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Customer Service vs Customer Success: What's the Difference?

Most customer success managers focus on how to get customers to use products well or use them to their fullest potential. 

But what do you do when customers aren't using the product at all? In that case, you have a product adoption issue—the customer bought the product but is failing to utilize it. Low adoption rates can be disastrous for a CS team and the business as a whole, and can lead to an increased churn rate, lost revenue and lower customer satisfaction and engagement.

Simply put, if customers aren't using your product, they will not renew their subscriptions or make additional purchases. Driving product adoption is a crucial function of customer success teams, especially for SaaS companies. So what can you do?

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9 min

Revanth Periyasamy
Sarah Robinson-Yu

5 Ways Customer Success Managers Can Improve Product Adoption

6 minute read

March 5, 2020

Most customer success managers focus on how to get customers to use products well or use them to their fullest potential. 

But what do you do when customers aren't using the product at all? In that case, you have a product adoption issue—the customer bought the product but is failing to utilize it. Low adoption rates can be disastrous for a CS team and the business as a whole, and can lead to an increased churn rate, lost revenue and lower customer satisfaction and engagement.

Simply put, if customers aren't using your product, they will not renew their subscriptions or make additional purchases. Driving product adoption is a crucial function of customer success teams, especially for SaaS companies. So what can you do?

In this post, we're highlighting five strategies customer success managers can use to improve product adoption rates: 

  1. Incentivize your onboarding

  2. Foster an active user community

  3. Leverage digital adoption tools

  4. Personalize your communication

  5. Solicit user feedback

1. Incentivize Your Onboarding

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your onboarding experience is the first impression users get of your product. A proper onboarding program can improve your overall product adoption. Onboarding should highlight how your product is useful and provide "wow" moments where users can see the product's real value. 

The problem is many users abandon an onboarding program before they get to those "wow" moments. Users who fail to complete onboarding are more likely to abandon the product or not fully adopt. 

CS managers should ensure their customers complete the full onboarding program, and sometimes you need a carrot and stick approach. Offering an incentive is a great way to motivate users to complete your product onboarding. 

Types of incentives for user onboarding

Monetary - Money is the most obvious incentive but possibly the most difficult to implement. Monetary incentives include gift cards, cash, or product discounts, however  your budget and margin may not allow for the expense. 

Milestone - Nothing motivates like a deadline. Break your onboarding up into smaller milestones. Schedule meetings with customers to check in on their progress; this  encourages users to keep progressing through the onboarding process. Milestones also give you a check-in point to celebrate their customer's success. 

Gamification - Consider the use or badges or a point system to motivate people to complete your onboarding program. Gamification adds an element of fun to your onboarding. 

Certifications - You can also consider offering certifications to people to complete your product onboarding. The certification acts as a reward for completing the process and celebrates the customer's success with the product. 

2. Foster an Active User Community

An active user community forum can improve your product adoption by increasing your customer engagement and offering a forum for users to discuss best practices and resolve common issues. 

Take a look at some these latest stats on the benefits of online communities

  • An online community can help organizations improve engagement by up to 21%

  • 66% of branded communities say that the community has had an impact on customer retention.

  • 90% of communities say that suggestions from the community have been used to improve products or services.

An active user community helps your customers feel like they're a part of something by using your product. This sense of community can make users want to use the product more. Furthermore, online user communities decrease customer's use of support teams because they can frequently find the answer to their question in the community. The quality of support offered in a user community can help overcome the learning curve in product adoption. 

Active user communities also serve another purpose in product adoption. They act as proof that the product works, and users are happy with it. One obstacle in product adoption is convincing users it's worth their time to learn and start using the product. An active user community not only makes learning the product more accessible, it also proves it's possible. 

3. Leverage Digital Adoption Tools

Digital adoption solutions are a growing category of SaaS tools that work on top of other web-based applications. The tools offer on-screen guidance to show users where to go and what to do next. The guidance can be used as a part of an onboarding program to introduce users to the products. 

User frustration is one of the top reasons people fail to adopt a product fully. Digital adoption solutions make software easier to use to help eliminate any confusion and frustration during the initial adoption. 

Digital adoption solutions can also help customer success teams quickly resolve client issues. For example, if a customer is struggling to change their password, a team member could respond with a link from the digital adoption tool that takes the user to the password page and launches the on-screen guidance to help the user complete the task. 

4. Personalize your Communication

Leverage personalization in your product communication with customers to increase their engagement. Let’s break down this example from grammar checking solution Grammarly: 

Grammarly app

Grammarly sends the emails weekly and always includes stats on how the user engaged with the product and how they compare to other users, but that's not where Grammarly delivers the real value. In another section, they include the user's top issues: 

Grammarly user top issues

The feedback helps users improve their writing over time by identifying consistent issues they need to address. But the smartest part of the email is how it encourages users to adopt the product:


Grammarly encourages adoption

If your product already tracks user data, you should use it to your advantage in your customer communication. You're competing with a lot of other people and products in your users' email inboxes to get someone's attention. Personalization can make your communication stand out. 

Grammarly's personalized emails encourage product adoption by:

  • Celebrating how the user engaged with the product with unique stats

  • Providing useful and actionable insights and

  • Highlighting ways the user could better leverage the product. 

5. Solicit User Feedback

Finally, if you want to improve your product adoption, you have to consider how to make your product better. Actively soliciting user feedback will help you build more user-friendly products. 

Products rarely get used as they were designed. Users find their own workarounds and workflows. Collect user feedback to understand what disconnects between how the product was designed and what the user is trying to do. Common ways to solicit user feedback include:

Incorporating user feedback into your design process makes your product more intuitive, and more intuitive products are easier to adopt. 

Improving Product Adoption and Customer Success

Customer success managers drive results for both customers and the products. They must ensure customers are actively engaged in the product and provide insights into how the product can better serve customers. 

Increasing product adoption increases customer loyalty and engagement by ensuring your product becomes essential to your customers. CS managers can use the strategies in this blog to help improve adoption by motivating people to use the product.

If your customers haven't adopted your product, they probably won't be your customer for long. 

What are you currently doing to help your customers adopt your product? What do you need to start doing? 

Enabling customer success with community building

Customer Success

Revanth Periyasamy

Written by Revanth Periyasamy

Revanth is a marketing champ at Apty. An ardent tech geek who loves to write on trending topics and is a big fan of all things relating to marketing. To know more about me, connect me on LinkedIn.

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