How Customer Experience Can Make Or Break Your Business: My Top 5 Takeaways from the SaaStr Conference

I recently attended the SaaStr Annual conference in San Francisco. I met some great folks, heard fantastic presenters, and gathered a lot of inside tips, tricks and lessons learned for operating and growing an amazing SaaS company.  

It struck me, though, that many of the things I learned applied equally to app publishers, app owners, and mobile marketers, so I wanted to share them here.

The biggest theme at the conference this year, in the sessions I attended, was customer experience. Here are my top takeaways:

1) Create a Customer Experience That Stands Out

Many companies think they have good-enough customer experience. But “good enough” won’t help you break through to the next level.

One panelist went so far as to say that success is great customer experience – without it you will only spin your wheels. When focusing on making the experience as fantastic as possible, and it will help drive high conversion and strong ROI.

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of customer experience. The results of an NPS survey will tell you whether your customers are willing to recommend your product or service to a friend. NPS was a hot topic among attendees — both as a measure of customer experience, as well as a guide in evolving their brands and businesses.

Key questions to ask:

  • What is our customer experience strategy? Will we differentiate based on our service? Or in some other way?

  • Who are we willing to be bad for? One speaker said Southwest Airlines would celebrate when they got a poor NPS response from a customer that preferred a luxury flying experience. Their target audience is the budget flyer; appealing to the luxurious flyer wasn’t their goal.

  • What will we do when we screw up? Fail quickly and prepare to build a plan when it doesn’t work as you expected.

  • What are our non-negotiables? No shortcuts; stay true to your values.

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2) Doubling Down on Customer Success

Keeping on the theme of customer experience, panelists and speakers were passionate that customer success needs to be a state of mind throughout an organization. When companies are focused on making customers successful, customers will also be happy. Don’t focus on making customers happy, make them successful. Happiness is a byproduct of success.

Key questions to ask:

  • What does customer success look like for our company?

  • What’s our plan for moving the needle on customer success?

  • How will we execute our plan what resources and teams will we need?

3) Ease of Use Has Never Been More Critical

Simplicity in product design is key. Having a product that’s not intuitive can kill your business. Many speakers told stories about to pull their product back from the brink by researching (and accepting) which features weren’t working.

By removing distraction in their product (i.e. too many features that were too difficult for their users to understand) and making the experience as easy as possible, they were able to turn their business around. Ultimately, it’s a liability not to call product failures failures.

Key questions to ask:

  • How can we start showing our customers the value of our product immediately?

  • Do we need to shrink our focus?

  • Are we being honest with ourselves (and using data to guide us) about ease of use in our product?

  • How can we use what we know about feature adoption and customer feedback that can tell us what aspects of our product we might have “over-engineered”?  

4) Great Customer Experience on Freemium Versions Drives Word of Mouth

When customers have a great experience, that drives word of mouth, and ultimately business growth. That’s where freemium comes in. Not only does having a free version of your product make it easier to recommend, it also allows you to experiment and innovate more easily.

Key questions to ask:

  • How will we transition our product into a self-serve model?

  • Do we have a customer success model for free customers?

  • What do we expect for growth from our organic customer base?

  • Do we make it easy for customers to share our product on their social media networks?

5) Moving From Great Ideas to Flawless Execution

Let’s face it: many competing companies have many of the same goals, are trying to solve the same pain points, and are working to create an amazing customer experience.

That’s where execution matters most. If you build a team that can execute — and build a customer-first culture — it will be the thing that will separate you from the others.  

Key questions to ask:

  • Are our incentives and internal processes aligned with our core business goals?

  • How are our hiring, onboarding, employee training, and employee incentives supporting our commitment to excellence in execution?

  • Are we building a customer-first culture in our business?

Bottom Line

My bottom line takeaway from the conference: When customers succeed, you succeed. It seems straightforward but it’s a very difficult task. Structure your business so customers' experiences and feedback are at the center of your business, and growth will come.

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