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Smooth the Path for Customers

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

In a recent blog post, I wrote how B2B SaaS companies can drive up their ARR growth.

I offered three options.

Optimize your existing go to market

Extend new offerings to existing customers.

Expand to adjacent markets or channels.

I wrote this line on optimize.

Organize to smooth your customer’s path, not your effort.

A recent experience underscored the importance of this strategy.

I needed to print something right away.

The HP printer was out of toner.

The HP site said I could get it in one day for $89.

Amazon said the exact same thing.

I ordered from the zero-friction offering.

I ordered from Amazon.

No need to set up an account, a shipping address, or payment info.

And I fully trust Amazon to deliver in one day.

That is all it took.

As consumers, we have become intolerant of any friction.

We choose Uber over cabs in large part to avoid the awkward payment moment.

We order and pay for coffee or lunch with a few clicks in an app.

The studies show consumers abandon shopping carts 70% of the time.

We abandon when the friction to buy outweighs the promise of value.

Large online retailers spend serious money to lower those rates by reducing this friction.

They simplify selecting, buying, experiencing, and returning,

These same consumers are your business buyers.

A high bar has been set for B2B SaaS.

What are you doing to lower your ‘buyer abandonment rate’?

To lower it you need to really put yourself inside your customer’s world.

And by customer, I mean the key stakeholders inside the business.

Most importantly, what are their goals?

How do they define success?

Who do they need to influence to achieve this success?

What or who can stop them from working with you?

To illustrate, take the following example.

We sold through resellers.

Getting resellers to sign up and get onboarded was tough.

Unless they had a project with a check from the customer.

They then wanted to sign up and go.

It became a mad scramble.

We tried everything to break this pattern to no avail.

It was the reality of their business.

They just wouldn’t spend money and resources ahead of projects.

So we built processes around their reality.

We made our contracts more reseller friendly.

The redlines we always received weren’t that important anyway.

The more balanced contract set a tone.

Partners accepted the contracts without redlines.

It built trust right off the bat.

And our contracts allowed us to change pricing, margins, and policies unilaterally with notice.

The trust gave us greater latitude.

We had hundreds of resellers on the exact same contract.

Contracts were getting signed in a day or two.

We also created starter packages.

It included the subscription, the margin, the training, and some project shadowing in one package.

We found the friction and eliminated it.

Our reseller adoption increased.

As we grew, we saw lower satisfaction scores with support.

The first thing we did was talk to dozens of those opening tickets.

Most support calls were with our resellers.

Customers relied on them heavily.

They told us two things.

First, they want to fix their own problems without calling us.

Second, when they had a problem they wanted immediate and skilled assistance.

They worked on multiple projects at once.

Often, they would not jump back on a project for days or weeks.

To us a few hour delay was no big deal.

To them that delay cost them weeks.

We were too focused on emptying our queue versus meeting our customers’ goals.

We did a few things.

Good training and skills assessment was key to self-sufficiency.

Consultants could not invest in multi-day onsite training,

We built a rich online curriculum and testing platform.

We invested heavily in self-serve resources.

We added more content and made it easier to find.

We also blew up our old tiered support model.

The one where Tier 1 triaged and passed it up the chain to level 2.

Some cases were then passed to Level 3.

While easier to manage for us, the tiering created built in delays.

It made it harder to get to the problem solver.

We moved to a swarming model.

One where cases were handled by small teams.

The teams had everything they needed to immediately resolve complex issues.

While more difficult to manage, customers got expert help faster.

The skills development of our people accelerated.

Customers saw a dramatic reduction in their (not our) resolution times.

Our satisfaction scores went up.

Project success rates increased.

Customer churn went down.

So, ask yourself these questions.

Are you too focused on your own efficiency?

Are your internal processes and procedures built to make your life easier?

Or are they built around how your customers work?

Do they remove friction from your team or your customer?

You can accept the realities of your market or you can fight it.

It is a fight you cannot win.

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