If you’re a SaaS company, listen up.
Every decision you make moving forward needs to be made with one thing in mind: customer outcomes.
In 2023 and beyond, before you make any product- or business-related decision, ask yourself: how this will help your customers?
Do that and you’ll win.
What Are Customer Outcomes?
Customer outcomes are what your customers expect from your product. Examples of customer outcomes include saving time, increasing revenue, decreasing support tickets, reducing technology debt, and improving team performance. Common strategies used to drive these outcomes include customer success and customer education.
Examples of Customer Outcomes for SaaS Companies
- Using Slack to improve internal and external communication
- Using HubSpot to automate campaigns and generate more leads
- Using Mailchimp to enhance email marketing and save their teams time
- Using SurveyMonkey to easily source feedback
- Using DocuSign to make it easier for people to create and distribute documents
If you’re wondering what outcomes your customers expect, ask yourself this:
What are you building the product to do?
The answer to this question is generally your Marketing team’s gospel—it’s what you want customers and prospects to think about when you come to mind. It’s also often the first thing people see when they visit a website.
Dooly, the popular sales enablement software, does this with flying colors.
Someone visiting its website immediately knows the outcome Dooly is pitching: An easier way to sell.
It’s important to note, however, that customer outcomes aren’t uniform; they differ based on, well, the customers. Driving customers to these intended outcomes hinges on your ability to understand what each of them wants.
Again, think of Dooly.
People on each of these teams—Accounts, Leadership, Sales Enablement, Customer Success, and Revenue Operations—expect something different.
An Account Executive, for example, may expect Dooly to help them hit their quota with fewer resources, while a Customer Success Manager (CSM) wants to decrease time to value (TTV).
Why Are Customer Outcomes Important for SaaS Companies?
Customer outcomes are the cornerstone of any successful business, but SaaS companies are putting a premium on them because of one thing: Options—and the fact that customers have a lot of them.
For better or worse, the continued growth and adoption of technology are giving people an endless list of options from which to choose.
MailChimp, for example, is fighting for customers against Adobe Marketo Engage, HubSpot Marketing Hub, and Constant Contact.
Meanwhile, Zoom’s going toe-to-toe with GoTo Connect, BlueJeans Meetings, Google Workspace, and Webex Meetings.
There’s always an alternative. Just type any company into G2 and look at all the alternatives that come up.
Historically, fending off the competition came with a hefty dose of product development; a new feature or lower price was enough to retain customers.
SaaS companies, outside of a notable few, can no longer rely on these differentiators.
There’s no parity and most products fundamentally do the same thing.
The dwindling opportunities for product-based differentiation are why SaaS companies are using customer experience as a competition advantage and why customers are prioritizing it when making a purchase decision.
Customer outcomes are at the heart of these experiences.
How to Deliver the Customer Outcomes in 2023
Every SaaS purchase stems from a use case—93% of B2B buyers require one for all technology solutions.
Said another way, nearly every person that comes in contact with you will do so because they have a void; they have a customer outcome in mind.
This is one of the inherent challenges of B2B. Your customers know what they want and if the product doesn’t deliver, they’ll go somewhere else.
Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen:
Create a Customer-centric Culture
Customer outcomes are, well, all about your customers, but achieving them begins far before they enter the picture.
In reality, consistently delivering customer outcomes relies on creating—and maintaining—a customer-centric culture:
- Product: The product team needs to make sure the product delivers value. Every level of the product team should constantly ask themselves this: How can we make sure our product helps the customers? They can glean these insights via direct customer interactions, embedded surveys in the product, or through interactions with customer success managers (CSMs).
- Marketing & Sales: These are often the first teams that come into contact with customers (and prospects). These moments are also when potential customers form their impression of the product. Customer centricity starts with them. Marketing campaigns should promote realistic outcomes, while the sales process should instill confidence that those outcomes are within reach.
- Customer Success, Support, & Service: These teams typically play a part in driving customer outcomes after a deal closes. Whether that’s decreasing time to value (TTV), providing proactive support to increase product adoption or being available when technical hurdles pop up, they’re the cogs that ultimately drive outcomes throughout a customer’s lifetime.
Consistently delivering the right customer outcomes hinges on these teams working together to push customers down the right path—a path that leads them to where they want to go.
Understand Your Customers
Dig through Google Drive or some alternative and look for any existing documentation on your ideal customer profile (ICP).
The information within will almost certainly give you the information you need to fully grasp your customers’ MO and what they’re looking for out of your product (and any services that come with them).
Here’s where it gets tricky: SaaS products are often flexible in the sense that they appeal to different teams within a company.
Northpass is a good example of this.
While we offer one customer education platform, we’ve built it with different teams in mind.
- A product leader may use Northpass to attract new users.
- A customer success manager (CSM) may use Northpass to decrease TTV.
- A Chief Customer Officer (CCO) may expect Northpass to help the company increase net revenue retention.
The point is that customer outcomes come in different shapes and sizes.
Understanding the unique needs of each customer is the only way to ensure that your customers are getting what they expect out of your product—and the only way to maintain leadership buy-in.
It’s also important to remember that customer outcomes change.
Here’s an example:
When I started using ahrefs, I was primarily looking to do basic keyword research, but as time went on and I gained more responsibility, my expectations changed.
Not only did I still need help with ongoing keyword research, but I needed the software to speed up my link-building strategy.
To retain me as a customer, ahrefs has to deliver on these outcomes. If it doesn’t, I’ll move on.
It’s the harsh, but all-too-real reality of the SaaS world.
Invest in Customer-facing Teams
SaaS, especially B2B SaaS, is inherently complex. As intuitive as companies make their software, rarely, if ever, will a customer be able to get up to full speed on their own. Wrapping their heads around new features as the product evolves will be a challenge as well.
This isn’t new and companies have long-since established that customers will need some hand-holding. Historically, this hand-holding came from low-touch CSM interactions and traditional help centers.
For example, a customer may interact with a CSM or support representative on a monthly or “as needed” basis.
Or maybe the immediate engagement was high, but following the onboarding process, support dropped off.
In terms of training, SaaS companies have historically relied on traditional help centers, lengthy webinars, and other pieces of documentation that aren’t accessible, intuitive or easy to understand.
The outcome: No customer outcomes.
The SaaS world has reached a point where customers need more help to guide them down the right path.
To successfully guide them down this path, SaaS companies need to invest in customer-facing teams and strategies.
I’m talking about Customer Success and Customer Education.
- Customer Success: Proactively work with customers on a 1:1 basis to drive outcome by defining what success looks like, setting business objectives, outlining success plans, and identifying account risks. CSMs generally start interacting with customers post-sale (but can be brought in sooner) to help with onboarding, ongoing education, and ensuring they stay on the right path.
- Customer Education: A customer education program acts as an extension to your support and services teams to ensure your customers always have access to the resources they need to succeed. When powered by a learning management system (LMS), customer education can help accelerate onboarding, increase product adoption, reduce support tickets, and ultimately, boost retention.
Invest in these teams and strategies—and make sure these teams understand intended customer outcomes—and you very well could have a customer for life.
Reach out today to learn how Northpass and our customer education platform can help you drive customer outcomes.