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Think back to your first smartphone. Unless you’re one of the first people to buy an iPhone, way back in 2007, there was probably a time when you thought a smartphone was unnecessary. All those features were flashy, sure, but who needed it? You’ve got calls and texts on your current phone already.

When you first got a smartphone, you may have thought it was nice, but not necessary. Sure, you’d look things up while you were on the move, but you could live without it. Now, all that has changed. You need your smartphone — you probably check it over a hundred times a day for work and personal reasons alike. Somewhere along the way, you adopted it, and now it’s irreplaceable.

But how does the manufacturer know when that moment happened? They can’t just ask — you probably don’t know yourself when that tipping point occurred. Gauging adoption isn’t a simple task, but it’s important. Adoption predicts renewal and repeat business, so your business needs to have a sense of what it looks like.

Once you’ve figured out how adoption usually comes about, you can start to examine prospects and new customers and predict whether they’re on track to success. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Does the Customer Rely on You in Their Day-to-Day?

A customer who’s truly adopted your product will be using it — probably more often than one who’s still undecided about the value you provide. You should be able to examine the usage rates of your customers to establish a threshold for adoption, then sort your customers by daily, weekly, or monthly login.

If your customers aren’t using your product or service as often as you’d like, it may be for lack of knowledge on what your service can do. Email reminders to infrequent users about the features they’re not using can be a great way to boost adoption rates.

Keep in mind that “in their day-to-day” doesn’t mean “every day” — a payroll administrator might only be logging in once a week to approve hours, but that doesn’t mean the software isn’t crucial to their job.

A Customer Success Automation tool can be a critical function in measuring usage data at adoption time, and automating the communication triggers to your end users via e-mail, in-app notifications, and reminders to reach out personally. These tools can also learn patterns over time, and give you insights as to what adoption behaviors drive outcomes, good and bad.

As with any adoption metric, there’s no hard-and-fast answer for how often customers should be logging in. You’ll have to establish your own benchmarks, based on past users who renewed, and compare current users to those numbers.

How Many Features is the Customer Using?

A simple login to look at a dashboard isn’t the same thing as organizing tasks, setting up workflows, installing on multiple machines, or other signals of comprehensive use. Look at past usage patterns first to get a sense of what kind of behavior is usually indicative of higher adoption, and then look for that same behavior in your current customers.

Your onboarding process will strongly affect how your customers use the product — if they’re not using a given feature, they may simply not know how. “Time To Onboard” is a KPI you should be tracking — it’s simply the number of customers who have completed the onboarding in the time you expect divided by the total number you onboard — and it’ll give you a good sense of who isn’t finishing the process as quickly as they should. Customers can’t adopt the product if they don’t know how to use it, so you should be focusing your attention on those who might need extra help.

Is Your Customer Getting the ROI They Expect?

Your customer picked your product or service for a reason — something they expected to get out of your product that will help them do their job or serve their customers. They might love your product and find it easy to use, but if it’s not delivering the results they need, they won’t keep renewing. You need to set up a way to track outcomes — after all, the core of Customer Success is making sure your customer is successful.

The most useful KPI to track here is Time To Value (TTV). We explain TTV in more depth here, but it’s essentially the amount of time between a customer taking an action and seeing the value of that action. In this case, it’s the amount of time between a customer making an initial purchase (or trial download) and getting what they want out of it.

You’ll need to lean on your sales team and CRM to keep track of what each customer wants to get out of your product — it’s not the same for everyone. Divide them into categories and monitor when they start getting the utility that made them sign up in the first place.

Also, keep an eye on potential early issues. Have they opened a lot of tickets? Is the low usage due to a need for further training? If the client is feeling pain early on, clients will quickly question if they’ve made the right decision.

Is Your Customer Continuously Adopting?

Your product will dictate the answer to this question — some products are adopted easily, after which usage is sustained rather than increased. Other products are more complicated — customers will begin to use them more and more over a longer period of time.

Your product adoption curve will vary depending on the exact service or product that you offer, but you can look at your past customer history to find the points at which your customers generally upgrade or renew their service.

Tracking continuous adoption will be easier if you think of different levels of use as different products entirely. KPIs like usage rate and TTV can be broken down to each feature to create a timeline for how quickly you expect your customers to ramp up their usage. If they’re not using more features over time or aren’t taking advantage of new features as quickly as you’d like, it may be worth giving them some extra onboarding attention.

There’s nothing wrong with a product with a long adoption curve, as long as expectations are managed and the customer starts to see benefits early on.

Do the Customer’s Contract and Adoption Cycles Line Up?

Adoption cycles and renewal cycles don’t necessarily have to match up perfectly, but if they don’t, you need to bridge the gap. A customer who isn’t fully realizing the potential of your product before they arrive at the renewal phase might think that your product doesn’t meet their needs, or doesn’t have the features they expected.

This is another reason why tracking TTV is so vital. If you’re celebrating the small wins with your clients, even though there’s still more work to be done at renewal time, the initial value should be clear.

Your job will be to assess their adoption profile before the renewal phase comes along, comparing them to past consumers to see if their adoption has progressed enough to make them likely to renew. If they haven’t, you might need to change your onboarding strategy to get customers to integrate your product into their workflows more quickly.

The Bottom Line

There’s no master template for how your customers should adopt your product — the rate at which they adopt and the depth at which they utilize your service will be unique to your particular business. Often, adoption is neglected after on-boarding, when in fact, the point at which your customers are leveraging your product independently is likely when they need the most monitoring.

That’s why it’s so important for you to establish these benchmarks yourself. Use your hypothetical ideal customer, rolled together with historical data from existing customers, to track the way that customers use and adopt your product or service between onboarding and renewal. The better you can understand that cycle, the better you’ll be able to appeal to people who are still on the fence, preventing churn and fueling sustainable growth.

When the iPad launched in 2010, people couldn’t seem to figure out what it was for. The New York Times’ David Pogue said, “In 10 years of reviewing tech products for The New York Times, I’ve never seen a product as polarizing as Apple’s iPad.” Tech writers wondered why anyone would want a touchscreen-only computer with no ports other than Apple’s proprietary 30-pin dock. The name was mockingly compared to feminine hygiene products.

Now, some 360 million iPads have been sold, and the “tablet” category is firmly entrenched in the tech world. Far from replacing laptops of smartphones, tablets have become a sort of convenient in-between — more portable than laptops, but more powerful than phones.

But that world would never have come about if not for the bold few in 2010. You may have known some of them — maybe they wouldn’t stop talking about it. Maybe they’re the reason you bought your first tablet.

Those people are the early adopters — the first customers to adopt a new product or technology before the rest of the population catches up. And if you’re introducing a new product or service to the market, you need to know how they think.

The Adoption Curve

The term “early adopters” comes from the 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations, which described the acceptance progress of new technology with a normal distribution curve. It’s made up of five different groups of consumers with varying levels of interest in new technology. Here’s a quick rundown of each group:

Innovators

The innovators are the first to invest in a product. They’re far more interested — even obsessed — with technology and make it a priority to be on the cutting edge. The downside is that their motivations vary. Maybe they needed your exact product or maybe they just wanted to own the latest and greatest. Either way, it’s hard to draw conclusions from their purchases. They’re also a small group — innovators consist of only about 2.5% of the population.

Early Adopters

Early adopters come next, causing a swell in numbers as your sales begin to take off. Early adopters are similar to innovators in that they’re willing to test the waters ahead of the mainstream, but they’re slightly more hesitant — they want to wait until initial reviews come out and innovators have started to report bugs.

Early Majority

This is when sales really start to take off — about a third of your sales will come from the early majority. They waited to hear how the product was received and gave it time to be field tested by the innovators and early adopters. They strongly value the opinions of early adopters, but they’re more risk-averse, so they waited to make sure people were enjoying the product before spending money on it.

Late Majority

The late majority waited until your product was mainstream. They’re the people that started buying smartphones when the innovators were already on their third or fourth generation — after it became clear that the smartphone wasn’t a passing craze. They might be more skeptical of the need to start using something new, but they’re willing to follow a trend when they see it.

Laggards

Laggards are people who only buy something after the hype has died down — maybe years after it’s been released. Do you know an adult who’s just now getting their first smartphone? That’s a laggard. They might be extremely skeptical of the need for what you’re selling, or they might be out of touch enough to have missed the hype when it first started. Whatever the reason, they’re buying late enough that “everyone knows” what the product is — it’s not news anymore.

Why You Need Early Adopters

Early adopters average just 13% of your total sales, but they’re much more valuable than their numbers indicate. Acquiring early adopters is a vital step in any product release.

They’re willing to take a risk on you with their hard-earned money — that means that their loyalty will be stronger if you reward that risk. They’re also more invested in the product, so they can provide valuable feedback about any issues they find before your product goes fully mainstream. And their early spending can give you a much-needed cash infusion to fund research and development, order advance inventory, or get production costs down.

Early adopters also kick off the spread of word-of-mouth marketing about your product. An increasing number of people in the early and late majority — a much bigger slice of the market — won’t even think about buying a product without asking a friend, colleague, or trusted review site about it. If there’s no one to ask, they won’t spend money.

How to Get Early Adopters on Your Side

Early adopters aren’t investing in your company out of the goodness of their hearts — there are benefits for them that help mitigate some of the risks. First, a lot of them like the thrill of being the first to own a new product or technology. There’s also the chance that they’ll get the jump on the rest of the world, adopting a useful new technology before others have access to it.

But they also expect a top-shelf customer experience. If your product is truly new, there’s no one else to ask about how to use it, take full advantage of it, or fix it. That role will fall to you, and the way you treat your early adopters will have a ripple effect on future mainstream customers.

You’re not expected to treat every customer the way you treat your first customers, but it’s important to walk the line between over-promising and under-delivering. If you tell your early adopters that they’ll always be able to reach a real person on the phone, they’ll expect that service going forward, and you may not be able to provide it. If you don’t provide good service, they may not stick around.

Instead, focus on making sure that the value of your product is obvious. Early adopters are buying what you’re selling because you’re promising a product that didn’t already exist — show them what makes you different from the competition and they’ll be your best advocates.

Living Up to the Hype
On the one hand, early adopters are easier to please — they know that there are likely kinks to iron out, they expect to pay more than future customers, and they know that the support base for a brand-new product won’t be as robust.

But on the other hand, your early adopters are much more important to please. They’re the ones who will keep you off the ground long enough to hit the mainstream, and they’re the ones who will get the ball rolling on the all-important customer feedback loop: touting your product to new mainstream adopters, who will then refer even more people to you themselves.

In order to properly take advantage of your early adopters’ enthusiasm, you’ll need a way to capture their insights. Remember, these are effectively a big pool of product testers. You need to establish a system to solicit and capture their feedback and ideas — then turn those ideas into actionable feedback for your product team. You don’t need to take every suggestion, of course, but you need to track what those suggestions are.

This is a great opportunity to use Customer Success Automation. Watching your early adopters carefully, monitoring exactly how they use your product, collecting their feedback, and making it readily available to the right people in your business are all tasks that can be built into workflows so you don’t miss out on any useful information.

Whether you’re an established company releasing a new product or a whole new company, recruiting a group of early adopters will be vital for your success. You can’t take off without them.

Learn more – A quality process for onboarding new clients is something we all know we need, but struggle to get right. This how-to guide provides the insight you can use to make sure your focus is in the right areas.

When was the last time you had an extraordinary customer experience?

An experience that left you feeling so warm and fuzzy that you’d never consider spending your money with anyone else?

For me, it was with Nordstrom. Confession time: I’ve got a bit of a shopping problem, and Nordstrom is where I get my fix. Recently I placed an order for a few items online. In reviewing my order confirmation, I realized I selected a shipping address I haven’t lived at for years. I quickly got on live chat, and a representative assured me that the order had been updated and the package would be delivered to my current address. About a week later, I received an email saying my package had been delivered, but when I got home, the package was nowhere to be found.

Feeling fairly annoyed, I decided to call and was pleasantly surprised when I got through to a real live human in just a few seconds. +1 Nordstrom. I walked through the situation with the representative, and within a few moments, she said, “We dropped the ball. The address didn’t get updated. I’m sorry.” Did she just honestly and earnestly admit fault? +1 Nordstrom. She went on, “Let me look up all these items; we’re going to overnight them to you for free.” +1 Nordstrom. Then she stopped. “Oh no. This shirt is out of stock.” I told her it was OK, and they could just refund me for that item. She said, “I’m going to refund you for the shirt and put a $100 credit on your account.” Are you kidding me??? +5000 Nordstrom!!!

This conversation took no more than 5 minutes and left me with a literal tear in my eye, wanting to hug this woman through the phone because I felt so taken care of. Nordstrom took a loss on this order, but that’s not the point. In going the extra mile and always doing right by their customer, they earn customers for life. I shudder at the thought of how much I’ll spend with them in my lifetime.

I’ve been asking this question for the last couple of weeks and have enjoyed heartwarming stories about experiences with Southwest Airlines, Amazon, and Chick-fil-A, to name a few. And these are not just one-off stories. These companies are notorious for how well they treat their customers. But what do they all have in common? They are delivering exceptional B2C experiences.

Let me ask you another question: when was the last time you had an exceptional experience in a B2B SaaS environment? I’m imagining crickets chirping across my network. Ok… maybe that’s a little harsh, but I very rarely hear stories from delighted customers in this environment. Dave Blake said it really well last month at the CS100 Summit – too often in the B2B space, we are getting pathetic, ordinary experiences when we should be striving for authentic, extraordinary experiences.

Now, I’m not saying that executing an incredible B2B experience is as simple as hiring remarkably pleasant employees to serve remarkably delicious chicken at a fast food window. These are complex relationships, and we’re seeking to solve complex business problems. There are many people involved and many moving parts. Every person involved has different wants, needs, goals, initiatives, and definitions of “success.” Oh, and success is defined differently by every customer.

So, where do we even start to work towards delivering more authentic, extraordinary experiences to our customer base?

  1. Create a company-wide culture of success. It starts from within, and it starts at the TOP. Implement strategies that encourage everyone in your organization to behave in a more customer-centric way. For example, I spoke with a company in Boston that is compensating every single employee on net retention, not just the CS team. It doesn’t necessarily need to be through compensation, but the underlying sentiment should signal that we are all in the same boat, rowing together toward a common goal – Customer Success.
  2. Get crystal clear on what success means to every customer. We can’t make assumptions here! This needs to be communicated early and often and revisited as time goes by. Another company at CS100 shared a best practice of using a “Conditions of Success” document, which clearly articulates what success means to the customer, and is then physically signed off on by the vendor and the customer.

Look, we’re not always going to get it right. We are imperfect humans living in an imperfect world. At CS100, it was so humbling to hear a senior leader from one of the most impressive CS teams around say, “we are still failing our customers in so many ways.” I think we could all stand to cut ourselves a slice of humble pie. Can we collectively admit that we can do better? Can we collectively agree to hold ourselves to a higher standard?

Learn more – Discover how virtual Customer Success Managers (vCSM) can help improve customer experience at scale. Check it out here.

Education Services Group, LLC (“ESG”), the leading Customer Success as a Service provider, is proud to appoint Megan Macaluso as Vice President of Strategic Development. In her role, Megan will oversee Business Development and will be integral in expanding ESG’s Customer Success solutions.

Michael Harnum, CEO of ESG, stated, “I’m very excited to have someone of Megan’s caliber join the leadership team at ESG. Her breadth of experience in sales, operations and customer success will greatly benefit our current and future customers and our employees. Megan’s leadership attributes will have an immediate and positive impact on the culture of ESG.”

Megan joins ESG after a six-year tenure at Service Source where she led sales teams that consistently hit targets on behalf of her clients, project managed large and complex technical implementations and provided Customer Success Program Management for the largest strategic global accounts. Client advocacy and crafting solutions for her business partners are Megan’s professional passions, and she brings to ESG a thoughtful and dynamic client-centric approach. Megan believes strongly in building robust, principled, and smart solutions for her clients, with a unique skill set to meet those goals.

ABOUT ESG

ESG is reshaping the tired, old customer service paradigm to help companies of all sizes define and achieve customer success by closing the customer coverage gap. Through a process-driven formula built on unrivaled experience, ESG makes its clients successful and helps clients’ customers realize maximum value from their purchases by turning deep insights into profitable customer lifecycle management strategies.

ESG’s pay-for-performance approach is powered by people, tapping the potential of human interaction to help clients find untapped revenue, from the top of their segmentation to the bottom. Throughout the customer lifecycle — from onboarding and awareness building through usage, value realization then advocacy – the ESG process delivers Customer Success as a Service to produce game-changing ROI. Adoption goes up, churn goes down, customer relationships improve and the bottom line grows. Learn more at esgsuccess.com.

Summary:

  • Michael Harnum joins Education Services Group (“ESG”) management team and Board of Directors as Chief Executive Officer
  • Keith Leimbach will remain actively engaged on the Board of Directors of ESG
  • ESG continues its focus on partnering with leading software and technology companies to grow education revenue through proactive customer lifecycle management

Education Services Group, LLC (“ESG” or the “Company”), the leading provider of education revenue management services for the software and technology industries, recently named Michael Harnum as its new Chief Executive Officer.

“I am thrilled to join ESG and lead the Company’s growth over the long-term” said Michael Harnum. “Under Keith’s leadership, the business has been positioned for sustainable and scalable growth, and I look forward to building upon ESG’s market leading education revenue management services while also adding new clients and services over time.”

Keith Leimbach added, “Michael Harnum and I worked together very successfully for several years at ServiceSource. I look forward to staying involved with ESG’s senior leadership team in my continuing role as Board member and advisor to the company. ESG’s customers and employees are in excellent hands under Michael’s leadership.”

Michael Harnum joins ESG after recent senior executive leadership roles with Ibotta and ServiceSource. At Ibotta, he helped successfully build and scale a Denver-based, rapidly growing consumer technology platform. Prior to Ibotta, he was at ServiceSource for five years. During his tenure at ServiceSource, Michael led sales teams worldwide for B2B clients across multiple industries, and developed and implemented services offerings that increased end-customer renewal rates and average customer lifetime value. Michael had full general management responsibility for a $70 million sales center with 700 employees on two continents. Prior to ServiceSource, Michael had a successful sales and general management career in the telecommunications industry.

Brad Pierce, ESG’s President and VP of Business Development, is also leaving ESG to become President of Scanner Applications in Cincinnati where he formerly served as Vice President of Marketing and Operations. Brad will also remain involved as a Board advisor and will actively work with Michael Harnum and ESG’s senior management team to successfully transition his new business development activities.

Want to meet Michael and learn more about his plans for ESG? Contact Education Services Group to schedule some time to chat.