In the competitive world of SaaS, where great software products are provided in a relatively low fee subscription model, many companies focus heavily on users’ acquisition and the cost of acquisition & support that is associated with such customers. As a result, almost all processes requiring interaction with the customers have become automated.
This leads to one of the major challenges SaaS companies are facing nowadays: customer churn. Thousands of new customers mean nothing, if hundreds or more give up on the company and leave at the same time.
The traditional b2b software world had a different approach on this matter, as a company relied on just a few clients who brought a significant income each to the respective company, so things were done to fit their every need and request. Most of the requirements and wishes came through the sales account managers, who were responsible to keep the customer happy and satisfied. They also made sure that the Research & Development teams understood the customers’ requests and pushed to get the requested functionality developed for them.
However, in SaaS world, the vendors must keep a close eye on the customer acquisition cost, and need to scale the business to a very big number of customers, so the account manager model in traditional b2b is no longer valid especially for companies targeting small-medium businesses. SaaS companies’ sales departments relay now on inside sales reps, whose main role is converting leads into new customers.
How can a SaaS vendor keep closer attention to his customers’ requirements? How and who decides what goes in the next version? Obviously, SaaS vendors adopted the multi-tenant model where every client is equally important; this type of business model doesn’t allow “customizations” to specific customers. All customers could benefit the whole product functionality the package allows them. Customers are part of a group now, and the vendor has to decide and prioritize between different features. The common methods SaaS vendors use to make a decision what would be the product roadmap is usually managed by the product marketing team and mainly relay on automatic statistics gathered from the product itself; i.e what functionalities the users use the most, what keywords they search on the site, etc…
Vendors can take a step further with the “listen to the customer voice” approach and leverage their communication with their best asset, their customers, by applying additional tactics as:
Discussion groups, forums, surveys, polls. Some refer to this community as “Customer advisory board”, and vendors started long time ago to invest more and more in such communities. The community’s activity level is an important indication for a customer when signing with a SaaS vendor. The information and ideas from these communities can be very valuable in determining the next features which will be developed.
Shared product roadmap: open communication is one of the qualities SaaS users appreciate the most. Some vendors use a shared roadmap, to inform the users of the future plans, and also allow users to change the roadmap and to vote for specific features, and determine the priority.
Information from the sales rep. The sale reps could perfectly fit in here and extend their power and influence on the product development roadmap. Being aware of the clients’ requests and expectations and “transferring” the info to the Research & Development teams is crucial for maintaining a successful business and reducing the churn. Paying more attention to what our customers need to say and not wasting valuable& knowledgeable information is the key behind a successful SaaS operating business.