6 Lessons From Building a User Centric SaaS Organization
User centricity for SaaS companies isn’t a virtue, it’s a fundamental expectation. The entire SaaS model relies on subscription renewals. If such a company shows a lax approach towards user-centricity, it risks its entire revenue stream.
What is user-centricity? It simply means building your entire SaaS organization around users, their behavior, aspirations, and feedback. This influences the strategy and overall purpose of the company. Unlike traditional businesses that rely on one-time sales, this is a constantly evolving endeavor for SaaS organizations.
User centricity is more than just listening to customers. It needs to be ingrained in the company’s DNA and practiced across all levels.
Ever since Taskworld’s inception in 2012, our founder Fred Mouawad has been a passionate advocate of user-centricity. In the past decade, we’ve learned some important lessons about it. This post aims to share them candidly.
1. User-centricity isn’t just a UX or customer support function
For some teams in the company like UX and customer support, it’s easier to understand the emphasis on user-centricity. However, a true user-centric organization is one where all teams have an unabashed focus on users. Even if they don’t interact with them frequently.
For example, one team that forms the backbone of any SaaS company but has limited user interaction is engineering. It can become fairly common in tech companies after a few years of growth for engineering to become slightly isolated with customers. It becomes critical to constantly find ways to bridge this. When engineers understand the customer’s priorities and see tangible results of their work, they can be extremely motivated. After a new feature is released, you should share the user feedback with engineers. It not just gives satisfaction to them but also brings them closer to the real-world application of their work. At Taskworld, our engineers often join the support team in their calls with customers to understand them better.
Similarly, although marketing teams should always be encouraged to try new creative ideas. Eventually, they should make decisions based on user behavior data. At Taskworld, we make extensive use of A/B tests on our website to ensure that despite our personal preferences, we pick the designs that our users approve of.
2. Don’t expect solutions from users
User-centricity doesn’t mean implementing ideas that come from users verbatim.
When users share feedback, often it’s in the form of a feature that they’d like to see on your application. In such situations, it’s important to dig deeper and understand the underlying problem that their proposed solution aims to solve. This will help your product team devise a more elegant solution than perhaps the users came up with,
A couple of years, ago a user approached us with an interesting feature suggestion – subtasks. Where tasks can be broken down into smaller units and assigned separately. We were wary of adding clutter to the UI because we are fans of minimal design. However many other users wanted a way to create subtasks. We couldn’t ignore them.
After spending some time on the problem, our product team suggested the idea of checklist items to the users who requested subtasks. Although not subtasks in a conventional sense, they could be assigned separately. It worked. In the end, the solution solved the root problem without cluttering the UI.
This approach requires constant engagement with users throughout the process to ensure that you don’t deviate from the root problem at any step.
By understanding the underlying requirements behind user requests, occasionally you’ll get an opportunity to delight them. A popular feature request for Taskworld in recent times was emojis and reactions to comments. This revealed that users were looking for a way to make team communication not just fast but also more fun. Thus, when we launched those features we also added gifs with them. Adding gifs gave a tremendous boost to our chat engagement.
3. Create a centralized system of gathering user feedback
Most SaaS companies have at least a rudimentary structure in place to consolidate user feedback. This typically includes NPS surveys and support tickets.
Every bit of user feedback is precious but often it falls through the cracks unless it comes from a standard source (support tickets, NPS, feedback surveys). Sometimes you’ll receive useful feedback when you least expect it (during a casual conversation with users, scanning social media, etc). It’s important that your organization has a way to store such feedback as well.
You can utilize various tools for it, ranging from spreadsheets to online collaboration software.
4. Filter and prioritize user feedback
As discussed in the previous point, consolidating user feedback is critical. However, what’s even more important is how you utilize it. User feedback should be weighed based on not just how frequent it is but also where it’s coming from.
Imagine your SaaS tool is a task management software. Even though it’s used by a diverse group of users, your primary persona is middle-level management in an organization. In this case, feedback coming from your primary user persona should be given more weight.
The same also applies to geography. If your primary market is the US then its user feedback would be more important than the rest of the world. Occasionally you’ll receive user feedback that’s consistent in all segments of your market. This is great because it really helps your company focus on the top priorities at the moment.
5. Onboarding is more than just tutorial
The biggest user drop-off in almost every SaaS product occurs after day 1. Even on day 1, it’s the first few minutes that are vital to positive user engagement. Unsurprisingly, SaaS companies invest a tremendous amount of time in fine-tuning their tutorial.
Product onboarding, however, is more than just the tutorial. It’s designing the entire introductory experience for users. It’s putting yourself in the shoes of your users and thinking of all possible ways to help them embrace your platform. Different companies approach it in their own ways. We learned that for a tool like Taskworld, in-person demos were quite powerful for larger teams.
Onboarding also doesn’t end when a user turns into a customer. Even then, user-centric SaaS companies ensure that there’s a success plan that’s tailored to each customer’s needs.
6. Harness the power of community
As you acquire a sizable number of users, one important resource that unlocks for you is the user community.
Ideas enrich themselves once you bounce them off others. A user forum or community provides a place for your product’s users to share ideas with each other, upvote suggestions and even help each other out. This can help companies gain a deeper understanding of how people use their products and what can they do to improve user experience. HubSpot’s blog has some great tips on launching your own online community.
What can I do right now?
One action item that we can suggest is to talk to someone in your engineering team. Ask what feature they are they working on and what kind of users would be benefitted from it. It will help you understand how well your engineering team understands the pulse of your customers.