Our FLOURISH Executive Community met once again in June, this time to discuss improving product adoption experiences through data-driven strategies. While data is abundant in SaaS companies, very little is actually done with it. In fact, Cisco reported recently that 99.5% of data is simply not exploited, leaving only about 0.5% of all available data being used. So how do you begin to harness the right data for your needs? And, what do you do with it?

Importantly, the community finds themselves in varying stages of the data journey. Some were just starting out in their bid to use data to power great adoption experiences and hoping to learn from others in the group. Others were more seasoned, but inevitably encountered unexpected detours or even roadblocks along the way.

Here are some of the tips and challenges our participants shared from their unique data journeys.

Don’t overburden your teams

Trying to offload data management onto employees who were meant to be customer facing could put the overall customer experience at risk. One VP of Customer Success stated, “I made the mistake of trying to give the CSM too many pieces of data to update. They had to take the time to update everything internally. We got better reporting, however, by the end they spent more time doing that than talking to customers and helping the customer out.”

Data analysts are all the rage

The roundtable conversation pointed to a trend in hiring dedicated data specialists who sit within the customer success team. Several participants shared that they struggled to get sufficient resources from data specialists whose time was split between a number of different teams, but also lacked sufficient data expertise within their own team. Hiring a dedicated customer success/experience data specialist ensured that they had room to dig deep and also to harness data that is most relevant to achieving the desired customer success and experience outcomes.

One VP of Customer Success in the early stage of their data journey highlighted how she hoped hiring a specialist would offer more sophisticated visibility into the user experience. “We’re looking to hire an ops person to formulate a data strategy. We have a lot of data that we can’t access right now. We can tell how many users are active and inactive but we can’t run any more advanced reporting,” she explained. “For example, identifying who is taking training and whether it has an impact on our active rate and if specific events tend to happen before they go inactive. We don’t have any of that yet. So we are kind of back in the early days of startup mode.

”While further along in their journey, another VP of Customer Success and Support at a digital identity verification company shared how hiring a dedicated data analyst changed their ability to report in the adoption process. “Adding a data analyst to our team was a big win for us. Now I don't have to borrow this resource.” He shared, “The data analyst is not only responsible for creating reports, but for answering questions and looking at insights. Now we're transitioning from ‘here's the answer I think I want’ to ‘here’s the answer data supports.’”

Another VP of Customer Success remarked, “I would over invest in customer success operations if you’re trying to drive for a data driven outcome. Even if it seems too expensive.”

Get everyone onboard

Of course, not every company is in the position to be able to hire a data specialist. Several of our participants emphasized the need to create a collaborative process and get executive buy-in in order to become more data-oriented in lieu of hiring a dedicated role.

“Our executives finally got on board with data a few months ago,” expressed the Director of SaaS Adoption at a software company. “We launched a number of different cross-functional teams to meet on a weekly basis for an hour. Executive stakeholders from product, CS, marketing, and sales all get together to dig into data insights. We’re actually a bit behind other people because we don’t have dedicated data resources. It’s us doing all of our own work. But it’s actually been good to have that buy-in because each week we’ve gone pretty far into understanding who our customers are and what value they’re actually getting out of our product. It turned out to be completely different than what we thought.”

Tracking progress through context

Data that helps to optimize adoption experiences goes far beyond simply tracking customer usage - understanding context is important. Data based on the context of interactions can help executives understand the customer learning process, allowing for optimization. “On top of collecting usage data, we also started testing customers,” weighed in a VP of Customer Success. “Now we can actually measure not only usage, but results in terms of the users getting better at what they’re doing. It’s more powerful because it doesn’t matter how much time they’re spending if we can prove to the customer their actual goal of becoming more proficient. That’s been the Holy Grail for us." He followed, "Accept that there will be 20% of customers in which data is giving you the wrong picture. Don't blindly follow the data with zero customer context.”

We would like to thank our participants for taking time out of their busy schedules to contribute to the FLOURISH community. We would also like to thank our fantastic moderators.

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