When people ask about my philosophy towards customer success for SaaS companies, I’m always reminded of a simple (and slightly strange) saying.
Put the potato on the fork.
It’s something I was told early in my legal career when preparing an email update to a client. While the information I provided them was useful, it was destined to trigger additional questions. In essence, the saying is a directive to anticipate the needs of your client.
If you realize that your answer to a client question might spur more questions, or that they’d benefit from some additional information they may not have known to ask for, address those things in the same response. That way, you’re setting up your client with all the information they need, and avoiding a back-and-forth exchange that could be streamlined. Don’t just drop the potato on their plate; put it on their fork and set them up for success.
Looking at the current SaaS customer service model in the fintech and legaltech spaces, I’m unimpressed. There needs to be more “potato fork-ing,” if I’m allowed to make that a verb.
As a customer success leader, I hear a lot of clients venting about these frustrations with our competitors: inexperienced customer service representatives, a lack of access to expertise without “paying to play,” and a general experience that puts the responsibility on the customer to get their own question answered. Clients will often report the need to repeat themselves to three or four people before their question is addressed, and re-educate each representative on their account details, nevermind having limited ways to access the people with expertise who can actually solve their problem.
Companies are relying on their SaaS solutions more than ever. On average, each employee uses eight applications or platforms on a regular basis, per data from MarTech. Business gets done through SaaS; shouldn’t the service model catch up with this usage rate? Top-tier service can help your platform rise above the rest in a crowded market.
Having responsive, thoughtful, expert customer service is imperative for all SaaS customer success teams, especially those operating within the complicated world of financial and legal tech. Customer service is a differentiator, especially when customers have their choice of multiple SaaS platforms. A hands-on, proactive, expert-led approach from your customer success team can lead to more meaningful client relationships, and ultimately, more revenue for your company.
Here are five rules our customer success team lives by:
1) Expertise is the key to customer service for SaaS
The standard customer service model for SaaS companies goes as follows: junior employees enter the company as a CS representative, spend a couple years doing support tickets, then move on to product management, account management, or leave the company altogether.
That doesn’t typically work well when you’re dealing with nuanced topics like equity management support or contract data. Customers routinely tell us about their gripes with other platforms: that they can see, hear and feel when another platform’s support person doesn’t have a full understanding of the product. Most SaaS platforms are dealing with complex data, or guiding entrepreneurs and company leaders through intricate legal and financial processes. A PowerPoint training isn’t enough to turn a new customer support hire into an expert – it doesn’t happen overnight.
But Lynne, I can’t afford to have experts in my CS positions…
Well, it’s going to cost you somewhere.
This ties back to my experience at a boutique law firm. Our firm had a greater ratio of senior to junior people, and many clients expressed their preference for this dynamic. Generally, experience breeds greater efficiency in delivering solutions to clients. By hiring senior experts, you’ll reduce costly turnover, saving money in the long run and, of course, delivering greater service.
2) Spend more time listening to your customers
Efficiency can be a great differentiator for customer success in SaaS companies. We respond to most client questions within 30 minutes, while still providing thoughtful and thorough feedback.
That said, there’s an advantage to taking your time at the beginning of a client relationship. You want to dig in and understand their priorities and get to know their team. Who is going to be involved with the account, and what do they need to be supported? Understand your client’s previous experience with other SaaS platforms, and the road that led them to you.
We always like to ask: what is your company planning in the next 3-6 months, and what does success on our platform look like for you? Strategize how your application can help relative to your client’s plans for scaling and growth. That makes you essential.
3) Knock down the barriers to customer success
Unfortunately, many SaaS providers focus their service only on their largest customers. Taking a “bottom line approach”(i.e. only investing in your highest paying clients) not only ensures you’re delivering a poor experience to many of your valuable customers, it also limits your growth potential.
Many SaaS companies offer tiered pricing, with expert support only available to clients that pay into the highest tier. Early-stage companies, therefore, can’t always access the help they need.
Just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you don’t have complicated issues to solve.
Democratizing expert support can be a differentiator (read: money maker) for your company. If you’re offering hands-on advice to everyone, instead of just major players, you increase the likelihood that more clients are successful in using your platform. Customers focus on value, and if you provide more, they’ll stick with you as they grow.
4) Use content to help your customers
The best customer support comes from a combination of human expertise and self-service content. Empower your clients to become experts of your SaaS platform. According to a survey from Nuance Enterprise, 91% of customers would leverage an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
Supplement your human expertise with a toolbox of guidance and helpful content. It’s important to embed these blogs, how-to-guides, and videos into your SaaS platform. The more instruction you can provide within the platform, right when they need it, the more empowered your clients will be.
And don’t be afraid to recycle, reuse, and repurpose existing content! Most companies have dozens (even hundreds) of blogs, whitepapers, and other content on their websites. Those helpful bits of info are too valuable to only appear on your blog, so incorporate them into your platform.
5) “Put the potato on the fork”
I started with this, but I think it bears repeating.
The key to excellent customer service isn’t just responding and answering the question that’s directly in front of you; it’s seeing the other 355 degrees of what your customer is doing or saying. You should never answer a customer question in a way that leaves the next logical question unanswered, or that doesn’t take a holistic approach to their problem.
Reduce the mental energy customers need to expend to achieve success on your platform. Your platform’s success should be measured by your customer’s success in utilizing it.
You can change the Saas customer service model for your company.
Think back to the bigger picture of your SaaS platform. What did you set out to do? Whose life are you trying to simplify?
A customer-first, boutique-style approach to your SaaS customer service model can differentiate your company and help you achieve that mission.
Lynne Zagami is the Head of Customer Success at Shoobx, an equity management SaaS platform that companies, investors and lawyers use to automate, generate, execute, and store legal documents. She spent six years as a practicing lawyer at both large and boutique law firms, and created the role of Director of Client Engagement at her last firm. She also led client service efforts at a legaltech startup before joining Shoobx. Lynne is a strong believer in the value of great service and enjoys supporting entrepreneurs on their journey from incorporation to exit or IPO.