3 Customer Engagement Models to Increase Customer Success
With customer experience positively influencing the purchasing decisions of 74% of consumers, it’s safe to say that an engaged customer base is the lifeblood of any successful SaaS business. Taking a good look at your customer base is essential to ensure that your entire customer service experience is satisfactory. It also helps you implement necessary changes to your product faster.
Not sure how to engage customers? In this article, I will outline the definition of a customer engagement model, key metrics to measure it, the various stages of customer engagement, customer engagement models to use for your SaaS marketing, and more.
What are Customer Engagement Models?
A customer engagement model is an outlined process to use while approaching your SaaS users. Some SaaS companies think of it only as a post-sale process, but we like to think of it starting from pre-sale as every touchpoint you have with your potential customers matters for your business.
Like a marketing funnel, you can think of customer engagement in three stages: pre-sale, post-sale onboarding, and product adoption.
Each step requires different customer engagement strategies and marketing initiatives.
For example, at the pre-sale stage, you need to think of your social media, PPC reporting, SEO, and demand generation strategies. These strategies are vital for customer acquisition.
At the post-sale onboarding stage, you need to effectively onboard your customers and learn how they learned about you with a survey tool.
At the product adoption stage, you need to continuously teach your customers how to reap the maximum benefits from your tool to adopt all relevant features. You should also use customer marketing techniques while building customer relationships.
Depending on your product’s price, complexity, and industry, you may also have a few more customized stages, especially if your sales cycle is longer than usual. A customer engagement model focuses on optimizing one or more of these many stages in a customer journey. With a consistent implementation of customer engagement strategies and proper optimization, you can decrease the number of lost customers between the funnels’ stages.
Key Metrics to Measure Customer Engagement
“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”
That especially holds true for customer engagement as it will be extremely hard to manually track user interactions without key customer engagement metrics and an analytics tool at your fingertips.
SaaS analytics consists of countless metrics, so here are some metrics you should look into while thinking about your customer engagement model:
Conversion rate is the single most important metric for your website, but don’t think of it as solely requesting a demo or signing up for a free trial. It’s much more than that.
Micro-conversions are actually more important than the conversion rate as they indicate what your customers tend to do before actually signing up for a free trial or requesting a demo. They help you, your marketing team and your sales team understand the whole process behind customer acquisition and the demands of new customers.
A few micro-conversion examples:
- Downloading an eBook
- Signing up for your newsletter
- Viewing your pricing page or Calendly page
Although the definition of conversion rate may vary based on your campaign, use case, and goals, the calculation never changes.
It’s the total number of conversions/total visitors or sessions in the given timeframe.
So, if 200 out of 1000 visitors viewed your pricing page this month, your conversion rate this month will be 20%.
Pages per Session
Pages per session is the number of pages a visitor visits per session on your website.
Pages per session is important as it indicates whether visitors find it easy to navigate on your website, if your internal linking structure is good enough, and whether they are engaging with your content.
You can check out our documentation to learn about other web analytics metrics!
Net Promoter Score
The net promoter score is an evaluation of how likely a customer is to recommend your product to someone else.
You can ask this during a demo or you can use a survey tool to create NPS surveys and start getting responses.
Your marketing team needs to keep track of your overall net promoter score and talk with the existing customers who have given you a low score to understand what’s wrong with their experiences. Here, proactive engagement will help you improve users’ scores, meaning that you engage customers who had been on the verge of churning. Also, sadly, disengaged customers are more prone to being detractors who spread negative reviews about your brand. Engaging them will prevent this from happening.
Other than that, you can check out their sessions to find out how they differ from the sessions of users who have given you a high score on the survey.
Much like the Pages per Session metric, the Session Duration helps you understand customer engagement, especially the engagement with your website or product.
You can measure session duration both for your website and product.
If your visitors’ average session duration decreases over time, you need to understand why. A few reasons why that might happen are:
- A UX issue
- A bug on your website (404 or a JS error)
- Wrong target persona
- Misleading advertisement
Lifetime value is a metric to understand how much your existing customers are paying on average.
If a customer stays 18 months as a subscriber and pays $100 each month, their lifetime value will be 1800 for your SaaS.
Customer lifetime value is integral to a good marketing and engagement strategy. It’s also a vital metric used in most customer engagement models.
If one of your blog posts brings the highest quality leads based on lifetime value, then you should emulate the process you used to create more similar content. In cases like these, you will also have to look at the post’s audience and distribution strategy. Basically, once you understand what works for you, it should be easier to adjust your marketing initiatives to bring in customers with a higher lifetime value.
Lifetime value is also important for product marketing as product marketers need to understand the reasons for customer churn.
If customers who signed up from a specific Facebook ad are not adopting features and ending up churning, you need to understand why and iterate your product marketing strategy.
In order to effectively use lifetime value to steer your marketing initiatives, you need a tool like HockeyStack to give you the complete picture of how your product engagement correlates with your marketing efforts.
Churn rate can be defined as the percentage of customers who ended their subscriptions each month. If your churn rate is increasing, then you probably have a problem with one of these:
- Ad persona
- Feature adoption
To decrease churn, you need to understand which marketing source brings the churned new customers, why they are churning, and which part of the engagement strategy you need to change. Using surveys is a potential solution to this problem.
You can measure user activity with a few different methods such as the number of features used on your SaaS app per week per user, pageviews, pageviews per session, session duration, and more.
User activity is a leading indicator of how likely a customer is to churn or recommend your product to a friend.
The number of features used is a critical metric you need to keep track of. Measuring the number of features an account used per week will give you actionable insights on ongoing engagement and what to do.
If they are not using the key features of your app, their customer success manager can send them an email to schedule a demo, you can send them guides, use an onboarding tool to set up guides & checklists, and more.
Stages of Customer Engagement
An effective marketing, demand generation, and customer engagement management process starts with a thorough understanding of the customer stages. Understanding these stages will also make choosing the right engagement model easier.
There are three stages of a regular marketing funnel, but I will outline 5 customer engagement stages here to give you a good starting point. You can choose the relevant stages for your SaaS business’s customer engagement process.
At this funnel stage, your potential customer doesn’t know anything about your product, brand position, or even the problem your SaaS is solving. They’re at the very beginning of their customer journey.
Generating demand with compelling content and the distribution of that content is integral at this stage. Your role is to make your prospective customers aware of your brand by using your content strategy appropriately.
As they became aware of your SaaS, they will visit your website. And when they do visit your website, it has to be relevant to them. That’s why you need to focus your distribution only to your ideal customer profile (ICP).
If you distribute your content to people who may be irrelevant to your offering, this can cause low session durations and high bounce rates. If you are solving a problem for SaaS marketing and sales teams, then you need to create content that creates awareness and leads them to your product.
While distributing your content, you need to find out where they are hanging out and distribute your content there.
The discovery stage, as the name implies, means that your potential customers are starting to know your SaaS and the problem it solves.
The discovery stage starts with the first website visit and ends with a discovery call.
At this point in their customer journey, you could begin collecting the prospect’s information via newsletter signups or a discovery call form etc.
You can then use this information to craft your unique pitch for them to use during the discovery call.
During this call, you need to ask specific questions and let them talk about their business and the issues they are facing.
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Data from Gong shows that in discovery calls that end with a conversion, the salesperson speaks for 45% of the time and the prospect speaks for the 55% of the time.
Asking good questions and crafting a unique pitch is the key.
After the discovery call, the consideration stage begins. Depending on your company, your prospects might have a second meeting with an account executive after the discovery call.
In this meeting, an account executive shows the actual product to the prospect and follows up with them until the actual sale.
During the Discovery and Consideration stages, the prospect considers both the product and its alternatives to find out which would be the perfect fit for them.
If everything goes smoothly, the prospect converts into a paying customer at the conversion stage.
A good onboarding experience(maybe with an account manager or customer success manager) would make this stage much easier.
During the conversion stage, new customers will have the highest amount of questions regarding the product’s features. So, an incredible onboarding email sequence that highlights the features is a must.
On top of that, guides inside the product make everyone’s lives easier.
At this stage of the customer engagement process, the prospect starts using the product actively. This is the stage that makes it clear whether the prospect will churn or be a loyal user.
Product marketing teams should proactively measure product adoption and engagement to ensure prospects become engaged customers and happy users.
On top of quantitative data, qualitative data sources, such as NPS surveys, are a must to drive customer success and increase ongoing engagement.
Choosing the Right Customer Engagement Model: 3 Proven Models to Try
You need to choose the right customer engagement model for your SaaS to work on your customer engagement and create fans of your product.
Choosing the right customer engagement model may be challenging like it is with revenue attribution or marketing attribution, but learning about your options will simplify the decision-making process. It will also increase your chances of engaging customers.
There is a number of customer engagement models, such as high-touch, low-touch, and hybrid. The choice you make should depend on the price of your SaaS, the average contract value, your target persona, and resources.
Generally, high-touch engagement models require a lot of steps & resources, so you don’t need one if your product is relatively cheap.
1. Onboarding Models
Customer onboarding is the nurturing process that helps the users get acquainted with the features & use-cases of a product.
A good onboarding experience should teach customers about the features of the product, how/when they should use a certain feature, and what sets the brand apart. It should also be an ongoing process.
There are two major onboarding-based customer engagement models that you can choose:
- High touch onboarding models
- Low touch onboarding models
1.1 High Touch Onboarding
A high touch models have a lot of touchpoints with the customer (as the name suggests). These interactions, from the first interaction to the last, require more resources, and that’s why you should avoid them if you are going after a low contract price.
High-touch models usually starts with a personal demo, onboarding, online or in-person training, and weekly check-ins with a dedicated customer success manager (CSM).
Advantages of the approach:
- Ability to create unique experiences
- Ability to tailor the onboarding experience based on needs & company
- Easy to make customers engaged & loyal to the brand
- Ensures users are ready to use the product
- Allows to deepen relationships
Disadvantages of the approach:
- Customers may demand personal attention even after the onboarding
- Requires a lot of resource & time
- Requires good employee training
1.2 Low Touch Onboarding
A low touch model has fewer touchpoints with the customer, and this type of customer engagement model is usually automated.
A low touch onboarding process usually starts with an automated onboarding email highlighting the product’s benefits and continues with an automated onboarding email sequence.
It makes sense for lower priced & less complex products.
A good help center with video guides, on-demand or self-serve support materials, agile customer support team and documentation makes low touch models more successful.
You need to know that even if you choose low touch onboarding customer engagement model, you should still measure its success.
You can measure the success of your customer engagement strategy and low touch models with the following B2B SaaS metrics:
- Email open rate
- Email success rate
- Week over week engagement rate
- Features used
2. Retention Models
A retention customer engagement model covers the time after onboarding. The goal of retention customer engagement models is to make customers more loyal, retain them for longer by building long-term relationships, and expand their accounts i.e. move them to a higher plan and increase their contract value.
Expending time and resources on customer retention is important because it costs five times less to retain a customer than to acquire a new customer.
2.1 CSM Driven
A CSM is the person in charge of customers’ happiness & success using the product.
A CSM-driven retention model allows the brand to have 1-1 human interaction with the customer, but it’s resource-intensive.
A CSM driven model makes onboarding its priority: the CSM usually onboards the customer and checks with them regularly to answer possible questions, tell them more about the product, and have more touchpoints.
A CSM-driven retention model is great for high-ticket low-volume products or bigger accounts.
- More of a human connection
- Deeper customer relationship
- Best for high contract values
CSM-driven retention model disadvantages:
- Requires a lot of time & resource
- Requires excellent communication skills
2.2 Automated Retention
Similar to the low-touch model, the automated retention model uses automated email sequences written by the customer success team.
The automated retention model nurtures customers with automated email sequences, guides, product announcement banners, hotspots, checklists, and videos. It may also include sending discounts or campaigns to reward engaged customers. Automated engagement campaigns like these increases the chances of retaining more customers and maintaining ongoing retention.
Your team can keep track of account health scores and the success of your customer engagement strategies with metrics, such as open/reply rates, guide completion, video views, and checklist completions. These metrics also give you an idea about the health of your ongoing relationships with customers.
3. Hybrid Models
A hybrid model combines different elements of the engagement models that I covered above. Most companies use these models to combine retention models with CSM-driven models, and adopt a high-touch model for bigger accounts. These models may be seen as more holistic engagement models since they comprise various stages (maybe also customized stages) of the engagement funnel. By conducting industry research, you can find the popular models used by competing companies and leaders.
Different hybrid approaches include:
- High Touch Onboarding / High Touch Post Onboarding
- High Touch Onboarding / Low Touch Post Onboarding
- Low Touch Onboarding / High Touch Post Onboarding
- Low Touch Onboarding / Low Touch Post Onboarding
Choosing the right engagement model and adopting a retention-first approach is integral for SaaS growth. It’s also a vital task to improve business value, as retaining a customer costs 5x less than acquiring new one. Naturally, customer-driven enterprises retain more and spend less. The key to a customer-driven approach lies in connecting product, revenue, and marketing data with customer engagement data to get the complete picture of where the products stands.
SaaS brands should focus on customer engagement and marketing teams should cooperate with product marketing teams using a tool like HockeyStack.
Customer engagement depends mostly on what customers encounter on your website, so make sure that you offer the best possible customer experience. Try to make the content more relatable for the audience and give different types of notifications(push, text message, email) a try. And finally, have a closer look at the different customer engagement models we provided in this article. Each have different specific goals but overall aim to increase customer engagement.
One of the best practices for customer engagement is to keep in mind that whatever you do, you are doing it for the audience to enjoy. So, you need to communicate in their language: be relatable, be interesting, and use a personal tone. Don’t beat around the bush, come straight to the point and give clear messages.
Using customer engagement metrics, such as the customer health score and churn rate, can help you measure customer engagement.
Customer engagement increases sales by satisfying customers, creating a good reputation on the market, retaining existing customers’ interest and creating more upselling oppurtunities.
Customer service is a part of customer engagement, but they’re not the same.