“Why can’t we just work on this feature? My client really needs it!”
This is one of the most challenging parts of customer success. We see a client struggling and we know that if we were to build a certain product enhancement they would be in a better place and be less of a churn risk. For Support teams, that new feature may mean less angry customers and a large reduction of tickets for similar issues.
If you’ve spent any time at a SaaS company, you know things aren’t that simple. The challenge is that your Product and Engineering teams have limited resources and your company needs to be laser-focused on the direction it wants to head in. The Product team has to contend with building new features to maintain your organization’s competitive advantage as well as take into account the feedback from sales and customer success teams and customers directly.
So how can customer success management and support teams drive real change?
It comes down to data. In this post I break down approaches I’ve successfully used across Support and CS to impact the Product Roadmap.
How Support Teams Can Leverage Data to Drive Change
There is nothing more frustrating for someone in Support to keep having to address the same product technical issue over and over again. This erodes trust with your clients and will drive your support team insane. It’s a real-life version of the movie Groundhog Day where you keep reliving the same experience over and over again.
But how do you end or at least reduce these carousels of doom so you stop going round and round on the same problems? There are some processes that you can implement today within your Support team that can drive change within your company. You can leverage the advantage that Support teams have as they capture data in a uniform way via a support platform and there is typically a sufficient amount of data based on the number of regular client interactions.
The three main processes that Support teams need to implement to drive change are: implementing ticket classification, capturing CSAT, and measuring ticket duration and response time. By tracking and reporting on this data regularly, you will start to see trends emerge that you can act on.
- Implement ticket classification. I recommend that you create a proper ticket closeout process and classify each ticket appropriately. Here are some recommended data elements that should be captured as your support team wraps up a ticket:
- Reason for reaching out. What is the reason the client is reaching out to you? Is it a general question, need for training, product bug, feature request, or a billing issue? You need to classify each ticket accordingly.
- Product area. In order to find the product features that your clients may be struggling with or leveraging the most, create a field that captures the product area that they are inquiring about. If your system permits it, create subcategories under the parent product categories. You will need to determine how specific you get in your classification. This will assist you on your ability to pinpoint the problem areas to your product team so you need to be mindful of the data attributes you create. If the categories are too broad, your product team may be confused and ignore your concerns as your asks are unclear.
- Effort needed. How long did it take to close out the support ticket? Was it under 15 minutes or over an hour? The better you can quantify the time it requires for your Support team to tackle certain product issues, the easier it is to make a case that the Product team needs to tackle the problem. The longer it takes to get to the root of the issue, the more headcount your Support team requires and the greater backlash you may face from customers. That takes us to the next item to track: CSAT.
- Capture customer satisfaction (CSAT). Beyond tracking the particulars of a support ticket, it’s critical to give your customers the opportunity to provide feedback on their support experience. This is typically accomplished through a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey which can be sent during or after the ticket is completed. There are variations of this type of survey including a customer effort score (CES) survey. Each has its pros and cons. It’s important to just start this process, review the data regularly, follow up with each and every response and standardize your process so the data is consistent.
- Measure ticket response & duration. Analyzing typical support metrics such as first response time (FRT) and average duration help round out the overall picture of your Support team’s effectiveness. For example, if your FRT is increasing it’s telling you that something is possibly wrong. It could be that you are understaffed but there could be a larger issue that you need to look into. Average duration tells you the average time your team is spending on each ticket. If this starts to increase, you need to determine if there are larger concerns that need to be addressed.
Once you have these processes in place, the fun begins! After you analyze the data, some obvious trends across your customer base should rise to the surface. For example, from your ticket classification, you may see that clients are struggling with a certain area of the product. From those same tickets, you may also see a lower CSAT score so you have a sense that a certain area of the product is negatively impacting your customer base and eroding your client’s trust. This provides you with the necessary data to make an argument with the Product team for improvements.
From the data you also be seeing an increase in FRT and average duration while your team’s caseload remains constant with team growth. You can make a case (excuse the pun) that the trends that you are seeing such as the overall number of bugs and increased effort per ticket are creating resourcing issues. Something needs to be done now or your headcount costs will keep rising and you may see higher customer churn. This is just one half of the coin. Customer success can leverage different data points that can bring focus to similar and other challenges that require the attention of the Product team.
How Customer Success Teams Can Leverage Data to Drive Change
There is nothing more frustrating for a CSM beyond a churn notice than to have a critical feature request rejected. However, there are some tactics that Customer Success teams can leverage to push forward on certain product features.
The three main processes that Customer Success teams need to implement to drive change are: creating a system to prioritize features, tracking at-risk and churn reasons and launching voice of the customer initiatives. By creating standardized processes, you will start to see trends that will emerge that can help you better align with your Product team and push through important features for your clients.
- Create a system to prioritize top feature requests. It’s not enough to just submit product features to a ticketing platform like Jira and hope for the best. Your Product team is looking to you to create a priortized list of features rather than having to guestimate which items they should focus on. It’s best to create certain criteria that will determine which feature requests should be higher up on list than others.
For example, you can use criteria such as the total annual recurring revenue (ARR) of the combined number of clients that is at-risk due to this feature gap, the number of overall customers impacted, and the potential revenue lift. The more dollars at stake, the more customers impacted the more potential dollars that could be gained can determine which feature needs to be addressed now rather than later. It could be that there is only one client that is impacted but it represents 10% of your total ARR. It could be very costly if that client churns due to a certain feature not being implemented.
- Track at-risk and churn reasons. The only good thing about churn is that it should give you data on improvements you need to make. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a few clients to leave to drive real change. When churn does happen, you need to dive down to the root issues and capture them in a central location. Just as you capture feature requests in Jira to look for trends across your client base, the churn and at-risk data typically bubbles up a few trends as it relates to your product and other areas.
The more examples you can produce to the Product team regarding missing features that led to churn or client unhappiness, the better the argument you can make to address this gap. I also recommend leveraging call recordings so that your Product team can hear the feedback directly from your customers. This leads me to my next point on voice of customer strategies.
- Launch Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives. One of the most successful tactics that I’ve implemented is a voice of customer (VOC) survey. This is typically a 10-15 question survey that is conducted twice a year (more on launching a VOC survey can be found in this post).The VOC survey should be combined with other VOC initiatives such as capturing client sentiment from meetings, post-implementation surveys and in-app data capture such as net promoter score (NPS) surveys.
VOC surveys and other tactics can provide a wealth of data to impact your product roadmap. The Customer Success team plays a critical role in this process as they can push for more survey submissions and extract additional details on how to build certain features.
Weaving these initiatives together will help CS teams obtain the data they need to have critical feature gaps addressed and improve the business overall. While Support and Customer Succss have different methods, their end goal is the same: create customers for life. Each department can leverage the data that they have and work together to provide the necessary information determine the initiatives that are prioritized.
Your company’s leadership team may decide that even with the data that has been presented that it wants to focus on other areas. That’s normal and those are the choices that businesses need to live with. However, by implementing these processes across CS and Support, you are doing what you can to help your company make the most informed decisions possible. You are doing what you can to argue for your customers and for your teams. What are you going to do to better leverge data in your organization?