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Rants of a Customer Success Analyst: Bungee Jumping and the Adoption Leap

June 24, 2022

Justin Garlock

Category: Customer Adoption, Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Operations, Customer Success Strategy, Forecasting, Voice of the Team

The Reason

 

The bridge looks old.

It looks to have once been an operating railroad bridge, now reinforced and refurbished to serve its current purpose. My wife, Jenny, and I take our first step onto the bridge and start the trek to the middle; I can see off in the distance where they’ve set up canopies at what appears to be the bungee jump site. We get about 200 feet onto the bridge before Jenny lets go of my hand—apparently, I’m too clammy, but more importantly…why isn’t she? My heart feels like it’s going to break my ribcage open and I’m leaving a trail of sweat drops on the wooden boards behind us. But I’ve never seen her so calm.

They say we’re about 300 feet above the water. I don’t buy it. I’m convinced I’ve never stood on any structure this high. At least there are iron gated railings along the sides—and the bridge is a good six to eight feet wide so I should be okay if I hang out in the middle. My feet are sweating so much I can hear my shoes squeaking with each step I take. Hopefully, no one else can hear that.

As we reach the jump site, I look back to where we entered the bridge and then over to the opposite side; at least five football fields in length, easy. We were told in our safety briefing that the jump window for this session was about two hours, but it would also depend on when your number was called: there’s an order that was predetermined. We could be standing here for ten minutes, or we could be standing here for two hours…and of course, it’s the latter. I try to find solace and beauty looking out into the distance, where the hills of green tuck and peak around the curves of the river. It is a nice day.

We watch as person by person takes their turn—Jenny anxiously waiting her turn…me, just anxious. About an hour into waiting and watching, I pay special attention to a larger, taller man taking his turn to jump.

 

I watch as he plunges forward and shrinks as he gets closer to the water. Wait…did he just? No way: my eyes must be playing tricks on me. In about five minutes, he is lifted back up from his jump and what I thought I saw is confirmed…. he’s soaked from head to toe. His clothes are drenched. I overhear him tell his family he was completely submerged under water before recoiling. No one mentioned that was a possibility. I look over at Jenny who seems more excited than ever. Did she not hear that? Submerged. Underwater. Completely.

“I bet that would feel good.” She is unphased.

This is probably an appropriate time to tell you I’m not the one actually bungee jumping today—Jenny is. It’s her 25th birthday and she wanted to do something brave, adventurous, and adrenaline pumping. My personal adventure begins and ends at gathering the courage to stand exactly where I am right now: two feet on the ground…sort of.

We continue to watch and wait. I take note of the diverse preparation, methodology, and execution of the jumpers: some do exactly as the guides are suggesting by looking out at the horizon and jumping forward as soon as the countdown ends. Others are extremely hesitant, and it takes more encouragement from guides and friends for them to jump. A handful need no encouragement and are jumping off backwards. And then some just straight refused to take the leap, despite having already paid. I can’t imagine committing that much and coming this far, only to not follow through and take the leap.

It’s finally Jenny’s turn. She gets hooked up to the cables and is given a quick reminder of how to ensure safety and maximize enjoyment. She looks back at me one last time, smiles, and then turns and looks straight out at the horizon.

3….2….1…

Fearless. Focused. Flawless.

The Rant

As I reflect on this experience, there are two things that I tend to remember more vividly than others—

  1. That was the loudest scream I’ve ever heard come out of Jenny (watch the quick video clip to the right for proof).
  2. The hesitation of many folks who were committed to take the leap.

It’s the latter point that I want to focus on today.

How many times have you come across a prospect who is extremely excited about your product or the services you are offering, only to be ghosted? How many times have you watched customers churn early because they (or you) discover your product or service doesn’t actually solve for their business case? How many times have you seen customers stall or hesitate to adopt and you don’t understand why?

For a little bit of clarity, let’s dive into this bungee jumping analogy for a moment. There was a lot of preparation (what to expect, what to bring), information collecting (height, weight, medical history), communication (times, dates, locations), and safety briefings (waivers, equipment, jumping methodology) that happened before the jump could take place. The relationship between guide and jumper was reciprocal: there was both a duty of teaching and instruction on the part of the guides and a responsibility to understand and learn on behalf of the jumper. But despite all the preparation that happened up until the moment of the jump, the individual jumper still had to make the decision to leap to get the full value out of the money they spent.

 

Which brings me to: adoption is more than usage. It’s more than ROI. It’s more than signing on the dotted line and initiating cash flow. It’s more than showing up and logging in once a day. It’s more than a high Net Promoter Score (NPS). It’s more than enabling customers to use your product. It’s more than aligning your product or service to the business objectives of your customer. It’s more than just embedding your product or service into a critical role of your customer’s operational processes. It’s more than bringing awareness to new features or functionalities of your product. It’s even more than ensuring your customers fit your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Adoption is a totality of all the above that ensures your customers are in the best position to take the leap and adopt your product.

Of all the variables listed above, we as an industry tend to speak of adoption primarily in terms of either usage or value. And of those two variables, value rarely tends to be defined in a measurable way, leaving most organizations to fall back on usage data (which is often partially accurate and siloed at best). Instead of basing adoption on log in data, I would love to see a push in the industry to a more customer behavior-based approach to adoption. What behaviors do we expect customers to demonstrate with our products or services, and how can we measure those behaviors? Sometimes the answer still is found by looking at usage data, but the mindset of focusing on customer behavior as a guide can help get us out of our boxed in approach to adoption.

And remember that adoption doesn’t equal value—they’re often linked but aren’t synonymous. You can receive value out of the money you spent to go bungee jumping but leave determined never do it again, or that you can do it bigger and better next time through another service or location. You may have received a valuable experience but haven’t adopted that specific experience, location, or service to be your provider of all things bungee. In the same way, I could receive value out of your product or service for a specific business issue, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m choosing to adopt your product. I would agree that long-term, sustainable value can contribute to adoption of the product or service. But again, these two are linked, not synonymous.

The Resolution

So, what stops customers from taking the adoption leap? Let me suggest a few reasons:

  1. You haven’t defined adoption
    This one might seem obvious, but you have to define, document, and measure adoption variables in order to know if a customer is adopting or has adopted your product or service. Take the time to define what it means for your customers to adopt your product. Think about the experience from their perspective (this part is key), and what behaviors you’d expect customers to demonstrate in your product.
  2. Customers learn of new risks from peers
    I wasn’t signed up or planning to bungee jump with Jenny that day. But if I was, I can assure you that the moment I saw that man submerged underwater and come back up soaked from head to toe…I’d be out. Your customers are going to talk. And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side you’re on), it’s mostly the less-than-awesome things about your product or service that will spread like wildfire. Be upfront with your prospects about risks to their use case. They will learn eventually. It’s better to be humble now and let them make the best choice for their business than to force your product or service on a customer you know will likely fail to adopt and end up churning.
  3. The money spent isn’t worth the experience
    I think about those bungee jumpers who were so certain they wanted this experience, paid good money for it, sat through the safety briefing, and went as far as to get hooked up to the bungee cables, with their feet extending off the ledge, only to hesitate and end up walking away without the value and experience they paid for. Take note of the customers that came to your mind as you read that. Maybe they heard your product is clunky and unintuitive. Maybe they realized they could get additional value elsewhere. Once they decide not to leap, don’t let them walk off the bridge without finding out why.
  4. Their use case doesn’t align with your product
    I would hope that this would be discovered long before your customer gets on the metaphorical bridge, but the reality often is that a customer’s use case is really understood for the first time during implementation and onboarding. These are the ‘uh-oh’ moments when you realize expectations of what your product or service can do versus reality are not aligned from the customer’s point of view. This one is all too common for something we can discover easily before the point of sale.
  5. A nice-to-have, not a necessity
    I think this where the bungee metaphor ends for me, mostly because I’m totally content living in a world where going bungee jumping is never going to be a necessity for me. But people like me are also not the target audience of bungee jumping tour companies, nor do I fit their ICP. And herein lies the ultimate question to drive adoption: how can your product go from a nice-to-have to entirely necessary for the operational process of your customer’s organization? The answer to that question will back you into the variables that are most critical to track to ensure your prospects-turned-customers fully adopt your product or service.

The adoption leap can be scary for customers: the commitment to your product or service, the agreement to be fully engaged in learning and understanding, while still balancing their existing heavy workload, the internal navigations to get approvals and buy-in. They want efficiency. They want ROI. They want a product or service that can accelerate their transformation and help them meet objectives. They don’t care about checking a box to say they’ve “officially” adopted your product. They expect your product or service to meet them where they are and accelerate with them. For your products and services, that means adoption is never truly and completely achieved. It’s a continuous process that is driven by the idea that at any stage of the customer journey, and regardless of your customer’s organizational maturity, they are continuously ready to take the leap, with you standing by with the video recorder capturing every moment along the way.

Until next week.

Missed last week’s installment of Rants of a Customer Success Analyst? Go back and read! And keep an eye out for the next Reason, Rant, and Resolution next week.