The Success of a Connected Consumer Product May Hinge on Customer Success Models From Enterprise SaaS

A LinkedIn article by Don Pepper about Nike’s software-powered shoe launch got me thinking about the important role that customer success will play in the success of connected (hybrid physical/software) consumer products (e.g. smart sneakers and toasters). Customer success management is an especially hot (and still fairly nascent) topic in enterprise SaaS, and depending on the company, customer success reps (CSRs) can be found at the forefront of product implementation, ongoing customer management, and renewals/upsells. David Kellogg has a great post on the topic here.

As consumer brands and retailers across every sector build and/or sell connected products, it is worth examining SaaS customer success practices for application in consumer, specifically around connected products.

Customer Success Should Have a Seat at the Table

SaaS companies often rely on customer feedback that CSRs receive to create a positive feedback loop for product iteration and feature development. This can be only be replicated in consumer if CSRs have a seat at the table with product development, marketing, finance, etc. in SaaS, this seat at the table is often ensured by a senior, C-level executive championing the customer.

Part of having a seat at the table is ensuring that data collected from customers reside in one place, is easily accessible, and is analyzed as effectively as possible. Modern cloud computing and machine learning now allow for real-time analysis of customer feedback and sentiment. Connected products present an even richer data collection opportunity, as brands and sellers can now better understand how consumers are actually using/interacting with the connected product. Companies must analyze this type of usage data, a priviliege previously reserved for software, and also get the results into the hands of CSRs who are engaging with customers.

Involving Customer Success at Launch

The timing of involving customer success seems relevant. Many SaaS companies now involve CSRs in the selling process, pairing CSRs with sales reps to ensure that customer management and retention are top of mind from the first interaction with a prospect. This is diifficult enough in SaaS, where sales teams and customer success teams need to bridge cultural divides around incentives, reporting structures, and style.

In consumer, CSR’s will need to be involved up front as products are being marketed to the public. They will also needed to be trained to adequately address questions about the underlying technology embedded in the connected product when the inevitable complaints, questions, and suggestions emerge from customers.

Repeat Customers and Upselling Will Become a Thing

CSRs in SaaS are often focused on retention, renewals, and upselling (again depending on the model in place at a given company). The opportunity to do this type of selling emerge with connected physical producsts. For example, a software update to a smart sneaker may be an upsell, with greater functionality built in that the consumer is willing to pay up for. How companies address this opportunity and what functions they rely on execute is a big open question.

Perfectly Executed Customer Success May Be The Catalyst to Turn a Product Launch into a Robust Customer Ecosystem

A successful single launch of a connected product could create an entire ecosystem that a brand or seller can capitalize on to build a direct, meaningful, and sticky relationship with a group of passionate customers. The value of executing a successful launch of a connected product cannot be overstated. And that success may come down to customer success reps.

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Any opinions or forecasts contained herein reflect the personal and subjective judgments and assumptions of the author only. There can be no assurance that developments will transpire as forecasted and actual results will be different. The accuracy of data is not guaranteed but represents the author’s best judgment and can be derived from a variety of sources. The information is subject to change at any time without notice.