getting customers to fall in love with your company requires understanding the entire customer journey—so you can deliver a seamless experience at every touchpoint. 

That’s not too tall an order if you are a young startup with only a handful of employees, all focused on customer experience (CX). After all, in those early stages, they have no choice but to study every step in the journey. By nature, a startup is all about the big picture. 

However, as SaaS companies begin to scale, they may face the same challenges as enterprises that are pushing toward digital transformation. CX efforts have become more specialized, and that’s when silos begin to form. Before you know it, you’ve got different departments using separate technologies and focusing on different metrics—fragmenting your understanding of the customer experience. 

That’s when it’s time to consider hiring or appointing a CX ops manager. At this point, you need someone who can break down those silos, unify your tech stack, and unite your directors, VPs, and business units in the ultimate goal of creating a friction-free, productive, and delightful user experience—from onboarding to renewal and advocacy.

(If this sounds a lot like the goal of product led growth, you are right. Learn more about the connection between product led growth and customer experience here.)

What Is a Customer Experience Operations Manager?

In order to understand what a CX ops Manager does—and why the role is so vital as companies scale—let’s picture a growing SaaS company that is considering adding this role. They’ve got a sales team focused on enterprise sales, a customer success team that largely spends its time making onboarding simple and straightforward, and a customer support team that’s available to fix problems. And of course, they’ve got a product team constantly working to improve their software with customers in mind.

Obviously, they have plenty of other departments, and each affects the customer experience to varying degrees (e.g., marketing, finance), but let’s focus on these four for the point of illustration. Each department has its own set of metrics, uses its own software, and focuses its attention on one specific leg of the customer journey. 

The issue? You’ve got four different departments using different technology to record different metrics and measure their own aspect of the customer journey. It’s like the old story about the blind men who discover an elephant in the forest. They each know only one part of the elephant—the part they can touch—so nobody can agree what an elephant is actually like. After all, they’re each focused on a different body part (the trunk, the body, the leg, the tail).

illustration of blind man and elephant fable by taz8

The role of a CX ops manager is to determine, implement, and refine the CX technology vision required to see the entire customer journey from the customer’s perspective. This role determines the best way to collect, analyze, and act on voice of customer data at key touchpoints across the customer journey. 

  • Determine how, technically, to monitor sentiment at critical touchpoints. For example, what system “knows” when a user is “onboarded”? How can that data be used to trigger a request for feedback? In what customer experience management platform? 
  • Facilitate close-the-loop action. Enable stakeholders to respond to customer feedback quickly by moving feedback into the systems they use everyday. 
  • Democratize insight.  This can mean creating CX dashboards that provide stakeholders with the ability to monitor and research what they care about. 

Carmen Woo, Salesforce Solution Architect and Senior Application Engineer, holds the cross-functional CX technology vision at Glassdoor shares, “The InMoment  platform allows our Support team to segment feedback by agent and other relevant business drivers to uncover insights that contribute to optimizing our support function, and it can also reveal bottlenecks that are best addressed by improving product features or design.”

Learn how Glassdoor, DocuSign, Hubspot and other InMomentcustomers tackle CX operations in this article, How Tech Uses CX Metrics to Find Bottlenecks to Product Led Growth.

  • Define a single source of truth for the voice of the customer. This can include determining where data will be aggregated into a single VoC feedback hub for research into and across journey points.
  • Work with vendors and a cross-functional team to implement the technology vision. Often this happens in a phased project approach, touchpoint by touchpoint. 
  • Keep the focus on the big picture—to understand that the elephant is more than the trunk, the body, the leg, or the tail

Try as they might, individual departments have a hard time seeing the big picture since they’re so specialized (and are rarely incentivized by big picture metrics). That’s where the CXOps Manager enters the picture.

What Kind of Background Should a CX Operations Manager Have?

We’ve seen a wide range of candidates succeed in the role of CX ops—from Salesforce Administrators to Senior Sales Ops professionals to Customer Success leaders. Even product marketing folks have successfully led CX ops efforts. It makes sense that good CX ops people would come from different backgrounds, since this role is about as cross-functional as it gets.

What we can tell you is that there are certain qualities and skill sets, rather than specific career trajectories, that predict success in this role. 

4 Qualities to Look for in a CX Operations Manager

#1 Diplomacy and Negotiation Skills:

The person heading up CXOps must have some serious interpersonal skills, able to balance all the stakeholders’ needs and drives with the overarching goals and available resources. They’ll need to convince a range of departments—not just the customer-facing ones—just how vital these efforts are to the long term success of the company. 

They will lead team meetings, communicate strategies, and move projects forward while holding everyone to a timeline (including executives). On top of that, they must be able to obtain a clear mandate and buy-in from their C-suite sponsors (or the head of CX, at the very least). In other words, they must possess both empathy and assertiveness in spades.

#2 Deep Understanding of How the Tech Stack Works as a System:

Your various technology platforms (Zendesk, InMoment, Gainsight, Salesforce, Slack, Segment, etc.) need to work together as a system. Otherwise, your information silos stay intact and your customer journey remains fragmented. 

On top of that, they’ll need to find the gaps in your current capabilities and identify solutions to fill them. Sometimes this involves purchasing entirely new systems, other times it’s simply a matter of integrating what you’re currently working with. Usually, it’s a bit of both.

#3 Project Management Mastery:

Your CX ops manager will need some serious project management chops, including the ability to plan out timelines and budgets end-to-end (and get everybody to stick to them). They also need to know how to purchase from vendors without using an RFP.

#4 A Strong Understanding of Procurement:

“Let’s spend more money on systems just because we can!” Said no executive, ever. 

Executives have grown wary of new B2B software that promises to solve all their problems, and middle-management is rarely overjoyed at the prospect of retraining staff on new platforms. That said, sometimes the current systems don’t cut it, and it’s up to the CX ops manager to understand the tradeoffs when evaluating new technology and delivering an integrated system that gets the job done.

Use Case: What a Fully-Integrated CX Initiative Looks Like

Every integrated CX initiative will look different depending on your existing technology, current integrations, and where you are in your growth cycle. That said, the following is a bird’s eye view of a solid CX initiative, and it should help get you started.

We’ll assume you have created a customer journey map and can tell your CX ops manager the make-or-break touchpoints that you want to optimize. You’ll also be responsible for forming a cross-functional team of stakeholders that are committed to improving the journey and to supporting the efforts of the CX ops manager. 

Technology Needs Assessment

The CX ops manager should meet with each stakeholder team to understand:

  • The technology they are using today
  • Their CX data needs. This goes beyond metrics. It includes the customer data each team needs to make data segmentation and analysis useful.  For example, support may need to associate customer satisfaction (CSAT) feedback with an agent. Success might need to know the user’s account, role, or pricing plan. Product may want to know how long a survey respondent has been a platform user.   

Gather Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) data (examples)

  • Relationship data: Gather Net Promoter Score (NPS) data in-app or via email, or wherever you interact with customers.
  • Onboarding data: Calculate Customer Effort Score (CES) from surveys  following the WalkMe onboarding tour (via Segment event data or Salesforce workflows)
  • Customer satisfaction data : Conduct CSAT surveys after Zendesk or Service Cloud case closures.
  • Product satisfaction data: Collect PSAT data after feature use (in-app) and after closing the loop on customer service interactions (in chat or via email)
  • Support tickets: The content of support inquiries is a source of VOC.
  • Reviews: What are customers saying about your on Capterra or G2?
  • Brand or user surveys: Any open-ended feedback from lengthy surveys.

Addressing Customer Pain Points and Closing the Loop

Strengthen the front line: Make it easy for teams to respond directly to customers by getting survey responses into the systems they live in. Populate the data in real time. For example, send InMoment survey responses to contact and account records in Salesforce for the sales team, to Intercom for Support, to Gainsight for Success or to Slack for the product team. 

Leverage your happiest customers: Send review and referral requests to promoters via Marketo, HubSpot, or another customer communication platform like Intercom

Big Picture Analysis

  • Create a roadmap: Allow qualitative feedback to drive your plan for CX improvement. Use it to understand the why behind the metrics, prioritize projects by predicting the potential impact on customer lifetime value. Build text analytics dashboards and reports that are customized for each team (support, success, Product, etc.) in your CXM platform. (Hint: InMoment can do this!)
  • Centralize your data: Build a central voice of customer (VoC) repository for deep analysis. This can mean augmenting customer journey feedback with support ticket content, online reviews, and brand surveys. 
  • Integrate CX into business analysis: Export metrics and metadata to the company’s data lake/business intelligence tool.
Note: It’s absolutely vital to use a CX management platform that integrates smoothly with new and existing systems. 

The Value of Executive Buy-in and Support

As you can see, the success of your integration efforts will rest largely on the shoulders of your new CX ops manager, who will have their finger on the pulse of the entire customer experience. They’ll connect departments that normally go days or weeks without interacting, so in order to set them up for success, they’ll need support from senior management.

Why is that so important? It’s all about in-group bias. It’s human nature to think of the world in terms of “us” vs. them,” or “our department” vs. “their department.” This potentially puts CX ops at odds with, well… literally every department they encounter—unless the executive sponsor puts those worried minds at ease.

With executive buy-in and support, the CX ops Manager will have the authority and credibility they need to suggest the (sometimes) sweeping changes that would otherwise produce fear and resentment in those who have grown comfortable in their silo. A supportive c-suite executive can assure skeptics that this is the natural evolution of their efforts to serve customers at every stage in the journey. In turn, this paves the way for long term growth and success for the organization as a whole.CX ops leaders chose InMoment for customer experience management. Book a consultative demo today.

CX Tipping Point: 7 Signs You Need Text & Sentiment Analytics

The potential for machine learning to elevate the customer experience has everyone buzzing. AI-powered text and sentiment analysis can be an incredible solution for specific problems that CX pros face. 

But how do you know when the time is right to move to the next level of CX? Are there new tools you can purchase to step your game up? How do you know they’ll be worth it? 

There are clear signs that your CX program is ready for, and your company could quickly benefit from, text and sentiment analysis. And we’ll delve into them here.

Before we get going, some definitions:

  • Text analysis takes qualitative customer comments and determines relevant themes. Software companies might see themes such as ‘feature request’, ‘bug’, or ‘pricing’. This allows you to quickly see what your customers are focusing on, and then dive in to see what they’re specifically saying about each topic.
  • Sentiment analysis offers micro and macro insights into how your customers are feeling about your company and products. It determines whether the text received for each text theme is positive, negative, or neutral. It also analyzes the comment as a whole, assigning sentiment to the entire verbatim text.

Let’s look at the 7 signs text and sentiment analytics will be worth the investment for your company. 

1. You have a mature or quickly-maturing CX program.

Those of you considering text and sentiment analytics probably already have a few key elements in place:

Now that you have a relatively mature CX program, you’re wondering how to extract even more value out of it.

2. You receive 500+ comments per month (or you’re headed there.)

Ideally, you want to listen to all of your customers – not just a sample or the first to respond. In reality, at a certain point the sheer volume of incoming customer feedback is more than a CX program can handle without an upgrade. You know this is the case when:

  1. You feel excitement and dread regarding the amount of feedback you receive.
  2. You’re anticipating a whole lot more comments soon.
  3. You’ve even had to cap the number of comments you receive in a day to avoid being overwhelmed with the task of organizing and responding to everyone.

Overwhelming amounts of feedback is an amazing problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Using text and sentiment analytics, you can turn unstructured qualitative feedback, like NPS comments, into organized insight in a matter of minutes.  

Text and sentiment analytics allow you to analyze customer feedback using Natural Language Processing, looking something like this:

Read Google’s case study on Wootric and Natural Language Processing here.

By combining text and sentiment analytics, you can search negative comments and quickly assess, for example, that 80% of your negative comments are about pricing. Or 45% of your customers in the Northeast region are talking about slow delivery times. That summary lets you know where to focus resources, and how quickly you need to make the change relative to other company priorities.

3. You’re sitting on a goldmine of feedback, but unable to get actionable insights.

Do you have a backlog of comments waiting to be read and sorted? Or maybe you’ve skimmed a few comments to answer the urgent ones, but you keep putting off the others.

One of our clients came to us with NPS survey comments from thousands of users. But rather than mining that information, they were running focus groups to prioritize feature requests because it was easier. They were duplicating efforts to get information they already had but couldn’t access and act on.

“The two biggest mistakes [in CX] are not doing qualitative research in the first place and then not putting it to use.” –Morgan Brown, Product Manager at Facebook and coauthor of ‘Hacking Growth’

If you’re feeling this pain, it’s time to automatically mine the insight from that pile of comments you’ve been sitting on. Turn anecdotes and hunches that you’ve got about your customer experience into evidence-backed insight by using. And do it quickly with text and sentiment analytics.

CXInsight™ Dashboard tagging segmentation screenshot

Source: CXInsight™ Dashboard

Sliced and diced organized feedback is easily available with many platforms that offer text and sentiment analytics. Doing this can help you understand the root cause of trends – like the needs of different customer personas or geographic regions – more comprehensively.

4. Manual feedback organization & categorization is insightful, but painfully slow.

While some customers duplicate efforts between data gathering and focus groups to get insight, other CX pros just bite the bullet and spend hours reading customer comments, labeling them, and funneling them into an unwieldy spreadsheet. They’re understandably frustrated by how difficult it is to get actionable insight.

By using text and sentiment analytics, humans can get huge quantities of customer feedback sorted and analyzed at the push of a button. Better yet, computers don’t have bad days or lose focus.

Once organized with tags, your time is freed up to look at the themes and trends that arise from the noise, then create actionable strategies based on those insights.  

Now you can jump straight into action and the interns can work on more interesting, valuable projects!

PRO TIP: To get high quality insights at the push of a button, algorithms need to be trained. Be sure your feedback management software vendor has a team that will work with your data to ensure you get valuable insight from the start. With more data and occasional human guidance, you’ll get better and faster insight over time.

5. Your CX program lacks a real-time issue detection system.

An important element to providing a good customer experience is making sure any issues are handled quickly and efficiently. If you can detect and address them before your customer has a real issue, your CX program has paid for itself.

One of the benefits of having text and sentiment analysis is that your data and insights are updated in real-time. This means you have a new issue detection system.

Source: CXInsight™ Dashboard

This works best for a more mature customer feedback program with an established baseline, or status quo. For example, you know that on any given day, in any given geographic region, about 10% of your comments are tagged with ‘out of stock’ as an issue. When you check in and see that in Texas, 25% of comments coming in are tagged ‘out of stock’, that raises a red flag. You can immediately dig into specifics, read through the verbatims, and send those comments to the right people for follow up before the issue blows out of proportion.

The CX dream of being proactive in solving issues can be achieved with the help of automated organization of qualitative feedback.

6. Your internal teams aren’t agreeing on CX priorities.

It’s a given that successful companies focus on customer needs and experiences. The question is: is everyone at your company seeing the same information in the same way? If not, you’re wasting time and costly resources with competing priorities, and it is definitely time to invest in tools to fix it.

By having your CX tech parse the text and sentiment of your 1K+ daily inputs of customer feedback, you can democratize the information and insights across every team at your company. And that will ensure team leaders can quickly align to address the right priorities. So product development and customer support will be on the same page, and features will get developed (or possibly de-bugged) to meet the most important needs of the customer.

How does that happen? Feedback from every customer touchpoint is analyzed, from in-product surveys to emails. In this example, support ticket subject lines are auto-categorized and everyone from support to service to product to the c-level can see what issues are hot items to address.

Support Ticket Text Analytics in Wootric CXInsight

Source: CXInsight™ Dashboard

Looking at the text analytics, it quickly becomes apparent that 15% of the support tickets are related to bugs that need to be addressed. On the proactive front, product could also delve into comments tagged “feature request” and focus on user concerns about UX/UI.

7. You need to demonstrate the ROI of your CX program.

Companies are eager to hop on the CX bandwagon, but it can still be a fight to get the proper resources to make a CX program thrive. You’ve probably already shown the C-suite the correlation between CX and revenue growth, but there’s pressure to squeeze a little more ROI out of what you’ve established. 

Investing in a tool that pulls ROI from data is an expense. But it’s a more strategic spend than, and offers more immediate follow-up and action, than  performing passive data review and organization. It’s also a moredirect value-add and much less expensive than hiring a third party human operation. 

The cascading effects throughout the organization will increase ROI in the long-term as well.

  • Product teams can prioritize and build with evidence-based confidence. 
  • Marketing teams will gain an understanding of different personas and see customers excited to spread the word about your business. 
  • Support and operations teams will have early warning of potential issues and have more context when dealing with problems.

In the end, qualitative data is crucial to extracting value out of CX initiatives. Having more data from engaged customers should not be an obstacle. 

Is this the point?

Are you seeing any of these 7 signs when you look at your company’s CX program? If so, do a cost benefit analysis. Typically, once your program has matured, the cost of tools that create actionable insights out of customer feedback are far cheaper than the cost of misaligned resources and long delivery times. Text and sentiment analytics make the resources you put into CX initiatives efficient, and turn the large quantity of unstructured data into an advantage by mining insight that would otherwise sit in limbo. Move this tipping point in your favor.

(Editor’s Note: this post is an update of a 2018 post)

5 Guidelines for Structuring Your Product Roadmap

Building and maintaining the product roadmap is a central part of your role as a product manager. Yet there is surprisingly little consensus about product roadmaps across the product management community. Opinions vary wildly, for example, about what exactly a product roadmap is, how to structure one, what to include in it, and which tools you should use to develop it.

In this post I will offer a few guidelines for how to structure your product roadmap in ways that can lead to the development of a successful product. But before we dive into these suggestions, I would like to start with two fundamental points about roadmaps — points I hope will make the guidelines that follow much clearer.

The top-down approach to product development works best.

For successful product development, I recommend a top-down product strategy. Product roadmaps fit very strategically into this hierarchy. Here’s how it works.

Start with your product’s vision — which you’ll derive from your company’s larger strategic objectives. Then translate that high-level vision into actionable goals. Next, turn those product goals into your product roadmap. Finally, move from your roadmap to your backlog.

Starting at the highest level, and working your way strategically down into the details, is the best way to stay focused and on track toward your main objectives — and to avoid losing sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing and getting lost in the weeds.

And speaking of getting lost in the weeds…

A product roadmap is not a list of features.

A list of features is just that — a list of features. The product roadmap, on the other hand, is a strategic document that represents your high-level goals for the initiative along with an execution strategy to communicate how you plan to achieve those goals.

A roadmap might include features, of course, but the features themselves are only a part of the execution plan.

Five Guidelines for Structuring Your Product Roadmap

1. Product Roadmaps Should be Flexible

You’ve got to be okay with uncertainty. You’ve got to be willing to embark on your product plan, knowing that you can’t possibly know everything at the outset — that you will hit surprises, challenges, and opportunities along the way. Your roadmap needs to factor in these uncertainties — and needs to be flexible enough to allow you to change course quickly when necessary.

To avoid making promises you can’t keep, make sure your stakeholders understand that the roadmap is not an end-all, be-all document. One way to do so is to show more granularity in the short term while keeping your initiatives high-level and your dates approximate in the long term.

Thinking in themes is another effective way to keep your roadmap flexible. For example, maybe you and your stakeholders have agreed to focus on increasing conversions from a particular target persona in the upcoming quarter. This area of focus becomes your theme, and you retain the ability to reprioritize specific features and fixes within that theme while keeping the overarching goal intact. Likewise, if an opportunity arises that was not originally on your roadmap but furthers your shared goal, you’ll have an easier time making a case to include it.

Finally, a flexible roadmap can be a headache if changes are not communicated promptly and effectively. Ensure your stakeholders always have access to the most up-to-date version of the roadmap, whether that means storing it on a shared wiki or using cloud-based software that automatically updates. Transparency is key to building alignment on product strategy, no matter how frequently you need to reprioritize.

2. Product Roadmaps Should be Deeply Rooted in Well-Thought-Out Goals

This might sound like a contradiction to the previous guideline — but it’s not. You can frequently reprioritize your backlog while still staying true to well-thought-out, agreed-upon goals.

Your specific roadmap priorities might need adjusting in light of new information — in fact, they almost certainly will at one time or another. But you should be prepared to adjust focus in your roadmap, reallocate resources or otherwise change direction only if doing so is in alignment with your product’s high-level strategic goals and vision.

As a product manager, it’s your job to make sure that you’re making decisions about what to do, and what not to do, for the right reasons. Even if a sales executive is loudly demanding the immediate inclusion of a new feature to close a deal, you still need to weigh the request in light of your organization’s strategic goals. Quick wins do not necessarily spell long term success. If the feature isn’t in line with your product vision, it’s okay to say no. Indeed, if you’re doing your job well, you’ll find yourself saying no quite often.

3. Product Roadmaps Should be Developed with Plenty of Input

You don’t need to craft your roadmap yourself. You shouldn’t. Silos rarely work for any business function, and for roadmaps they can lead to ill-advised plans and products developed without critical knowledge.

To successfully bring a product to market, or to update an existing product in such a way that benefits the customer and your company, you’ll need plenty of input from experts across a variety of teams and departments. That includes, for example, engineering, customer support, sales, and marketing.

Sales, for example, will have valuable anecdotes about their most recent wins, or their most important ones. They can also tell you about the features prospects and customers are asking for.

As for your engineers, the more you involve them in the creation process, the more ownership and responsibility they will take for their role, and the more creativity and enthusiasm they’ll bring to the project. Collaborating with your engineers, and soliciting their help, will make them feel more like a part of the process, and less like order takers simply being told what to do by a product manager.

Prabhat Jha, CTO of the Net Promoter Score platform InMoment adds, “Be sure to solicit plenty of user input. Some years ago I learned this the hard way. The software enterprise where I worked did not have a rigorous system in place for listening to customers. We had collaborated internally on our roadmap priorities and thought we knew our customer’s needs. We missed key features, though, and as a result, there was very little adoption of the first version of the product. We ended up having to do a second release very quickly in order to get traction.”

4. Product Roadmaps Should be Visual

Ultimately, a product roadmap is a communication tool — an execution strategy you will use to convey your product plans and goals to a variety of constituencies. And the best way to communicate a complex initiative is visual. If your roadmap is simply a long list of features presented in a spreadsheet, people’s eyes will glaze over.

Visual roadmaps make it easy for everyone in your strategy meetings to quickly understand what you are proposing and hoping to accomplish quickly.

Another valuable reason to make your product roadmap visual is that it forces you to be ruthless about which initiatives to include and which to leave out. Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki’s “10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint” instructs that PowerPoint presentations should have 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and contain onscreen text no smaller than 30 points. In addition to making the presentation more digestible for an audience, this exercise forces the presenter to distill both the whole talk and each individual slide down to its most essential elements.

The same is true for product roadmaps. If you use a visual tool for creating your roadmaps — such as PowerPoint or a visual roadmap software application — that exercise will force you to distill your plan down to only those initiatives that serve your product’s strategic goals and vision.

Looking at this from another angle, if your roadmap contains 1,000 initiatives, that probably means you haven’t done a good job of prioritizing and strategizing what needs to be included in your product. Indeed, if you do have a list of 1,000 initiatives, your document could probably be more accurately called a backlog than a roadmap.

5. Tailor Your Roadmap Discussion to Your Audience

You are likely going to show your product roadmap to many different constituencies, in many different meetings, throughout the development cycle of your product. Each constituent group will have a unique focus and set of priorities, and each meeting will call for you to delve into different aspects of the product roadmap.

There are a couple of ways of accomplishing this. You can create separate roadmap documents for each constituency, or you can use a single, general roadmap and zoom in to what’s important for each group. The important thing is that you provide your stakeholders context and show them how your plans will further their unique goals.

For example, for your sales team, you might want to highlight the aspects of your roadmap that are designed to bring them better-qualified leads — for example, a trial version of your software that can help to prequalify interested prospects.

Customer-facing teams also likely had input into the features that made it onto your roadmap in the first place. Be sure to communicate to them where their requests fit into the plan (or didn’t) and why.

However, when presenting the roadmap to your executives, you’ll want to focus on how the choices you’ve made will lead to increased revenue or grow market share.

And when meeting with your engineering team, you’ll want to focus both on the high-level themes and specific feature details and discuss how your engineers can help to make those product goals a reality.

In other words, you want to keep your product roadmap flexible enough that it can help facilitate a productive meeting at any level of detail needed, with any constituency group you are presenting to.  

Conclusion: Whatever structure your product roadmap takes, its main job is to communicate your strategy.

A product roadmap needs to communicate your strategy. It is your job to create your roadmap in such a way that it lays out a high-level execution plan for the product’s successful development and eventual launch into the market. It’s also your job to make sure all relevant constituencies understand the goals of the roadmap — and work with you to achieve them.

New things will always come up — cool ideas for new features, requests from executives for a shift in priority,  urgent demands from sales reps, and so on. The challenge for the product manager is to view each one as an opportunity to evaluate through the lens of strategy and goals and help drive a sound decision-making process.

That’s why you need to start with your product vision, and from there derive specific goals — and only after you’ve developed those goals, build your product roadmap. If you haven’t fully fleshed out your vision and strategic goals for the product, it’s too early to start building your roadmap.

About the author:
Andre TheusAndre Theus is the Vice President of Marketing at ProductPlan. He works closely with customers and prospects to build better product roadmap software. Prior to ProductPlan, he was a member of marketing teams at RightScale, Sonos, and Citrix. Andre received a master’s in computer science from the Cologne University of Applied Science in Germany.

Originally published June 28 2016, updated July 28 2020

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How to Use CX Metrics to Find Bottlenecks to Product Led Growth

We are all competing in the End User Era now.

Investor Blake Bartlett coined the term “End User Era” to capture an important shift that is happening on an organizational level across industries: “Today, software just shows up in the workplace unannounced. End users are finding products on their own and telling their bosses which ones to buy. And it’s all happening at lightning speed.”

Companies like DocuSign, Slack, Zoom, and Hubspot are examples of SaaS companies that are thriving in the End User Era. Their success is rooted in products that end-users love. Product Led Growth codifies this end user-focused growth model. PLG relies on the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion and expansion. This approach goes all-in on end user ease and productivity to drive growth, and is a radical shift away from the acquisition growth model so familiar in the software industry.

Customer Experience (CX) metrics have an important role to play in this strategy—something I explored in-depth in a previous post: Customer Experience in the Era of Product Led Growth.

Customers will tell you where your PLG bottlenecks are.

Metrics are essential to understanding progress on the product led growth curve. Typically the PLG model evaluates business and pipeline health based on user actions (clicks) and subscription revenue.

This is where CX metrics are so valuable. Voice of customer data illuminates the “why” behind the clicks and the cash. Classic CX surveys like NPS, PSAT, CSAT, and Customer Effort Score(CES) monitor customer sentiment — providing critical insight into behavioral and revenue metrics.

By analyzing the open-ended comments that accompany the rating-scale questions you can identify positive and negative themes in what customers are saying. Based on what you learn, you can confidently prioritize improvements to your product that will remove bottlenecks, the enemy of PLG success.

At the core, Product Led Growth is about taking tasks that would traditionally be done manually and putting them into the product to create efficiency and a better customer experience. Step back and map out all of the steps in your funnel from acquiring an initial lead all the way through to turning that lead into a paying customer who sees value in the product. Where are the bottlenecks?

— Kyle Poyar, Market Strategist, OpenView

How do you know where your bottlenecks are, and whether you are eliminating them?

Let’s explore each metric to understand how it can help you identify and address bottlenecks, with real-world examples from our customers.

Net Promoter Score (NPS): Loyalty and more

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys ask customers to evaluate how likely they are to recommend your product or company to a friend or colleague, this “propensity to refer” is an excellent predictor of future growth.

Unlike the other metrics covered here, which are flexible and easily customizable, true NPS surveys follow a very specific format when it comes to asking the first (of two) questions. By asking that first question in a specific way, using a standard scale, companies can compare their NPS scores to industry benchmarks. The second question, which gathers qualitative data regarding improvement opportunities, can (and often should) be customized.

NPS Surveys ask two questions…

Question #1: “How likely are you to recommend this product or company to a friend or colleague on a scale of 0-10?”

Question #2: “What can we improve about this experience?” (if they rated you 0-8) or “What did you love about this experience” (if they rated you a 9 or 10).

The first question allows you to calculate your Net Promoter Score, which is a number between -100 and +100 and serves as a benchmark for progress. For detailed information on how to calculate NPS, and what the number really means, take a look at our Net Promoter Score post.

The second NPS survey question is just as important, if not more so, than the score itself because this qualitative data tells you what you need to do to improve end user experience.

Why is NPS key to Product Led Growth? Traditionally viewed as an indicator of growth (as mentioned above), NPS is also a crystal ball when it comes to retention. NPS gives you a glimpse into the minds and hearts of your end users. It can provide a constant stream of feedback about bottlenecks and that will help you create products that enable the ease and productivity you are going for.

In short, NPS captures what’s most important to users, whether it’s documentation, training, or aspects of the product itself. NPS is typically the foundation of any CX program, and since you don’t want to get overwhelmed in the beginning, there’s nothing wrong with making NPS your sole CX metric at this stage.

NPS Example: DocuSign

Docusign logo
DocuSign uses NPS to gather feedback on product features and pinpoint any bottlenecks in the experience. They achieve this by customizing their NPS follow-up question (the one that asks users to explain their score). In the in-app survey pictured below, Docusign asks “Tell us about your experience sending an envelope.”

Wootric NPS Survey in DocuSign

Guneet Singh, Director of CX at DocuSign, believes that regardless of which metric you use, it’s vital to understand how customers feel about your product at key points in their journey. In other words, don’t wait to conduct an annual survey—gather continuous data and refine your product based on that feedback.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Because Support is a Bottleneck

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), like NPS, is another metric you can use at various points in the customer journey. The classic use case for CSAT is following up on a support interaction, where you can ask customers about their experience:

  • Solving their specific problem
  • Working with a particular CS agent
  • Working with your company in general

CSAT surveys can use a scale ranging from “very satisfied” or “very dissatisfied,” often followed by a question that asks the user to share the reason behind their score.

What makes this touchpoint so vital from a PLG perspective? Support calls, by definition, are a point of friction—nobody contacts customer support when things are going right.

Product Led Growth endeavors to eliminate support interactions altogether. When was the last time you reached out to customer support at Slack or DocuSign? Chances are, it’s never happened. That’s the seamlessness you’re going for.

This touchpoint is a rich source of insight into frustrations that customers face. Product teams that prioritize end user experience pay close attention to feedback from support as they improve product and design new features.

CSAT Example: Glassdoor
glassdoor logo
Glassdoor, the popular site for job listings and anonymous employer reviews, uses Customer Satisfaction surveys to gather feedback on support interactions. When a support case is closed in Salesforce, end users receive a personalized CSAT survey via email.

Carmen Woo, Salesforce Solution Architect and Senior Application Engineer, holds the cross-functional CX technology vision at Glassdoor. “What is intriguing about our use case is that we use machine learning to analyze feedback. Comments are tagged by topic themes and are assigned sentiment to capture the emotion behind the user’s words.

“The [InMoment] platform allows our Support team to segment feedback by agent and other relevant business drivers to uncover insights that contribute to optimizing our support function, and it can also reveal bottlenecks that are best addressed by improving product features or design,” says Carmen.

Product Satisfaction (PSAT): Adoption and Engagement Bottlenecks

PSAT surveys are highly flexible, and they can be structured the same way you structure Customer Satisfaction survey questions—asking customers to rate their level of satisfaction with a product using a scale from “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied” (e.g., 1-3 or 1-5) or through a binary response (e.g., “happy face” or “sad face”).

PSAT surveys are best delivered within an app, when customers are using your product and can give you fresh, timely feedback. The customer sentiment derived from PSAT surveys is the necessary complement to behavioral metrics. Sure, you can see in the clicks that users are not adopting a feature, but why? PSAT helps to answer that question and guides optimization efforts.

PSAT Example: HubSpot

Marketers that use HubSpot, the popular CRM software, may recall responding to a Product Satisfaction survey when using a new feature for the first time. PSAT gives Hubspot immediate feedback on whether a new feature is delivering value to the end-user.

Even if you’ve done extensive user testing, getting feedback on a feature within the context of a user’s experience of the whole product is valuable. Is there friction? Should the feature be tweaked in some way?

This approach, which is a key aspect of lean UX design, ensures you don’t go too far down the rabbit hole with a product feature that sounded great in theory but didn’t serve your end-users in the real world. New features can bring complexity — the bain of end user ease. By continually asking for feedback in-product, you can better calibrate that balance and maintain a frictionless, easeful end-user experience.

Mobile CSAT survey for banking app
Example InMoment PSAT survey in a mobile app.

Customer Effort Score (CES): Identify Bottlenecks in Onboarding

A seamless onboarding experience is key to widespread adoption. If end-users have to work too hard to get up and running, they’ll give up and try a competitor’s product. Even if you have an enthusiastic champion within a company, if they have to prod others to adopt or spend time convincing them of your value, their own enthusiasm will wane. As such, it’s important to evaluate how much effort end users must put into getting started.

Customer Effort Score (CES) asks how difficult it was to accomplish a given task using a predefined scale (e.g., 1-7 or 1-5). Here is an example of a CES survey:

Customer Effort Score Survey in Intercom Messenger
Example InMoment CES Survey in Intercom

CES surveys are frequently used to follow up on support calls, but they’re also extremely valuable when evaluating the onboarding experience. Success teams know that the seeds of churn can be sown in the onboarding phase. They have been using feedback from CES surveys to both (1) follow up with that customer to fix the problem and (2) develop tasks and processes that will prevent future customers from experiencing the same bottlenecks.

However, in the context of PLG, addressing onboarding feedback isn’t just the domain of the Success or Support team. It is vital input to UX teams that seek to eliminate tasks that would traditionally be done manually and put them into the product to create efficiency and a better customer experience.

CES Example: Watermark

Watermark is in the EdTech space, and they’ve taken a comprehensive approach to optimizing user experience. Here’s how they do it, starting with Customer Effort Score surveys.

Watermark has a complex onboarding and training process, so they gather data at the end of each of three phases of training using CES surveys. The feedback goes to the implementation and training teams to both (1) improve the process and (2) identify customers who may need extra support. Then, of course, they look for larger trends and modify their onboarding experience accordingly.

Watermark also measures NPS & CSAT.  NPS is measured across six product lines, and Watermark studies the correlation between NPS and renewals. Higher NPS scores predict a greater likelihood for renewal, and improving products based on NPS survey results is key to Watermark’s customer retention strategy. CSAT surveys, triggered from Salesforce Service Cloud when a case is closed, help to evaluate and improve Customer Support.

And as Dave Hansen, the CX champion at Watermark, points out, they dig into the data to identify points of friction. “The feedback we’re getting tells us that there isn’t necessarily an issue with our overall solutions,” says Dave. “You may have issues running a certain report, or you may have issues with the way you have to click through to something.”

Product Led Growth strategy is about end user experience.

The four CX metrics covered in this post (NPS, CSAT, PSAT, and CES) offer insight into end user experience and augment behavioral data with the voice of your customer.

Remember, don’t allow scores to be your sole focus. There is gold in the open-ended feedback you receive. Without analyzing the open-ended feedback you receive, the metrics are just benchmarks that you’ll aimlessly try to identify bottlenecks through guesswork. In the end, that won’t get you very far.

Product Led Growth is all about creating a smoother experience in the moments that matter. CX metrics and voice of the customer comments help technology companies do just that.

Get the ebook, CX FOR EVERY STAGE: How to scale your Voice of Customer program from startup to enterprise. Learn how to improve user experience for product led growth and loyalty.

How to Retain Customers in a Time of Crisis: A CX To-Do List for SaaS Companies

Financial markets are sliding, a pandemic is spreading around the world, and every company is scrambling to respond to quickly changing circumstances. Planned investments that were intended to drive growth — like hiring, media spend and software purchases — are being reevaluated as business leaders are forced to triage what they need to do to weather the storm. We’re all in survival mode, but survival is about prioritizing what is most important.

And what is most important to a SaaS business at this moment?

It’s not toilet paper.

It’s our existing customers.

Now more than ever, customer experience is job #1. 

We think the SaaS businesses that focus on retaining customers and building loyalty are the ones that will survive and thrive in this uncertain climate. 

Of course, the question then becomes how do you retain customers and build loyalty?

Shift from a growth mindset to a retention mindset 

This may not hold true for every business we work with – Zoom, GrubHub, and the e-commerce toilet paper company Who Gives a Crap are having quite a moment. But most businesses are facing contraction because people don’t buy in a panic. Budgets are being trimmed everywhere, and customer success and renewal conversations must be deeply empathetic to this.

So, if a customer is achieving goals with your software, and you have other features and capabilities that will make them even more successful in 2020, then, by all means, paint a bold vision of an expanded partnership. But, if that isn’t the case, and they want to reduce or leave, don’t come across as tone-deaf. It’s likely that everyone in their company has been asked to find ways to trim spend.

That means that it’s even more important to know that your internal champion can confidently advocate for you – because you are delivering value. Step up your customer success initiatives. Make sure you and your clients are recording successes. And don’t be afraid to change the conversation from trying to get the customer to buy more, to showing him or her how the company can get more value from what they’ve already purchased.

Listen to your customers even more carefully – and respond

Even when you’re focusing on your existing customers, don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re the “same” customers – they’ve changed. We all have. Because our needs change in a downturn. Companies that are on the pulse of those changes by proactively listening are better poised to adapt, innovate, survive, and serve.  Make calls to key customers.  It’s even more important now than it usually is to listen and respond to concerns quickly. 

Take care of your people

Your employees, your teams, are the key to your customer relationships. They may be concerned about their health or the health of their parents, or grandparents. They may be struggling to find childcare options if their schools are shut down. They may be stressed about their 401K balance. Whatever it is, empathy and flexibility are going to be key – and so is prudent business planning. How can you plan to support your employees through these challenges?

Be a good citizen

For the collective good, and for the good of your brand, it’s so important right now to prioritize the good of the community and show conscientious, caring judgment. To do this, you may need to make some tough calls that hit your short-term profits, but protect people. We’re all making sacrifices – the New York Times dropped its paywall for coronavirus news and Zoom is giving K-12 schools free video conferencing. Is there a way your company can help people in need right now? You’ll be remembered for it. 

Establish a company policy of flexibility

Just as you have to be flexible with your employees and their quickly-changing challenges, you also have to be flexible as a company. For example, if a client calls customer support to request an extended payment plan, empower your support team to deviate from your standard policies and allow it. Be open to changing how you usually do things if it makes sense and shows compassion. You’ll likely prevent avoidable churn.

Jessica Pfeifer, Chief Customer Officer at Wootric, shared this recent story with our team:

“I just had a customer reach out about putting their subscription on hold. They operate in the hospitality sector which has been particularly hard hit. We offered to work out a plan to enable her to continue to get customer feedback during this critical time. Her response was ‘That would be amazing! Thank you!’ I know we’ve strengthened customer loyalty.”

Customers notice the companies that support them in difficult times, so be flexible when you can, and you’ll build loyalty for the future.

Close the loop with customers when they offer feedback

This may be built into your CX program already, but if not, now is the time to double-down on listening and responding to customers. Ensuring your customers feel heard and cared about in times of high stress carries more weight than when times are easy. So if a customer responds to one of your surveys, be sure to close the loop and let them know you value their time and will take appropriate action. 

Customer success managers can reach out one-on-one via email or phone, but that isn’t always practical. Closing the loop can be automated when you have your feedback readily available in systems like Intercom or Salesforce. Here’s a quick guide on how to automate closing the loop on customer feedback.

Improve customer experience at customer journey touchpoints

In SaaS, this often means using an NPS survey to gauge overall loyalty and surface any issues that may affect renewal. To get serious about retention, consider asking for feedback at critical SaaS journey points–after onboarding, support interactions, and during product/feature use.

This isn’t about quickly adding a slew of new surveys overnight; it’s about prioritizing improvements to moments that, if not successful, can sow the seeds of churn. Now is the time to double-down on understanding and improving the customer journey.

SaaS Customer Journey touchpoints and surveys

Also, remember to analyze the qualitative feedback from these surveys. A customer who is “satisfied”  but mentions a concern over price may now be at a higher risk of churn.

SaaS Product Feedback with topics auto-categorized
Source: Wootric CXInsight Analytics Platform

Focus product development on reducing friction for existing customers

In the software business, product experience is the all-important driver of customer experience. So, to foster customer loyalty, think about what you can do to create more ease for existing users.

Blake Barlett at OpenView says product-led growth is the key to success in the End User Era. In this era, end user annoyance spells opportunity. Think Slack vs. email, or Zoom vs. Hangouts.

End User Era - example software products

In financially uncertain times, a product-led development philosophy can hold the key to faster end user adoption and increased retention. Tune into those day-to-day annoyances – they hold the key to retention.

Accelerate end user adoption

Happy end users make your application stickier, so if your champion is struggling to persuade others in their company to use your platform, you need to know why. You may need more in-app cues and guidance to make tasks easier. What is “so annoying” about your product? Ask your customers that, and you may find exactly what you need to reduce friction – which will pay off in retention.

Now is the time to deepen relationships and partnerships with promoters

Guneet Singh, Director of Customer Experience programs at Docusign, spoke about this in a recent Voice of the Customer webinar. He looks for champions among his promoters who have a common pain point, and then brings them together in councils that engage with DocuSign’s product team. Through this customer advocacy program, his customers learn from each other, get a first look at new product features, and provide valuable insights for the DocuSign product development roadmap.

How do you begin a customer advocacy program like this? Pay attention to customer requests and “start with small wins,” says Guneet. “If you complete the feature that a customer asks for, by listening and acting on their words, you’ve won that customer for life.” 

We couldn’t agree more!

The most valuable commitment we have is to our customers. And as much as we work to grow, to scale, to expand — it’s times like these where we have to remember to appreciate the people who already support us and show them support too. We’re all in this together.

Learn how Wootric can help you measure and improve customer experience. Book a consultative demo today.

How to Tackle the #1 Problem Product Teams Face: Customer Feedback

What’s your biggest problem as a Product Dev professional? Too many demands and not enough time? Limited resources? Oddly enough, none of those topped the list for Hiten Shah’s crowd.

Hiten Shah (of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and Quick Sprout fame) recently wrote in his newsletter that “the problems people have on Product teams fall into two main categories: Customer Feedback and Alignment.” This conclusion came after Hiten asked his readers to share their biggest product problems, and in more than 100 replies, those two themes emerged as the leaders.

Wootric helps customers gather, organize, categorize and analyze customer feedback – at volume – every day. And we’ve got a few insights into how Product teams can solve the issues that come with customer-centricity – while improving alignment at the same time.

Let’s go through the problems real Product professionals sent Hiten Shah point by point.

“Fast/Effective ways to quickly recap and synthesize qualitative research”

Qualitative data – ie. freeform responses versus ratings or multiple choice answers – are notoriously difficult to sift through and analyze. It’s only recently that, with advanced technology and machine learning, it’s become much easier to tag, sort, and assign sentiment to qualitative feedback at scale.

CXInsight™ Dashboard tagging segmentation screenshot
Source: CXInsight™ Dashboard

Tagging, in particular, is a huge time-saver when you switch from just manual tagging to auto-tagging. Tagging comments with their major themes is the first step towards conducting frequency analysis to identify trending topics – or find relevant feedback with a click.

Using an NPS survey with an open-ended comments section, for example, you might find that your ‘detractors’ (low scorers) comments tend to be tagged with “slow loading time” or you may see a specific feature request recurring.

Yep, modern customer feedback software should be able to deliver every comment with a feature request, for example, tagged and prioritized by frequency, from the highest-value customers, in about a second.

You can even use tags to route specifically tagged feedback straight to the appropriate department for follow-up. No need to hunt for bugs – the bugs will come to you! (Don’t they always?)

“It’s [customer feedback] very subjective and sometimes doesn’t have context, therefore I take it with a grain of salt, but engineers may not see it that way and want to address the feedback immediately.”

When your customer feedback comes primarily through surveys that *don’t* include open-ended responses (to gather all of that golden qualitative data), it’s impossible to get the context you need to evaluate the issue and possibly solve it.

But understanding the why behind NPS, CES and CSAT scores (to name a few) isn’t all the context you need to decide where to allot your time and resources.

You literally have to consider the source.

Is the feedback coming from a high-value, ideal client? Is your existing survey solution capable of identifying those markers?

Did you know that it’s even possible to target specific customer segments with survey campaigns?

And for even more context – you can target customer surveys based on product milestones. For example, you can set a CES survey to deploy after new feature use to find out how easy (or difficult) new customers think it is to use.

“Feedback overwhelm – how to prioritize what users want/need the most.”

An overwhelming number of customer comments can leave you feeling like you are trying to drink from a fire hydrant. It’s time to talk about the wonders of machine learning.

Historically, extracting insights from piles of unstructured feedback has been difficult, expensive and time-consuming. That is not the case today. When you need insight from feedback at scale, it is time to invest in text and sentiment analysis using software with natural language processing.

Machine learning has come a loooong way. Yes, algorithms must be trained to understand your company and customers, so chose a software vendor that will keep their team in the loop and ensure you’re getting good insights right off the bat. Then the software just gets better and better at telling you what is most important to your customers.

Feedback categorized by theme with sentiment breakdown
Source: Wootric CXInsight™ Dashboard

Wootric CXInsight™ combines natural language processing with sentiment analysis to categorize feedback based on what matters most for your customers. When you know why your customers love you — or don’t — prioritization becomes a much easier task.

“Having a regular cadence of customer interaction to develop insights and product intuition.”

Okay, there’s no excuse – this is so easily doable. You can set any CX survey you want to deploy on a regular basis, or, deploy after customers complete specific milestones. Having to go get customer feedback shouldn’t be something you have to think about. It should be automatic! Part of your daily, weekly, or monthly routine.

But, it’s only that easy if you’ve got software that makes it that easy – let’s be honest here. Modern customer feedback software can integrate with Slack, Intercom, or whatever you use, as well as deliver surveys to customers while they’re in your app, and deliver it to you tagged, sorted, and prioritized.

Regularly!

You can have your finger on the pulse of customer satisfaction and will know immediately if there’s any fluctuation. As an added bonus, give a pat on the back to whoever built an update or solution for customers so they can see the results in action!

“My main problem is to get to know our audience and talk directly to them.”

Surveys are great – we love them. But you know what? Even with a qualitative feedback field, a survey can’t take the place of a real, person-to-person conversation. And usually, the biggest barrier to having those conversations is making the time.

We can’t pick up the phone for you, but we can save you time. Enough time to schedule interviews with your customers and get even deeper insights that they may never tell you in writing.

“In Product we’re expected to be customer-centric. We’re supposed to get feedback and talk to customers all the time. It’s literally our day job. But that’s on top of making sure we’re focused on building the right things and helping our teams ship too.”

Here’s the thing, Product friends. You aren’t the only department that has to be “customer-centric” and talk to customers all the time and review steady streams of feedback. So to make this part of your job easier, you might have to reach out to other departments and make customer-centricity a multi-team effort.

If you have a Customer Success department, start there – you might find that the Customer Success Manager is your new BFF. They’re also talking to customers every day, and in many ways, they’re closer to the problems customers face than you are. Most CSMs would be delighted to build better relationships with their Product Dev departments, working together to answer the question “What can we do to help our customers achieve success?”

“It’s not easy and it isn’t getting easier. Customer feedback can come from anywhere: Customer support requests, live chats, social media, the sales team, customer reviews, competitor research, and more. Adding to the pile are the endless opinions about what to do with the feedback from people on our teams.”

It’s not easy – true. But it is getting easier to solve qualitative feedback issues with modern customer feedback software!

Sorry, we can’t help with the ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ problem – that’s right up there with finding the cure for the common cold. We find that if you have to pick one source to guide product, NPS feedback is the going to be the most actionable.  That said, when it comes to gathering customer feedback from many sources into one, easily searchable place, modern technology comes to the rescue again.

What you want to look for is a customer feedback program that can pull all of customer comment sources together, like NPS or CSAT feedback, user interviews, support tickets, app store reviews, social and analyze those comments in a way that lets you see the big picture and slice & dice by theme, sentiment, survey date, and data source.

Tackle your unstructured, qualitative feedback with InMoment CXInsight™.

Using Industry Benchmarks to Set a Good Net Promoter Score (NPS) Goal

“What grade did you get?”

Do you remember getting asked that question in grade school? Or maybe you were the one asking it? Humans like to know how they’re doing compared to everyone else.

This carries over into customer experience as well. At Wootric, we advise companies on setting up an effective Net Promoter Score (NPS) program. We get asked questions about industry benchmarks all the time.

In general, we believe focusing on an external benchmark is not incredibly helpful.

The Net Promoter System is the quantification of customer loyalty and the process for improving it over time. The power of this system lies in the analysis of feedback and the action taken based on that analysis.

However, benchmarks are still useful in certain cases, which is what this article is all about.

If you’re unfamiliar with NPS, here’s a quick rundown:

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a customer loyalty metric between -100 and 100 that captures the propensity of a company’s customers to attract and refer new business or/and repeat business.

NPS also stands for the Net Promoter System®, which was built around the Net Promoter Score. It is a model that ties a corporation’s bottom line to customer happiness and loyalty.

Get the ebook, The Modern Guide to Winning Customers with Net Promoter Score. Learn how to modernize your NPS program for growth and higher loyalty.

In the NPS survey, customers rate their likelihood to recommend your company on a scale of 0-10. To get your Net Promoter Score, take the percentage of people who are happy and willing to recommend your product or service (those who respond with a 9 or 10) — “promoters”– and subtract the percentage of people who would not be willing to recommend your product or service — (score of 0-6) “detractors.”

NPS Calculation

For example, a +50 NPS means that the company has more than 50% promoters and less than 50% detractors, so generally an NPS score of +50 is, indeed, great! You may see scales out there that say +30 is a decent score, and that +80 or greater is the ultimate dream score.

While an absolute goal is nice and simple, if you are going to benchmark, it can be helpful to take a look at what others in your industry have been able to achieve.  

NPS industry benchmarks

Industry benchmarks give you a way to evaluate your NPS relative to your competitors. They help control for factors that often create major differences in what is considered a good NPS score.

Oftentimes, other companies in your industry have established an average NPS for you to use as a benchmark. If you make smartphones or other tech hardware, for example, companies like Apple have been tracking NPS for years.

To get averages and examples from your industry, try reports from the Fortune 500.

NPS variance between industries

Let’s take a look at some examples of benchmarking NPS according to your industry.

Let’s say you have an NPS of +50. As we explained, that’s already pretty good! But if you’re a department store or specialty store, you are actually below the average (+62) for the industry.

Walmart pharmacies have an NPS score of +32. Considering the highest score is +100, you’d guess that they’d be lukewarm with this score, but I’m sure that the folks in charge of customer experience there are actually ecstatic. Walmart pharmacies have one of the highest NPS scores within the drug store & pharmacy industry.

Compare this number to the software industry, where +34 is the average. Becoming a leader in the software industry would mean having an NPS in the +60 range, like Salesforce (+66) and Adobe (+62).

If I tell you that the industry average NPS for laptop computer manufacturers is +43, can you guess what Apple’s NPS is? Consider their brand reputation and customer loyalty…

In 2018, Apple’s laptop product team reported an NPS of +63. You probably got pretty close, since you knew the industry average! This is why relative score comparison by industry is more useful than evaluation based on an absolute scale.

Caveats for using NPS industry benchmarks

Unfortunately, benchmarks for NPS programs aren’t always as helpful as you’d hope. This comes down to the nature of surveying for feedback. There are so many contributing factors to an NPS score, such as:

  • What channel you survey customers through
  • Demographics and habits of your customer base
  • When and how often you ask
  • Whether you have enough data to be statistically significant or not

All of these factors can have varying effects on your overall NPS score. For example, your competitor may ask the NPS question within the context of a longer annual brand survey, while you survey using just the NPS question after a transaction. These will have different consequences for the feedback you gather. If you don’t have enough feedback coming in, your NPS may vary significantly from quarter to quarter or month to month.

Bear in mind, a ‘good NPS score’ doesn’t just depend on your industry, since it’s not difficult to game the system. It’s not always fair to compare your NPS score to another company’s NPS score because you don’t know their survey methods, or their employee compensation plans.

When competitive individuals are incentivized based on NPS score, things can get ugly.

A motivated person or company could improve their numbers by letting their customers know that positive feedback would mean a lot to them or by only showing the survey to customers who are positively inclined. They might offer incentives to customers to complete the survey. Clearly, the feedback received from these methods will lead to an inflated NPS score that is not a useful comparison for those using a more objective survey process.  

Setting an NPS goal if you don’t have a benchmark

If no benchmark exists for your industry, benchmark against yourself.

The great thing about NPS is that it is an actionable metric. It’s a number that you can rally the company around as a north star to guide improvement efforts.

“A good NPS score is one that is better than the last.”
– Jessica Pfeifer, CCO & Co-founder of Wootric

Remember, NPS isn’t just a score. It’s a system that’s meant to drive business improvement in product and customer experience. It helps you identify and close the loop with unhappy customers and solve their specific problems in real time.

Your goal is to boost customer loyalty and retention, and that happens by reading verbatim comments to understand the why behind the scores you receive. By making changes based on customer feedback, and responding quickly to detractors, you will naturally see your NPS improve. And gains in NPS correlate with revenue growth.

How to report NPS

After all this, you will want to report numbers to the rest of the team on a regular basis. NPS should be shared along with other monthly or quarterly metrics like revenue, new customers and customer churn.

We understand that, so here’s what we recommend:

  • Instead of fixating on your score in the absolute sense, we recommend focusing on improving your score over time. Understand NPS as a trend over several periods, like if you were looking at a stock’s price.Trends-NPS-with-SaaS-segmentation
  • Determine the business goals of your NPS program, then report NPS in relation to the goals. For instance, if you are trying to improve retention, report NPS alongside churn data.
  • Pay attention to trending topics in your verbatim responses. Reporting these topics will help everyone understand what’s important to your customers, and the pain points they experience. Share what customers love and what they don’t love about your company with internal stakeholders. Then you can work to make those points as frictionless as possible. 

Note: For startups, be sure to read and respond to every single comment. As you grow, you’ll start needing aggregate and to pull themes from customer comments. To automate that process, check out AI-powered text and sentiment analysis.

  • Segment your Net Promoter Score by relevant customer groups. For example, this could be by user role (in the SaaS example above), geography, or size/frequency of purchase–whatever drives your business. This will help you pay close attention to groups that are critical to your business success. Learn more about segmentation here.
  • If you want to compare your score to a competitor, choose a company in your industry that you admire and use their score as an aspirational goal. Many companies have volunteered their NPS scores to research and reports such as this one by the Fortune 500.

Measure NPS and work to improve it over time.  Dig into customer comments and close the loop with customers. You will learn their needs, and their pain points, and have plenty of guidance to make those improvements. Both your NPS and your customer retention rates are sure to improve. 

Sign up today for free Net Promoter Score feedback with InMoment.

Our product: What we’ve built, what’s next & why

As the co-pilots of Wootric’s product team, we’re excited to share all the progress we have made in the past twelve months, and also give you all a peek into what’s on the immediate horizon for Wootric.

Expanding our offering while boosting customer happiness

At Wootric we prioritize people, product, and process–in that specific order. At the end of day it’s people who build products and support our customers; process is there for people to be productive, not to get in their way. We are very pleased to see that in this competitive job market we have not only retained all our team members but have also grown the team to deepen our machine learning and big data prowess.

As you can imagine, we work hard to “walk the talk” of boosting customer happiness.  I’m happy to report that Wootric’s Net Promoter Score has improved 7 points year over year. We are especially proud of this trend as we have grown (rapidly) and the capabilities of our platform have developed exponentially. As we drive innovation in customer feedback management, our own customers — like Docusign, Mixpanel and Hootsuite — are seeing the value of our platform and the way we prioritize their success.

Wootric's NPS July 2017
Wootric’s own Wootric NPS Dashboard – July 2017

Ensuring our customers have the insights they need to improve customer experience

Now let’s talk about product. One sentence that would describe our evolution this past year? We have evolved from an Net Promoter Score survey tool to a platform that effortlessly turns all of your customer conversations into insights. In a world where customer experience is the new battlefield for competitive advantage, this empowers you, as a business, to shift from product-led growth to the holy grail of customer-led growth.

Here are new features to back up this evolution claim:

  • New survey types: Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT) and Customer Effort Score (CES) Survey, in addition to NPS
  • New survey channels: Email and SMS, in addition to in-app web and mobile
  • New Integrations: Salesforce, Mixpanel, Intercom, Slack, Zendesk, Webhooks
  • Email Templates: Mailchimp, Intercom, Marketo, Hubspot, Salesforce Pardot, PersistIQ, Zoho, Amity
  • Survey respondent profiles
  • API your way to almost everything
  • Big Data warehousing through partnerships with Stitch Data and XPlenty
  • Accessibility improvement.  Wootric surveys, now compliant with Section 508 standards, can be filled out by the visually impaired — highly valued in education and government services.

Among these features, if we were to pick the two that most impact our customers’ growth, they would be (a) launching our Salesforce Managed Package on the AppExchange and (b) the integration with Intercom. Both Salesforce and Intercom are two-way integrations in which Wootric enriches your CRM and Customer Support software with customer feedback and at the same time allows you to trigger surveys to customers based on events in Salesforce and Intercom. This has a huge impact on renewal and upsells because your sales and success teams have more context into what your customers think of your product and services.

It’s been a fun challenge to keep a balance between new feature development and upgrading our infrastructure to handle our growth.  Our already ‘big data’ platform has exploded this year, with 300% growth in survey responses, and over 800% growth in REST API calls.  (To reiterate: API all the things!)  Our tech stack now includes Elastic Search, PostgreSQL, Redis, and several Amazon (AWS) and Google Cloud (GCP) services.  Our infrastructure and devops are ready to handle the growth we foresee in next 12 months.

But that’s all in the past!

Our current focus is to add more intelligence to our service.

We are working on being smarter about who to survey and when to survey so that you can converse with more of your customers. And, once we have your customers’ feedback, we will provide better and more automated insights through the use of artificial intelligence.

AI-powered insights trained by millions of survey responses

Because the survey data we receive is unstructured text, it’s a great use case for the meeting ground between machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Besides leveraging the Google Cloud Platform, we are creating our own industry-specific machine learning algorithms that analyze open-ended human-generated feedback.  CX Insight™, our text and sentiment analysis product–trained by millions of survey responses–focuses first on SaaS, e-commerce, and media use cases. As with all things Wootric, this has been a customer-led effort. Our customers expect that AI-powered insights will provide them with a game-changing ability to improve customer experience.

Wootric is at the forefront of a revolution in customer experience intelligence and we look forward to sharing this journey with you.  Thank you.

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Measure and improve customer experience. Sign up today for free Net Promoter Score, CSAT or Customer Effort Score feedback with InMoment.

How to Start a Customer Success Program from Scratch

If your SaaS company hasn’t leapt on board the Customer Success train yet, it’s likely due to “focusing on other things,” or “we don’t have the budget for that right now.” But prioritizing Customer Success pays big dividends in returning revenue – so much so that it’s gaining the reputation as the ultimate growth hack. That’s not hype – Customer Success is how SaaS businesses raise retention rates and increase referrals while paving the road for cross-sells and upsells.

If you’re focusing most of your resources on acquisition, you’re missing out on one of the greatest growth engines at your disposal.

“Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is,” – Jason Lemkin, venture capitalist and founder of SaaStr

Acquisition may get the ball rolling, but retention is where the big money is. Big, sustainable money that costs less and less to make. And, this alchemy only works when customers achieve the successes with the product or service that they’d hoped for upon signing up.

Statistically, successful customers:

  • Spend more money over time
  • Are highly likely to consider additional products and services
  • Serve as enthusiastic brand advocates that reduce the Cost to Acquire new customers (CAC)

That last point, customer evangelism (aka. brand advocacy), is the most significant benefit of Customer Success and the one that leads to spending less on acquisition efforts, while acquiring more customers.

When your company understands what success means to your customers, then ensures they receive what they need to achieve it, those customers respond – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Yelp, on Linkedin, and in person. They become not just your fans, but your best salespeople, helping your company grow.

But how do you start a customer success program from scratch?

First, let’s start with what customer success really is, because any time a term becomes a “buzzword” it tends to lose its original meaning.

What is Customer Success?

Customer Success is how you help customers achieve their desired outcomes, even if those outcomes are outside of the product or service you provide. 

With this as our definition, Customer Success is really about one thing: Giving your customers everything they need to be successful with your product – within and outside of the product.

For example, if a person downloads a SaaS budgeting app, they don’t want to budget per se, but they do want to pay off their credit card debt and start saving for a kitchen remodel. That is what success means. Not using the app. Not budgeting. But finally running your hands over smooth quartz countertops and showing off that Big Chill refrigerator when the neighbors come over.

That is success. Your product or service is merely the means to get there.

Sure, you can pile more tasks onto your Customer Success department, like planning upsells and cross-sells and customer referral rewards programs. But if you don’t have that one thing in place first – their success – you can’t move onto anything else.

You Had One Job

It’s why I advocate building Success Milestones into Product Development’s user flows.

What are Success Milestones?

Success Milestones are when customers receive value – value that they recognize – from using a product. It’s when that budgeting app customer saves their first thousand towards that Big Chill ‘fridge.

Building Success Milestones into your user flow is a useful way to chart what’s happening within the app and link it to wins happening in real life.

For businesses looking to build a Customer Success program from scratch, this is a key concept. Your process begins by understanding your ideal customer’s real life.

You need to understand how your product fits into their lives, helps them achieve their real-life goals, what frustrates them, and what blocks them from achieving those goals.

Which leads us to Step 1.

How to Start a Customer Success Program

Step 1. Get to know your ideal customer really well (through qualitative data)

When your company was merely a gleam in your founder’s eye, there was (hopefully) a process in place to identify ideal customers and find out what problems they needed to solve, which pain points felt the worst, and what they deeply wanted to achieve.

If your founder followed the Lean Startup methodology, customer interviews happened to ensure product-market/problem-solution fit well before Product Development set to work.

But, if your company skipped those steps, you’ve got a lot of qualitative data to catch up on.

Don't panic everything will be okay

Do not panic. You don’t have to start at the beginning, because you have a product and customers already. What you need to do now is focus on the segment of customers who fit into your ideal customer profile.

Your ideal customers are: Customers who love your product, use it, and tell other people about it because they love it so much.

You can identify which of your existing customers fall into this category by tracking brand mentions, but you can also just ask.

When it comes to identifying your best customers, a Net Promoter Score survey is fast and efficient. You can send the survey via email or within your app (a less disruptive option), and ask existing customers “On a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being most likely, how likely are you to recommend this product to friends and colleagues?”

Anyone who scores a 9 or 10 is a “Promoter.”

Promoters are the people we want to speak with when developing Customer Success strategies because we know, for certain, that they have problem/solution fit. Not all customers do. Customer Success can only do so much, and if there isn’t that problem/solution fit from the start, you can’t manufacture it. So you have to identify it, attract more of it, and nurture it.

Customer Success is as much about identifying customers likely to be a good fit as it is helping them achieve their ideal outcomes.

Ask some of your Promoters – those who scored 9s and 10s –  if they’d be willing to speak with you, or at least fill out a detailed open-ended-question survey, so you can confidently identify your ideal customer’s needs, wants, pain points, ideal outcomes and more. This qualitative data will allow you to create solutions that speak uniquely to them.

Sarah E. Brown, Head of Customer, Community and Brand Marketing at ServiceRocket, uses a Voice of Customer program with NPS to understand how well they’re delivering outcomes for customers and improve marketing at the same time:

“VOC is executed through our marketing function in conjunction with our Customer Success team, and together we are able to identify high NPS customers as brand advocates and follow up with them to create high-value marketing collateral like co-hosted webinars, case studies, podcasts and video testimonials.

Through our NPS review program, we have an incredibly clear picture into our customers who are using our product to achieve successful outcomes. Then we channel them into becoming vocal advocates who bring in new customers and help current customers love our software even more.”

Step 2. Build Your Team

Once you understand who you’re serving and what they’re trying to achieve, you need to put your team together. Sure, you could hire an experienced Customer Success manager or consultant, but you can also look inside your own building – at the Sales department.

A good salesperson already knows your product and your customers, which makes for a relatively easy transition. The key, however, is to shift the sales mindset from selling the product to setting up customers for success.

That can be a substantial challenge. Because sometimes, a customer’s success won’t come from being upsold, and it can run counter to the salesperson’s gut instincts to not jump at an immediate sale, and say “Hey, your company is on the smaller side. I don’t think you need this additional service yet. So let’s focus on how we can help you grow to the point where this service would be really useful.”

Customer Success can, sometimes, mean delayed gratification. But the loyalty you build by giving advice that is 100% to the customer’s benefit is priceless.

When assembling your Customer Success team, there are a couple more very important characteristics to watch out for: You’ll need people who are good team players and great communicators, because the most effective Customer Success teams are those that work closely with Sales, Service and Product to find ways to bridge success gaps.

Step 3. Determine What Structure You Need to Help Customers Reach Their Ideal Outcomes

If you have the resources, investing in a full-service Customer Success platform, like Gainsight, is a great way to begin. But these solutions can be out of reach, budget-wise. If that’s the case, then you may have to DIY and create your own processes.

Things you’ll need to consider:

  • Customer segments – do you have one “ideal customer” or an “ideal customer” for each user segment?
  • Do your user segments require different levels of help to reach their ideal outcomes? Often, one segment of users needs a higher-touch approach than another segment (and no, you shouldn’t base higher-touch vs. lower-touch solely on how much the segment pays – a lower paying segment might have high-paying potential with the right nudge).
  • What are the desired outcomes for each segment? Do they require different resources to reach them?
  • How do you intend to track customer health? What can you identify as “red flags” of disengagement?
  • Do you have a way to mark different customers according to their life stage – and whether/when they are reaching their Success Milestones?
  • If you have an existing product and the ability to track user behavior within it, where do users drop off?
  • Is there a process in place to identify when certain Success Milestones are reached and present opportunities for logical upsells?
  • Where are success gaps happening for each segment? (A success gap is the space between what your product does and the user achieving his or her desired outcome).

Step 4. Must-Have Metrics

  1. Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) is the foundation for a strategy to increase ROI and sustain growth, but its shortest definition is: The revenue earned from a single customer over time. LTV includes Cost to Acquire a new Customer (CAC) and Churn rate – how quickly customers leave. However, most calculations fail to include cross-sells, up-sells, and the value of referrals for each customer, which increase LTV. To affect LTV, your marketing strategies should take these other factors into account as well. LTV is, perhaps, the most important metric CSMs in subscription-based businesses can track because it’s the best at predicting success… or failure. Cost to Acquire (CAC) is intimately connected with LTV because if your CAC is higher than or equal to your LTV, your business is FAILING! The Cost to Acquire number comes from tracking metrics like  manufacturing costs, research, development, and marketing – everything you need to convince a potential customer to buy. While the equation is simple enough – just divide the total costs of acquisition by total new customers within a specified time period – adding up every acquisition-related activity is where companies get bogged down.
  2. Net Promoter Score (NPS) works better than churn to score how well you’re doing at delivering desired outcomes. Sometimes, an unhappy customer won’t get around to churning – the effort is just too low on their to-do list. But if you ask that customer if they’d recommend you to a friend (the NPS question is “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”), you’ll get an honest answer. Many NPS platforms also allow you to segment your surveys for even deeper insights. This is a great number to use if you haven’t got time to creat a complex customer health score system.
  3.  Churn is important to track, but more so in the context of understanding what causes churn and how you can proactively prevent churn. Yes, you need to know how many people are leaving. But that number is too little, too late. What you really need to track are the leading indicators of churn.
  4. Customer Effort Score – Traditionally used by support teams, CES can also be used to get feedback on user experience in onboarding, new feature setup, and to identify obstacles to users finding value.

Setting up an NPS program? Get the ebook, The Modern Guide to Winning Customers with Net Promoter Score. Leverage customer feedback and drive growth with a real-time approach to NPS.

There are others. Groove reduced churn by 71% by using what they called “red flag” metrics, including:

  •         Length of first session
  •         Frequency of logins
  •         Total number of logins 
  •         Time spent on individual tasks (the longer the time spent, the more trouble the user is probably having, and the more likely they are to churn)

Whatever metrics you track, essentially, you need to know how well your customers are doing at any given time, identify when they’re experiencing success, be alerted when they run into trouble, and have a plan in place for helping them to grow and succeed even more (by using more of your product when it can benefit them).

It’s helpful to plan all of this within the context of the Product department’s user flows, which brings us to…

Step 5. Collaborate

Customer Success can’t do its best work separated off from other departments, keeping its data in a silo. It won’t do you any good to collect all of this data on your customers if you can’t share what you learn with departments able to act on that information.

To really begin to see the results of your Customer Success program, you’ll need to open lines of communication with Sales, Customer Service and Product Development so you can work together to identify and bridge success gaps for customers. Better yet, invite one person from each department to be part of the Customer Success team.

One example of effective collaboration is between Product and Customer Success. Customer Success needs Product Development to address product-specific success gap issues, and Product Dev needs to understand the broader concept of ideal outcomes, and where success gaps are occurring, from Customer Success. A good place to start collaborating is to align behind customer feedback. Use that to start discussions and to lay the foundation for the solutions you can find together.

When you bring these two departments together, you can achieve all of that and more, like building in Success Milestones into the app itself so users can track their own successes (and sales teams can keep tabs on their progress and introduce upsell suggestions when they make sense).

Step 6. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Is it retention after onboarding? Identifying upsell opportunities? Filling success gaps? Kayla Murphy, Customer Growth, Advocacy and Success at Trustfuel works with early-stage Customer Success teams and recommends focusing on one thing at a time.

“Start with one focus and build processes to go with it. Institute QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews) or regular check-ins. Start tracking your usage data and figuring out which metrics give you the best picture of customer health.

Just start.

Many of the teams I work with felt a great deal of analysis paralysis at the beginning of their customer success journey. They were worried about annoying customers, tracking the wrong metrics, or focusing so much on unhealthy accounts that morale dies. You have to start somewhere and no one knows more about your customers right now than you. Start being proactive and consistently evaluate your processes.”

Just start, perhaps, is the best advice.

How it All Works Together

Let’s pretend that customer acquisition is a game of “Who can prove their worth the fastest?”

The players are you and your competitors.

When a new user signs up to try your product, it triggers a series of events – the goal of which is proving your worth before that user gets bored and signs up with your competition.

When a new user signs up…

–          The new user receives a welcome email from a Customer Success agent who asks them what they would most like to achieve with your product.

–          The new user is impressed that somebody cares (they care! They really care!) and replies: “I’d like to sell more balloon poodles at the next county fair.”

–         The Customer Success agent replies “I love balloon poodles! So cool! Would 50 more balloon poodles be a realistic starting goal for the next 3 months?”

See what happened there? The customer success agent keys in on the new customer’s desired outcome, then creates a specific, measurable, attainable goal that they can keep track of. Maybe there’s even a page built into the website that helps the customer track their own progress towards their goal.

These steps don’t need to happen over email (although this is exactly what Slack does during onboarding). They can happen within your product too. Or a combination, like using a simple in-app how-to program to guide newbies through their first several actions. Then you might use customer feedback on their desired outcomes to send them an appropriate ebook or link to relevant blog posts to help them achieve it.

Essentially, you prove your worth by making your customer’s success a priority – and making sure they know it!

Sign up today for free Net Promoter Score feedback with InMoment.

Why SaaS Companies Need Net Promoter Score Feedback from End Users

If you are like most B2B SaaS company leaders, you send your buyers an Net Promoter Score survey out to gauge loyalty and solicit feedback. If you are focused on retention, you need to know the answer to the NPS question: How likely are you to recommend my product or service?   However, you may be hesitant to ask the same question of the hundreds of end users of your product. 

The fact is end users are your customers, too.  After purchase it is your end users that must become the champions of your product. If they are unhappy they will tell your decision makers or, worse, let their feelings be known on social media.

Knowing what end users think of your product is invaluable, essential intelligence for your QBR. 

Whether you are in Sales or Customer Success, here is how end-user feedback plays into your Quarterly Business Review with your key stakeholder. He or she may not know how happy or unhappy their people are with your product. But you do!  

Scenario 1: End users are happy.  Imagine being able to tell a VP of Product or CMO that end-users gave your product a 52 NPS, and rattling off some of the great verbatim feedback you’ve received from promoters.  You’ve harnessed that brand advocacy. Now picture a competitor cold-calling your client. Is that VP even going to take the call and “explore other options”? No way. Not a good use of her time. 

Scenario 2: End users aren’t so happy.  That’s still good intel. You can be proactive. Let the decision maker hear it from you (they may already have heard from their people anyway): “Your team is achieving  [a success goal], but they have definitely experienced frustration with this new feature of ours. We know it didn’t meet expectations, but I want to assure you that the fix is on our roadmap for Q2 and you will be the first to be upgraded…”  

Either way, you are a proactive, knowledgeable and trustworthy partner to your stakeholders.

Get the ebook, The Modern Guide to Winning Customers with Net Promoter Score. Learn how to modernize your NPS program for growth and higher loyalty with end-user feedback.

End-user NPS feedback will shape your product roadmap

Hearing directly, day in and day out, from end users provides a pulse of sentiment and qualitative feedback that Product teams need.  There is nothing like hearing about a new feature directly from a user.  And, users will identify a bug before the company can — you have an quality control army to support you. Some SaaS companies, like Magoosh, use in-app Net Promoter Score survey feedback to A/B test product versions for customer happiness. The product team at Hootsuite adds a feature to each quarterly roadmap that is derived from end user NPS feedback.

The Best Way to Survey End Users

Lengthy email surveys are not appropriate for end users. You need to know if users like your product, if they’d recommend your product, if it actually helps them in the way they need. You don’t need a lengthy survey to get actionable feedback from them. Plus, even if you do have their email contact information, that isn’t a channel they expect to hear from you in. If you send users a survey via email, they might not recognize who it is coming from.

Use in-app NPS surveys to get the information you need from users of your SaaS product. Surveys inside your SaaS application will give you the contextual feedback you need in real-time.  And the best part is that a well-designed in-app survey is unobtrusive.  It won’t interrupt the work that users are doing in your product. When a user opts to respond, it will only take them seconds to do so.

“The Wootric in-app survey is great. It’s non-intrusive, and it doesn’t block our customers from doing what they need to do in our dashboard.” Sterling Anderson, Customer Insights Manager, Hootsuite

Resistance to asking end users for feedback 

Leading edge, customer-centric SaaS companies like New Relic, DocuSign and Consumer Reports have made the leap to asking end users for Net Promoter Score (NPS) feedback. You may be struggling with the same concerns they had to overcome.  Let’s run them down:

2. I don’t have a relationship with end users.

B2B SaaS companies often do not interact with the end-users of their product. Historically, even getting to the end user was nearly impossible. You may have communicated with one or several stakeholder decision makers that have signed off on the subscription purchase, but not had a single email address for the people actually using the product every day.

This is where in-app surveys truly shine. Users have an existing relationship with you through your product, and are more likely to give feedback when asked within the product experience.

2. The volume of responses is scary.

The idea of going from 2 or 3 survey responses per account to hundreds can sound overwhelming. With modern Voice of the Customer software platforms though, feedback is aggregated and analyzed for you–often using machine learning.

Sending surveys is automated as well.  You don’t have to create survey “campaigns.” You can drip Net Promoter Score surveys and get constantly updated, real-time feedback. That way you’ll never miss a trend. Alternatively, you can trigger Customer Satisfaction or Customer Effort Score surveys at key points in the customer journey.

3. I don’t know how to respond to end-user feedback.

Depending on the feedback, you can respond in a couple of very productive ways:

  • You can send set up an auto-message to thank users for responding to the survey. This can be customized based on whether the user was happy or had a complaint.
  • Promoters, or highly satisfied customers, can be referred to Customer Success or Marketing for testimonials or case studies.  Route unhappy end user responses to Customer Support for follow up.
  • If responding to each user isn’t feasible, one simple way to close the loop is to create a blog article that talks about the feedback you’ve received and what you plan to do about it.

4. Am I going to mess up my corporate KPI by surveying end users?

Segmentation can help here. Parse your metrics by buyer, admin and user, for example, to maintain continuity with previous buyer-only NPS data. If you believe that end-user feedback has value — there is a way!

5. Yikes. Am I REALLY ready to hear feedback about my product? 

This may be the single greatest fear we encounter! It takes a brave business to ask for real, unvarnished feedback from end users. And it takes a smart business to know how to use that feedback to build better products and improve user experiences. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it is essential for businesses hoping to grow, gain referrals, and lead their industries. A modern Net Promoter Score software platform can help make this organized and manageable.

Modern CXM software will help you get it right.

End user feedback will tell you your strengths and weaknesses, which are both valuable information. Understanding what end users love can strengthen your relationships with the decision makers. Knowing where end users get into trouble puts you ahead of negative feedback at reviews, ensuring you’re prepared with a game plan to remedy the issue and keep the account.

Build end-user loyalty. Sign up today for free Net Promoter Score feedback with InMoment.

Product Managers: Why You Should Include Customer Success Milestones In Your User Flows

As a Product Manager, you develop user flows to chart how customers move from signup to successfully using your SaaS product. Your colleagues in Customer Success are doing the same thing — mapping a flow of customer milestones to success.

But “success” can mean different things to PMs and CSMs. And, while both teams employ user flows (or customer journeys), what they put on them are very different, reflecting their very different goals.

You are responsible for making the product functionally work, with enough awesome UX so it’s relatively intuitive for the customer to use. For your team, “success” often means that the product works. It does what it says it will do, and does it well.

Customer Success is responsible for helping customers use the product to achieve their desired outcome. Most of the time, that desired outcome isn’t in the product – it’s outside of it. For example, if I purchase a budgeting app, my desired outcome is to save enough money to sun myself on a Caribbean beach, with a good-looking server to bring me fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. The Customer Success manager’s job is to get me there.

You might say it’s a conflict between focusing on the world inside the product and the wide, wide world outside of it.

And that conflict can bring about a deep divide between Product and Customer Success.

Yet, we’re all working towards the same goal: Creating a product people love, need and want more of.

What if you were to bring both user flows together, so the functionality inside the product meets the desired outcomes outside of the product?

The Customer Success Perspective

This is a basic Customer Success User Flow, riffing off of Lincoln Murphy’s mockup. This type of user flow shows how customers get to each successive Milestone – or the parts of the product that will take them to the next step towards reaching their Desired Outcome.

But this chart doesn’t show the most important part for the CSM: The success gaps between signup and that Desired Outcome.

It’s in these spaces that Customer Success does most of its work.

Success gaps are what stand between product functionality and success milestones or desired outcomes. My budgeting app might help me save money, but will it help me have an amazing Caribbean vacation? Of course not – the product isn’t designed for that.

But Customer Success content is designed for that. In e-books, blog posts, or social media ‘quick tips,’ Customer Success can tell me everything I need to know to successfully budget for my dream Caribbean getaway. This content can tell me things like “Don’t forget to include hotel taxes and airline fees in your budget,” or “When budgeting for vacation, experts suggest planning on spending $140 a day for food for two.”

Let’s take another example: Hubspot.

HubSpot’s product is an impressively integrated website, social media management, marketing, CRM and Sales platform. Their customer’s desired outcome is to build a successful online business. So, HubSpot’s Customer Success team created a Sales blog for salespeople, a Marketing blog for marketers, and the Hubspot Academy with certification courses in inbound marketing, email marketing, inbound sales, content marketing, sales software, marketing software, design for web and marketing agencies, contextual marketing, and HubSpot design.

They’ve created everything you could possibly need to succeed, in the real world, using their product.

HubSpot is an extreme example – most businesses don’t have the resources for anything so comprehensive. But the principle behind it is something we can all employ.

Give your customers the tools and information they need to do what they need to do.

And this is where Product comes in.

The Product Management Perspective

When you think of user flows, it is typically about what you want users to do next in the product – the functional completion of getting from A-Z.

In your user flows, you’ll see interactions within the product, with options for different paths users can take within the product.

And, once again, success gaps are between every single action.

This is often where you will insert in-app tutorials to cover the usability success gaps, but it’s not the PM’s job alone to think outside the product. That’s what Customer Success is for.

This is what I’ve been recommending to my clients

My clients often have user flows, ready-made, from their Product teams. They may or may not have user flows from their Customer Success teams – and if they don’t, I tell them to create one.

You have to, have to, HAVE TO know where your success gaps are!

Lately, however, I’ve recommended a new way to create user flows: By bringing Product Management and Customer Success to co-create a user flow together.

A user flow that shows what functionally needs to happen…

  • Onboarding/Acquisition/Retention stages
  • Success Milestones
  • Where to move from Freemium to Paid subscription
  • When to ask for Advocacy
  • When to Upsell
  • Markers indicating success gaps
  • Where customers will find their first value, next values, and desired outcomes

It’s a user flow that brings together success inside the product with success outside of the product. And, it opens the door to getting Product’s ideas on ways to close the success gaps from within the product, and Customer Success’s ideas on how to improve UX.

What does this look like?

Something like this:

Product + Success Perspective on Customer User Flow

Clearly, this is a greatly simplified version of a user flow. But do you see the two sides coming together? Do you see the potential within those success gaps for Product + Success brainstorming?

And, most importantly, do you see how this user flow can actually get the user – from a Product and CS perspective – to their Desired Outcome?

Think of it this way: Every success gap presents an opportunity for Customer Success and Product to design a solution to bridge it. Sometimes that solution will be entirely on CS’s shoulders, like creating informative content, how-to’s, or videos. Other times, that solution will require your expertise to create an in-app pop-up tip, milestone celebration, or alert – and, when the success gap is a little too wide for a quick fix, a new feature or expansion.

By mapping both perspectives at the same time, you’re building the customer’s success into your process from the beginning.

The bottom line is…

If you and your Product team are only talking about the functional completion of the product, then it’s time to add a few more chairs to the conference room table – and invite Customer Success in.  Your product will be stickier when the functionality inside the product helps customers achieve their desired outcomes outside of the product.

Start getting free in-app feedback on your product today. Signup for InMoment.

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