My colleague Manisha Mishra and I recently facilitated an executive workshop in San Francisco for a group of Customer Success leaders brought together by WalkMe and Gainsight. The audience was a mix of executives, CS ops leaders, digital engagement leaders and CS practitioners from companies spanning emerging businesses to leading subscriptions businesses such as LinkedIn, Zuora, Yelp, etc. The focus of the discussion was around strategies and tactics that are critical to driving product adoption.

In the session, we drilled into the five key operational practices that are critical building blocks for driving product adoption:

It was clear from the vibrant discussion that driving product adoption is a hot topic that companies are trying to get right. Rightfully so, given that product adoption is a foundational aspect for customers to achieve their desired outcomes.

As I reflect on the session, four key insights emerged from the discussion:

1. The Five Key Operational Practices Are on Point

Overall, the operational practices we shared resonated with participants (e.g., the notion of navigating customers through a well-defined adoption journey, using success plans to chart a roadmap for achieving customer objectives and KPIs, etc.). While the concepts discussed were straightforward, designing and implementing the right model is anything but. Many companies appeared to have deployed some elements of the five operational practices. However, the discussion on execution challenges leads us to believe there is room to adjust and optimize these practices for the nuances of their respective businesses.

2. Experimentation is Widespread

Companies are experimenting with a range of strategies around driving product adoption. These strategies include product UX design (such as innovative ways to draw user attention to new features and capabilities) to new service models (such as using domain experts to jumpstart usage particularly for new markets and product categories).

3. Product Usage Tracking is the Lynchpin to Success

Not surprisingly, participants were unanimous on the need to systematically track product usage information and act on it. Increasingly, more companies are incorporating product usage information into a broader customer health dashboard. At Waterstone, we are staunch believers in this approach, as it allows CSMs to get a more holistic view of the customer.

4. Scaling for Thousands of Customers is a Challenge

There were several discussions on how to scale product adoption practices for a customer base in the thousands. Serving the “long tail” is critical as collectively, this segment could represent a substantial portion of recurring revenue. It requires creative thinking to find technology-enabled solutions to service the segment. A number of interesting practices were discussed, including a self-serve model for customers to develop and manage success plans, conducting executive business reviews in a semi- or fully automated way and in-product assistance to guide users accomplish their workflows.

Clearly, driving product adoption is a hot topic in the industry. Given the strategic importance of this element of Customer Success, we at Waterstone certainly plan to continue our focus on helping clients design, implement and optimize their Customer Success programs. If you would like to discuss driving product adoption in greater detail, please feel free to contact me.

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About the Author
Hubert Selvanathan

Hubert Selvanathan is a Partner at Waterstone. Hubert’s work with Software businesses focuses on transitioning to and optimizing Subscriptions business models, including pricing of subscription offerings, re-aligning post-sales organizations, design of key customer facing processes, and improving Customer Success and Support models.