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Jenna Kluger

Jenna Kluger

When Should You Invest in Customer Success Software?

Your SaaS company is gaining customers, and you’re starting to wonder: Is it time to look for a Customer Success platform to help you track usage, assess customer relationships, and discover how events like onboarding programs or new features affect customer health?

Don’t commit until you read this! We can be biased since, you know, we sell Customer Success software—but a dedicated platform is not right for every business at every stage. And if it’s not the right time for you, there are other tools you can use to get insights into your customers’ success until you’re ready for a full software solution. (If you’re considering building your own Customer Success software, we have advice for you, too.)

Are You Ready for Customer Success Software?

Here are some of the signs that you may benefit from this investment.

Your SaaS Company…Is Growing

While a forward-thinking, scrappy, brand new SaaS company might benefit from an inexpensive Customer Success platform that grows with the business, in many cases it’s better to wait until you’re solidly in the growth stage.

“When your client base approaches the number of customers you don’t have time to talk to organically, that would be the point where you should invest in a Customer Success platform,” says Nadya Collins, Chief Customer Officer at the donor engagement platform ThankView. “That number will be different for every organization.”

Another good sign: your CSMs can no longer just pick up the phone and call customers, off the top of their head, and know who they’re talking to and what to talk about—and Google Sheets is becoming too unwieldy to handle the job. This typically starts happening at around five CSMs, each with about 25 customers. When you reach this tipping point, you probably need a solution to help you manage the information and remember the insights you’ve been collecting.

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Your SaaS Company…Is Feeling the Pain

Another way to approach the decision is to wait until you’re seeing signals of pain. “This is when you start realizing as an organization that you really don’t know how your customers are using the platform—and that you’re not capturing the qualitative trends on how engaged these customers are over time,” says Jonathan Tushman, founder and CEO of Quala. When a lack of insights and knowledge starts causing issues, it may be time to look into Customer Success software.

Your SaaS Company…Knows What’s Needed

Before investing in Customer Success software, it makes sense to wait until you have a handle on what exactly you want to measure. “Make sure that you have sat down with your team and talked through what ‘good’ looks like across your clients,” says Collins. “Who are the clients who are doing really well versus those who aren’t doing as well? And what makes them successful or not successful? If you don’t define that, you can implement any Customer Success platform and it won’t tell you anything.”

A Customer Success solution needs to be an extension of your Customer Success team’s brain, says Collins, so talk to them to uncover their needs and goals. What would you like to measure with the platform? How much time do you have to spend on each customer? Which touchpoints are important for your business? Only when you understand your needs does it make sense to invest in platforms to meet those needs.

Your SaaS Company…Is Stretching Your CRM to the Limit

As we’ll see below, many SaaS firms figure out how to use their CRM platforms to handle Customer Success measurements and tasks—but there comes a point where the CRM is at its breaking point. That’s when it’s time to consider a dedicated Customer Success solution.


When You’re Not Ready to Invest in Customer Success Software

Customer success software isn’t for every business at every time. If you invest in software before you’re ready, you waste money and add unneeded complexity to your business.

Here are some signs you don’t need Customer Success software (yet):

  • You’re still trying to figure out your business and how people will use your product.
  • You don’t yet have a product/market fit.
  • You’re not sure what you want to be tracking.
  • You’re worried software will get in the way of the natural flow of your new business.
  • You’re hoping software will be the silver bullet that magically eradicates all churn.

But even if you see some of these signs in your business, there are other ways to build systems to help streamline your Customer Success workflow and track the right data. “Leverage Google Sheets to capture important data and metrics,” suggests Tushman. “Create a generic scorecard. You won’t get automations or live updates, but it’s not a bad place to start. It gets you codifying what your relationships are.”

Some SaaS companies use CRMs like HubSpot, or build custom fields in Salesforce. “Most people can achieve some level of value just by syncing the account objects, contacts, and contact rules in Salesforce,” Tushman says. “But that can get super unwieldy.”

Be careful of stretching your CRM platform to the point where it becomes more of a problem than a help. “At some point companies’ CRM software is so frankensteined, and so complicated in its configuration, that the maintenance becomes someone’s full-time job,” says Tushman. “Instead of that person operating strategically within the organization, they are left trying to just keep the environment from breaking day-in and day-out. We see this a lot with companies that try to turn their CRM into a Customer Success tool.”


Should You Build Your Own Customer Success Software?

As a SaaS company, you know how to build software. So why not build your own Customer Success platform so you get exactly what you want?

That’s a definite option. But before you jump into development, ask yourself these questions:

1. How much will it cost?

Building your own Customer Success software might seem like a money-saver, but big IT projects typically run 45% over budget and go 7% over time. And “17% of IT projects go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company,” according to McKinsey.

2. Can we afford to maintain it?

Even if it does end up being cheaper to build than buy, software you build in-house has added maintenance costs: you may need a permanent developer staff to keep on top of maintenance and upgrades.

3. Can we spare the human resources?

“I have met a few teams that have tried to build a Customer Success tool on their own, and only one of them got even close to being successful,” says Collins. “And that company had a team of hundreds of engineers dedicated to just this project.” When you build Customer Success software in-house, you have to throw a lot of your human resources at it—and every minute your team spends on the project is a minute they’re not spending on your own software offering, which means you’re losing out on opportunities to provide value to customers.

4. Will this software make our jobs easier…or harder?

The last thing you want is software that requires so much in the way of maintenance, repairs, and training and retraining of the staff that it becomes a job in its own right. “You don’t want to work for the software, you want the software to work for you,” says Tushman.

For some SaaS companies, building Customer Success tools can absolutely be the answer. For others, it will cost too much, take too long, pull engineers away from their main focus, and make things more difficult for the CSMs.

Are you ready to invest in Customer Success software…or do you have questions about whether you’re at the right stage in your business for a Customer Success platform to be worthwhile? Contact us to talk about your options or to get a demo of Quala.

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