Customer Success Leadership Considerations for Driving SaaS Feature Adoption

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This guest post by Thad Tremaine originally appeared in LinkedIn Pulse.

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Congratulations!

Your SaaS product team just delivered your most feature-rich release ever. While they’re popping the Champagne, it’s time to put your marketing and services teams to work to drive adoption of your new capabilities.

The efforts your company takes just before and after important feature releases can significantly impact your customers’ success, and therefore, your customer lifetime value.

Unfortunately, you can’t just assume your customers will adopt your new features day-one, especially if self-service training or additional prerequisites (i.e. customer data) are required.

While customers may have every intention of adopting your latest and greatest features, and would benefit greatly from doing so, the reality is that they often don’t have the time or focus to do so right away. And the longer they delay, the less likely they are to start using your new features, causing you to lose much of the competitive advantage your product team just delivered.

If you want to make sure your customers are adopting your product’s most impactful features, consider a multi-pronged approach that includes the following:

  • Pre-release marketing
  • In-app notifications
  • Services evangelism
  • Statistical analysis

Pre-release Marketing

Your feature releases should receive a high degree of attention from your marketing team, just as a new product release would.

Feature releases should have a launch plan that clearly defines time-bound adoption goals for each key feature (i.e. 75% adoption by tier 1 customers within 1 month of the release), as well as the activities needed to achieve those goals.

That said, it is critical that you have the reporting capabilities to measure adoption. If those capabilities aren’t native to your platform, consider a third-party solution for adoption and usage tracking.

You can assign measurement responsibilities to your product, marketing, or services team, as long as someone is responsible for communicating your progress and everyone is engaged in driving adoption.

In-app Notifications

One of the items on your launch plan should be to point users to your new features with in-app messaging or tutorials. A single email to customers the day of the release is rarely sufficient to drive the desired level of adoption, and a high-touch approach is necessary (think advertising’s “Rule of 7”).

With Customer Success Managers in some organizations owning 200-500 customers, there simply isn’t time to call every customer within the first few weeks after your release. As with functional tracking mechanisms, if you don’t have in-app notification capabilities built into your platform, you may want to consider a third-party for this capability.

Services Evangelism

If you have an Account Management or Customer Success team, they should play a key role in evangelizing your new features, so consider a call blitz to drive awareness.

If you let your marketing efforts and in-app notifications drive the first couple waves of adoption (see above), your services team can focus their efforts on the most important adoption laggards (i.e. high revenue, Net Promoter “detractors”).

Gamify the blitz by providing your services team with incentives for hitting adoption goals, just as you would your sales team for hitting their quota.

An often overlooked resource for driving feature adoption is the customer help desk. While most support teams are reactive in nature, they can deliver tremendous value by promoting feature adoption, provided they have the right information at their fingertips (i.e. from a screen pop). Train your team to introduce customers to new features and point them to appropriate resources.

As an example, at the end of a support call, encourage your support reps to say something like, “Now that we’ve fixed your problem, I’d love to take a couple minutes to show you a new feature that I think will save you a ton of time... are you logged in?”

Statistical Analysis

If you’re able to measure feature adoption, and currently use a customer experience measurement methodology such as NPS, over time you can correlate the adoption of certain features or combinations of features to creating promoters. You may find that customers who use feature X, Y, and Z have a 90% likelihood of being a promoter.

That kind of information is gold and can help prioritize your service team’s efforts.

The sky's the limit on what you can do with statistical modeling tools, but if you don’t have access to one, pay a visit to your finance team and see if they are willing to help.

Once you’ve figured out which usage trends generate promoters, you may want to go back to your marketing team to collaborate on a drip campaign for customers who have under-adopted your most important features.

Summary

Your feature adoption efforts can’t start and stop the day of your product release.

If they do, you’ll allow your competitors to achieve functional parity as they quickly catch up to last quarter’s release. Treat each feature release as you would a full-fledged product release, rigorously measure adoption, and close the loop with adoption laggards.

Your customers’ long-term success depends on it!

About the Author

Thad Tremaine is a Customer Success and services professional with a proven record of transforming service operations into a competitive advantage and expanding top-tier client relationships.

Connect with Thad on Linkedin or Twitter.

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