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The SaaS world is replete with cut-throat competition; the same services are provided by many brands, all of which have wonderful products. In such a scenario, what differentiates one SaaS brand from the other? Customer experience, but of course.
This blog discusses what customer experience lessons one can learn from the best-in-business SaaS brands.
Build a robust customer success team with a focus on the human touch – Slack
Slack needs little introduction. It is one of the most popular collaboration hubs, whereby an organization’s communication is streamlined. Launched in 2014 by Stewart Butterfield, it boasts of being the fastest growing business application ever! It is no mean feat that 65 companies from the Fortune 100 have paid Slack workspaces.
There is no denying that the product is just brilliant. However, the success of Slack, in part, can be attributed to its robust customer success team. The cornerstone of this team is that of building human relationships with customers. Would you believe that the success-testing parameter of this team is not just ticket response times? Its job is not to just respond to queries and reduce the queue. Rather, the team members are evaluated on how, as a team, they respond to queries in a manner as “human” as possible. Little wonder that the customer satisfaction ratings of Slack hover around 97%!
Earlier, we had written a blog on what customer experience lessons one could learn from Slack. But this trailblazer teaches us newer lessons with each passing day.
Treat your employees like family – Salesforce
Salesforce, the much-led and renowned CRM platform, is the pioneer of SaaS. Founded way back in 1999, Salesforce was found with the vision of replacing the desktop CRM platforms with a cloud-based one that could be accessed from anywhere.
One reason for the huge success of Salesforce is its employees. The organization has consistently been ranked as one of the best to work for. The foundation of Salesforce’s employee engagement program is the concept of Ohana – a Hawaiin word for ‘family.’ The story goes that Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, was on a holiday to Hawaii, where he was introduced to the concept of Ohana. This is that all families – blood-related, adopted, or otherwise – are intertwined, bound together, and responsible for the success and happiness of each other. This is not just limited to the employees but to all stakeholders – vendors, clients, and partners.
This culture of trust not only empowers employees to succeed in their personal and professional lives but also builds a culture of ownership and responsibility towards the organization. Clearly, the employees feel responsible towards the happiness of their customers, a fact that shows why Salesforce is so loved by its customers.
Solve a problem and keep it simple – Dropbox
Dropbox is the most used file hosting service platform that provides features such as cloud storage, personal cloud, and file synchronization.
Its website proudly says, “We’ve always been obsessed with making work better for people.” And that is truly something that Dropbox has done. It started off by finding a simplistic solution to a problem that was ubiquitous before we all started using Dropbox – how to get all your files from all your devices into one location? Simply create a folder that has all your files and that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. And why wasn’t this created earlier? I really am not sure!
Further, the first thing that impresses a Dropbox user is its simplicity. The app is the epitome of minimalist design – no frills attached, just what is required. Also, its sign up process is extremely simple – one of the reasons for the exponential increase in its users.
Give employees the creative space and freedom – WordPress
Automattic is the parent company of WordPress.com, a revolutionary platform for bloggers. Currently, it is estimated that WordPress powers around 30% of the internet! That number is massive! But there are a few interesting facts about the way Automattic works. Firstly, it employs a distributed workforce that works across the world.
In an interview with Forbes.com, Matt Mullenweg, the Founder and CEO of Automattic, shares, “They said, ‘I know this distributed thing works when you’re 10 or 15 people, but if you’re 30, it doesn’t work.’ Or it works at 30 but at 50 the company changes. People said that 150 was like the Dunbar’s Number. We keep blowing by these numbers and it’s like, ‘Wow! This is actually still working.'”
Isn’t it commendable that an organization, which is a fraction of brands such as Google and Facebook, has a similar magnitude of an audience?
And how does this happen? The motto of Automattic itself is pretty clear from its homepage, which reads aloud “We are passionate about making the web a better place.” Its website also says, “We’re a distributed company with 727 Automatticians in 63 countries speaking 81 different languages. Our common goal is to democratize publishing so that anyone with a story can tell it, regardless of income, gender, politics, language, or where they live in the world.”
It is obvious that the organization attracts talent that is also passionate about the same causes. This kind of a free, creative ambiance with stimulating work clearly explains why the employees of Automattic are so engaged and how they are able to produce the work they do.
Another SaaS organization that employs a distributed workforce is Help Scout, a help-desk software company that is making massive strides in the business world. Help Scout has just about 60 employees, most working from different locations. Both the organizations thrive on a culture of transparency and on a belief that creativity flourishes with empowerment.
These two organizations are a testimony to the fact that a passionate workforce, even if not working of the same location, can create amazing and revolutionary products that can change the way in which the world functions.
Never let the creativity of employees fade – MailChimp
MailChimp, headquartered in Atlanta, is the world’s largest marketing automation platform, aiding businesses in finding their audience and keeping them engaged, thus building the brand. It is remarkable that the company was founded in 2001 more as a side-project by founders Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius. Today, it is a founder-led, privately owned organization with a laser sharp focus on employee engagement.
In an interview with The New York Times, Chestnut speaks about the three prominent values of the company – creativity, humility, and independence. He religiously stands by these tenets, a fact that reflects in this quote too:
“Fearlessness begets happiness, which begets creativity, which begets innovation, which begets profits.”
One look at its annual report and you know that MailChimp is an organization that is massively unconventional and it really does not care about following the trends.
The greatness of MailChimp comes from how it encourages its employees to focus on the quirky and fun things and ensures that their creativity is never stifled. For instance, I was trying to check the features it provides and how it would help us when I see this:
Apart from this, there are multiple other fun features that MailChimp brings to its users. For instance, once you have designed a campaign and are ready to launch it, a sweaty monkey finger of the chimp comes in to warn you of the perils of sending the email without rechecking it.
And of course, once you have sent the email successfully, you have the monkey hand right back to give you an enthusiastic high five!
Isn’t it obvious that the organization’s insane focus on never letting the creativity of employees die has resulted in these maverick features. Exactly this nonconformist nature is what differentiates it from the others and makes it one of the most loved SaaS products ever!
Build an inclusive company culture – Asana
Asana is a collaborative task management system that is founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-Facebook and Google employee, Justin Rosenstein. It has consistently been ranked as one of the best companies to work for and boasts of a near perfect Glassdoor rating. How is it that Asana has grown to its heights in the small time that it has been operational?
It is widely known that the founders formulated the basic tenets of the company culture in the first week of the inception of the organization. Rosenstein has often described the process of creating the company culture a “deeply introspective” and a “soul-searching” process. The organization calls itself “team of peers” and follows the idea of distributed responsibility, whereby responsibility is distributed evenly rather than flow through the management.
This inclusive company culture includes principles such as “investing in ourselves, each other, and our efficiency,” “company as a collective of peers,” “transparency by default,” and “pragmatic craftsmanship.”A leader known for his mindfulness, Rosenstein has also ensured that “mindfulness” is one of the values that contribute towards the culture of Asana.
What is interesting is that the founders of Asana treat culture as a product. Rosenstein has maintained that company culture, like any product, needs consistent work. He believes that the culture must be designed, tested, and subsequently, debugged. Little wonder then that the company culture of Asana, akin to the product itself, is par excellence.
I also read this wonderful article by Rosenstein about how employees are the most important customers of an organization. In the article, he has explained that employees are analogous to customers and how they should be treated as customers. Isn’t that an amazing perspective from the founder of an organization?
Invest in training employees – Zoho
Zoho Corporation provides a suite of online tools and solutions for businesses that include a suite of IT management software, and an office tools suite. According to its founder Sridhar Vembu, Zoho provides the broadest and the deepest cloud suite, much bigger than what Microsoft or Google provide. Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Chennai, India, Zoho was earlier called AdventNet Inc. What is remarkable about Zoho is that it is one of the very few successful SaaS companies that is privately owned!
Zoho has an innovative and unique manner of hiring that reinforces that effective training of employees can create the best of the talents. Vembu has believed that the traditional manner of hiring could be ignoring a much larger pool of talented people. To bridge this discrepancy, Zoho has started off a concept called ‘Zoho University’ that, in its initial years, trained students from modest backgrounds. These students, who might not have had an exposure to computers, were trained and within a year, they were on par with college graduates. This is a 24-month program, whereby students are initially taught subjects and subsequently, are moved to teams to gain hands-on experience. What started off as a small experiment with just six students in 2005 has groomed more than 350 students. Currently, students from the Zoho University are significant contributors to the workforce of Zoho and account for around 15% of the new recruits.
This reinforces that employees with the right attitude, when trained appropriately, can help in creating the best of the products.
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