Customer Engagement is the Killer App
When was the last time you heard a company mention their killer app?
killer app: A feature, function, or application of a new technology or product that is presented as virtually indispensable or much superior to rival products.
First used in 1987, the term killer app, emphasized how technology would change the world. It assumed if technical teams designed and rolled out the best set of features and functions, success would be guaranteed. Pursuing the killer app led to an unrelenting focus on building great software. However, with the rise of software as a service (SaaS), the importance of engaging your customers is now a critical part of the success formula.
The first S in SaaS stands for software.
Due to a combination of improvements in software development, customer access to information, and the subscription economy, software companies can no longer rely on features and functions to differentiate in the market. Success, companies realize, requires building partnerships with customers. Walker, in their Customers 2020 Report, The Future of B2B Customer Experience indicates, “Companies, especially larger ones, are beginning to acknowledge that they can no longer sustain performance simply by releasing new products or innovations.”
While your engineers are churning out new features and functions, so are your competitors. As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, and the market becomes more congested, "companies will put more emphasis on the experiences they deliver to their customers to create a competitive advantage,” Walker reveals. As a result, what compels customers to select you over your competitors is now about your relationship as much as your feature set.
In addition, your buyers do their homework. They sign up for a free trial, talk to their network, research online, and know how you compare to competitors. In fact, 60 - 90% of buying decisions are made even before a potential customer ever talks to a sales rep. When customers do connect with your company, what may be the determining factor to purchase is their relationship with your sales team and the services available after the sale. It’s not only software, but your services that influences the decision for someone to do business with you, investor Mike Ettling finds.
While software innovation and customer access to information are important, the biggest impact comes from the subscription economy. The empowered customer has been underway in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space for years, and this is having a direct impact on the business-to-business (B2B) space. "Customer expectations in the future are the outcome of movements that have been underway for decades. Changes such as the explosion of digital, the empowered customer, and the acceleration of innovation are having a profound impact on customer expectations,” Walker predicts. The customer experience will soon outweigh the importance of price and product.
With B2C innovations, B2B customers are looking for similar engaging experiences; customers expect a seamless and personalized connection with your product and services. In the Customers 2020 Progress Report, Walker Info determined, "The evidence is clear. Customers make financial decisions based on their perception of how easy it is to do business with their supplier. With customers becoming more empowered and information about competitors just a click away, B2B firms must invest to ensure there is minimal effort involved in key phases of the journey.” For your customer success strategy to have impact, it must include a way to engage customers effectively.
The second S in SaaS stands for service.
Now, more than ever, your customers own you. As software, the first S in SaaS, becomes more of a commodity, service, the second S, shifts into the spotlight. Consulting firm AT Kearney reports, “As customers have gotten used to having their way, businesses have raced to render their organizations more customer-centric, engineer the most enticing customer experiences and journeys, and make their sales processes smoother.” Designing the right customer engagement model for your products, company, and customers is a key component to customer success, which I explore in my next article.