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Practicing profitable customer success
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SaaS customers will gladly pay an additional fee to insure they realize more value faster, with less effort and while getting better results. To convince them to do so, you have to explain how you’ll do it. The above graphic illustrates that the right premium services can help the customer achieve acceptable ROI faster. This post will explore the premium services to include in your offering to measurably realize value faster for your customers.

A word about baseline services

Premium packages complement baseline services included in a subscription fee. The assumption of the basic offering is that a DIY approach will yield sufficient results but require the customer to spend more time to get results. The resources provided for free with a subscription usually include things like:

  • Feature documentation
  • FAQs
  • Generic guides
  • Ticket-based support
  • Self-service education
  • Community

The key theme for these features is self-service. It’s scalable and costs almost the same to provide the resource to 1 or a million customers. In short, if the customer has time and courage to go it alone, he can get sufficient value eventually.

Why customers buy premium success

Most enterprise customers are change averse and don’t want to risk their reputations by leveraging new technology or a new vendor. Thus, they are willing to pay to more if they believe a premium service can demonstrably:

  • Achieve business results faster
  • Deliver better results
  • Reduce risk
  • Get results more cost effectively
  • Provide professional development and networking opportunities

Faster

To ensure your premium offering saves time and helps the customer realize value faster, include features and services that minimize customer’s non-productive time by fast-tracking learning or resolution of challenges. For example, effective training that quickly helps large numbers of users get started is a common feature of premium offerings. Also consider services that guarantee faster turnaround times for questions, like expanded support, or live troubleshooting/debugging.

If you haven’t already, be sure to baseline relevant metrics like time to onboard users before you launch your premium services. To verify your premium services are effective and to help market to your prospective customers, you’ll want to able to say confidently that premium customers realize value at least 2 times faster.

Better

Premium services can help a customer get better results–either more value or improved outcomes. For example, a small business owner making the jump from a spreadsheet to a CRM to manage sales may not understand without guidance and training how an improved sales process can develop a growing lead database while enabling faster sales. Without the help of a CSM, software development teams that don’t fully understand agile may dislike kanban or sprint features and use their Jira or Pivotal instance like a complex bug tracking tool.

Get results more cost effectively

While paying additional fees doesn’t look cheaper, premium services can help the customer get results by using fewer of their resources (team/time) to realize significantly more value faster. Over the life of an agreement, you should be able to demonstrate how premium success generated value sooner thus reducing the overall cost of the customer’s investment.

While not a key selling point, premium packages frequently include features like discounts on other add-on packages that are sold a la carte, like training, or passes to conferences. This type of enhancement to a premium package along with others can entice the customer to select a premium option.

Reduced Risk

Moving from a free trial or departmental pilot to a company rollout requires people put their reputations on the line. Including features that minimize risk or perception of risk, can help customers buy your premium option. Such examples include providing a named CSM, or explicit SLAs.

Professional Development and Network Opportunities

Rarely labeled as such, premium services can be affordable ways your customers can fast track their own professional development and grow their networks. Savvy customers who are aware of their own professional brand know that if they are successful with your solution that success can be documented and shared in blogs, white papers, testimonials, conferences, or just shared via word-of-mouth. Premium services that provide this benefit include features such as executive clubs, networking events, and opportunities to work with experts via consulting services.

So what do you provide in your premium service?

The key features of a premium service that you provide and that deliver the above benefits depend on your product offering, but here are common features offered by successful B2B enterprise SaaS companies:

    • Success Coach (CSM, TAM, Success Engineer)
    • Expanded support
    • Training
    • Best practice or personalized content
    • Consulting or services
    • Discounts

Success Coach (CSM, TAM, Success Engineer)

A common feature in a premium offering is a named person, or team of resources, responsible for a customer’s success. Much like a personal trainer, this role helps make a daunting and intimidating project feel manageable. The name and function of the roles vary. For non-technical roles it’s called a Customer Success Manager (CSM), and for technical roles it’s called a Technical Account Manager (TAM), or a Success Engineer.

These roles are trained product and resource experts that help a customer get better results faster by delivering the right information or resource when needed. In any package, a success coach is an insurance policy that ensures the customer gets the help and service she paid for. While no one can force a customer to do anything, these coaches can present actionable plans that baby-step a customer towards value realization.

Many companies include a CSM in premium success packages but here are a few:

Expanded Support

The foundation of an expanded support service you can bundle in a premium offering is faster response times for all inquires and faster resolution times for questions. If your standard response targets for non-premium customers is 48 or 24 hours, you can reduce those times by 50% and thus giving the customer confidence time will be saved. Beyond saving time, expanded support provides important legal (READ: SLAs) and psychological insurance to a company making a significant investment in your solution.

Common features of expanded support are:

  • Priority support (faster response times to all inquiries, and faster resolution of questions)
  • Escalation service and SLAs
  • Expanded communication mediums like phone or chat
  • Real-time debugging

Examples of companies selling expanded support are:

Training and Certification

Training is a tangible asset customers are willing to pay for to expedite solution rollout and adoption. It’s also highly scalable and can be extremely effective. Live training, in-person or via Web conference, is a fast and efficient way to help a customer onboard rapidly. For these reasons, training packages are common features of premium service plans.

Examples of training services generally included in premium plans services are the following:

  • One-to-many web-based product overviews with Q&A
  • Live, interactive instruction for a small group
  • Role-based training for admins, program managers, developers, or power users
  • In-person training or workshops

Certification is a service that’s usually relevant if your platform becomes a standard, or if you have a strong partner program. As such, it’s not a common feature of premium offerings.

Examples of companies including training in premium success packages are:

Best Practice or Personalized Content

Companies are increasingly giving away generic, best practice content via newsletters or downloads to attract customers and build brands. However, useful content is still a common feature in premium offerings because it can be leveraged continually once created. In premium offerings, best practice content can be more specific, detailed, or personalized for a given industry, or customer.

Quality content is also evolving in the formats used to distribute it. Increasingly audio (podcasts), and video (produced segments or recordings of talks/webinars) are common assets in a premium library.  

In an effort to build brands as experts and thought leaders, companies are increasingly providing quality content via newsletters, blogs, or podcasts. HubSpot has done this very well. And CB Insights has redefined how to design a newsletter that provides value, builds brand, and makes you feel loved (looking at you Anand).

Examples of companies bundling specific best practice or personalized content in premium packages are:

Consulting or Services

A common feature of premium offerings that customers willingly pay for is personalized, expert guidance on how best to deploy or use a solution. In B2B enterprise SaaS companies, “consultants” that can provide this guidance are specialized CSMs or Success Engineers with either domain or technical expertise. In this capacity, the CSM does not code, or implement, but conducts discovery, education, and guidance sessions that may result in a personalized success plan.

Especially in domains new to the customer or in highly technical engagements, leveraging an expert to expedite value realization requires little justification beyond, “We need expert help”.

Beyond being a name and face, the Customer Success team can usually provide a number of services that can be sold a la carte or packaged in premium offerings. Here are a few:

  • Onboarding new or lapsed users
  • Conducting release readiness sessions
  • Conducting periodic business reviews or health checks
  • Creating and managing loyalty programs
  • Power-user, VIP, or Executive Clubs: Monthly newsletters and quarter webinars
  • Voice of the Customer/Customer Council: Eliciting and facilitating prioritized feedback to Product

Examples of companies selling consulting are:

Discounts

While more of a sweetner than reason for buying premium services, such packages can give you discounts to such things as conferences or events, as well as discounts to other premier services that can be purchased a la carte.

Examples of companies including discounts to other premium services are:

In conclusion

In the beginning, you’ll have to cobble together resources/help from other groups but once you demonstrate customers are willing to pay for premium packages and realize value faster, you’ll be able to fund your own expansion. Using your data analytics to capture how quickly customers realize value based on service segment will help you improve the packages and market them effectively. In a subsequent post, we’ll discuss packaging these services for sales enablement. 

 

About the Co-Author

Omid Razavi is an industry consultant to SaaS CXOs on customer success and revenue growth. Omid is passionate about leading, aligning, scaling, and transforming customer success, renewal/account management, professional services and support teams, with clear accountabilities to consistently deliver superior customer experience and exceptional business results. His work is focused on helping organizations develop and execute strategies to improve customer outcomes, and applying data-driven algorithms and processes to engage customers for superior experience.

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