As the tech market enters a new phase, organizations are determining what’s important during the downturn—and what’s important to their customers.
SaaS companies in particular are asking themselves how to prevent churn and keep their customers happy. But, as Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta recently commented, it’s not always about customer happiness, but stickiness. “Stickiness is important in boom times,” says Mehta, “it’s existential in downturns.”
There are myriad reasons for this. For starters, when CFOs look to tighten their software budgets, they’re looking to keep the solutions that their team uses daily and that have an impact on Net Revenue Retention (NRR). If your product fuels critical business processes throughout your customer’s organization, then it becomes sticky—and so do your customers. They rely on your product. They rave about your product. And they take your product with them to new roles.
Mehta recently asked the business community, “What drives stickiness?” The following three themes emerged from the discussion.
1. Your product drives customer outcomes and value
Customer outcomes are, of course, at the center of what we do in Customer Success. SaaS companies should continually ask: How can we ensure customers are getting what they expect and what they need from our product?
Praveen Kumar, VP of Customer Experience and Professional Services, Leapwork, reflected that “ if one can track and prove that the customer is getting the positive business outcome which they expected from the product they invested in, then it is easier to convince all levels [of its value], be it C-level or other executives.”
Jim Conant, Customer Success and Service Leader and Product Advisory Board Member, ‘nuffsaid, commented that stickiness happens when “your customers see your product as a value driver, which can be measured and articulated, and aligns with your customers’ strategic goals.”
In other words, when you understand their goals and agree on a Success Plan, you can quickly provide value that drives stickiness. A few indicators of this include:
- Your customer integrates your product with their existing applications
- Your customer uses your product’s data/output in high-level meetings
- Your product is embedded into your customer’s product
- Your product is your customer’s primary source of critical data
Doing all of this well builds a strong relationship where the customer feels their Customer Success Manager (CSM) really understands their business needs in relation to the product. In fact, Mark Thomason, Research Director, IDC, reflected that a product is sticky when, “The Customer Success team proactively reaches out to ensure you know how to use their product best to get through a given situation.”
2. Your people provide a meaningful consultative relationship
Your customers aren’t simply users—they’re humans. At Gainsight, we believe in a human-first approach to everything we do, especially when it comes to our partnerships with customers.
Stacey Danheiser, Founder and CMO, SHAKE Marketing, commented, “Loyalty goes way beyond the product and into how someone feels working with your company and your people.”
James de la Vega, Strategic Account Manager and Team Lead, Avature, concurred, “Through a consultative approach, you propose a true partnership where you leave no loose ends.”
When your CSMs are seen as trusted advisors to your customers, you become more than just another vendor in the tech stack. CSMs influence how the customer approaches product implementation and adoption. They ensure the customer’s experience is reflected in the product roadmap. They are true strategic partners and problem-solvers for every customer who leverages their product, and that creates stickiness.
Great CS teams accomplish this at scale with both high-touch and digital strategies. By using one-to-many tactics—like pooled CSM teams that act as subject matter experts for groups of accounts, and in-app engagements that guide users to greater value within the product experience—CSMs can do more with less. These approaches don’t take away from building strong, human-first relationships with your clients—they empower CSMs to apply their time and energy to the high-touch motions that matter most.
3. Your customers are your champions—everywhere
Sticky customers are evangelists for your product, everywhere they go, whether that’s working across functions or moving to a different job.
Mehta noted that stickiness is driven by your product having cross-functional users, and that these users must like your product substantially more than similar, competing products. They have to love your product the way Nick likes Taylor Swift. This starts with Customer Success.
Laurie Cini, Client Value Architect, BMC Software, commented that “A key factor [to stickiness] is whether your product is still relevant, continuously evolving, and has a broad reach and appeal to your [customer] by way of value and integration … scalability and extensibility are key elements. One of the most significant factors [of] stickiness is just how well your service partner/provider/vendor understands your business and can clearly map and articulate the business problem they are there to fix.”
When CSMs nail that, they create diehard fans in their customer base, who will bring their product everywhere.
Mishelle Fisher, Customer Success Manager, RocketReach, remarked that a “tech product that successfully saves me time by being built well and/or integrated will be one that I (1) evangelize to my teammates, (2) fight for to keep in the budget, and (3) take with me if I change roles/companies. Now that’s sticky.”