Five high-value points in the SaaS customer journey when you should ask for feedback (with examples)

Here are the five points in the customer journey when getting user feedback is incredibly valuable

"Talk to your customers" is the going advice when you're working at a SaaS business. It's bang-on.

But there are five key points in the customer journey when you should ask for feedback, because that feedback can change the trajectory of your business much more than the normal stream of incoming support tickets and feature requests.

We cover those points below, and we share tested outreach emails you can use at each point in the customer journey to get high-value feedback..

Table of contents

    1. Ask why customers signed up

    If you're running a self-service SaaS where customers can sign up without talking to anybody, it's important to understand what problem customers hope your SaaS will solve for them. This is generally true, but is especially true at the early stage of your company. (If you're running a SaaS where customers CAN'T sign up and start using the product right away, these questions should be part of your customer success team's onboarding plan.)

    When you hear 100+ customers talk about what problem they expect your tool will solve for them, it'll tell you a few things:

    1. Is your marketing promising to solve a problem that your app isn't delivering on?

    2. Is your app's onboarding set up to deliver on the value customers are looking for?

    Alex Turnbull, CEO at a support tool called Groove, describes the Welcome email customers get when they first sign up. He calls it the "You're in" email:

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    Alex says:

    With a 41% response rate, we get massive amounts of qualitative marketing data about the “decision triggers” that drive people to sign up for Groove.

    It also accomplishes three things for Groove:

    1. It establishes a relationship between the customer and me (the CEO).
      Emails that came directly from me, rather than from a nameless Groove account, performed better across the board. We learned that when users know that they have a direct line to the CEO, they feel more connected to Groove, and are less likely to quit if they hit a snag.

    2. It helps us identify any unique needs that the user may have.
      Knowing the specific reason a user signed up for Groove helps our team customize our interactions with that user to ensure that the product is perfect for them.
      If they signed up because Zendesk is too complicated, we focus on walking them through processes that they’ll recognize from Zendesk that are simpler to do on Groove.
      If they signed up because their team is growing rapidly, we’ll focus on showing them how to easily add and onboard new employees.

    3. It sets the stage for what’s coming.
      What’s noticeably missing from this email is any sort of product-related call-to-action (e.g., “go download our mobile app”).
      In our testing, we found that product emails immediately after signup went largely ignored.
      This may be because our in-app walkthrough, which we spent a lot of time improving, is good enough to keep the user engaged in their first session.
      However, we did find that product emails help later on in the process, and that adding the note letting the user know that we’ll be sending those emails actually increased open rates for the messages that followed by about 8%.

    Over the years we've broadly sent two different kinds of Welcome emails at the three SaaS businesses we've run (a longer one and a shorter one). In both cases the goal of this email is to learn what customers expect, but also to understand how to help them onboard successfully.

    Here's our short and sweet version:

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    A couple of things:

    • We'll personalize the subject line and usually write something about the product the prospect is working on (this takes about 30 seconds on LinkedIn). This also makes it clear that the email is sent by a human.

    • We ask one specific question to make it easy to answer so we can get into a conversation

    Here's the longer version:

    Img

    You'll note this is a little different:

    • We ask how we can help the recipient rather than asking for information up front.

    The goal of this email is to add value and get into a conversation. We ask why people signed up once we're in the conversation.

    If I don't get a response I'll send a shorter email:

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    If I don't hear back I assume prospects know we're available to help and won't follow up if they're using the product.

    Response rates seem to vary depending on the customer type and business. We don't get anything close to Groove's 41% (we've tried an email similar to Alex's). And I doubt Groove gets 41% today as SaaS email fatigue is real.

    But regardless, getting answers to this question to feed back into your product, marketing, success, and support teams is huge.


    2. Ask customers why they didn't convert

    Why do customers decide your product does NOT meet their needs? If you don't know the answer to this, you're limiting your growth.

    If you're a sales-driven company, your sales team should be capturing this as Lost Deal feedback in your CRM. If you're a product-led organization, you should definitely be sending these emails to understand why prospects didn't convert.

    Savio's a product-led organization, which means we don't always have a human talk to prospects. So we send two emails with an incentive to help us understand why trials didn't convert:

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    If we don't hear back, we send a second email:

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    The $25 incentive is money well spent: if their feedback results in a change that converts a single prospect in the future, it's paid for itself many times over.

    In the phone conversations we try and figure out:

    1. What was the key problem you were trying to solve when you signed up?

    2. Why was our product not a good fit?

    3. What alternative did you end up using to solve your problem, and why?

    (These are also the questions we ask in the survey link in the PS of the second email).

    These insights will help you understand:

    1. what problem customers believed your product might solve for them

    2. where your product (or product marketing) is falling over in solving that problem

    3. how people end up solving the problem instead of paying you

    These yield great insights for improving your marketing, product, product marketing, onboarding, and understanding the competitive landscape.

    Even though we're not selling in these calls, customers will learn it's possible to solve their problems in Savio even though they didn't realize it initially. We've even had a few of these calls results in people becoming paying customers.


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    3. Ask customers why they DID convert

    Do you know why prospects chose to become customers?

    If not, you should ask them. Doing so helps you:

    1. Understand the specific scenarios that your product solves so well that customers will pay you to solve them (some of the scenarios might surprise you and lead to new opportunities)

    2. Deepen your relationship to let customers know you're listening (so they keep providing feedback)

    Here's the email we send:

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    When we asked this question at Codetree (a previous SaaS company we ran) we got the same answer over and over: Codetree was the best tool to show a unified view of issues that lived in different GitHub repositories.

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    Getting that feedback led to us truly understanding our unique selling proposition (USP) which drove the way we positioned and talked about Codetree in the market:

    Img

    It would have taken a lot longer (if ever) to learn what Codetree's USP was if we hadn't asked for this feedback.


    4. Ask active customers for feedback

    There are many ways to ask active customers for feedback:

    1. NPS

    2. Looking at customer that use feature X, don’t use feature X, stopped using feature X, etc

    3. When customer X has a new user start using your product

    4. When health score drops below a certain threshold

    5. General check-ins

    We've gotten value from all of them. But one of the most valuable is feedback from a general check-in. That's because the conversation and feedback is open-ended: the customer can share whatever's on their mind.

    We recommend checking in quarterly. You may already be running Quarterly Business Reviews for your most valuable customers.

    But if you want to scale past your top customers, sending a quarterly check-in email asking for feedback is a good idea. It's especially important to email customers who you don't hear from regularly to let them know there's an avenue for them to air their grievances and (ideally) get them dealt with.

    Here's one email we send to check in with customers:

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    This asks specifically about product development. If we're less concerned about product dev feedback we'll send a more generic email that gives customers two options to provide feedback:

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    The goal is to collect feedback here so that you can address it to ensure retention stays high and expansion revenue grows.


    5. Ask churned customers for feedback

    Learn how you can be proactive using the experiences of your customer, so that the causes that led him to cancel will be minimized for future customers - Hiten Shah + Steli Efti, Startup Chat

    When customers leave it's key to understand why so you can address those issues in the future.

    You can't cancel Savio in-app, but we'll (sadly) cancel your account when customers email our (highly visible) cancellation email address.

    After a customer cancels, w'll send up to three emails asking for feedback as to why:

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    If we don't hear back we send this three days later:

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    And finally we'll follow up a third time two or three days later:

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    We've found that over 50% of the feedback we receive comes in on the second and third emails.

    If we get a well-considered response, we'll follow up with a request to get on the phone along with an incentive:

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    In an ideal world you can get cancelled customers on the phone to learn why they cancelled. Ruben Gamez of BidSketch covers his approach to churn phone calls that helped him reduce churn by 30%. We've used a similar approach and the insights you can get with a structured call are hugely valuable.


    Bonus: using your feedback

    We feel so strongly about collecting customer journey feedback that we built it into Savio. When you send feedback to Savio, you categorize it as being from an active customer, churned customer, teammate, lost deal, prospect, or some other type:

    Img

    Later on when you're prioritizing what to build, you can pull up all feedback from (for example) churned customers, lost deals, etc, in just a few clicks. It's a handy way to focus on only the relevant feedback so you can prioritize appropriately.

    More concretely, we focused product development efforts on improving retention earlier this year. It was easy to get a sense of the key features to build because we could look at the list of features that our churned customers asked for, identify high pri/low effort solutions, and build them.


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    Last updated August 10, 2020

    This is an article in our Customer Feedback playbook. Read the rest of the playbook here→

    Kareem Mayan

    Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.

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