Now you want to know how to do it. How do you develop the right questions, get the information you need from your customers, interpret qualitative data in a way you can use, and calculate scores for “unscorable” questions?
We can help, whether you use a CSM solution like Quala or a simple Excel spreadsheet to track your customer success metrics.
The Right Questions Offer Insights into Customer Success
In that article on Human-First Customer Assessments, we offered up a list of basic questions CSMs can use to determine the health of their clients. Like, How is the customer holding up? How critical are we to their success? and How likely are they to renew?
Below are important assessment examples that offer troves of customer insights if tracked over time:
(Working with a spreadsheet? You’re welcome to grab the assessments template Google sheet with questions and context so you can normalize the data coming in from your CSMs. More on developing your scale below.)
These harder-to-measure, often emotion-based questions can give you a good idea of how your customer feels about your services, whether they’re at risk, and how you can best support their success.
Don’t Ask These Questions
A key thing to keep in mind is that you’re not literally asking these questions of your clients; that could get pretty awkward. These are internal prompts for the CSM to gather information around the metrics that make sense to the business. (More on this later as well.)
Tweak to Fit Your Company
The questions are also not one-size-fits-all. Your industry, the size of your SaaS business, your customers’ needs, and your mission and goals all determine what customer success details are the most important to you. Some of the suggestions from the screenshot above may work for you as-is, others may need to be tweaked—and you may want to add some of your own that make sense for your company.
Nothing creates more pressure when you’re developing these questions than thinking you have to commit to them forever. Know that the questions will evolve as your business changes and as your customers grow with you, and that you might ask different questions of different customers depending on a variety of factors. For example:
- When your customers are consistently hitting (or missing) one set of goals, your questions might focus on a new set.
- If a question isn’t delivering valuable insights, you can adjust or remove it.
- If it’s too difficult to suss out the information you need, you might broaden your question a bit.
- Your questions could be different for the buyer vs. the day-to-day user.
- You may want to ask different questions depending on the customer’s maturity (ie: onboarding vs steady state)
Remember, quantitative data by nature is hard to pin down. Experimenting with—and changing—your questions is an expected part of the process.
How to Answer Your Qualitative Assessment Questions
So if you’re not supposed to come right out and ask a customer, “Hey, how critical are we to your success?” then how can you get the information you need?
The secret is to keep your core questions in mind (and in front of you) whenever you interact with the customer, then glean the answers from the tone of their voice, their answers to other questions, the stories they tell, and what you know about their history.
A lot of it comes down to gut feeling—and CSMs are very good at feeling out situations without peppering their customers with questions like an investigative reporter. Call it a CSM Spidey sense.
Interpreting Your Qualitative Assessment Scores
Now that you have your questions all lined up, you need a consistent way to score them. In other words, you want to turn qualitative information into quantifiable data.
You’ll rate each question on a scale of one to five, where one is the lowest score and five is the highest. Depending on the question those numbers might mean different things, so your next task is to write up a scoring system for each question that’s easy for you and other CSMs to use. (If you’re using any of Quala’s core questions, you can also borrow the scoring for those questions in the screenshot below. Need more? You’re also welcome to download a full cheat sheet with all our core questions and their scoring context!)
Feel free to get detailed if it helps your team understand and use the assessment and to normalize the data. For example, say you created the question “How well do we get along on a personal level?” Your scoring might look like this:
- Rating 5 – Amazing! When we call the customer, it’s like we’re best buds.
- Rating 4 – Pretty well! We both seem to enjoy the interactions.
- Rating 3 – So-so. The customer is happy to talk with us, but it’s all business all the time.
- Rating 2 – Not good. Our conversations are extremely awkward.
- Rating 1 – Pretty bad. We seem to have a personality clash and it’s impacting us both.
Not sure how to set up scoring around certain questions? Talking with other CSMs about their experiences in a group setting (like these Customer Success Community Hours) can help you gain clarity.
What to Do with Qualitative Customer Success Metrics
The goal of the qualitative assessment is to pull together an overall score for your business on various key metrics. So you might have an average score of 4.5 in “How well do we get along on a personal level?” (great!) and a 2.5 in “How close are they to hitting their goals?” (not so great).
If you notice your company is struggling in certain areas, this is a coachable moment for your team. For example, let’s talk about that 2.5 score. Your team might discuss:
- Does it point to a misalignment in how you’re selling what your SaaS platform does versus what it really does?
- Can you better set expectations during the onboarding process by sharing some of your current customers’ goals with new customers?
- Should you hand the customer some goals that are an easy win for both the customer and your company?
Digging into the data, you might also notice that certain customers in certain stages are dealing with deficiencies in certain assessments. Again—why, and what can you do about it?
Don’t just focus on the low scores, though; scoring high on a qualitative metric is a cause for celebration—and creates even more coachable moments. You want to figure out what you’re doing right, how to do even better, and how to extrapolate any lessons learned to your lower ratings.
Qualitative customer assessments complement usage behaviors and metrics as well as NPS, CSAT, CAC, CLV, and all the other hard numbers to give you a well-rounded view of your customers’ success.