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Customer Success Managers (CSM’s) in software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies live and die by their renewal rate. For that reason, any data a CSM can get to help her understand the health of a customer is worth its weight in gold. But data alone isn’t enough. Having the right data, at the right time, and then knowing how to act on that data is what you need to ensure customer success.

A new breed of companies (Gainsight, Totango, Bluenose, and Service Source, to name a few) have developed some tools that offer to help CSM’s and managers of SaaS companies do just that. So what if you’ve realized the vital importance of actively monitoring, managing, and increasing your renewal rate but you’re not eager to drop another couple thousand dollars a month on one of these solutions?

I’m here to tell you that there’s another alternative that doesn’t involve buying or waiting (and churning customers in the meantime).

There are a few surprisingly simple customer success hacks that almost any company can implement, and they've proven invaluable to American HealthCare Lending through trial and error over the past couple of years as we’ve built our customer success team from the ground up using Salesforce.com. A lot of the credit for these ideas actually goes to Salesforce.com—as I learned how they run their renewals business during one of my favorite Dreamforce Sessions of all time:

So without any more introduction, here are the top three customer success hacks you may not have realized you could do within Salesforce.com:

1. Trigger alerts and notifications based on custom rules, events, or predictive analytics

Want to send an email reminding your CSM that her account is up for renewal in 90 days? Check. Want to be reminded to touch base with an account 45 days after they onboarded (without having to create a calendar event)? Check. Want to alert a CSM when a user hasn’t logged within 5 days after signing up or congratulate a customer (and create a task for the CSM to call them) when they reach a product milestone? Double check. You get the idea.

2. Use the Opportunity object to track renewals

This is straight out of Salesforce.com’s playbook. We use the opportunity object (with a customer “Renewal” record type) to track all of our renewals. With this one simple tweak, you can leverage all of the Sales Cloud functionality (pipeline, stages, reporting, dashboards, etc.) for your Customer Success team. This will allow you to build dashboards tracking renewal rate, churn rate, lifetime value, monthly recurring revenue, annual contract value, and more.

3. Use the Salesforce.com API to integrate your product usage data for powerful insights

This was by far the most valuable thing we’ve done. Interestingly enough, even if you buy one of the tools mentioned above, you still need to get your product data into that tool in order for it to be valuable. We decided to just pass that usage data straight into custom fields in Salesforce.com using the Salesforce.com API and we’re now able to generate everything from customer health scores (formula field), to usage trends (reports/dashboards), to generating some of the advanced triggers and notifications mentioned in hack #1. The options here are endless and fairly simple to setup—all without code.

I’m not against buying one of the solutions mentioned above and we may actually do that sometime in the future if it makes sense. But for now, we’re getting a lot of value out of our custom-built tools courtesy of Salesforce.com and a little bit of ingenuity.

So what have you built inside Salesforce.com to help your Customer Success team manage your subscription-based business?